Archive for January 2007

From the bustling spice markets of Cochin, India… to vibrant Oaxaca, land of the seven moles….from San Sebastian, headquarters of the daring new Spanish cooking….to magical Bangkok, where sumptuous curries challenge our palates with their bold, spicy flavors…the world of food takes us places beyond imagining. For a chef, every journey brings new tastes, new ingredients, new skills and inspiration. The more we see, the more we grow. Travel with Julie Sahni, the cookbook author and Indian food expert, to the coconut plantations of Kerala and the fragrant spice stalls of Delhi. Meet Rick Bayless, chef, Mexican cooking expert and your guide to the subtle secrets of mole negro. Cook a Catalan seafood paella with paella masters from Barcelona, and learn the elements of authentic pad Thai from one of Thailand’s most eminent chefs. Fasten your seat belt for a whirlwind tour of the world’s best tables.

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Green Chicken Curry

The signature flavors of Thai cooking lie in its foundation seasonings—the ingredients a Thai cook uses to add sweet, sour, salty or herbaceous notes to a particular dish. Chef McDang leads us through those essential, defining ingredients.

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In India, fruit chutneys go far beyond the mango version known to most Americans. Watch chef Abhijit Saha prepare one of his favorite chutneys, made with dates, raisins, spices and pomegranate juice.

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Exotic and mesmerizing, India is a land of complexity and contrast, a vivid tapestry of peoples, languages and cultures. Among the oldest civilizations on earth, Indian culture has evolved over centuries, absorbing ideas from the Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Moghuls, Portuguese, Dutch, French and, of course, the British. From the Moghuls, northern Indians learned to make rice pilaf and biriyani, an elaborate layered dish of rice and meat. The Moghuls’ refined cooking became the palace cooking and the dominant influence in the north. In the tropical south, the food is hotter and seafood dominates the coastal diet. The treasured fruit of the coconut palm yields coconut milk for curries and coconut water for toddy, a fermented beverage. From north to south, India offers an endlessly varied feast, befitting its varied geography and multicultural heritage.

Join us as we tour the spice coast of tropical Kerala, where home gardens are a tangle of pepper vines and cardamom bushes and mountain plantations yield coconut, cashew nuts, nutmeg and coffee. We’ll cruise the backwaters of Kerala, past rice paddies, shrimp farms and mango trees. With local cooking teacher Nimmy Paul, we’ll have a private lesson in Kerala home cooking, and we’ll watch the great Kathakali dancers perform in their dazzling makeup.

Moving north, we’ll experience the rich Moghul cuisine and the splendor of the Taj Mahal, the most beautiful tomb ever created, an emporer’s tribute to his beloved wife. In nearby Delhi, we’ll explore the colorful stalls of the market, learning the names and uses for the mysterious vegetables and fruits, lentils, chilies and herbs that underlie this major regional cuisine. In Jaipur, our culinary tour leads us past Hawa Mahal, the Palace of the Winds, a late 18th century example of architectural artistry. And we’ll watch elephants bathing in Moatha Lake outside the fabled Amber Fort, overlooking the great desert plains of Rajasthan.

Together, we’ll uncover the essence of the Indian kitchen as we learn from tandoor masters, market vendors, and specialists in biryani and dosa. In this vast country, with its well-preserved regional cooking and agricultural abundance, we’ll never lack for extraordinary foods to taste.

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India is an enormous country, encompassing numerous religions and languages and every possible landscape, from the snow-covered Himalayas to the tropical palm-lined coasts of the south. Likewise, Indian cooking is far from monolithic. To begin to understand it, we must divide India into regions. Suvir Saran, chef-owner of New York City’s Devi restaurant, helps us out.

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With its reverence for old ways but its passion for the new, Spain may be Europe’s most exciting food destination today. On this culinary tour of Northern Spain, you’ll see why Catalonia and the Basque Country are captivating American chefs. Nowhere else will you find such a profound dichotomy between the practitioners of traditional cooking and the advocates for change. Catalonia, after all, is home to the restaurants of Ferran Adria, Juan Mari Arzak and others who are shaking culinary foundations with their daring new compositions. Their foams, emulsions and other ultra-modern creations have pushed Spanish cooking forward and intrigued chefs around the globe.

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Oaxacan Mole Negro

Oaxacan women have perfected the art of making mole. Here, Abigail Mendoza, show us the elaborate preparations required to make this classic dish

Abigail Mendoza Ruiz is the owner of Tlamanalli in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, a restaurant specializing in typical Zapotecan foods. At the age of six, Chef Mendoza Ruiz first learned to make tortillas and began to study the foods and beverages of the Zapotecan Indians.

