Category: Indian food

Our Favorite Pork Recipe: Easy Pork Vindaloo

Sunday supper was Jake’s request.

He chose a dish I made when we first moved into our house; Madhur Jaffrey’s version of Pork Vindaloo from her cookbook Quick & Easy Indian Cooking.

We absolutely love Indian food. I’m happy to say it’s one of the cuisines I introduced Jake to for the first time and he also enjoyed it as much as I did upon first taste.

We’ve never tried real Vindaloo and many other recipes are much more complex. This tastes so good that frankly, we don’t care how precise the recipe is. Plus, it’s so easy to make that it’s practically foolproof.

Jaffrey recommends using a pressure cooker for many of the recipes in this cookbook. I don’t own a pressure cooker for the very good reason that I’d probably injure myself with one. Just simmer the pork in a large saucepan for a few hours until it’s buttery tender.

Pork Vindaloo
Adapted from Quick & Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. 

A Cook’s Notes: I’m terribly inexact with my measurements. This recipe is forgiving as long as you keep tasting the sauce once the pork is cooked. The original recipe called for 1 1/4 lb. pork but I used close to two pounds with no issues. I just added a little extra of each spice. If I had remembered to purchase fresh ginger at the store, I would have added a tablespoon to the dish when I added the garlic. I also skimmed some of the excess fat from the surface. You really can’t mess this up.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 heaping teaspoon of ground cayenne, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into cubes and trim big pieces of extra fat.
1/2 teaspoon of salt, to start
Vegetable oil or ghee, a few tablespoons or enough to saute the onions
1 small onion, halved and cut into thin slices
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced or crushed into a paste.
Optional: 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated (or some dried ginger)
3/4 of a can of coconut milk, well-stirred
Sugar or honey, to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, cumin, turmeric, cayenne and vinegar.
  2. Cook the onion slices in a pan heated to medium high in a few tablespoons of oil or ghee (clarified butter) until it starts turning brown.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and briefly cook until fragrant but not browned.
  4. Add the mustard-spice paste and cook for a minute.
  5. Add the pork and cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add the coconut milk and water.
  7. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the pork is silky tender.
  8. When you are sure the pork is cooked, taste the sauce for seasoning. I added a couple teaspoons of sugar to create a round, balanced flavor.

I served the pork with steamed white rice, homemade raita (I love this recipe!), garlic naan and mushrooms sauteed with garam masala and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

I cheated and bought frozen garlic naan, but you could make your own for much less money.

India Palace in Fargo: A Spicy Dish With A Curious Disclaimer

Our first visit to India Palace, Fargo’s newest Indian restaurant, brought tears of joy and tears of pain to my eyes. I wished it hadn’t taken us so long to get here. 

Since moving to Fargo, we’ve been quite loyal to Passage to India. We dined at Karma, once, and found it bland so we stuck with what we knew. In the Twin Cities, there are at least five India Palaces, several of which are part of a local chain. I was initially concerned Fargo’s India Palace also a part of a chain, but from what I can tell, it’s not related. In January 2013, Eric Daeuber wrote a review of India Palace that was published in the Forum. He spoke well of the food and service, but the following description stuck in my mind:

“When tradition demands something more like the Indian food your Midwestern mother used to make, the popular Chicken Tikka Masala brings a kind of comfort food familiarity, and a little smoke, to the table.” 

Despite the fact that Daeuber gave India Palace’s food a four star rating, I couldn’t move past the comical mental image of picturing my own Midwestern mother cooking Chicken Tikka Masala. She never ate Indian food and avoided anything spicy. It would have been dreadful. Recently, a friend and chili-head assured us the food was spicy and well-prepared, so visited on our next date night.

On this Saturday evening, we were warmly greeted and seated immediately. We ordered a couple Indian beers and our server expertly poured them into fancy beer glasses. For dinner, we chose a few orders of garlic naan ($2.99/order), raita yogurt sauce ($1.99), Paneer Masala ($10.99) and Dhamaka Balti with lamb ($14.99), a style of dish described as being cooked in a special pot with white wine, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions and seasoned with cumin, coriander, cassia bark and ginger. Most curiously, the following disclaimer accompanied this particular Balti dish:

*Very HOT! Prepare for an explosion in your mouth.  
Omg. An explosion in my mouth? We had to try this. 

Top left: Dhamaka Balti with lamb. Top Right: Paneer Masala
The Dhamaka Balti with lamb was wonderfully spicy. Despite the fact that I was weeping tears of pain and sweating profusely, I was really happy. Completely giddy on the rush of endorphins released by the hot peppers. The Paneer Masala was milder than the Dhamaka Balti, but it was still notably spicy and both dishes were laced with chunks of hot peppers. Those who aren’t fond of heat can certainly order dishes mild. Spiciness aside, the sauces had compelling flavors from which the heat did not detract. I also appreciated that the Balti dish contained a generous amount of tender lamb.
Both entrees came with a plate of fluffy basmati rice fragrant with a subtle, warm spicing. 

