The Make-up of a Mash-up: w/ Recipe Karella Relleno

Often we receive inquiries from guests regarding our motivations and inspirations for creating certain dining events and dishes.  We love that, actually, because it means you’re interested in what we’re doing and we couldn’t be happier.  You want to know what makes us tick; or maybe moreso, you want to know if we’re nuts or not.  Regardless, with our MexIndian 2.0  dinner coming up next week, we thought we’d let you in on the process of something we call “Mash-up.”

Mash-ups are usually a form of music that pertains to combining one or more songs (or at least pieces of songs) to make up a new, familiar, yet funky sounding track.  We like to apply the same process to our food as  another way for us to be creative within the growing global belly filled with all things edible.  Mash-up, for us,  is basically the combining of two distinct culinary cultures into one Voltron-like themed dinner.  We aim to create something that is familiar and satisfying, but turned on its head, spun around and dropped in another country.

We start off determining a theme from a series of relations.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as a “What if we took this and did this with it instead?”  Of course, Frankenstein-ing ingredients in different or unusual combinations is a pretty common inspiration around our kitchens.   But, looking deeper, there’s a lot more to it than that.  It’s our gut telling us there are natural pairings out there that maybe haven’t been fully explored.  It’s similar techniques, ingredients and flavors that exist cross-culturally and are just waiting to be brought together.  It’s seeing two ingredients serendipitously placed next to each other in a market.  It’s a chance to connect the similarities between longitude, latitude, seasons and climates of two countries that we are interested in exploring.  The inspiration could come from anywhere, mainly, it’s a journey that’s been presented to us in a way that we deem worth traveling.  With this kind of thinking in place, India and Mexico are a no-brainer for a Mash-up dinner.

Both Mexico and India have a long culinary history, with well-developed techniques and philosophies to their respective cuisines.  Items like slow-cooked stews and  sauces, elaborate spice blends, and painstaking flavor development can be found in moles and curries alike.  These flavor combinations are akin with lots of heat, herbs and spices from similar ingredients such as coriander, cumin, cinnamon, tamarind, coconut, legumes, onions and tomatoes.  So, there are lots of great possibilities for mash-up.

Let’s take this week’s upcoming “Karella Rellena” as an example.  Karella is a distinctly Indian ingredient.  It’s a bitter Indian gourd or melon that is hollow, and therefore commonly stuffed with paneer cheese, onion, ginger, mustard seed, sometimes meat and aromatics.  To us, that seems strikingly similar to our friend from across the world, the poblano pepper.  In a typical Mexican dish called “Chilli Relleno”, it too is often served stuffed with chihuahua cheese, onion, meat, beans and sometimes dried fruits.  It’s then interesting to look and see how the two can be brought together or tweaked.

So, here’s what we did.

Ah, the Karella… The bitter Indian gourd that makes children on the other side of the world cry when they find out mom is cooking it for dinner.  Karella is quite bitter, and like all things bitter it has high nutritional value.  So, it’s great for growing kids and adults alike.  When treated in the right manner, the karella’ s bitterness can be tamed to match say that of brocoli rabe or a dandelion green.  We look at an ingredient like this as a challenge.  It is interesting, and it does, in fact, taste delicious.

Usually we scrape off the nubby nubs from the outside and squeeze the juice  into a shot glass for a face twisting dose of vitamins -but that’s just how we roll.  After that, we split them open, remove the seeds and pulp and rub them with salt inside and out.  We let them sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours.  Next, they are  rinsed and  steeped in fresh water for another hour or so.  Finally, a quick blanch and they are ready to be stuffed.

Here are the aromatics and spices for the filling.  From the left: Brown and yellow mustard seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seed, black cumin, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, raisins, ginger, garlic and onion.

A number of Indian dishes are started off by popping mustard seeds in ghee (clarified butter).  Similarly, many Mexican recipes start off by toasting sesame seeds as a flavor base.  We added them to the wok at the same time, which worked really well because the sesame finished toasting to a lovely brown by the time all the mustard was done popping.  We followed that up with the remaining spices, both whole and ground, and added the onions.

After a slight brown on the onions, the ginger and garlic are added

Next, the lamb, some salt, and the raisins until it’s cooked through

As you can see, the meat is very finely chopped.  We took the same route as you would while making Mexican picadillo, stirring and chopping with a spoon until the meat is smaller than the minced onion.

Chihuahua Cheese:  All bark, no bite; but melty and delicious

Stuffed, blanched karella with Indian picadillo and chihuahua

The batter is stiff-whipped egg whites with the yolks folded in.

In the same manner as Chili Relleno, the karellas are pan fried until golden brown.

Here we placed our Karella Relleno atop a pool of tomato and chipotle sauce spiked with ginger juice.  Yogurt takes the place of sour cream.  Cilantro leaves, chopped onion, sliced radish, chili flake and charnuska seeds complete the dish. Voila!



2 Responses to “The Make-up of a Mash-up: w/ Recipe Karella Relleno”
  1. wow does that chile look good, cant wait to try that, Cheryl,

  2. i know its not a chile but its still looks good, cheryl

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