That’s when two pop-up type events will spotlight South Asian cuisine that rarely finds it way onto menus in Washington. And you can finally venture outside the saag paneer/chickpea chole/chicken tikka box to try dishes that will challenge what you think you know about South Asian cuisine. (Chicken tikka? A British creation, anyway.)
The toque? None other than Skiz Fernando, the Baltimore-based cookbook author who was tapped by Anthony Bourdain to immerse the chef in the food culture of Sri Lanka for an episode of “No Reservations.”
Fernando had spent a year researching the way people eat in his mother country, an island off the tip of India in the Indian Ocean that has seen the Dutch, Portuguese and British come and go. He’s documented the resulting diverse cuisine his book, “Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking,” and now is re-creating the fare at supper clubs in Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Sonoma, Calif.
Because the country is home to Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, chicken and pork are served in Sri Lanka, beef is frequently a no-no, but seafood is eaten by all, Fernando says.
So the menu for the June 8 event includes such dishes as masala vadai (spiced fritters), fish ambul (sour fish curry), and parippu (lentils stewed in coconut milk) — all crafted from recipes Fernando drew from his extended family in Sri Lanka. Vegetarians will find several dishes to fill up on, including the parippu, an eggplant curry and mallun (a coconut-laced curry of kale and collard greens). The dinner is priced at $50 and includes a paired cocktail.
The Bombay Club is also going off the radar in June, when diners can explore the cuisine of a different region of India each week. Though not quite a pop-up, it’s a restaurant-within-a-restaurant concept as executive chef Nilesh Singhvi will cook up dishes from the beachfront region of Goa June 1-9; then explore the cuisine of the dry, interior state of Rajasthan from June 11 to 16; the rich Mughlai cuisine served in the northern parts of India, including its capital city, from June 18-23; and finally, Southern Indian Hyderabadi cuisine June 25-30.
So which menus look the most promising? While the Rajastani yogurt dessert shrikhand is one of my all-time favorites, perhaps the rarest in these parts are the dishes of Hyderabad and Goa — both are seafood-heavy, and both have a far lighter touch than the creamy Northern Indian dishes served by most Indian restaurants. I’m personally a fan of the notorious heat of Hyerabadi food, so spice fans should take note of that particular menu. The dinners are $52, or $78 with wine pairings.