We sopped the curries up with the garlic naan that was blistered and soft in all of the right places and cooled them down with raita yogurt sauce. Both were respectable versions of themselves.

In conclusion, we were thrilled with our first visit to Fargo’s India Palace. Our meal wasn’t cheap, but it was flavorful and thoughtfully prepared, the curries were appropriately filled with their respective proteins, and the service was warm and hospitable. Most exciting of all, they actually make spicy food spicy. I was getting bored with turning to Buffalo Wild Wings to satisfy my spicy food cravings.

Kudos to India Palace for being bold and bringing us heat. 

Some Midweek Sunshine: Comfort In Orange Cheesecake and Onion Pakoras

This could be end up being the best or the worst month.

I’m trying to just keep calm and carry on.  Hopefully, I will have some breaking news for you soon, but for now, I must surrender myself to patience.

On this midweek eve, I’m drawing from some culinary sunshine enjoyed during this past weekend.  It was all about comfort foods.  And will continue to revolve around comfort foods.  Comfort anything.

It’s a dessert-first type of week.

Nichole’s Fine Pastry, located in downtown Fargo, is my reliable to which I turn to satisfy the occasional, though no-less-fierce sweet tooth.

The pastry case glows with colorful gems that are on par with my favorite Twin Cities bakeries.  And I spent my fair share of time in Rustica and Patisserie 46.

I savored a slice of orange glazed cheese cake, $5, in tiny bites, washing it down with iced tea scented with rhubarb.  Jake nibbled on a pair of petite cannolis, $3.  
That evening, we splurged on our favorite, spicy dishes from Passage to India which still remains our favorite restaurant in Fargo (Mango’s Mexican Grill is a close second).  
Crispy onion pakora, a mixed tandoor platter, bhindi masala, paneer tikka masala, garlic naan, chutneys, raita, and nutty ghee-scented rice.  
A $50 feast with enough leftovers to enjoy several more times throughout the weekend.  
Did I already mention “keep calm and carry on?” 

Weekend Culinary Overload: Passage to India (Again!), JL Beers, & A Gourmet Jewish Brunch

I missed my blog’s birthday!  On April 7th, 2012, An Herbalist Eats turned one-year old.  I humbly thank each and every individual who has read my blog and/or provided feedback.

Since Jake and I missed our mid-week date night, we scrunched two into one weekend.  We planned that I would pick Friday’s activities and Jake would chose Saturday’s.  Having just eaten at Passage to India, I wracked my brain for my second choice.  Jake’s only input was that he wanted dinner to truly be my choice, also adding he wasn’t especially in the mood for Indian food.

I kept wracking my brain.

And agonizing, as we drove around town searching for dinner.

Finally, Jake observed that I was agonizing over dinner because I really just wanted to go to Passage to India.  Spicy food was the only food that sounded appealing to me, so we headed back to Passages where heat would be guaranteed.  I forgot my camera and used Jake’s iPhone for photos.  

I ordered this tart mango lassi, $3, while Jake ordered iced coffee which turned out to be a creamy, blended beverage, $3.

Unlike blended coffee shop beverages, this iced coffee was hardly sweetened and refreshing.

We ordered one order of garlic naan, $4, and bhindi masala, $10, to share.  As an entree, Jake chose the tandoor kebab platter, $18, and I chose the masala dosa, $9, a food I have never tried.

The garlic naan was pillowy and rich.

We enjoyed the bhindi masala per usual, fishing for the sweet pieces of okra.  Ordering the dish fresh, as opposed to as take-out made a world of difference regarding flavor and texture.

The tandoor kabob feast included chicken, lamb, shrimp, and kafta.  Jake enjoyed all of the components.  I tried a few bites and enjoyed the flavorful, tandoor spice rub and noted the chicken’s juiciness.  The dipping sauce reminded me of Passage’s tikka masala.  I slurped the remaining, spicy sauce with the serving spoon.

I always enjoy the combination tandoor meat and shaves of raw onion.


I received two dosas accompanied by two sauces. 

The thin, crispy rice crepes were slightly oily, in a pleasing way, and filled with a spiced potato mixture.

I ripped off pieces of crepe and dipped them in the cool and slightly spicy coconut sambol and second sauce that tasted like a daal.  

I found one dosa filling and happily packed the remaining dosa for another meal.  Passage’s also offers a couple of other dosas that I would also like to try.

The meals came with steamed basmati rice.  I enjoy Passage’s rice because it always has a nice texture and tastes of being cooked with ghee and salt.  The service was lovely and warm.

On Saturday, Jake chose dinner at JL Beers in downtown Fargo, followed by a viewing of The Hunger Games.  Usually I dislike viewing or reading anything twice, but enjoyed watching the film, post-book.

For a Fargo-Moorhead burger craving, I can’t really imagine going anywhere else except JL Beers.  Although JL Beers is tiny, it offers an extensive beer selection and high quality burgers that are cheap as hell.

I ordered the Rajun Cajun burger, $4.19, topped with pepper jack, caramelized onions, and creamy, Cajun lime sauce.

