This Wednesday marked Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, and yesterday, ICE students and alumni celebrated with a demonstration on Indian cuisine from two amazing chefs — Hemant Mathur and Surbhi Sahni. The husband-and-wife team is behind New York City’s Tulsi where they focus on top-notch Indian cuisine that sparkles with distinct flavors and a perfect balance of fresh ingredients, spicy flair, tradition and modern innovations. Previously, they ran the kitchen together at the Michelin-starred Dévi before opening Tulsi earlier this year. Just two weeks ago, they earned another Michelin star for their work at Tulsi.
Executive Chef Mathur built his reputation at several high-end Indian restaurants in New York City, including Amma, Tamarind and Diwan Grill. Executive Pastry Chef Sahni is also co-owner of Bittersweet NYC, a catering company specializing in wedding cakes and Indian-inspired confections. She honed her skills in the pastry kitchens at Davidburke&donatella, Picholine and Between the Bread.
For yesterday’s demo, they focused on the different ways to use spices and walked the culinary students through some spices they may not have been familiar with. They prepared Kale Chole & Tomato Salad, Chicken Curry with Coconut Rice, Paneer Parantha and Raita, and Chocolate Raspberry Kulfi. The chefs shared many traditional techniques as well as their modern spin on classic dishes. For example, in a kale chole the chickpeas are traditionally cooked in an iron skillet giving them a very dark color, but Mathur cooks the chickpeas with tea leaves to give them a similar deep hue. They also walked the students through different spices such as pomegranate powder, carom seeds and rock salt. They told the class that pomegranate powder is made from the seeds of pomegranate and adds a tangy flavor to dishes. Carom seeds are related to cumin, but with more citrus notes. Both spices were used in the kale chole to bring lightness to the dish.
It was an illuminating demonstration on authentic Indian cuisine and how two leading chefs are bringing classic Indian food to a new level in their restaurants.