Indian Feast Pop Up Dinner: A Recap

I very rarely cook Indian food. Rather, I never do, save for the time I was in Beijing to visit Jacob and made him his favorite chicken curry with my mom’s garam masala.

It’s a shame really because it is so comforting for me. But when I want it, I just want my mom’s. As in, I don’t want to shop, prep, cook and clean for myself. I’ll just let my mommy do it for me, lol.

(I’d also like to underline that any Indian take out really pales in comparison to my family’s recipes.)

So the theme for my last pop up, which I hosted last weekend, was indeed Indian.

I worked hard to make everything organic and locally sourced and can proudly say that over 95% of the meal met those requirements, though it took SEVEN stops and like a bajillion hours.

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THE MENU:

A Mezcal Cocktail with Ginger, Lime and Cucumber

Pani Puri with Seasoned Chickpeas, Potatoes and Black Salt served with Marinated Red Onions, Heirloom Tomatoes and Radishes

Aloo Gobi (Traditional Cauliflower and Potato)

Channa Masala (Traditional Chickpea and Tomato)

Saag (Indian Creamed Kale and Mustard Greens)

Beef Curry (Slow cooked Beef in a Rich Curry Sauce)

Homemade Gulab Jamuns

PREP:

I was a bit more disorganized this time around.

Thursday: I stopped at my favorite cocktail prep place, the Barkeep in Silverlake and picked up my cocktail ingredients, including ginger shrub, mezcal and some bitters. I also stopped at the local organic grocer and picked up the ingredients for the channa masala and aloo gobi as well as the gulab jamuns. (I.e. onions, garlic, tomato, potato, chickpeas, cauliflower, milk powder, etc.)

Friday: I made the aloo gobi and channa masala, sort of halfway. Meaning the basic Punajai mire poix (onions, garlic, ginger, chili) was sauteed and the main veg added, but I didn’t cook it all the way. I also sampled the cocktails to pick which one I liked the best.

Saturday: WAS INSANE.

  • 7am: flower market – I went for the marigolds obvs.
  • 8am: arranged bouquets
  • 9am: spin (bc like #health)
  • 10-11:30am: Trader Joes for wine, the farmers market for greens and other veg, Lassens for the beef and beef bones
  • 12pm: started the saag and beef curry in the slow cooker
  • 1pm: cleaned the house and set the table
  • 2pm-3:30pm: made the gulabs and ever so grateful for Evan’s assistance and fried the puri
  • 3:30pm-4:30pm: quick trip to the Indian store where a man went catatonic when he realized I was Punjabi Sikh, lol.
  • 4:30-5:30pm: chopped up salad and garnishes (which took ages)
  • 5:30-6:30pm: cleaned up again, brought out the serving dishes, steam-cleaned the floors, showered
  • 7pm: Prepped the cocktails
  • 7:30pm-11:30pm: DINNER

EVALUATION:

Unlike my first pop-up, this meal was served family style. I had wanted to do completely plated six course meal, but in reality, Indian food doesn’t taste good that way. All the food should be served together, you take what you like, you take more of what you like and you enjoy it all together. That was my first real change to the menu.

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The other nice thing about Eastern food like this is that it isn’t fussy. There aren’t a thousand steps that require an eyedropper and the patience of Mother Teresa. If you have fresh ingredients, a spot-on garam masala recipe and dextrous knife skills, each dish takes only a few minutes to bung into a pot to simmer.

INDIAN FOOD SHOULD BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME. It allows the flavors to meld together and saturate the meat and vegetables. For instance, I think I should have made the beef curry Friday night to let it set for a bit.

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Sometimes your mom is right. My mom uses organic diced canned tomatoes. I just had so many fresh heirlooms that I threw in because I didn’t want them to go to waste. Although the flavor was beautiful in the channa masala, it was a little on the sweet side because of the fresh tomatoes.

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Frying is dangerous. I probably shouldn’t do it. *Stares at blister on back of hand.*

Another note on frying, I was really careful to fry as early as time allowed and aired out the apartment aggressively because the worst smell is old oil. I was proud that no one realized I had fried that day.

Sometimes experiments work out. I couldn’t find organic spinach for the saag, so I used three different kales and mustard greens. Although not at all traditional, it was a favorite in the group. (Note: always add a shit ton of ginger to help people digest.)

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To be honest, making the gulabs made me want to pull my hair out. (Gulabs are handrolled Indian fried donuts that are then soaked in a cardamom rose water sugar syrup).

BUT EVERYONE LOVED THEM SO MUCH I CAN’T EVEN HATE THE PROCESS ANYMORE. They are really the best way to end a spicy flavorful meal.

I would call this dinner a success as well, though it was totally different than my first. I’m also proud of myself for not fucking up any of my family recipes and have a new found appreciate for how much ridiculous effort my mom made over our childhood to properly feed us. Love you mommy!

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