Well, so am I. Pretty much all the time. The smokiness, the spices, those deep layered flavours just can't be beat. The best meal I ever had (at a restaurant) was without a doubt at a restaurant called Bukhara in New Delhi. I remember we went shopping for spices in Old Delhi after lunch and by the time we got home it was almost 8pm. I was so hungry I could scream. Suddenly I remembered a midnight conversation I had (accidentally) overheard the night before. Our host and one of his guests were talking about this great restaurant they always go to when in town. I didn't pay much attention then, but I did remember the name Bukhara. And boy am I glad I did! We immediately asked our host to give us directions to this place. He said he'd be glad to, but he didn't think we could get in there without a reservation. We just pretended not to hear what he had just said. We jumped into a tuk-tuk (kinda dangerous, noisy, dusty, but loads of fun) and went straight to the restaurant. The funny thing was that this is an expensive restaurant. Nobody goes there by tuk-tuk. But hey, when you gotta eat you gotta eat! So after making a grand entrance, we had to wait for a while, but managed to get a table. The food was unbelievable. The chicken, lamb, char grilled veggies were smoky, spicy and utterly delicious. There was no rice on the side, but we had some dhal, cucumber-tomato raita and the most most satisfying piece (or several pieces rather) of naan bread ever!
I can't wait to return. It's hard to describe what it's like in India to someone who has never experienced it. It is definitely a land of contrasts, so vast, colourful, loud and sometimes surprising that it would take a lifetime to get to know it corner to corner.
The sounds, the people, the scenery and the great food will definitely make you want to go back. Most people who have been there say that while you're there you can't wait to leave and once you left all you think about is going back. I know I would be ready to go right now!
This recipe I chose to deal with my cravings is in no shape or form authentic. I know that. But it is Indian spiced, easy, fast fresh and super delicious. For the chicken I used homemade mango pickle (I always have lots of different pickles and spice mixtures in the fridge), but store bought will do just fine.
Baked mango chicken with Indian spiced chickpea salad
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 tbsp mango chutney or pickle of your choice
Preheat oven to 400F. Place mango chutney or pickle in a bowl. Add the chicken and coat well. Arrange chicken breasts on an aluminum foil lined baking tray. Bake for about 30 to 35 min.
For the salad:
30 oz cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp each fennel, cumin, coriander seeds
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 cup yogurt
lime juice to taste
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
pinch of sea salt
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add fennel, cumin and coriander and cook until fragrant. Remove from heat and crush spices a little using a mortar and pestle. Put chickpeas in a bowl, add spice mixture and rest of the ingredients. Serve with the baked mango chicken.
India photos by L. N.