Maneet Chauhan, judge on the Food Network’s Chopped and Iron Chef contestant is on a 40 city tour of the country to promote her new book Flavors Of My World (co-written Doug Singer). A rock star type luxury coach is transporting her and a film crew for a month a total of over 8,500 miles and maintaining a grueling daily schedule. This Friday she was in Dallas for a book signing, followed by an afternoon conducting a Pro-Start cooking competition for high school students (Pro-Start is a program of the National Restaurant Association to promote interest in in culinary careers), and then overseeing a Celebrity Chef Dinner at Komali.
I was fortunate to be a media guest at the Celebrity Chef Dinner which featured a mixture of dishes from Flavors Of My World and Komali Chef Anastacia Quiñones. After starting with a bracing cocktail of peach and mango vodka, jalapeño simple syrup and fresh lime juice (created by Maneet but available at the bar at Komali) we chowed down on Anastasia’s plantain croquettes served on a bed of black bean purée, sprinkled with queso fresco and laced with a avocado serrano crema. Think of plantains as bananas without social skills. Latin food cultures impressively incorporate them as sweet elements into otherwise savory dishes. This dish should be on the Komali menu and is recommended.
Next up was a hearty Komali entrée of crusted lamb chops with yellow mole, caramelized bulb onions, garbanzo and roasted chayote topped with a salad of watercress and chicharrón.
Finally, Maneet’s indulgent dessert was an Indian variation on churros. Three of them were sprinkled with coconut and accompanied by coffee rich with Indian spices like coriander.
One interesting thing that I took away from Maneet’s fusion Indian-inspired food is the similarities and the contrasts between Indian and Mexican ingredients. Both cuisines make extensive use of chilies, and have common herbs such as cilantro. However, they draw from opposite ends of the spice rack. Indian uses cumin, coriander and tumeric extensively while Mexican cooking leans towards saffron, cinnamon and an overall heavier emphasis on herbs and chilies, rather than spices, for flavor accentuation.
For Maneet and her crew the beat goes on. They are off to Oklahoma and then New Mexico over the weekend. Details are still embargoed, but expect the video from this tour to accompany a new TV series starting later this year and distributed in half a dozen countries dispersed over three continents.
We all left with a signed copy of Flavors Of My World. A brief look through it has me excited to try the innovative fusion recipes drawn from the national cuisines of over twenty countries. The recipes look manageable, and each is accompanied by a glorious color photo of the finished result meaning even bumbling amateurs like me know where they are heading.