Follow Me Foodie to An Introduction to Indian Cuisine at Feast Tofino!
An Introduction to Indian Cuisine, A Cooking Class with Khalil Akhtar & Chaat Recipe.
I was invited to the 2nd Annual Feast Tofino by Tourism Tofino which is a culinary celebration of the West Coast and Vancouver Island boat-to-table cuisine. Restaurants feature set menus throughout the month ($29, $39, $49) and special events take place every weekend. Given how I feel about price fixe menus I was naturally more interested in the one off special events. Besides The Saturday Dockside Festival and West Coast Paella on the Beach, I had the pleasure of attending this event, Introduction to Indian Cuisine, A Cooking Class with Khalil Akhtar. The Feast Tofino events were a highlight to Follow Me Foodie to Tofino.
Khalil is a CBC journalist, food writer and culinary instructor in Victoria, BC. During this event he demonstrated a five course Indian inspired seafood lunch for an intimate group of about 16. Of course we got to eat it afterward, but Khalil also walked us through his ingredients which were both Indian and local (West Coast).
I am Asian, born and raised in Vancouver, and I am reporting back on an Indian cooking class I attended in Tofino from an Indian guy who lives in Victoria. The benefits of living in BC. It was random, multi-cultural, eclectic and great!
The first thing Khalil stressed was to abandon the yellow curry powder. American influenced Indian recipes often call for yellow curry powder, but to use it for every dish would be inauthentic to Indian cuisine. Khalil’s approach to Indian cuisine was not traditional either, but the concepts and flavours were inspired by his Indian roots and palate.
Being in Tofino, meant an emphasis on seafood which was my craving the whole time I was there. Seafood is more popular in Southern Indian cuisine, but luckily Khalil was putting a “Boat-to-Table Twist” on his menu.
I actually wish Vancouver would offer more “Boat-to-Table” cuisine. In Vancouver there is growing support for Ocean Wise and sustainable seafood, but in Tofino it almost goes without saying. The seafood is conveniently caught in their backyards and it doesn’t have to be frozen at sea or travel far before making it onto your plate.
The lunch was hosted at Cathie’s Cottage Vacation Villa on Chesterman Beach. It was an entertaining and social afternoon event with a substantial lunch, and the only way to improve it was to eat it outside… because this was the view from the dinner table.
Khalil Akhtar’s Introduction to Indian Cuisine with a Boat-To-Table Twist
Spot Prawns with Potato and Fruit Chaat Recipe
Recipe by: Khalil Akhtar
Think of this dish as a salad. Put away your measuring cups and use your instincts. Chaat should be assembled to taste. If Spot Prawns are unavailable, regular prawns or tandoori roasted paneer is an appropriate substitution. Often, chaat is served with various types of kebabs or tandoori dishes.
- Boiled potatoes, peeled and diced
- Sprouted pulses (available in the produce aisle near the green sprouts)
- Diced mangoes, apples and peaches
- Live spot prawns (regular prawns or roasted paneer works too)
- Lime juice
- Lime wedges for serving
- Chaat masala
- Hari chutney
- Tamarind-date chutney
- Cilantro leaves
1. In a saute pan over very high heat, add a few drops of oil. Saute the sprouted pulses until they are slightly charred and crisp. Set aside.
2. Steam the spot prawns until cooked — a couple of minutes, depending on size. Place them in a bowl, sprinkle with lime juice and chaat masala to taste. Set aside.
4. On a big platter or wooden bowl (or on individual plates), pile the potatoes and pulses. Scatter the fruit on top. Sprinkle with more chaat masala.
5. Finally, scatter the chaat with the whole spot prawns. Drizzle with both chutneys, garnish with cilantro and additional lime wedges. Serve with additional chutney.
Hundreds of versions of this blend exist. Every cook has their own preference. Take my recommendations with a grain of salt. Every good Indian cookbook will have several more versions. A quick search on the internet will lead to hundreds more. Here, I only give possible ingredients. Not all of them are always used. The proportions are left to taste, but keep in mind this is a sour and savory spice… not a hot one. Grind the ingredients together in a spice grinder. There are many good quality versions of this masala available pre-mixed, including the Monsoon Coast brand from Salt Spring Island.
- Dried pomegranate seeds
- Black salt
- Dried mango powder (amchoor)
- Black pepper
- Roasted cumin seeds
- Dried ginger
- Dried mint leaves
- Fennel seeds
- Ajwain seeds
- 1 small bunch cilantro, including stems
- 1 bunch mint, tough stems removed
- 1 stem of rhubarb, tough outer skin removed
- 3 serrano chilies
- juice of one lemon
- ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree completely. You may need to scrape the sides several times. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator, but will lose its vivid green colour within an hour or so.
- One block of dried tamarind
- 12 medjool dates
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp cumin seed, dry roasted and ground
- Place the tamarind block and the dates in a bowl. Add six cups of bowling water and allow to rest overnight.
- Stir the mixture well and push it through a fine mesh strainer. You may need to add more liquid part way through to extract as much chutney as possible from the pulp and pits.
- Discard the pulp and pits from the strainer. Season the chutney with salt and roasted cumin seed. Add water or lemon juice to thin if necessary. The chutney should be thin enough to drizzle.