The other day, when I was in the gym, I was flipping through the channels, searching for something to hold my attention while on the treadmill. After a few clicks, I stopped, landing on the familiar fedora of Indiana Jones.
As Indiana trekked through the jungles on his elephant, I immediately recognized this movie as the second installment in the series, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I wasn’t old enough to see the movie in the theaters — I was only four — but I can remember watching the movie as a young teen, perhaps catching the movie on television late one weekend night.
Owing to my young age, there are a few scenes from the film that remain with me all these years. One of which, is the dinner scene. Indeed, as soon as the movie flashed across the treadmill screen, I immediately thought of chilled monkey brains and snake surprise. My thoughts turned immediately towards the seated guests — outfitted in sherwanis and turbans — situated around the prince’s stately table.
As a half-dozen women dance around the table, a giant platter is placed on the table, a single dead snake coiled around a giant pole, for what is “snake surprise.” The surprise is several live snakes oozing out of the sliced boa’s skin.
After a few more disgusting items make their appearance at the dinner table, the scene is set for dessert. One by one the guests are served, the camera stopping at each plate setting to reveal a silver bowl, and within it the head of a gorilla. “Chilled monkey brains,” one of the guests announces, with glee.
The scene is, indeed, cringe-inducing. And yet, for the longest time, when I thought of Indian food, I immediately thought of that scene from Indiana Jones. Not because I wanted to, but because that had been my first association between India and food. No part of me believed that Indian cuisine centered around monkey brains and snakes, but I didn’t know what real Indian food was, yet. So, that association, unfortunately, stuck with me longer than perhaps it should have.
True Indian food, I would discover, was a thing of great excitement and intrigue, full of curries and cumin and cardamom. There were exotic rice and lentil dishes, majestic teas, and fried breads and vegetables. This was true Indian food, with no apologies to Indiana Jones.
ALOO GOBHI MASALA
Recipe adapted from Manju Malhi’s Easy Indian Cookbook.
PREP TIME: 25 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
YIELD: Serves 4
WHAT TO GRAB:
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds (do not use mustard from a jar)
4 white chef potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 green chilies, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Florets from one head of cauliflower
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
Italian parsley, roughly chopped (for garnish)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and stir for 30 seconds, or until the seeds start to splutter. Watch carefully, as you do not want the seeds to burn.
2. Add the potatoes, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook the potatoes for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the potatoes cook, bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
3. Add the ginger, garlic, chilies, and onion, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the turmeric, ground cumin, salt, and pepper. Add the cauliflower florets. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Pour in the boiling water, reduce the heat to simmer, and steam the vegetables for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are the desired crispness. Stir in the garam masala and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve warm with garlic and cheese naan!