To My Boys,
This meal was not the first seven course meal your father and I served in our home. But it was the one that we managed to do well. And the reason being that it was a menu that took us from one great story to the next.
The Garlic Honey Spiced Nuts were not actually served for this meal. I had bought something similar from a package but when I had put them out I thought “I could’ve made these better”. And I think I did. The nuts were a tribute to the Asian snack aisle that your father is obsessed with. And my memory of you three along with your father emptying out all the sample buckets of snacks at the Korean Supermarket. The combination of sweet, savory and spicy is perfect to ignite the senses and prepare one for all of the dishes ahead.
The Coconut Curry Broth with Red Shrimp is inspired by my many breakfasts in Indonesia where I slurped down a similar bowl of curry except with eggs and taro. I tried for years to replicate it once I came back to the States and I think I’m close. It was served with a light seafood for this particular dinner.
The Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad is a tribute to the cucumber salads you get at Thai restaurants, specifically one from our old neighborhood of Downtown Arlington Heights. It’s the perfect light salad with the right ingredients to cleanse your tastebuds after the coconut broth.
Tandoori Chicken is a classic from my Punjabi cuisine and it is undeniably your father’s weakness. During our wedding we saved it for the 11 o’clock pm meal where all of our drunk relatives and friends realized that they missed dinner and now needed to supplement their many trips to the open bar with something delicious and substantial. For this dinner it was served with a cold cilantro cream sauce and fresh baked naan brushed with ghee.
Lamb has and always will be my favorite protein. There have been many vegetarian moments in my life where I have had to succumb to the power of my hunger for lamb. This particular dish, Cumin Spiced Lamb with Red Peppers, was actually inspired by a Xinjiang recipe but we could not use the hot peppers because we weren’t sure if the spice would be ok for our guests. Therefore, I served it with sweet red peppers and have since tweaked it again to include garlic and ginger. It was served with fresh Jasmine rice.
The Lychee Rose Granita was a tribute to a distinct memory I have of a lychee tree in my Aunt and Uncle’s yard in Chandigarh, India. Their garden is beautiful and in my memory there were fragrant roses near by mixing with the scent of the juice dripping from the ripened lychees. And it had to be a granita because I liked the texture of the ice crystals with the rose water rather than something smooth like a sorbet. I must admit-it’s heavenly.
Coconut Tapioca Pudding is absolutely one of my favorites and it was a dish that I once had in Thailand while backpacking through in my early twenties. I couldn’t afford desserts on many days but I splurged once and fell in love with the little pearls in the velvety milk. For this dinner it was served with slices of Alfonso mangoes.
The finale of Turkish Cardamom Coffee was a tribute to your father’s trip to Turkey years before you were born. He fell in love with the coffee there and I actually bought him an Ibrik to make the coffee in and the beautiful cups to serve it in for one of his birthdays. I particularly enjoy it with dried apricots as they almost start to taste like caramel when combined with the taste of the coffee. And of course we also served it with Turkish Delight for our guests.
Each course inspired stories that then led us to pause and just enjoy the company of our new and old friends. The flavors of each dish were meant to complement the next and set the tone for a cohesive and intricately spiced meal. I sincerely hope that is what we accomplished.