Beyond CurryInterest in Indian cuisine may be reaching a national high, with restaurants and chefs taking Indian menus from niche market to culinary mainstream. Authors such as Julie Sahni and Suvir Saran have launched a new generation of cookbooks that demystify the spices and preparations in glossy, accessible volumes, and home cooks are finding new sources of support for their efforts.
Chief among these are local cooking classes, which, for the uninitiated, are part educational, part social and all gustatory, with generous tastings, often free wine and the entertainment students love most: professionals talking about food in a casual, welcoming setting.
A class with Saran earlier this year at Sur La Table gave students a surprising blend of confession and humor, along with the prominent New York chef's keen sociopolitical critique of India and a generous how-to component that encouraged students to sample the culture spice by spice while gaining confidence in preparing the cuisine.
Sur La Table builds on this interest in Indian cuisine with a six-part series of demonstration and hands-on classes in September at its Stony Point location. These include:
Sept. 7: Understanding Indian Spices, demonstration class by Sudhir Seth
Sept. 9: Breads, Chutneys and Condiments, hands-on class with Jon Ashton
Sept. 14: Exploring the Food of Northern India, demonstration class by Edward Hamann
Sept. 21: All About Curries, hands-on class with Julie Sahni
Sept. 28: Healthy Vegetarian, hands-on class with Edward Hamann
Sept. 29: Indian Dinner Party, hands-on class with Edward Hamann
Why the local interest? Sur La Table's culinary coordinator, Diane Chamberlain, says the cuisine's health benefits are part of its appeal. "Indian cooking uses very lean meats and proteins, lentils and legumes, and has spicy, sweet and sour elements," she says. "Everything that you would imagine in a cuisine, served in smaller portions. It is incredibly healthy, with many layers, textures and flavors."
Though some home cooks are intimidated by the unfamiliarity of the recipes, Chamberlain points out that Indian breads are particularly easy to master and that dishes are not as complex as their multiple flavors might suggest.
Classes are $55 for demonstrations and $65 for hands-on cooking classes; all include tastings of every dish during a two-hour session. Details at 272-7094 or at www.surlatable.com.
First Friday: Chez Foushee inaugurates its art walk evenings Sept. 1 with small plates, a dinner menu and specialty drinks, 5:30-10 p.m., bar till 11.
Vegetarian Society of Richmond: Dinner and smooth jazz at Chef MaMusu's Africanne on Main, Sept. 15, seatings at 6 and 8 p.m.; $16.95 includes buffet, beverage, tax and gratuity. 200 E. Main St. Call 344-4356 for reservations. S
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