I credit my family’s appreciation for global cuisines to the trip my dad made to India for work about ten years ago. Sure, we grew up eating a variety of Mexican, Chinese and some German foods, but for the most part, everything was as Americanized as it could get. We didn’t truly begin exploring traditional dishes from around the world until the months leading up to his journey. For that, I am grateful.
We covered the world in our kitchen, and Indian was our jumping off point. Spicy chillies, kaffir lime or curry leaves, assertive ginger and turmeric, fresh coconut, earthy cumin and coriander, popped mustard seeds, and fragrant cinnamon and cardamom were all unique and unforgettable new flavors. There were also new breads like naan and roti. New meat dishes like lamb curries and Tandoori chicken. New desserts like gulab jamun and halwa. And new grains like aromatic long-grain Basmati rice.
All these years later, Basmati is a pantry staple for my husband and me, and finds its way onto our table all year round. It’s especially comforting on cold nights like we’ve endured recently. The secret to this fragrant Indian pilaf is frying the spices together with the onion, garlic, chillies and ginger prior to adding the rice, giving it the right amount of heat and a wonderfully complex flavor. The finished dish is warming and satisfying.