On Thursday, April 11th at 6:30pm at Bazaar Spices in Union Market, we welcome author and gastronaut Skiz Fernando as he discusses the practical and health benefits of using spices in your cooking as well as demystifying some of these “exotic” ingredients often found in Sri Lankan cuisine. For your sampling pleasure, he will also offer a demonstration and tasting of his famous chicken curry from his recent cookbook, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking (Hippocrene Books, 2011), a New York Times notable cookbook, which put Sri Lankan food on the map. Skiz also creates his Original Sri Lankan Roasted Curry powder, a unique blend of 13 different ingredients, which forms the basis of most Sri Lankan curries. He also produces a cooking show on YouTube called “Pan Asian,” which features simple, healthy, and delicious dishes from all over Asia. Hope you will join us for this exciting and delicious event!
Posts Tagged ‘Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking’
Posted in cookbooks, cooking classes, events, Spices/special ingredients, Sri Lankan food, tagged gastronaut, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, Skiz Fernando, Sri Lankan food on April 2, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Posted in cookbooks, ingredients, Spices/special ingredients, Sri Lankan food, Uncategorized, tagged Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, Skiz Fernando, Skiz's Original Spice Blends on December 15, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Only one year ago I opened the New York Times to discover that my humble, little cookbook, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, had made that esteemed publication’s list of most notable cookbooks of the year. Such recognition came as icing on the cake, the culmination of a long journey for me as well as the realization of a life-long dream–to learn to cook the cuisine I grew up on and to introduce this food to the world. In the past year, I have done just that, hosting Sri Lankan Supper Clubs in New York, Baltimore, DC, Chicago, Sonoma, and San Francisco; conducting Sri Lankan cooking classes; participating in food seminars and events such as the recent CIA World’s of Flavor Conference in Napa; and spreading the gospel of curry with my own small-batch spice blends, Skiz’s Original. The book has also performed far above my expectations sales-wise, and is well into the second printing. If you haven’t copped your copy yet, it makes a perfect (and cheap) holiday gift, on sale at Amazon right now for only $13.57!!!
In order to help promote the book, I also started making my own blend of Sri Lankan roasted curry powder, which is essential to many of the recipes in the book (I also do a raw curry powder). Now Skiz’s Original Spice Blends has assumed a life of its own, and sells through word of mouth through the artisanal food site, Foodoro.com. In 2013, I hope to expand the reach of my curry powder and bring it to store shelves. Until then, you can still order it at the link below. (If you live outside the U.S. contact me directly at email@example.com so I can work out international shipping.)
Coming from a media background (journalism, music, film, and TV), I am thankful to have had this opportunity to make a small splash in the world of food, and I hope to continue to do so in the years to come. As someone who is inspired by a passion for what I do, my main aim is not for money, but to spread an appreciation not only for Sri Lankan food, but for the country as well. This land, after all, is where my parents were born, and though I am a hyphenated American, the eastern values that my parents instilled in me make me proud to claim the Sri Lankan part of my heritage. Though we are not Christians, my family here has come to celebrate Christmas, and we often give each other gifts that are hand-made in order to bypass the more crass and commercial aspects of the holiday. So in keeping with that spirit, I offer these things that I have made to all of you–my larger family who have followed me on this blog. And I wish you all a safe, pleasant and peaceful holiday season filled with happiness and cheer!
Posted in cooking classes, events, No Reservations: Sri Lanka, recipes, Spices/special ingredients, Sri Lankan food, tagged biriyani, Chef Koluu, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, Skiz Fernando, Sri Lankan food, Sri Lankan Roasted curry powder on November 17, 2012 | 2 Comments »
When Chef Koluu and I discovered that we were to take part in the One Pot Meal seminar to be held on the main stage of the conference, we were a bit puzzled about what to do since there are no one pot dishes in Sri Lanka. So we decided to make biriyani–a dish that does not originate in Sri Lanka, but is none-the-less a huge favorite there.
A combination of rice, meat and vegetables all cooked together, biriyani can be traced back to the Mughals, a Muslim dynasty that ruled most of the Indian subcontinent from the early 16th to the early 18th century. Direct descendants of Genghis Khan, they are known for their very rich cuisine, embodied by a dish like biriyani, which involves expensive spices like saffron and is often garnished with gold and silver foil. While there are many versions of the dish across the Middle East and India, biriyani was introduced to Sri Lanka by the Muslim community, who make up roughly 7% of the population, and they, too, have their own spin on this popular dish.
