UNWINED Eats Roger Bissell

Let’s Talk Curry!

UNWINED Chicago. credit: Kim Yeoh

I’ve spent the last twenty years of my career traveling and exploring different cultures around the world. With these explorations also came the delicious discovery of new flavors and cultural insight with every bite and taste. I founded UNWINED based on the very premise that we should all be in constant pursuit of new cultures, cuisine and the perfect balance between the two.

THE UNOFFICIAL CURRY KING OF CHICAGO

My real love affair with curry began in Chicago when I befriended a group of Indian, Pakistani and African friends.

My connection to Indian cuisine was my former business partner who introduced me to many different people and Asian restaurants throughout the city. My palate was insatiable for these wonderfully complex and savory curries that seemed to tantalize every single taste bud. I frequented all of my friends’ homes where I was treated like royalty by all of their mothers and aunties. I visited countless taxi cab driver stands late at night to quell the hunger pangs after drinking into the wee hours of the morning. I was so obsessed with making my own Indian food that I had a tandoor built at my house and even ground all of my own fresh spices for maximum flavor.

Every week, my Indian/Pakistani friends would come over to my house for Rogan Josh Wednesdays, Mahkani Mondays and Chicken Tikka Tuesdays. For years I studied and perfected my techniques through my many travels across Asia and eating in friends’ homes. Dinner guests would gluttonously eat their fill in my home after I had recreated the finest curry dishes. