Idaho is no longer a "meat and potatoes" type of state: it is becoming a veritable culinary melting pot! New and interesting ethnic restaurants and grocery stores are opening up in cities around the Treasure Valley and a growing group of "new" Idahoans is introducing exciting unfamiliar ingredients, different approaches to old-fashioned foods and secret family recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next.

This blog allows us a peek into the pots and pans of these travelers that have chosen to make Idaho their new home. It captures a compilation of stories and dishes from people who, far away from their country of birth, recreate familiar elements in the dishes they prepare. For many, food from their home country is a comfort to the soul: for some it's an important part of their cultural or religious celebrations and for others, it's just good eating!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Name: Ansarul Haque
Born in: Dhaka, Bangladesh
In Idaho since: December 1999

"Butter chicken is one of my favorite dishes. It's a very rich dish so I only cook it once every two or three months. But it's the first thing I order when I go back to Bangladesh to visit my family! My friends and I used to cook this dish all the time, so one day we went to the store and bought a hundred packages of butter chicken mix, just to make sure we would not run out!"

Bengali cooking is not fast cooking. The spices (turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, chili, cumin, ginger and garlic) are key ingredients to its cuisine and it takes time to permeate the meat and the sauces. Ansarul frequently smells the food cooking on the stove and claims that the food will be ready when "it smells right".

"I spent more time learning how to cook all my favorite foods once I moved away from Bangladesh. When I was there, I didn't pay much attention because it was all around me but once I moved, I missed it. Living with my sister for a while was a great help because she is an awesome cook and I learned a lot from her. I love to grill so she calls me when she has a question on grilling and I call her to ask about everything else."

Basmati rice

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 red onion
3 cups of basmati rice
5 1/2 cups of hot water
4 tablespoons of ginger paste*
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 kardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Slice the onion in thin slivers and sauté until golden. Add the rice and stir, sautéeing for several minutes. Crush the cardamom pods with the flat side of a knife and add to the rice. Peel three matchstick size lengths of bark from the cinnamon stick and add those to the rice as well. Stir in the ginger paste. When the rice kernels are translucent, add hot water, stir everything together, add the salt, bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low for about twenty minutes or until the rice is done. Do not stir the rice after you've covered it and make sure it's on low enough heat so that it doesn't burn.

Butter chicken

4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 lbs of chicken thighs or breast, skinless and cut in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons of garlic paste*
4 tablespoons of red onion paste*
3 tablespoons of ginger paste*
1 teaspoon of dark chili powder
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
3 cardamom pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 package of Butter Chicken Mix**
1 cup of half-and-half milk
1/2 cup of sour cream

In one skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive and quickly brown the chicken on all sides, then turn the heat low and let it simmer. In the meantime, heat the rest of the oil in a Dutch oven with the butter. Add the onion and stir until the onions are translucent and start to caramelize. Add the garlic, red onion and ginger paste, stir in the chili powder and add the vinegar. Now add the contents of the butter chicken mix package. Stir everything together. Drain the chicken (you may want to keep the fat for other uses) and fold it into the sauce until all pieces are well covered. Turn down the heat and add the cup of half-and-half, stir it in. Now fold in the half cup of sour cream. Stir again, making sure the heat stays low so that the dairy products don't curdle and simmer for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Serve over Basmati rice.

* Ansarul makes his own garlic, onion and ginger paste. Peel and dice each vegetable, put it in a blender with one or two tablespoons of water and blend until fine. You can freeze the paste and use when needed. The pastes will add genuine flavor to the dishes and make for a creamy, consistent sauce without too many lumps

** The Butter Chicken mix can be found in Indian food markets, but it is also easy to make this dish from scratch. Check this link for a simple and easy to follow recipe, with video Most ingredients are available from your local Winco or the India store on Orchard in Boise. Methi leaves are better known as fenugreek leaves.

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite and the kids love it! It is quite rich, though! Thanks for posting the recipe- I'll be making it this weekend!!!!