The recipe we used for our demo, however, came from my book, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking (Hippocrene Books, 2011), and it is actually more like a biriyani that you would find in Pakistan–with the exception of cashews, shredded coconut, and, of course, Sri Lankan roasted curry powder, which is a spice blend like no other. In Sri Lanka, the biriyani is also usually served with several side dishes including cashew curry, pineapple curry, a mint sambol, and mixed pickle. If you ever have the chance to attend a Muslim wedding there, this will be on the menu, along with a lot of other tantalizing treats such as faluda, a sweet drink made of rose water and ice cream, and, of course, the rich, decadent wattalapam or coconut flan for dessert. That is if you have enough room after putting away a dish as dangerously delicious as biriyani!
2 lbs. (1 kg) chicken parts 1 lb. (500 g) basmati rice
1 tsp. black pepper 3 tbsp. ghee
1 tsp. curry powder 1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. cayenne powder or paprika 2 cardamoms
1/4 cup (65 ml) plain yogurt 2 cloves
1/4 cup (65 ml) tomato puree 2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. cashews, chopped 1 inch (2.5 cm) stick cinnamon
2 tbsp. desiccated coconut pinch of saffron
1 cardamom 1 1/2- 2 cups (375 ml) stock
1 clove 1 1/2 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 Serrano chilies, chopped
1.) Wash, cut and dry meat. Season with black pepper, curry powder, and cayenne.
2.) In a food processor, blend yogurt, tomato puree, cashews, and coconut.
3.) Combine blended ingredients, cardamom, clove, bay leaves, and salt with chicken and marinate for 30 minutes. (meanwhile skip to rice prep).
4.) Heat ghee in a pan. Fry onions and chilies until onions are translucent.
5.) Add chicken pieces and stir-fry for 5-10 minutes.
6.) Add a little water to blended mixture and pour over chicken. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
7.) Place chicken pieces in casserole dish.
8.) Wash and drain rice.
9.) Heat ghee in pan. Fry onions until translucent. Add cardamoms, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon.
10.) Add rice and fry for a few minutes until rice starts to crackle. Add pinch of saffron and mix well.
11.) Pour over stock and cook until partially done (about 15 minutes). Add salt.
12.) Place rice on top of chicken in casserole dish. Cover with tin foil and cook in oven until moisture evaporates, about 25-30 minutes at 300 F (150 C).
Makes 6 servings
This past Friday I had the pleasure of hosting another Sri Lankan Supper Club–this time in the nation’s capital at a fairly new space known as Montserrat House on 9th & U Streets (www. montserrathouse.com). Once again, those patrons who plunked down $50 for a full rice & curry meal with appetizers and dessert, went away, I believe, fully satisfied and with a much deeper appreciation of Sri Lankan food. It’s astounding that such a diverse metropolis as DC does not have a Sri Lankan restaurant–especially since there’s quite a few Sri Lankans in the DC/MD/VA area–so that would probably account for the dinner selling out pretty quickly. But aside from a handful of people familiar with the cuisine, few really knew what to expect, so I had to treat them to the typical kind of meal that we are accustomed to on the island. The menu, all of which comes from my book, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, was as follows:
black pork curry
fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry)
parippu (lentils stewed in coconut milk)
mallun (sauteed greens)
eggplant moju ( caramelized eggplant)
Sri Lankan salad
Wattalapam (coconut flan)
Since all of the main dishes in a rice & curry meal are served together, Sri Lankans don’t usually eat appetizers, so I used some popular street foods, usually eaten as snacks, to pique peoples’ appetites. Cutlets, patties, and vadai are also, ironically, the most labor intensive part of the menu. With the Montserrat’s deep fryer out of commission for the evening, we also had the fry both the cutlets and vadais in small batches on the stove top. That’s how I usually do it at home, so while more time consuming, it was no big deal in the end.
Using a kitchen you’re not familiar with presents all kinds of challenges. For example, I didn’t bother to check and see if an oven I was heating up some dishes in was working. I only found out minutes before we were to begin plating that the food was still cold. Once again, improvisation is key, as we quickly heated up stuff in saute pans on the stove top. Though it did delay the dinner service a little bit, no one complained and, in fact, everyone was very happy with their meal.
I usually like to document everything that I make at these dinners, but because we had to get the food out to the 50 customers in a hurry, I only had time to snap a few shots of the finished plates.
I did, however, manage to get some nice shots of the condiments, which people could help themselves to at the table.
And, of course, no meal would be complete without a decadent dessert. In Sri Lanka, the overwhelming choice is usually wattalapam, a flan made of coconut milk, eggs, and jaggery (palm sugar).
I was able to mingle with guests after the dessert service, and the feedback I received from everyone made it well worth all the effort. I have to send a special shout to my servers, Greg & Gillian, and my sous chef for the evening, Wilma Consul, for all their help. Also shouts out to Eric and Elliot at Montserrat House for having a cool place and making this event possible.
