Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vegan Mofo #20 - Anupy’s Seitan Tikka Masala...

Vegan Mofo #20 - Anupy’s Seitan Tikka Masala

The Region - India
The Book -Vegan Indian Cooking
The Author - Anupy Singla
The Recipe - Seitan Tikka Masala
Page # 207
Difficulty - Easy
Duration - About 30-40 minutes

And now, from China to India. Before going Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala was one of my favorite Indian dishes. I used to get it all the time in my favorite Indian restaurants around town. The flavor of the gravy is just so fantastic and complex, rich, and subtly sweet with a hint of spice, what’s not to like right? Of course it’s not so economical to be eating out all of the time and so I tried my hand - on numerous occasions - to make Tikka Masala at home. Several times I tried before going vegan without success, somehow my versions were just never as rich or complete. Then after going vegan I tried a tofu version that failed miserably, and a tempeh version that was nearly as bad. Why this should be the case I do not know, I used recipes I found online and recipes I found in cook books and none of them ever seemed to capture the greatness of the Tikka Masala’s I was enamored with from my favorite restaurants. Eventually I gave up trying to recreate it.

Then I got Anupy Singla’s wonderful book Vegan Indian Cooking, and lo and behold she has a recipe for Seitan Tikka Masala, I knew instinctively that I would have to try it eventually even if it only turned out to be another miserable failure in a long string of them. This was one of the dishes I was most excited about making for Mofo, and I’m happy to report that it exceeded all of my expectations, which came as something of a surprise.

Glancing over the recipe it looks like a bit of a chore but really it’s quite simple. You cube seitan and marinate it in a mixture of soy yogurt - I actually used coconut because that’s all I had - lemon, ginger, garlic, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. The recipe doesn’t specify how long to marinate it just says to do so while you prepare everything else, but I know a longer marinade time means better flavor and so I prepared this in advance and marinated it for an hour.

The gravy is just as simple in a food processor you combine an onion, garlic, serrano chilies, tomato paste, gram masala, coriander, red chili powder, sea salt, jaggary - which I didn’t have so I used brown sugar instead - water, and whole fresh tomatoes. Once combined you heat some oil in a pan and pour the mixture in, bring to a boil and simmer. Basically you cook this like you’d cook a spaghetti sauce and you add in some whole cloves and cardamom pods. I didn’t have either whole cloves or cardamom pods and so I used ground spices instead, it worked out beautifully, and I used about an 1/4 tsp of each.

While your sauce is bubbling on the stove you remove the seitan from the marinade and fry it till brown in a skillet. Then you add any leftover marinade from the seitan into the sauce, add in the cubed seitan, and some cashew cream. Let it sit for 10 minutes to let the flavor mingle and serve with minced cilantro over rice with naan.

So much easier then you’d think, and so, so delicious. This is the hands down best Tikka Masala I’ve ever made, and possible the best one I’ve ever eaten - vegan or otherwise. It’s just as good as any I’ve ever had in any restaurant, and really meets my expectations for rich complexity and subtle flavor. I loved everything about it and my husband heartily agreed that it was the best as he filled his plate for a second time.

Just as an aside here I’d like to mention that despite the Indian flavors, and the fact that Tikka Masala is served in virtually every Indian restaurant in the west, Tikka Masala is not exactly a traditional Indian dish. Certainly the dish shares some similarity with butter chicken, and Tandoori flavor and it was without a doubt invented by an Indian chef, however it was actually invented in the UK not India. No one is 100% sure who first created this dish or where it first originated - some say London, some say Glasgow, some say Birmingham and some say Newcastle - but the reasons for why it was created are pretty clear. As a former British colony there was/is a lot of trade between England and India, and the UK  has a large Indian population as a result of this long-standing relationship. In an effort to make Indian cuisine more popular amongst the British, and more suitable to the palates of white people someone invented Tikka Masala, a mildly spiced Indian inspired dish that has now become the most popular Indian dish in the UK. In fact it’s even been called the most popular dish in British Restaurants period. As much as I love tikka masala I find this very funny, and don’t really consider tikka masala to be ‘true’ Indian food but more of a fusion. After all Tikka Masala is a dish that all of my white friends eat, and none of my Indian friends eat - that tells you something right there. Though, regardless of where it came from, or who invented it, it is a tasty dish, and if you like Tikka as much as I do then you absolutely need to try Anupy’s recipe for it. You’ll fall int love.

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