Confessions of a Chile Addict
If it's spicy, then award-winning cookbook writer and Indian curry master Raghavan Iyer craves it. He gives Hungry Beast his insight on everything hot.
If you look past the ubiquitous vindaloo, tikka masala, and korma to the popularization of more complex flavor horizons in Indian cuisine, you will find Bombay-born Raghavan Iyer, the award-winning cookbook author and culinary educator. Raghavan, co-founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institute, most recently wrote 660 Curries, which Madhur Jaffrey calls "nothing short of a treasure chest."
Iyer’s avowed goal: the complete spectrum of Indian curries and home-style dishes accessible globally. But what does he cook and eat himself? The Hungry Beast caught up with him to break some virtual naan and ask 12.
OK, what are the five things you always have in your refrigerator/kitchen? Chiles, cilantro, potatoes, cumin seeds, and fresh curry leaves.
Give us your favorite meal to cook for your family and friends? Indian, of course—Tapioca pearl fritters with a coconut-sesame-seed sauce; chile-garlic potatoes dipped in chickpea flour, fried golden brown and stuffed into sandwich buns smothered with a roasted garlic/red chile condiment; fresh rice noodles with freshly squeezed lime, cashews, and curry leaves.
What do you eat for breakfast? When I do eat breakfast (which is usually on Sunday only), it is shredded potatoes, smothered with habañero chiles, cilantro, sea salt, and melted cheddar cheese.
Do you have a favorite cheese? Anything with triple cream—fat, fat, and more fat—the succulence of it all!
If you’re at a diner, what would interest you? French fries. The biggest portion I can get. I’m a potato junkie as you may have guessed.
Is that your favorite comfort food? Lentil fritters in a tamarind/pigeon-pea broth redolent with chiles, curry leaves, and roasted mustard seeds.
What about a midnight snack, then? I am not a late-night snacker, but if I were to sneak in a snack, it would be kettle-cooked potato chips with a fiery salsa.
What is your favorite cooking technique? Stir-fry—it’s quick and yields tasty results.
What kitchen skill do you think everyone should have? How to efficiently use a chef’s knife.
Is there one dish you think everyone should know how to make? There’s an awesome potato curry in my 660 Curries that is flavored with red chiles, garlic, white sesame seeds, and peanuts—yumski!
Chiles again! Let’s talk hot sauce: Tabasco or Sriracha? Sriracha, of course!
For Raghavan Iyer’s recipes, click here.
Sarah Whitman-Salkin is an Editor at Cookstr.com. She lives in New York City.