In late November, I received a message in my Facebook mailbox that read, “Hi Mam, Would you like to share recipes with me?”. The email was from a total stranger, but I thought “Why not? I love sharing recipes”. The stranger turned out to be a sweet, handsome, young man from India. And luckily for me, he agreed to share more than just recipes… he agreed to share his story.
Nineteen-year-old Aayanjit Phukan is a first year culinary student at the Institute of Hotel Management, located in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. I had no clue where Aurangabad was located (Anthony Bourdain didn’t visit Aurangabad on his “No Reservations” tour of India!), so I headed to Wikipedia and looked up information on the city.
Aurangabad was named after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and means “Built by the Throne”. The city is surrounded by historical monuments including the Ajanta caves and a replica of the Taj Mahal called Bibi Ka Maqbara. More on Wikipedia
I asked Aayanjit to tell me more about his culinary school. He explained that the Institute of Hotel Management (IHM-A) is run by the Taj Group, which in turn is affiliated with the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom. From the IHM-A website: “We are the only institute granted permission by the Government of India for foreign university affiliations. Our curriculum is internationally recognised, critically scrutinised and frequently amended, ensuring reflection of the latest trends in the industry.” More Info
Aayanjit entered the Culinary Arts Program on September 4th, 2008. The curriculum is divided into bi-weekly courses. One week they work on Theory and the next week on Practicals. For instance, this week it would be “Food and Beverage Practicals” and the week after that would be “Kitchen Practicals”. Curriculum (pdf)
The school day begins at 7:00 am and students have breakfast together at the institute. Classes are from 9:30 am-12:30, then lunch is served until 2:30. After lunch the students are allowed to return to the hostel, but they must be back at the institute for classes at 2:30pm. Snacks are served at 4:30 then students usually go back to their rooms. Aayanjit says he then does homework or works out at the gym.
Dinner is served from 7:15 – 8:30. Aayanjit usually has dinner around 8:00, and then returns to the hostel with his friends. Curfew for first year students is 9:00 pm, but they usually stay up together listening to music, studying, writing recipes or they hop online to chat with friends.
On Saturdays the students have “half-day”, so after lunch Aayanjit takes advantage of the spare time to catch up on his sleep. Sundays start around noon, then he and his friends meet up for lunch and usually a movie. His friends (I love the beautiful names!) include: Abhishek Gaonkar (from Mumbai), Ranaditya Kumar (New Delhi), Soham Nimkar (Mumbai), Abhimanyu Grover (Chandigarh), Ishan Gupta (New Delhi), Danish Nizamuddin (Kerala) and Priyanka Dutta, a fourth year student from New Delhi.
When I asked Aayanjit who his favorite chefs are he wrote ,”Well mam I have five favourite chefs: Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse, Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain and Sanjeev Kapoor. Chef Gordon Ramsay tops my list.”
In one of his first emails to me, Aayanjit asked if I had tried Indian food. I laughed when I read the message because I LOVE Indian food. I told him that my husband and I love it so much that it was served at our wedding. He replied “Wow Indian food in your marriage, that means you really like Indian food. HAPPY!! Are there shops where you get Indian spices? I can send you some great recipes which you can try out .”
The first recipe was for Chicken Korma and I was thrilled. I’d never attempted to make it because I figured it would be too difficult, Korma being my very favorite Indian dish and all! The only challenging part was finding “sour curd”. I called several Indian markets near me and only one said they had sour curd. When I got there, the shopkeeper pointed me to yogurt. I tried two other Indian markets and it was the same thing, so I bought the yogurt along with an official “masala dabba” spice container. I also picked up some basmati rice, naan bread, papadums and various pickles.
Aayanjit’s Chicken Korma Recipe
chicken 750 grams (1.65 lbs)
sour curd 1 and 1/2 cup (I used yogurt)
red chillies 7-8
cashew nuts 16-20
ginger juice 2tsp
vegetable oil 3tbsp
onions (I used two small)
cardamom (4 pods)
cinnamon (I used 1 large stick)
1) grate onions, make a paste of 7-8 cashew nuts , mix 3 tbsp of water to the curd, slit the red chillies.
2) fry the chicken a bit, until brownish. Keep aside.
3) marinate the fried chicken for 2 hours with the curd, cashew paste, chillies, salt (as required) and ginger juice.
4) put oil, fry onions (keep the onions a bit white, because the dish is supposed to be white in colour)
5) add the marinated chicken, cook on low flame, then add the rest of the chopped cashews. add 1tsp of sugar.
6) add slightly crushed peppercon and cinnamon and cardamom 5 mins before it’s finished. Use less curd if its too sour or you can balance it by mixing it with some sugar.
Best goes with naan,tandoori roti accompanied with some pickle.
A good tip for you mam [WHILE MAKING ANY INDIAN DISH IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO USE FRESH SPICES,YOU GET THE ACTUAL FLAVOUR]
HOW IT SHOULD TASTE: Spicy and the tangy flavour should be there.
“Mam please try it and let me know how you liked it.”
I loved the recipe (photo above) and my husband was thrilled that I would regularly be making Chicken Korma at home. We devoured it with Basmati rice cooked in Ghee, Mango Chutney, Garlic Naan and Spicy Papadums.
Aayanjit: A Chef In The Making to be continued.