SRI RAO is a screenwriter based in New York City and a devoted home chef of Indian cuisine. One of the few Americans working in Bollywood, he has produced and written three major films, and has sold TV projects to networks including ABC, NBC, Fox, and BBC America. In Bollywood Kitchen, Sri Rao shares simple techniques developed by Indian-American families like his. With recipes and food photos accompanied by gorgeous film stills and movie posters, Bollywood Kitchen is ‘dinner and a movie’ the Indian way.
Bollywood Kitchen (ON SALE NOVEMBER 7, 2017) is a must have for film enthusiasts and Indian-food lovers. Bollywood Kitchen is both a cookbook filled with accessible Indian recipes and a guided tour through the world of Bollywood films. What you won’t find in the book are recipes for chicken tikka masala or tandoori chicken, which are restaurant clichs. Instead, readers will discover dishes that will introduce them to the food Indian-Americans eat every day – like khichdi, a simple, weeknight, lentil-and-rice dish that’s perfect for vegetarians, yet robust enough for carnivores.
As a first-generation Indian-American, Rao learned a lot about his culture through the food his mom prepared at home and the Bollywood films he grew up watching. With Bollywood Kitchen, Rao hopes to ‘open the doorway…to the food, films, music – and joy – that my Indian heritage has to offer our country.’
Sri’s Signature Chicken – Serves 4 to 6
I can’t decide if I have a favorite movie in this book, but English Vinglish is certainly near the top. Likewise, if there’s only one recipe you take with you from this book, my signature chicken curry should be it. Every home has a go-to chicken dish—the one that you make more than any other, that pleases everyone in the family, and that you’re proud to serve to guests. This is that dish in my house.
I’m incredibly satisfied with this recipe just as it is, rich with spice and flavor, but you can also view it as a base from which to create slightly different curries. For a creamy variation, swap the coconut powder for 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt. Or for a saucier version, add one finely chopped tomato after you’ve sautéed the onion (and skip the coconut). In fact, if you choose to cook with chicken breasts instead of thighs, I recommend opting for one of these variations because they’ll provide more moisture for the lean meat. (I also suggest reducing the amount of time you cook the chicken by about 10 minutes.)
This recipe, like all curries, is inevitably better the day after you’ve cooked it, once the spices have had a chance to soak even deeper into the meat. So make it a day ahead if you can. Once you get the hang of it, you could easily be cooking Sri’s Signature Chicken every week . . . at which point, you’re welcome to call it your signature chicken.
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1½-inch chunks
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic paste (or minced garlic)
1 heaping tablespoon ginger paste (or minced ginger)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon Indian red chilli powder (or cayenne)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup coconut powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Onion slices, for garnish
Cooked rice (any type), for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over mediumto medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with the turmeric. In multiplebatches (to prevent crowding the pan), lightly brown the chicken on all sides.Remove to a plate.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pan and add the bay leaves, allowing them to begin infusing the oil for 15 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden brown, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning, 7 to 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and ginger pastes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Then add the salt, red chilli powder, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir the spices into the onion, allowing them to bloom for another minute. Return the chicken to the pan. Stir well to coat all the pieces evenly with the spice paste. Decrease the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, for 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the cilantro, coconut powder, and coriander. If you’re making the dish a day ahead, turn off the heat at this point. Cool before refrigerating and then finish cooking before you serve.
Decrease the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
Stir well. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Turn off the heat and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Garnish with the lemon wedges and slices of onion. Serve with rice.
String Beans with Peanuts – Serves 4
To pair with the rich and thick chicken curry, you need something bright and simple. These string beans add color and crispness to the meal. For that reason, I always prefer using fresh beans, but frozen will work in a pinch. Peanuts add to the crunch, while dried red chillies bring a different kind of heat than that found in the chicken. The ingredient that really makes these beans come alive is tamarind paste. Made from the pulp of a podlike fruit, tamarind paste is highly concentrated and deliciously sour. A quarter teaspoon may not seem like a lot, but I’ve tried making this dish without it, and it’s just not the same. If you don’t have tamarind paste, you can try substituting lemon juice to taste. But I strongly recommend buying a small jar online or at an Indian grocery store—it will keep in your refrigerator for months.
1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 or 3 Indian dried red chillies, broken in half
7 to 10 curry leaves
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon tamarind paste
Cut the beans into uniform pieces of any size (or leave them whole if you prefer).
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or wok. Once the oil is shimmering hot, add the mustard seeds and then the dried red chillies and curry leaves. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the garlic powder, ginger, cumin, salt, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for another minute.
Add the beans and peanuts. Cook, stirring frequently, over high heat, coating the beans with the spices, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the coriander. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 tablespoons warm water and pour into the pan. Decrease the heat, cover tightly, and finish cooking the beans, 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the cut. Adjust the seasoning, serve, and warn your guests not to eat the chillies.