We’ve wanted to do a challenge with Flavor of India in Longmont for some time, but we had to wait until the head chef, Chacha Singh, and his son Daman, who runs the house, were back from a trip to India. “We can do anything,” Daman assured me over the phone. “We even do fish and chips.” What could I give to challenge a chef who claims he can do anything?
I settled on apples—thinking they are not a common ingredient in Indian cooking and they would be at their peak for the challenge. Silly me. When Daman said his father could cook anything, he wasn’t kidding. He presented us with their “Chef’s Choice” dish: apples and scallops in a rich, spicy Kashmiri-style tomato sauce alongside a rice pilaf with apples, almonds, walnuts and spices.
The scallops were perfectly cooked, tender and rich, and surprisingly good with the spicy-sweet tomato sauce. Chunks of apple swam in the dish as well; with a texture similar to the scallops, and most of their sweetness leached away into the sauce, they took on an unexpected savory quality.
“There are a lot of fruit curries from the Kashmir region,” Daman said. So adapting a recipe to work with apples wasn’t too much of a stretch. The sauce included pureed apples, tomatoes and seven different well-balanced spices including cumin, coriander, paprika and red chili. The sauce had a smooth, velvety texture, almost creamy. The rice was the perfect foil, sweet and savory, with the little bit of crunch from the nuts. Daman served it to us as part of a feast, with chicken korma, cauliflower and mango lassi. Add a steaming platter of garlic naan, and we were in heaven.
When I asked Daman if the apples had been a challenge for his father, he shrugged and shook his head. A chef has to know all ingredients, he contended.
“If you are confused (by an ingredient) you are not a chef.”
But, he insisted, that sort of knowledge isn’t required for his diners. In fact, he loves to educate guests new to his cuisine who might be timid or unsure of what to order.
“Come in. I will order for you, and you will like it,” he said.
On the evidence of this dish, we tend to believe him.
The Kashmiri-style chef’s choice will be on the menu at Flavor of India in Longmont through the month of October with your choice of meat, fish or vegetables. Call 303.682.9010 or visit flavorofindialongmont.com for information.