Food in Abu Dhabi, and the UAE as a whole, is heavily influenced by both its neighboring countries and by the expatriate population (which accounts for approximately 85% of the population), the majority of whom are Indian. That makes for some great Indian cuisine. Many hotels offer elaborate Indian buffets, small, family owned Indian restaurants are plentiful, and the local markets stock a wide variety of vegetables and spices for home cooks.
On a recent trip to Dubai, I came upon a lovely cookbook, 50 Great Curries of India, by Camellia Panjabi. The photos and recipes were so tempting that I wanted to start cooking, straight away. But author advised to begin with a simple home-style curry before venturing into the more complex dishes.
So today I took her advice and made my first home-style curry.
Frying the onions properly is a very key step in curry making; the key is to not to get the pan too hot as to overly brown the onions. The goal is to achieve a golden, caramelized color.
After about twenty-five minutes, it was time to add fresh ginger and garlic. The ginger here is amazingly fresh and moist, not the dried out root I typically found in the US. After a minute on the heat, the kitchen smelled heavenly, but now it’s time to add the spices: coriander, cumin, garam masala, and paprika.
After about ten more minutes, the result was a reduction of Indian goodness of warm spices (not spicy hot), ginger, garlic, and onions.
Now time for the tomatoes. After a few more minutes, the chicken was added to the party. The result was a rich, flavorful chicken curry that I served over rice with Arabic bread on the side. A perfect lunch.
While this was a solid first attempt, my husband and I both agreed that next time (and there will be a next time) I will add some “heat” in the way of dried Asian peppers and perhaps a few more vegetables.