Bourdain strikes vegetarian gold in Punjab

World-renowned chef, author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Punjab, India, in the next episode of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” airing Sunday, April 13, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.

Chances are if you’ve ordered from an Indian restaurant in the United States, the intensely colored and spiced dishes have been Punjabi in origin.

“Most of the good stuff we refer to simply as Indian food comes from here,” host Anthony Bourdain says in the season three premiere of “Parts Unknown,” where he travels to the northern region of the world’s second most populated country.

In Amritsar, India’s holy city of the Sikh religion, carnivorously-inclined Bourdain finds himself among a bounty of vegetables cooked in rich, spicy gravies served with freshly baked kulcha, a type of flatbread, out of clay ovens.

“If this is what vegetarianism meant in most of the places that practice it in the West, I’d be at least half as much less of a dick about the subject,� Bourdain says during a meal at Kesar Da Dhaba. (Dhaba is a term for a roadside eatery.)

Cookbook author and chef Vikas Khanna was born in Amritsar, but is currently based in New York where he is the executive chef of Junoon restaurant. His upcoming book “Amritsar – My Soul, My Soil” pays tribute to the intricacies of his native home cooking. These recipes will surely heat up Sunday’s premiere.

Maqbool Road Kulchas
Makes about 8 kulchas
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Amritsar – My Soul, My Soil” (summer 2014 release)

Maqbool Road and kulchas are synonymous. When you say “I’m going to Maqbool Road,” pat comes the reply, “Can I come with you to eat the kulchas?â€� It is absolutely impossible to pass that road without stopping to relish a couple of kulchas. The difference between other kulchas and the Maqbool Road kulcha is that these have a thin, crispy crust on the outside while the inside is soft and creamy. The creaminess is lent by the potato stuffing that gives it a melt-in-the-mouth quality.

For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda bicarbonate (baking soda)
1 teaspoon, or to taste salt
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil

For the filling:
2 large potatoes (boiled, peeled and quartered)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
2 large green chilies (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (finely chopped)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried pomegranate seeds (powdered)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (lightly roasted and crushed coarsely)
3/4 teaspoon, or to taste salt
3 tablespoons butter (plus extra for greasing a baking tray)

1. For the dough, in a mixing bowl combine the flour with baking powder, soda bicarbonate and salt and mix thoroughly.

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the yogurt, milk and sugar until sugar dissolves.

3. Gradually stir the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and knead well to make soft, smooth and pliable dough. Knead the butter into the dough, cover with a damp muslin and keep aside for one hour.

4. Once the dough has rested and risen, knead it again and divide in half. Roll out each half into a thin square about 1/2-inch thick and brush with oil. Fold the square into thirds, brushing oil at every fold. Then fold the resultant rectangle into thirds again, brushing oil at every fold. Stack both portions of dough atop each other and roll out into a large square. Cut the square into 8 equal portions. Cover with a moist muslin cloth and keep aside.

5. In a mixing bowl, mash the potatoes with onion, chilies, coriander, powdered pomegranate seeds, crushed cumin seeds and salt. Ensure that potatoes are properly mashed and all ingredients are well combined.

6. Preheat oven to 350â—¦F. Grease a baking tray with a little butter and lightly dust with flour.

7. To shape the kulchas, spoon a tablespoonful of filling in the center of a portion of dough. Gather the dough around the filling and pinch dough together to seal the filling inside. Shape the stuffed dough into a ball and flatten it into a patty.

8. Place the patty on a lightly dusted surface and using a rolling pin, roll the patty out into a thick round kulcha about 6 inches in diameter. Repeat for remaining dough and filling.

9. Place the rolled out kulchas on the prepared baking tray and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with butter and return to the oven. Bake until kulchas are cooked and light golden in color. Remove from the oven. Repeat for remaining kulchas.

10. Serve hot.

Spiced Black Chickpeas (Kala Chana Masala)
Serves 4 to 6
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Return to the Rivers”

1 cup black chickpeas, picked over and rinsed (regular chickpeas can be used if black chickpeas aren’t available)
7 1/2 cups water, divided
Pinch of baking soda
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or mustard oil
2 red onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch of asafetida (optional)
2 whole green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight or at least 6 hours.

2. Drain the chickpeas and place them in a Dutch oven with 6 cups salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the baking soda, lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally until the chickpeas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and cover to keep warm.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and fry until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, asafetida (if using), cardamom and cumin and cook, stirring until very fragrant and darker in color, about 1 minute. Immediately add 2 tablespoons water to avoid burning the spices.

4. Stir in the chickpeas, cayenne and 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated.

5. Season with salt to taste and serve hot.

Previously on “Parts Unknown”:
The dog-eat-dog turf of Detroit’s classic coneys
Tasting Tokyo’s treasures
South Africa
Taste the Rainbow Nation
Sicilian food to soothe the soul
10 things to know before visiting Sicily
A sense of place in Copenhagen cuisine
New Mexico
In New Mexico, choose a side: red or green
Bourdain cops to mistake on Frito pie canned chili claim
10 things to know before visiting New Mexico
– Granada, Spain
Traditional tapas in Granada
11 things to know before visiting Spain
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
In Jerusalem, even food origins are contentious
10 things to know before visiting Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
Bourdain has traditional Palestinian meal
– Congo

SPAM and coq au vin on the Congo River
Peruvian food, from guinea pigs to pisco sours
Peruvian food is having a moment
Make perfect pisco sours and ceviche
South America’s pisco enjoys North American revival
Breakfast in Libya
Where fast food tastes like freedom
iReport: In Morocco, eating is the spice of life
Street snacking in Morocco
O Canada! Our home and delicious land
Come for the strip bars, stay for the poutine
Colombian cuisine – from aguardiente to viche
Americans just don’t understand the potato. Colombians do.
Los Angeles Koreatown
The ever-changing flavor of L.A.’s Koreatown
Bridging generations and cultures, one blistering bowl of bibimbap at a time
Los Angeles food trucks are in it for the long haul
Fall in love with Myanmar’s cuisine
In Myanmar, drink your tea and eat it too

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