The Dish: Indian chef Anita Jaisinghani

The Dish: Indian chef Anita Jaisinghani

Indian chef Anita Jaisinghani got a degree in microbiology before starting her small catering business. That business led to work as a pastry chef and eventually the opening of her own restaurants including Houston's Pondicheri Café. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the popular venue drew special acclaim for its exotic baked goods. Two years ago, a second Pondicheri Café location opened in New York City, also with an all-day menu of flavorful Indian specialties.

Here are some of Jaisinghani's   signature recipes: 

Masala-fried chicken with tamarind chutney 

Brine Ingredients

4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup yogurt
Lemon juice 
4-5 whole star anise
1 tbsp salt
1 whole chicken approx. 3 lbs.

Directions

1. Without removing the skin, cut chicken into pieces separating legs, thighs, wings and cutting breast pieces into three. Refrigerate the pieces in the brine for 48 hrs. 

2. After brine is complete drain the liquid and place the chicken pieces uncovered on a paper towel lined tray in the refrigerator overnight. 

3. Next, marinate the chicken pieces in the following masala:

Masala Ingredients

1 cup yogurt
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp amchur
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ajwain
2 tbsp ginger puree
2 tsp minced garlic
Chicken can be marinated for up to 2-3 days

  1. Lay out wings, thighs and drumsticks separately on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes. 
  2. Make an egg wash of 3 eggs, 1 cup yogurt, 1 tsp ajwain, 1 tsp salt and whisk until smooth. Coat chicken with 4 cups of chickpea flour, salt and pepper. 
  3. Dip chicken in egg wash then coat in chickpea flour mix. Fry the pieces at 300 degrees for 5 min.

Tamarind chutney Ingredients

Dried tamarind pulp (7 oz. package)
4 cups hot water
3/4 cup chopped jaggery  
2 tbsp ginger puree
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder 
1 1/2 tsp black salt

  1. Combine the tamarind block with 4 cups hot water in a stockpot for an hour or so. Try to break it up with a spoon or a knife before turning on the hear. As soon as water boils, lower the heat, cover the stockpot and cook the tamarind for 30-45 min. 
  2. Stir in jaggery, ginger, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, black salt. Add another cup of water if mixture is too thick and then let it cook for another 15 min. When the jaggery has dissolved, turn off the heat.
  3. Within 5-10 minutes of the chutney coming off the stove use a spatula to push it through a colander or strainer with large holes. This requires some effort. Make sure not to lose the pulp that gathers on the underside of the colander. The chutney can be stored up to a month in the refrigerator. 

Potato cakes

Ingredients

1 cup of dry tapioca pearls 
3 cups hot water
2 cups of grated, boiled Idaho potatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 medium, whole chopped serrano pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch

Directions

1. Soak tapioca pearls in hot water for 3-4 hours or overnight. Drain. 

2. Grate the potatoes without peeling. Discard most of the peel that is left behind the grater. Small pieces of peel in the mix are OK. Add the drained tapioca, cilantro, serrano pepper, cornstarch, pomegranate seeds, cumin and salt

3. Shape into 2-inch rounds about 3/4 inch thick and deep fry in 325 degree hot oil until golden and crisp. 

Crispy okra  

Ingredients

1lb. small, tender, young okra
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 rsp chili powder
2 tsp amchur
1 tbsp crushed fennel seeds

Directions 

1. Without trimming, slice each piece of okra in half, lengthwise. Stems are edible and will soften when cooked. 

2. In a large sauce pan or skillet heat the olive oil and add the sliced okra with salt. Cook on high heat, stirring not too frequently. Within 3-4 min. the okra will begin to turn bright green. As soon as it is cooked, pull off the heat

3. Immediately toss in the chili powder, amchur and crushed fennel seeds.