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Missing Mom’s cooking

Ankur Chawla | Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The past few weeks my roommates and I found one of the most dramatic channels on T.V. No, it’s not TNT (they don’t know drama … ) or MTV (as much as I love the “Jersey Shore,” it’s getting a bit stale). There’s only one channel on TV that truly grabs my attention: The Food Network.

Now before you begin to judge us for indulging in the likes of “Iron Chef America” and “Chopped,” ask yourself why you aren’t watching professional chefs pan sear chicken to perfection and bake the perfect cupcake. While we really are blessed with decent dining halls, acceptable on-campus eateries and off-campus restaurants on par with any medium sized city in the country, Food Network has the ability to show what food could be.

Since birth, I have been spoiled by my mom’s incredible cooking (those of my friends lucky enough to try her samosas know what I’m talking about). More than being home or away from classes, what I look forward to most during summer and winter breaks is Indian food — food that actually has flavor and complex textures.

As I said, we have really exceptional food services on campus, but it can’t compare or even come close to freshly made naan, chicken tikka masala and daal mahkni. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten accustomed to the standard arbitrary cut of meat, some form of potatoes and a mixture of boiled vegetables for dinner every night like my roommate has.

Instead, I’ve been accustomed to the spices, aromas, curries and abundance of vegetarian options as the central part of a meal. The unique pairing of flavors in Indian cooking, such as cheese cubes in a creamy spinach (saag paneer), is yet another thing that keeps my stomach unsatisfied after a trip to South Dining Hall. Nothing on this planet (other than potentially a red velvet cupcake) is as utterly delicious as Indian food.

Now a disclaimer on what the dining halls label “Indian food” — spoiler alert, it isn’t. While I appreciate the effort, half of the dishes have names that I’ve never heard of despite spending significant time in India and literally eating Indian food every day whilst home. The other half of the dishes served hardly resembles their namesake (the channa masala had no masala… ) and unfortunately don’t do the cuisine justice.

Fortunately for those of us who crave the flavors of the Indian peninsula, I have learned a great deal from watching Food Network and am cooking dinner for any and all who would like to join me this Thursday. Just kidding. But seriously, there’s a pretty good Indian restaurant down the road on Edison named India Garden and I’m always looking for people to go there with me.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Ankur Chawla at [email protected]