Rickshaw Flava


Is it still racism if it’s a really positive stereotype?  Or is that just stereotyping? And, while I’m at it, why is stereotyping in a positive way wrong, provided you allow room for individuals in your thought process?  Isn’t that just a natural way to group people so that your brain doesn’t have to tediously sort each and every human into its own category?  Food for thought.

Because whenever I think about Indians, I always feel like they’re a very peaceful people.  Probably something to do with the fact that they treat cows as sacred animals, and that about 40% of Indians are vegetarians, and that George W. Bush never declared war on them, despite the fact that they’re obviously brown.  Clearly an oversight on his part.

In Fort Collins, I was friends with the son of one of the Indian restauranteurs.  He was a nice kid who was sort of non-traditional in that he a) only dated white Hooters girls, b) sold cocaine, and c) was actually Pakistani, even though the restaurant was Indian.

Maybe that’s a bad example.  The Indian restaurant up the street from our old apartment in Lone Tree is co-owned by this beautiful, chubby Indian woman who once told Chris that I was “very bootiful,” and I’m pretty sure that she’s actually Indian.  See?  Peaceful.  And with excellent taste.

And Indian food? SO tasty.  In a huge variety of its many incarnations.  So let’s celebrate Indian takeout and the culture of the peaceful, spice-loving Indian people with a vegetarian version of the national dish! Of Britain!

What?  Oh, an explanation.  Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular Indian takeout meals, despite the fact that it has absolutely no real Indian roots.  So much so that it was voted by British citizens to be the national dish.  Its only competition was bangers and mash or fish and chips, so it’s not hard to see how it managed to eke out a victory.

I decided to take the basic idea for a spin, but to vegefy it by taking out the chicken and adding in roasted butternut squash and marinated, baked tofu in its stead.  Fantastic, it turns out.

This is going to look, again, like a lot of steps.  But if you have a food processor or a decent blender it really takes very little time and effort, and not too many dishes to wash.  I’ll break it down into two big “steps” so that the ingredients don’t all muddle together.

Step 1:

-1 package extra firm tofu
-1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed into .5″ pieces
-2 T olive oil
-3 chiles (I had Thai chiles leftover, so I used those, but you can use whatever you prefer)
-2 limes, juiced
-1 t paprika
-1 t ground cumin
-.5 t ground coriander
-.25 t ground cinnamon
-2 shallots, chopped
-4 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
-.5 C greek yogurt or vegan coconut yogurt

-Drain your tofu and place on a paper toweled plate, under a light weight for an hour to drain out much of the liquid.  Dice into 1″ cubes

Before baking

-Preheat oven to 400 F
-In a blender, combine all of the rest of the ingredients until they form a smooth paste

Roasted squash

-Toss with cubed tofu, spread on lined baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden in color.
-Meanwhile, in the same oven, roast the cubed squash with a little bit of olive oil until tender

Step 2:

After baking

-1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
-1 T tomato paste (use the stuff in the tube to avoid waste)
-.25 C cilantro, stemmed
-1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
-.5 lime, juiced
-1 t cumin
-.5 t coriander
-1 t garam masala
-1 t sugar
-2 T olive oil
-1 medium onion, diced
-10 curry leaves (omit if you can’t find them, but they add a wonderful nutty quality)
-3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
-.5 bag frozen peas
-.5 C heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk

-Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add curry leaves, onions, and carrots and saute until just tender and fragrant.

This will make your house smell gorgeous.  The curry leaves are the key.

-In the same blender, blend together the tomatoes, paste, cilantro, ginger, lime juice, spices and sugar

Spice paste

-When the veggies are just tender, add in the tomato mixture and simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes.  During the last two minutes of cooking, add frozen peas and continue to simmer until warmed through.  Add salt to taste.

Before cream.  Tasty, but not very smooth.

-Turn down to low heat and stir in cream.  Taste for salt once more.

Mmmm.  Creamy.  Pick out the curry leaves if you wish.

-Stir in the tofu and squash at the end to finish it up.

Serve over basmati rice (I added some turmeric to the rice for fragrance, color, and flavor.  And to prevent myself from pouring sweetened condensed milk on the leftovers like a giant fatty).  Naan wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Peaceful snack

This curry is everything you want out of good Indian takeout.  It’s got the traditional curry flavors, a bit of spice, and lots of comforting, warm flavors.  If you simply can’t abide by tofu, just use a combination of pumpkin and butternut.  Or use chicken. Whatever you decide to do can’t really be wrong with such a winning, effortless pairing of complex flavors.

I’m pretty sure that the Brits would think you were a genius for preparing this food, and Indians probably wouldn’t even laugh at you too hard for calling it Indian food.  That’s how good it is.  And it takes well under an hour to prepare, even with the rice.

And it’s peaceful.  Like Indian people.  Or not.  Because they’re all individuals.  Individuals who are really nice to cows.

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