I’m often left with strong hankerings for unconventional combinations like grits topped with shrimp curry or buttermilk biscuits and chicken tarkari due to my being born and brought up in Nashville, Tennessee while maintaining a strong connection to my Odiya culinary heritage. These combinations always satiate my need for comfort food and deliciously bring together my two cultures on one plate.
And though I’d like to think I invented the concept of combining desi and American soul foods, I cannot take credit. Chefs and food bloggers are increasingly taking to the kitchen to bridge together their two worlds by using classically South-Asian spices with western staples. It’s the best of both worlds.
American Comfort Foods With A Desi Twist
Here is a curated list of my favorite fusion spins on classics.
1. Chicken and Waffles
Asha Gomez, chef-owner of Atlanta’s Cardamom Hill and author of the cookbook “Fried & True” gives us this recipe which lends South Indian flavors to American soul food. And oooh wee, this recipe does not disappoint! Truly finger-lickin’ good.
Every component of this dish is well thought out, from the chicken marinade teeming with spiced buttermilk to the cardamom waffles right down to the punched-up maple syrup. Every bite is that of two words. The fusion just makes sense.
If this doesn’t provide you with comfort, I don’t know what will. Get the recipe for Keralan Fried Chicken with Cardamom Waffles and Spicy Maple Syrup.
2. Mac and Cheese
Vishwesh Bhatt recollects tasting mac and cheese for the first time in college when he arrived in Kentucky from Gujarat. He also remembers noticing the lack of spices in this ooey gooey delicious soul food staple. Appreciating mac and cheese as an American comfort food but also needing the comfort of flavor profiles by way of spices from his homeland, Bhatt combined the two for a truly nuanced recipe.
Everything in this dish, from pasta to the cream gets a spice up treatment with the unabashed use of ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, and peppercorn, lending a confluence of flavor from both the West and East.
Bhatt is the true mac daddy with this dish. Make it for yourself by following this recipe.
3. Chicken Pot Pie
Morgon, food blogger from “Host the Toast,” asks this: “Juicy chicken, tender vegetables, and creamy sauce all nestled beneath crisp; everything about chicken pot pie screams ‘All-American classic.’ But does it have to? What if we got crazy and creative with it?”
Though many of us may not find what she does to her chicken as “crazy”, it is creative. Her chicken dresses up as savory butter chicken and instead of using puff pastry for the pie, she uses, get this, a naan crust, giving this dish a truly desi overhaul.
As explained in the blog post, you could make a big pie. But taking a cue from Morgon, I prefer to use mini baking dishes or even mugs as shown above. Make butter chicken pot pie with naan crust and get your comfort-on.
4. Shepherd’s Pie
So what would happen if British “heartiness” was brought together with Indian “spice and spunk?” Julia of blog “Vikalinka” answers just that with this recipe. And because she is a photographer along with being a food blogger, the step-by-step pictorial instructions make this a relatively easy recipe to take on. This shepherd’s pie is really rogan josh re-imagined. Get the recipe here: Vikilinka
5. Fried Chicken
This isn’t simply a recipe for a masala punctuated fried chicken. It’s crispy tandoori fried chicken with cumin and garlic aioli. That’s a whole lot of flavor and texture going on in a dish.
The chicken is marinated in a way often found in desi kitchens: in yogurt, garlic, and ginger, along with an abundance of spices such as cumin, coriander, and red chili powder. Every step of treatment, from the marinade to the buttermilk batter, to the flour batter the chicken gets dredged in, gets hit up with so much masala, you’ll taste India in every bite. Learn how to make chicken along with the delicious cumin and garlic aioli its paired with here.
This recipe is a beautiful marriage between all-American and Pan-Indian cuisine. Inspired by the flavor profiles found in vindaloo, Stacie from food blog “Simply Stacie” decided to revamp her meatloaf recipe with masala and desi bread.
Meatloaf recipes typically ask for bread or breadcrumbs as a binder. Not in this version. Stacie instead uses small pieces of naan, further making this a desi inspired dish from the inside out! She uses store-bought vindaloo sauce to mix with both the meat and as the coating which rounds this dish out with some heat. This is an easy comfort dish to whip up. Do so by visiting SimplyStacie.
This is one of those recipes that works and should be added to your repertoire. It’s so good and reliable! I wouldn’t necessarily call it an easy dish to make; depends on which route you choose. You can opt to make homemade pizza crust or use or store-bought. Similarly, you can use homemade or store-bought paneer. Either way, Manali walks you through both procedures.
This is one helluva hearty burger recipe. It’s full-on gourmet and showcases some of my favorite things, such as kasundi, dahi, and fresh coriander, not to mention spiced lamb AND lentils!
What really rounds out this recipe is the tomato kasundi which could be defined as a relish; it eclipses any ketchup you’ve dressed a burger with. And though the ingredient list reads like the who’s who of spices, it’s well worth putting your back into it. The recipe yields over three cups, which means you could use it multiple times!
Learn how to make Indian-spiced lamb and lentil burgers with easy tomato kasundi here: FromTheKitchen.
No comfort food listicle is complete without the mention of lasagna. This recipe is a dose of double wham bam comfort because it’s butter chicken layered over lasagna sheets and lavished with mozzarella, parmesan, and cottage cheese. God bless. What’s more, this recipe for the butter chicken sauce ain’t playin’ around nor is it muted - it’s the real deal despite covering pasta and not its usual consort naan. Get this butter chicken lasagna recipe here: Chocolate&Chillies.