No Sri Lankan meal would be complete without these high-protein legumes, also called dahl, which soak up the flavors of coconut milk, lemongrass and cinnamon. Smooth and creamy, they comprise a perfect protein when eaten with rice. You can vary the consistency of the lentils from thick as oatmeal to watery as soup, depending on how much water you add. You may also add some fresh greens like spinach to the pot at the end for a healthy, colorful variation.
Tempering is a typically Sri Lankan technique that involves infusing a dish with a burst of flavor right before serving. I have read that it comes from the Portuguese, but I see no evidence of this fact in Portuguese cuisine. When we temper the dahl, we add fried onions, curry leaves, some dried chilies and black mustard seeds (which are considered an anti-flatulent, and therefore perfect for legume dishes). I also like to add a about a teaspoon of raw curry powder, for some added taste. You may purchase both my raw and roasted Sri Lankan curry powder at www.foodoro.com.
1/2 lb. (225 g) red lentils
2 cups (500 ml) water
1/2 onion, chopped
2 to 3 green chilies, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece pandanus (optional)
1-inch (2.5 cm) stalk lemongrass
1-inch (2.5 cm) stick cinnamon
1 cardamom pod
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup (125 ml) coconut milk
salt to taste
tempering: 2 tablespoons oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 sprig curry leaves
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 whole dry red chilies
1.) Wash and drain lentils (removing any stones or chaff).
2.) Bring water to boil in a medium-sized pot. Add lentils, onion, green chilies, garlic, pandanus, lemon grass, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and turmeric. Cover and simmer until lentils are soft (about 20 minutes).
3.) Add coconut milk and salt. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4.) In another pan, heat oil. Sauté onions and curry leaves until onions are translucent. Add mustard seeds and dry chilies. Fry until mustard seeds start to pop. Pour over lentils and mix well.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Once upon a time in America, going off the eaten path meant Chinese food—that is, if you were lucky enough to have a Chinese restaurant near you. Today, according to the trade publication, Chinese Restaurant News, Chinese restaurants outnumber McDonald’s franchises by nearly 3 to 1. This news hardly comes as a surprise when you factor in all of the hole-in-the-wall, wok-and-roll, take-out joints that have become part of this country’s urban fabric. Now that chop suey and General Tso’s chicken have become as assimilated as pizza, and as ubiquitous as the golden arches, people seeking something new are delving deeper into Asia—and loving it.
In their Market Intelligence Report: Asian, food industry research and consulting firm Technomic says that, “Asian cuisine is one of the ‘big three’ ethnic cuisines, along with Mexican and Italian.” The American palate has moved beyond Chinese food to embrace Thai, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese and Korean flavors. The report further states that, “The number of Asian concepts is growing in both limited service and full service, and chains large and small are seeing annual sales and unit counts rise.” Meanwhile, a large banner at last years’ Summer Fancy Food Show in DC proclaimed, “Importers identify Mediterranean and Indian as the most influential emerging cuisines.” These so-called trends did not occur overnight, but have been building for years.
What’s behind the interest in Asian flavors? Credit the Internet, which makes it possible to access any cuisine or recipe at a key-click, as well as 24-hour cable outlets like Food Network, The Cooking Channel, and Travel Channel for creating a more educated consumer. National supermarket chains such as Whole Foods are also making hard to find ingredients like fresh curry leaves, coconut milk, lemon grass, and all manner of chilies, handy. Last but not least, successive waves of Asian immigrants, cuisines in tow, are stirring up the melting pot with new flavors.
Take my own case in point: A second-generation Sri Lankan immigrant, I grew up eating “rice and curry,” as the cuisine of the island is known. I watched intently as my mother used to buy all the raw spices—coriander, cumin, fennel, etc.–as well as fresh curry leaves from a local Indian shop, and grind her own curry powder in order to make our meals. As food represents an important connection to one’s culture, I wanted to learn how to make these dishes myself, so I returned to Sri Lanka for a year and studied Sri Lankan food from the spices on up. Upon returning stateside, I published Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking (Hippocrene Books, 2011), which The New York Times recognized as notable cookbook.
As I’m no celebrity chef, or even someone with culinary credentials, I probably would never have even secured a book deal in the first place without prevailing attitudes towards food—especially the ascendant culture of cooking. American cooks are becoming more adventurous in their outlook and sophisticated in their tastes. People also want to eat healthy, and are more conscious about where their food is sourced. Throw in the pervading economic slump, which is making eating in popular again, and you have a recipe for the success of Asian food. Despite the regional diversity, the cuisines of the sub-continent fulfill all the criteria that people want—they are simple, cheap, delicious, and beneficial.
