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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Off the Menu Curry Dinner

Last night I got to attend an Asia Society Off the Menu dinner, and what fun it was. This series explores favorite dishes that chefs have not been able to keep on their restaurant menus. A ticket to one of these events means you get to taste some very special dishes, no matter what the theme. My fellow Bay Area Bites blogger Thy Tran moderated a fascinating conversation between the chefs.

Each participating chef talked about curries from their home countries--India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand and dispelled some common misconceptions.

From India, Ruta Kahate made a beef curry, and shared that beef is eaten by some Indians and that not all curries have lots of ingredients, this one used only three spices.

From Indonesia chef Daniel Sudar made a spicy goat curry called Gulai Kambing that is usually only served once a year but that he plans on putting on the menu at his soon-to-be-opened Red Lantern restaurant.

Alex Ong from Betelnut restaurant made a Nonya style Korma curry with chicken that is normally made with lamb. It was served dry, but was full of flavor. Because the word curry is derived from the Tamil word for sauce, it is commonly believed that all curries are served with sauce, but that is not necessarily true.

One special chef was in fact not a restaurant chef but my friend, food blogger extraordinaire, Pim. She made a curry and didn't use a curry paste. Kanom Jeen Nam-prik is a rice noodle dish with a curry sauce served with shrimp. Pim's Thai restaurant pet peeve is the way curries are served mix-and-match where customers choose the color--red, green or yellow and the meat, usually chicken, beef or pork. In Thailand much care goes into the pairing of the curry and the meat.

Each dish was strikingly different in texture and flavor showing just a sampling of the wide range of curries in a few parts of Asia. I will try to give you a head's up when the next dinner is announced as they frequently sell out.