Food is very trendy, just like clothes, names of children and travel destinations. Right now India is leading the pack with the huge success of Bollywood and of course “Slum Dog Millionaire.” Suddenly all things Indian are appealing and food is not the least of it.
I have always loved all things Indian, having traveled there for over six weeks in my early 20s. I never lost my love for the place, the people and especially the cuisine.
The spices alone could send me over the edge with their heady aromas and amazing ability to transform a simple vegetable or protein.
There are scores of Indian places in the Los Angeles area, but I am often drawn to the smaller mom and pop establishments that are in the neighborhood, so I recently paid a visit to Agra Indian Kitchen on Lincoln Boulevard at Washington.
A very small place that is simple and down to earth with friendly and efficient waiters.
My husband and I went with another couple who have been there more than once and recommended it for the delicious food.
We ordered a lamb curry, a chicken vindaloo, raita, mango chutney, fish tika masala and a couple naan breads. The food arrived promptly and was spicy, filling and well flavored.
They serve a good sized portion of papadum before the meal arrives with a tasty dipping sauce made with cilantro and another one that is sweetened with tamarind.
The only critique I would offer is that the dishes could use less sauce and more protein, but this seems to be an Indian theme as I have noticed this before when eating in these places.
I recommend Agra for a good meal that is inexpensive and satisfying.
Here are a couple recipes from my recent Indian cooking class in Venice if you want to try this delicious cuisine at home.
Remember it is all bout the spices so don’t use older ones with no flavor. If you can’t identify the spice when you smell it with your eyes closed it is time to throw it away.
Amanda Cushman is a culinary educator who has cooked professionally for 25 years. She teaches privately for groups of two to 20 students. She has developed hundreds of recipes for cookbooks as well as food magazines and Web sites. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indian Curried Chicken
2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, cut into chunks
1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tbs. canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
Cilantro leaves, garnish
Cooked basmati rice
1. Season the chicken with the seasoned flour and shake off the excess flour.
2. Heat 2 tbs. of the oil in a large high-sided skillet and brown the chicken on all sides about four minutes. Remove to a plate.
3. Melt the remaining 1 tbs. of oil in the same skillet and add the onions and garlic and sauté for five minutes. Add the spices and cook another minute, stirring. Stir in the stock and coconut milk and bring to a simmer, cook for about 20 minutes until slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer over medium low heat, cover and cook five to seven minutes until cooked through.
5. Serve the chicken over cooked rice with cilantro leaves as a garnish.