I recently connected with Anu Mitter, who helps her father Chef Jagdish at the Royal Palace restaurant in Greenburgh. Royal Palace is one of the older Indian restaurants in the Westchester area and one of the few that has a lot of space for hosting parties. They also tend to sponser events such as ethnic comedy nights, belly dancing and other fun stuff. Anu works on this program and always likes to mix things up to keep things innovative. I have to confess, my samplings of local Indian restaurants is not as exhaustive as I would like, but the food in Royal especially for their special events is very good. What is particularly interesting about these menus is that several of the items tend to be off the menu and are the spur of the moment or maybe be event inspirations for the chef.
She mentioned that she was a blog reader, which always make me very happy. I always like to hear about how different people cook and work with spices. I also, wondered what her perspective on food, make that Indian food might be given that she had grown up as a chef’s daughter. Well, like a lot of girls, she clearly was very excited about her father and in turn excited about dad’s cooking.
I chatted loosely with her, and then decided to share some of our conversations and then a recipe for an Indian dessert.
You have grown up with the restaurant, so how has it influenced your views on Indian food?
I have been around Indian food as long as I can remember . In my younger days it was almost a chore to eat Indian food, but over the years I have grown such an appreciation for it. Indian food is so exoctic and filled with so many flavors, its almost like experiencing a culinary adv saenture.
I appreciate the Indian food that much more because of my knowledge of it. My dad has been cooking for us all these years, and has
made each meal so exciting and thrilling, maybe because its been passed down for generations. The recipes and the uniqueness of each flavor has been going on for years, and of course that extra special touch. To me Indian food is like a telling a story about our culture. The food like most ethnic cuisines is filled with our traditions, cultures, and flavors.
Royal has been around for a while, have you seen a change in your customer base, ie, is Indian food more popular than it was before?
Yes, over the years we have noticed an exciting trend. A lot more young folks are now exploring their inner craving for Indian food.
As I said before, when we were younger it was like a chore and now its so exciting. All of our friends are always exciting to come try a bite of chicken tikka masala or perhaps indulge in some sweets like gulab jamun or jelebis. We see a greater diversity of customers coming in to try our menu. We have even had many opportunies to cater American weddings- which we probably wouldn’t have seen earlier.
Tell me about your father’s thoughts on cooking and working with spices?
My dad has been cooking for as long as he can rememeber. Before we owned our restaurant, he was the master chef in our home
and now he can show that off in our restaurant. The way he mixes spices, and just knows that it can create something exotic makes his food SO unique. He says its his hobby, his joy, his stress and his excitement all combined in one.
He has created so many different types of dishes, and although he is the owner of Royal Palace, there is a never a day he doesn’t step into his
kitchen and tries to explore some other new dish or enhance on an ancient one. He says cooking is an art, and you truly have to be passionate about it to enjoy and watch others enjoy the flavors of it.
One of my favorite, items to try on their menu is the Indian dessert called Jalebi, which is essentially fermeted dough, coiled, fried and steeped in syrup. Now, I had a hard time getting a clear recipe from the chef, but he did describe the technique for me and later I worked with my mother-in-law to refine this (hey, that is what a mother or mother-law can be counted on). While I have offered a recipe te keep things interesting, if you want the real deal made hot and fresh for you do pay a visit to the restaurant.
Last Sunday my kids were quite pleased since I worked on this sweet treat to get this recipe to work. This meant lots of sweet jalebis in various stages of the process for them to sample. The restaurants version of jalebis is featured on the left and my humble attempt on the right.
Jalebis – Coiled Sweet Fried Sourdough in Cardamom Syrup
This dessert reminds me of the teashops in India, where they are made in the mornings in large masses. People stop by early in the morning to pick these up, along with small mini samosas. I use a ketchup dispenser with the top sliced off to release the batter, a smooth even hand is needed to get the batter to shake out into crisp round coiled rings.
In fact, the coiled shape is often a euphemism for an individual with a complex mind.
They are said to have a mind like a jalebi.
Prep Time: Overnight
Cook Time: 30 minutes
For the batter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup natural yogurt
a few drops of orange food color
a pinch of baking soda
For the sugar syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
a few green cardamoms
Oil for frying
Sliced almonds to garnish
Method of Preparation
1. Beat the flour with a wire whisk to get all lumps out.
2. Gradually mix in the yogurt until a fairly thick batter is formed. It should be thicker than the standard pancake batter.
3. Leave the batter out overnight in a relatively warm place, I like to keep it in an oven that is not on. In my house, I am usually cooking on the stove thus generating heat for the food.
4. The next morning, the dough should smell yeasty and have a some bubbles in them to indicate doneness.
5. Place the sugar water and the cardamoms in a large pan and bring to a boil and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. We are tying to get a syrup of
a fairly thick consistency, one that easily coats the back of a spoon.
6. Turn of the heat.
7. Place the oil in a deep skillet or wok. It is important to get a cooking pan with enough surface area to allow you to work comfortably. It is best to make these one at a time until, you get the hang of it and then depending on the size of your pan you can make a couple or more at a time.
8. Once the oil is nice and not, but not overly so (a medium temperature, works best), with a steady hand and the ketchup dispenser pour out the dough in linked circles, to form a circular coil, let the coil crisp and turn darker on one side and turn this over and fry for a couple of minutes on the second side.
9. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain the jalebi of excess oil and place in the syrup and let is steep for a couple of minutes before removing. Continuing frying all the jalebis and soaking this way.
10. Garnish with the almonds before serving.
Rinku Bhattacharya is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Cooking in Westchester, where she shares her life experiences, original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years, and has found her classes a great way to teach and