When we arrived to our current abode, I was less than thrilled with the “dining room.” It had a 3-foot, crooked-sided, sticky, paint-chipped round table and 1 broken stool. My immediate thoughts were, “How in the world am I supposed to feed my family at this rank-lookin’ thing? Where are my guests going to sit?”
When I spotted a slightly stained checkered table cloth at a give away the first week here, I knew that would help. A little. Then we bought a few chairs and stools. Finally. A semi-presentable place that didn’t turn me off from eating what I had just prepared.
Hosting in China looks so different from what I did in America. There, I had a beautiful bar-height table with awesome chairs. (That table is still the one thing I would take back in a heartbeat.) We had dishes that matched and enough silverware for everyone. I had serving dishes! And I often felt like I had to impress my guests. It would throw me into a frenzy an hour before they came. The house had to be spotless, the meal cooked to perfection, and the ambiance set.
Here, quite the opposite. We don’t own silverware, so what we inherited mostly matches, but also has broken pieces. If I host more than 4 people, others have to used my kids’ plasticware. I’ve bought a few dishes over the years, but none match. Serving dishes? Um, does my bright blue mixing bowl count? I used to freak about every toy being picked up, the bookshelves neat and tidy, and everything dusted. Now, I’m happy if I remember to sweep 5 minutes before people arrive. If I have a candle, I might light it, but if it’s from our favorite Swedish home goods store, it has zero smell. (Why do they torture me with the tantalizing names, then it does nothing but flicker?!)
But I’m learning to let go of the expectations I create for myself and embrace the imperfections. (Not an easy task for this perfectionist.) Ya know why? That’s not what it’s about. Most people probably don’t notice many of the things listed above. Maybe, just maybe, some of them look at my jalopy of a home and feel more comfortable than if I had one that looked like it was from a magazine. They just want to commune; and if it’s over food, all the better.
Chinese hospitality is over the top sometimes. They treat us like royalty. They tell us to keep eating and drinking until we feel like the only way out is to roll out. I sometimes try to compare myself to them, but then have to be reminded that it’s not all about face for me. If they are comfortable and perhaps get a sight of Jesus in the midst of our time together, that’s all that matters.
Having hosted many Chinese people, I’ve figured out what most of them are willing to try and what they can barely choke down. My biggest take-away: stay away from cheesy dishes. I know, I know, how can we compare homemade mac n’ cheese to silkworms or 100 year-old eggs? It’s all a matter of perspective, however wrong theirs may be. *Kidding.* So I tend to make dishes over rice. Indian dishes have gone over well. They can still have their rice, but get to try a different twist at the same time.
My hubby and I love Indian food. We set out to find a good recipe for the classic Chicken Tikka Masala when we first got married. 7 years later, I finally found one!
*People in China: You can find Indian spices on Taobao.
Don’t be shy with the yogurt–it’s what tenderizes the chicken. This rack came with my small oven–hopefully you have something similar, because it helps the chicken cook evenly!
Lots o’ veggies!
Why do I cook with any other kind of oil? Butter is better. (Thailand reference, anyone?!) Always better.
All the flavors melding into deliciousness. Can you smell it?
Don’t forget to scrape the bottom–sure wouldn’t want that goodness to burn!
This picture encapsulates my title. Sorry this color is horrid. You can guess what I’m thinking it looks like. After this, I added some tumeric for color, but forgot to take the extra pic. Embrace imperfection.
I truly love making the rice from the original recipe, but couldn’t leave my yellow-stained (it goes away after several washes) rice cooker over the summer. But, try it! So good! And, I also forgot cilantro. A good addition if you like it’s strong flavor!
Chicken Tikka Masala
Time: ~1 hour
Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman
1/2 cup plain yogurt
6 Tablespoons butter
1 whole onion (or I use half because I’m not an onion-lover)
4 cloves garlic
1 piece (approximately 2 inches) chunk fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons garam masala
2 medium tomatoes
1 Tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 cup heavy cream (in China, I use Nestle whipping cream)
Season the chicken with salt. Next sprinkle them on both sides with some coriander and cumin. Then coat the chicken completely with the plain yogurt. Set the chicken on a metal cooling rack over a foil-lined baking sheet and place it about 10-12 inches below a broiler for 5-7 minutes per side.(<–For a normal-sized oven. For small ovens, place on top rung and bake for 15 mins each side.) Watch carefully so as not to totally char the chicken. It should have slightly blackened edges.
Prep your veggies. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, peel and grate (or mince) the ginger, and dice the tomatoes. Check the chicken. When cooked through and charred a bit, remove from oven.
In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and sauté until they are slightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, as well as about 1 Tbsp. salt. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add 3 tablespoons garam masala spice. (If you like it hot, this is also when you will add your hot chili peppers.) Add chopped tomatoes. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add about 1 tablespoon sugar. Let this mixture simmer on medium for about 5 minutes.
To a rice cooker add 2 cups rice(long-grain, if available), 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground turmeric and 4 cups water. Cover, turn on your rice cooker and walk away. If you do not have a rice cooker, cook your rice as usual.
After the Tikka Masala sauce has had a chance to simmer for a bit, add in the 1 ½ cups of heavy cream; stir well. Now, chop up your chicken breasts into chunks and stir them into the sauce. A handful of chopped fresh cilantro is a nice addition if you like it. You can also throw some frozen peas into the cooked rice, give them a stir, and allow the heat of the rice to cook the peas.
I often make naan to go with this meal. It never tastes exactly like from the restaurants; I guess I should invest in a clay oven. 🙂 But, here is a decent recipe. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/naan/
What is your favorite dish to serve to locals who may have different tastes?