It’s no coincidence that the theme of this years’ Culinary Institute of America’s 15th Annual Worlds of Flavor Conference and Festival is “Arc of Flavor: Re-imagining Culinary Exchange, From The Mediterranean and Middle East to Asia.” Chefs and culinary professionals from all over the world will participate, exchanging ingredients, techniques, and ideas. Although Pan Asian as a concept became played out, one cannot help but ponder the possibilities of a world fusion cuisine. Whatever the case, it sure is an exciting time to be cooking—and eating.
The Hill Center, housed in the beautifully renovated historic Old Naval Hospital on Capitol Hill, blocks from the U.S. Capitol, serves as a cultural, educational and community center. The 11 program rooms include a professionally outfitted demonstration kitchen. Beginning in 2012 Hill Center will host a monthly series of master cooking classes with notable DC chefs, sommeliers, mixologists and the farmers who source their food. Format is flexible and fresh ideas are welcome (mini-series; spin offs, etc). The objective is fun, educational, and delicious. Target audience beginners to accomplished home cooks; children to adults.
The demonstration kitchen comfortably seats 12-14. State-of-the-art kitchen with 6-burner KitchenAid commercial gas cooktop and double built-in ovens; Electrolux Wearwashing dishwasher/dryer; overhead camera with multiple view points of cooktop that displays on a flatscreen for enhanced demonstration.
Sign up today! Only 14 slots.
Posted in cookbooks, Spices/special ingredients, Sri Lankan food, tagged Amazon, Kindle, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, Skiz Fernando, Skiz's Original Spice Blends on February 7, 2012 | 3 Comments »
Book sales are brisk thanks to all of you who have bought a copy of “Rice & Curry,” and supported this project from the beginning. I have also been cooking Sri Lankan food at dinner parties all over the country, introducing people to this last great undiscovered cuisine of Asia. If you would like me to come out to your town, and stink up your kitchen, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can discuss how to make that happen.
The latest good news I have received is that a Kindle edition of the book is now available at Amazon! I might have to buy a Kindle just to see how it looks! Anyway, if the Kindle is your machine, you might want to check out this link:
Meanwhile, sales of my spice blends have also spiked since the book was released, which shows that people are taking the time to try my recipes with some authentic Sri Lankan spices. Coming soon to store near you, but right now, you can buy Skiz’s Original Spice Blends at:
In lieu of a book party, which authors customarily use to promote their books, I usually opt for throwing a supper club or “pop-up” restaurant whenever possible. In addition to allowing people to sample the food, such an event also appeals to my DIY roots in independent music. Create a program that is fun and unique, keep it small, and people will want to come out and be a part of it. Plus, I like cooking for people, and throwing dinner parties in different cities across the country is a great way to introduce people to Sri Lankan food, one plate at a time.
This time, I packed up my spices and headed to Chi-town, the “Windy City,” in the dead of winter, no less. My cousin Raj graciously agreed to host the dinner at his newly renovated digs in the hip neighborhood of Bucktown. Though we had originally decided to invite 20-25 people, my cousin has a lot of friends, so the guest list kept growing. In the end, I served 56 people a typical Sri Lankan “rice & curry” meal, which consisted of the following menu:
The Sri Lankan Supper Club – Chicago
Saturday, January 28th 2012
Fish Cutlets – deep-fried croquettes of fish, potato, & spices
Fish Ambul Thiyal – chunks of fish cooked in a tangy sauce
Parippu – yellow lentils stewed in coconut milk
Ala Thel Dala – potatoes sautéed with onions, chili and Maldive fish
French bean curry
Papadum – thin, crispy lentil-flour wafers
Caramel Pudding (flan)
For me, this dinner was a first, feeding so many people. I wanted to make sure everything was on point, so I started cooking the day in advance. I can usually handle all the work by myself, but when I discovered how much food I would really have to make, my cousin enlisted the aid of some friends. Thanks to the help of Voula, Arianna, Jessica and Carol, I was able to get the last dish made just as guests were filtering in and enjoying cocktails.
All in all a very successful event: I had just enough food and everyone went away happy and satisfied and with a new appreciation for a cuisine which has been below the radar for too long. I also sold a lot of books.
As I belong to a community of food bloggers know as Food Buzz, The Chicago Sri Lankan Supper club was also chosen to be a part of that organization’s monthly series called “24×24″ in which 24 different dinner parties are thrown across the country on the same night and then documented on blogs. As far as I know, this is the first time Sri Lankan food has played center stage.