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The glorious city of Bangkok welcomes visitors to Thailand with sights, sounds and smells unique to this energetic metropolis. King Rama I made Bangkok his capital in the 18th century and commissioned the Grand Palace, a landmark compound of royal residences and sacred temples with shimmering spires. But for a food lover, the first stop must be the Aw Taw Kaw market, one of the most exciting food markets in the world. Serious cooks shop here for their tropical fruits and the finest seafood, while serious eaters come for dumplings and fiery curries. Our guide to the Thai kitchen is chef Khun McDang, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and now host—with his father—of the most popular television food show in Thailand. During a visit to the Culinary Institute campus in Napa Valley, chef McDang prepared several Thai specialties, offering us a rare chance to learn from an expert.

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Kerala Shrimp Curry

Kerala is known for its seafood, which the local cooks often simmer in coconut milk with locally grown herbs and spices. Here, chef Abhijit Saha, prepares a quick Kerala specialty: shrimp cooked in coconut milk with curry leaves.

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Shredded green mango salad is sour, salty, sweet and hot—a refreshing condiment for fried fish or grilled shrimp. Chef McDang shows us how it’s done:

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In the southern highlands of Mexico lies the vibrant state of Oaxaca, home to some of the country’s best-preserved regional cooking. The Oaxacan kitchen owes much to its Zapotec Indian roots. Even today, many dishes reflect the merging of indigenous ingredients and methods with colonial Spanish ideas.  In the capital city—Oaxaca—the sprawling Abastos market could keep a visitor busy for days.  There, you will find the native Zapotec women selling their handmade rugs and woven baskets alongside food stalls packed to the rafters with dried beans, fresh pork and all the other essentials of Oaxacan cuisine

Chef and Mexican food authority Rick Bayless knows the market’s highlights—where to find the best clay cookware, how to use the produce merchants’ wild greens, and how to choose the proper chilies for each mole. Oaxaca, after all, is the Land of the Seven Moles, so named for the various types that Oaxaca claims its own, from the red mole colored with ancho chilies, to the green mole tinted with pumpkinseed, to the inky-dark mole negro, or black mole, with its exotic flavor base of toasted chilies, seeds and nuts.

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Every chef likes to put his or her stamp on a dish, but it’s important to master the basics first, says Rick Bayless.  And, we'll hear from Chefs Robert Del Grande and Roberto Santibañez who say proper roasting techniques are essential to achieving authentic Mexican flavor.

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Silvio Campos is a master of Yucatecan pit cooking, the former personal cook for the governor of the state of Yucatán, a caterer, and a market food vendor.   Here, Chef Campos prepares Yucatecan ribs with a spicy salsa.

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To fine-tune your paella technique, watch how two Spanish paella masters, Jaume Brichs and Evaristo Triano, make paella. They’re with American chef Steve Jilleba in the Aqua restaurant in Barcelona.

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What’s the best-selling dish in America’s Thai restaurants? It would have to be pad Thai, the spicy stir-fried noodles that absolutely no one can resist.  Chef McDang shows us how they’re made...

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Stuffed Jalapenos

Watch Raquel Torres create Stuffed Jalapeños

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In many ways, Spain’s home cooking and its modern cooking are closer than we think, say Jose Andres, chef-owner of seven restaurants in the Washington, DC, area and a protégé of Ferran Adria.   We’ll also hear from from Basque food authority Maria Jose Sevilla and Catalan chef Daniel Olivella, who makes impeccable paella at his San Francisco restaurant B44.

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Our guide to the Thai kitchen is chef Khun McDang, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and now host—with his father—of the most popular television food show in Thailand. During a visit to the Culinary Institute campus in Napa Valley, chef McDang prepared several Thai specialties, offering us a rare chance to learn from an expert.

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Nancy’s “Caesar” Salad

Inspired by her love of Caesar salad and salade Nicoise, chef Nancy Silverton created this splashy salad that combines the best of both, with roasted fingerling potatoes and sliced avocados. Layer with tender leaves of romaine hearts, or go upscale with Bibb or Boston lettuce, then garnish with grated hard-boiled eggs and pecorino cheese.

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Watch Bangalore Chef Abhijit Saha prepare a traditional Indian rice dish Chicken Pulao.

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