A special dining event like this doesn’t happen without lots of planning—and practice. For a successful Taste of South Asia event, the University of California Riverside dining team made many of the dishes five times or more before they were ready to roll. Partnering with two campus organizations—the South Asian Federation and the Asian Pacific Student Program—the kitchen got busy converting recipes to high-volume versions and adjusting seasonings, many of which aren’t the most readily available.
“Working with my leadership team of chefs, we look at the calendar and go shopping. Some of our current vendors don’t carry some of the spices, but we’re really fortunate to have an Indian spice store across the street,” says Lanette Dickerson, executive chef for retail and hospitality services at UCR. “We buy our stuff and we make these dishes probably five times, and then we sit with the student groups and taste everything.”
One “oops” moment occurred when a kebab recipe called for fresh coriander (what Americans call cilantro) and the chef misread it as cardamom (a very different flavor!) “When the students tried it, they tried to be really nice and said, ‘Well….’ But I told them, ‘Come out and say it!’ The dish was like biting into a stick of potpourri!”
That hiccup aside, the dining team was able to create an impressive selection of dishes from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Read on for highlights of the event.
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