By Rohini Mohan
Teena Arora, co-owner of CurrySutra, conducts cooking classes around the Bay Area, while educating her students on the wonders of vegetarian cooking and the health benefits of the Indian spice pantry. She has experience from the ground-up in the food business, having been hostess, waitress and manager/supervisor at her parent’s restaurant in the Midwest. Who says that the dhaba-esque flavors of Sarson Ka Saag and Makki Di Roti cannot tempt the tastebuds of the stereotypical meat and potatoes kinda guy? Hey, you can’t knock till you’ve tried it, right?
BK Arora and his wife Ameeta moved to St Paul Minnesota in the early seventies with their two little daughters. A radical career shift threw them into the restaurant business and ironically, the traditional, pure vegetarian Satsangis found themselves managing a Steakhouse. Their client; Mr. Average, St Paul. After years of serving up several variations of cow, they decided that it was time to bring the horse to another kind of pond. They started serving an Indian vegetarian Thali during weekends. And what do you know, it was a hit!
Overnight, they moved to uptown Minneapolis, which boasted of a slightly bigger Indian population than St Paul, and started a restaurant called “Delites of India”. The restaurant did pretty well and was strictly vegetarian for the last 5 years of operation. The Aroras have since retired and Teena moved to the Bay Area a few years ago.
With a BA in South Asian languages & Cultures and a Masters in International Management, Teena continues to hold on to her day job, but her heart is in the culinary business. “Indian vegetarian cooking has such rich aroma, and is so healthy. There is a science to our cuisine and most people are not aware of its many medicinal qualities, like the fact that turmeric is an antiseptic” she says.
CurrySutra was conceived because she wanted to “teach cooking, make spice blends and write a cookbook”. The first two are already a reality. Teena has taught at the Stanford University dining society and teaches on a regular basis at the Whole Foods in San Mateo. Promoting her classes at Sur La Table and Draegars is also on the cards.
|Coconut Chutney 1 cup lightly packed unsweetened desiccated (shredded) coconut 2-3 whole dried red chilies; broken into pieces 1 tsp salt (adjust to taste) 1/3 cup of plain yogurt (adjust as needed) 1 ½ TBL of vegetable oil 4 green cayenne or thai chilies; diced 1 tsp black mustard seeds ½ tsp ginger paste ¼ to ½ cup of fresh coriander leaves; chopped 1 tsp channa dal 4-6 TBL water (as needed) METHOD In a blender, in sequence, combine yogurt, coconut, salt, ginger paste, coriander, and water. Process until light and fluffy for approximately 2-4 minutes. *To make a smooth puree, you can always add more yogurt. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and add the green chilies and stir. Set aside. In a small wok, heat oil and add the channa dal. Fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown. Then, add mustard seeds and dried red chilies. Cover the wok with a lid. Then, after a minute turn off the heat. 5. Pour this mixture into to the coconut chutney and stir. Note: The red chilies are used only for garnish and are not meant to be eaten. (note: adjust for salt) * Serve at room temperature or chilled. RECIPE COPYRIGHTED BY CURRYSUTRA.|
She also conducts private and group classes in her home in Belmont. Her recipes are very well researched and tried and tested, most of them developed by her mother who is the co-founder of Curry Sutra. She concentrates on healthy vegetarian options and is particularly talented at fusion cooking like Indian pizzas, wraps,and tofu prepared with Indian spices, which makes her classes attractive to many non-Indians. One of her students, Doug Chan says “I can make things that my fellow colleagues from India can’t make!”
“Meals fit for a king”, “Pressure Cooking 101”, “Delightful Chutneys” “Green Cuisine”- these are just some of the enticing classes that she offers. The fee per person per class is between $115 and 225 depending on how elaborate the spread is. Classes are conveniently held on evenings and weekends. Customized one on one sessions can also be arranged.
CurrySutra offers a range of homemade spice blends, which includes curry powder, sambar and garam masala and her signature chai masala blend. These come packaged in classy tin containers with a see through window in the lid.
Teena has many big plans for CurrySutra. She is currently at the brand building and strategizing stage. Her immediate goal is to tie up with chefs and restaurateurs who would be interested in introducing some “Curry” dishes in their menu. She is also re-vamping her website to include online ordering of spices and cookware, recipes for sale and general information on the various attributes of Indian vegetarian cooking, and expects to have the site up and running by early summer. Her long terms strategy includes restaurant consulting, culinary tours in India, writing a cookbook, corporate culinary team building programs, kid’s cooking classes and Ayurvedic and organic cooking classes.
“My aim is not just to educate girls of this generation in the art of Indian cooking, but also bachelors because the way to a woman’s heart is also through the stomach!” she says. Probably why her teenage son is a halfway to being a gourmet chef…
Rachel Miura is one of Curry Sutra’s loyal customers. “My husband is half Indian and I wanted to learn more about the culture and food. I have always loved eating it because of the flavors and vegetarian options, but it seemed too complex for me to actually ever learn.” She enjoys the classes and has learned a lot about both Indian culture and Indian food in the process. “Learning in person helped demystify the spices and processes and it was great to ask as many questions as I wanted. Also, when I make them at home I sometimes send along follow up questions, it's like recipe tech support!” Her attempts at recreating the recipes at home have even impressed her Indian mother-in-law!
More information on Curry Sutra's classes can be found here.