Jake ordered the Slaw Burger, $4.19, topped with coleslaw and barbecue sauce.  We split an order of Buffalo BLU Fries, $3.99.  Crispy, thin-cut fries lightly coated in buffalo sauce and sprinkled with blue cheese crumbles.

Our burgers were juicy and the bun was lovingly toasted.  Despite all of the toppings, I savored each bite’s subtle crunchiness provided by the toasted side of the bun.

And if this wasn’t enough of a culinary overload, I attended Temple Beth El’s annual Gourmet Jewish Brunch.  The line was practically backed up from the front door and many attendees mention they have been attending the brunch for years.  Temple Beth El offered a wonderland of offerings including chopped liver, pickled herring, smoked fishes, sweet noodle kugel, matzo brei, potato knishes, golden brown blintzes filled with a creamy mixture and topped with sour cream and jelly, bagels and lox, a whole table of desserts that I ignored, and steaming hot coffee with real cream.

I enjoyed learning a little about Temple Beth El and experiencing their hospitality.  I did not want to miss this unique opportunity to try home-cooked Jewish food in Fargo.  Having read Ruth Reichl’s book Garlic and Sapphires, I was excited to actually taste matzo brei after reading her enticing description.  I look forward to making this comfort food at home.

We’ll be taking it easy this week as I continue to experiment with work week cooking concoctions.  I foresee a matzo brei dinner.

Fargo’s Passage To India: Can I Go Back Yet?

Remember how I once stated that if you wanted to eat pho in Fargo, there is only one place to go?

The same goes for Indian food.  There is only one place to go.  Fortunately, it is fabulous.

Passage To India
855 45th Street
Fargo, ND 58103
701-281-0277

Jake and I theorize we inherited the stomachs of our ancestors.  I can eat as much spicy, fragrant food from any country or region of Asia, India, or Africa with no ill effects.  In fact, I may feel better.  But if you treat me to a three course meal from Meritage, or rich, Minnesotan holiday meal, my stomach will probably ache.  The reverse applies to Jake.

I first tasted Indian food in high school.  My friend and I tried Taste of India’s lunch buffet so we could write about it in our school paper, The Talon.

I remember enjoying the new flavors and unforgettable hospitality of the owners who treated us to several varieties of lassi.  This past spring, I returned from Mexico with a mysterious stomach ailment. Oddly enough, I was discovered my stomach felt infinately better after I dined at Surabhi’s spicy, South Indian lunch buffet in Bloomington, MN.  I begged Jake to return that weekend and have been addicted ever since.  If I had my way, I’d eat spicy Indian food every time we dined out.  This past year, I have enjoyed slowly learning how to cook Indian food in my own kitchen.

On a Friday evening, we placed our first order at Passage to India.  Many of Fargo’s ethnic restaurants seem tamed-down in comparison to my favorite places in the Twin Cities.  So we ordered everything extra spicy and crossed our fingers.

Love At Fresh Curry Leaves
Passage To India is adjacent to the Fargo License Bureau, where I spent two lunch hours this past week.  No longer a guest.  Not quite a legend.

Upon entering Passage To India, I noticed Indian ingredients and a small cooler in a nook near the counter.  I knew we were in good hands when I saw a small sign advertising fresh curry leaves.

The onion pakoras, $5, were crunchy delights.  The batter was a bit thicker than what I just tasted at Surabhi, but it was shatteringly crunchy, greaseless, and warm with spices.  A slight fire grew in my mouth.

We scooped up our saucy entrees with a mixed naan basket that included a few varieties of flat breads.   The menu lists describes the basket as including naan, garlic naan, onion kulcha, and alu paratha.  Our order included about six pieces for $7 which seems a bit pricey.  I can only remember tasting garlic naan and alu paratha.  The texture of the naan which was slim and delicate.

Whenever a meal involves naan, Jake and I nearly get into flat bread scuffles.  I think I lost this one. 

Okra is an underrated vegetable and, per usual, we ordered bhindi masala, $10.  Passage’s version was saucy and included fresh tomato, onions, and green pepper.  While I would have preferred Passages swap more okra for green pepper, the sauce was just so tasty.

We randomly ordered the Lamb Chettinad Curry, $12, not knowing what to expect.  Tender pieces of lamb lie beneath the calm surface of the velvety gravy.  Complex, spicy, and deep.

Lastly, I ordered raita for myself.
The thin, cool yogurt sauce complimented the intensely flavored gravies and their heat.  
Overall, we were impressed with the quality, addictiveness, and spiciness of Passage’s food.  My Indian food craving hits hard, fast, and more frequent by the minute.  I feel secure knowing I have access to Indian food as delicious as I have found in the Twin Cities.  
Jake claims it tasted better than Surabhi.  I think it’s right on par, but am partial to Surabhi’s Thali meals that provide naan and condiments for a flat, additional up-charge.  But the sauces were so compelling and well-balanced that we licked our plates and containers clean, not wasting a drop.  
Someone recommended their weekend buffet and I look forward to visiting.  
On a final note, I will add that although I now own a ND drivers license, license plates and car title,
I’m still 612, ya’ll.  

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