Authentic Indian cuisine is now one of the most popular dining experiences nationwide. And from Springfield to the Berkshires, there are many wonderful Indian restaurants to choose from.
But classes on learning how to prepare these delectable dishes? Those are few and far between.
Mala Patel of Wilbraham is someone who’s been able to fill that need with Mala’s Indian Cooking Classes. Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan brings us to the Wilbraham Inn for a lesson in how to make authentic Indian dishes like pakora, naan, and chicken tikka masala.
Hear Mala talk about her other business, the Wilbraham Inn, in a digital exclusive interview.
Read the full transcript:
Tony Dunne, Connecting Point: Over the years, authentic Indian cuisine has become one of the most popular dining experiences nationwide. And from Springfield to the Berkshires, there are many wonderful Indian restaurants to choose from.
But classes on learning how to prepare these delectable dishes? Well, those are few and far between. Mala Patel of Wilbraham is someone who’s been able to fill that need and connecting points. Brian Sullivan brings us her story.
Mala Patel, Mala’s Indian Cooking Class: I’m Mala Patel.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: It’s a Tuesday night in mid-March, and Mala Patel is gearing up to teach another of her increasingly popular Indian cuisine cooking classes.
Patel, along with her husband, own and operate the Wilbraham Inn here on Route 20. It’s where they were able to convert this kitchen into the workspace-slash-classroom that it is now.
It’s also where Patel has found a unique use for the degree in health and nutrition she received years ago while doing something she truly loves.
Mala Patel: Teaching how to cook is a passion, and I’ve been doing it for several years.
So, I feel personal…I feel — I don’t know how people sitting here would say, but that’s what they say, too that I have a very calm like, I’m just doing. It’s a very warm, informal, fun class.
Brian Sullivan: It’s no secret that Indian cuisine has taken off here in the States. In nearly every metropolitan area from coast to coast, there are likely several options for restaurant goers to get their fix of food infused with any number and flavor of Indian spices.
The people who love Indian food tend to really love it. In fact, many will say it actually makes them feel better.
Turns out it may be more than just a feeling.
Mala Patel: Indian food, the spice box is like a medicine box. Every single spice here has so much medicinal value, like, say, turmeric.
Turmeric is an antiseptic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory. Basically, if you take a teaspoon of turmeric once a day, it will work somewhere in your body, lowers your blood pressure. It acts like Coumadin, great for arthritis, improves your blood quality. It’s just on and on. I can go and on and on with turmeric. It’s just so medicinally rich based.
Similarly, all these spices have so much medicinal value.
Brian Sullivan: Each class runs for 3 hours, and participants are given a crash course on anything from classic vegetarian cuisine, exotic South Indian, and authentic Indian street side foods, just to name a few.
On the docket tonight, though, the students were learning the ins and outs of making pakora, tikka masala, naan, and basmati rice.
And it’s more than just watching and taking notes. Everyone involved gets to put their hands right into the production. The hope here is that they can take these newfound skills on the road with them when they leave.
The thing about this class and others like it is that, students can then take what they’ve learned, bring it home, and apply that knowledge to a project in their own kitchen.
As far as the learning process is concerned, there’s definitely something to be said for the group dynamic.
Mala Patel: Either it is a fun environment when you have more than a couple of people, because you actually even learn from each other’s question. Because a question that someone would ask, you might have it inside, but you don’t even ask.
So, that just gives you a great group, fun, kind of activity. A lot of people do take private classes, but personally, I would like to have at least three or four people in the class.
Brian Sullivan: Cooking classes in general tend to bring out a diverse audience. For some, it’s date night. Others may be looking to entertain guests and want to impress with something a little more exotic than standard American fare. Others may just be looking to boost their skill set in the kitchen.
No matter what the profile, Mala Patel has seen and taught for them. Her easygoing and oftentimes humorous demeanor allow students to leave feeling more relaxed and confident in their cooking abilities.
Oh, and they also leave with full stomachs.
Mala Patel: When they first come, they’re like, “Oh my God, Indian cooking is hard. What will we do?”
And by the end of the class, they’re like, “Oh my God, we thought, it’s so hard, but we can do this! We can definitely do this recipe at home.”
Class Participant: Everything is so fresh.