Cooking Class in Varkala, South India

“Cooking Class with Khan” advertised in posters all over walls and steps on the cliff walkways. I’d wanted to take a cooking class for South Indian food, which seemed so complex and difficult to make will layers of flavors and five million spices per recipe. I wanted to unveil the mystery and learn how to take home one of my favorite cuisines for when I have a kitchen again. Cooking Class with Khan was right in the hotel’s kitchen and Khan a gracious teacher.

I joined a British couple who’d just arrived in India a few days back with Varkala as their first stop. We gabbed right up to starting our class. In the kitchen, we worked off of a granite table and used four burners connected skeletal to a large propane cylinder as the stove. Khan kept a great pace. We peeled vegetables, boiled rice, blended spices, and worked several dishes at a time. Every recipe had about 40 steps and Khan wove these steps together beautifully for symphony of actions (mostly his) that resulted in a beautiful meal. Our most interactive part was attempting to make parotta bread, which had similar motions to pizza. I’ve never mastered both and definitely had some “special” pieces.

Our menu was as follows:

Vegetable Pakora

Cooking class in Varkala - Pakora

Coconut Rice
Butter Paneer Masala
Vegetable Korma
Parotta – flat bread

Cooking class in Varkala

I learned that Indian cooking requires a) a lot of oil, spices, and steps and b) is totally worth all the work. We were in the kitchen for about 2 1/2 hours and Khan kept us busy and entertained the entire time. After most of Khans’s hard labor and our viewing, we sat down to a fantastic lunch. Everything about the meal was fresh, no pre-packaged food or minute rice, only processed spices and oils. I attempted to eat with my hands, but only a spoon would do to scoop up large spoonfuls of our delicious Indian feast.

The Coconut Rice Recipe

This is one of the easier, but very flavorful, dishes we made in class.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of rice grains, washed thoroughly
  • More than 3 cups of water
  • Sunflower oil
  • 1 red onion
  • Handful of cashews
  • Handful of golden raisins
  • 1 curry leaf stem (about 16 leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoon ghee
  • 4 dried red chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped coconut
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • Pinch of mustard seeds
  • Pinch of tumeric

Equipment

  • Pot
  • Collander
  • 2 woks
  • Slotted spoon
  • Large spoon for mixing
  • Knife and cutting board
  • 2 plates

Instructions

Prepare Rice

  1. Boil water.  When boiling, add 1 tsp salt.
  2. Add clean rice and boil until done.  Drain rice and set aside.

Prepare Cashew and Raisin Mix

  1. Heat 1 inch of sunflower oil in wok on low heat.
  2. Thinly slice red onions.
  3. Add onions to sunflower oil and lightly fry. Remove when brown and place on plate. Add raisins to plate.
  4. Lightly fry the cashews. Remove when brown and place on plate with onions and raisins.
  5. Lightly fry the curry leaves. Remove when a deep green and place onto plate.
  6. Set aside mix.

Combine and Cook to Make the Coconut Rice

  1. Heat coconut oil and ghee in wok.
  2. Add mustard seeds, tumeric powder, chopped coconut and chilis to oil.
  3. Add rice to wok and mix all together with slotted sppon.
  4. When rice is coated, add shredded coconut and mix more.
  5. Spoon rice onto plate and sprinkle the cashew and raisin mix to top.
  6. Serve hot.

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2 Responses to “Cooking Class in Varkala, South India”

  1. February 25, 2010 at 1:09 am #

    Hi,
    I saw your column about the cooking class in Varkala. I wonder if you have any contactnumber to this guy Khan or email adress? Would appreciate if you could send it. The class looked good.

    Wishing you the best luck,
    AnnaKarin

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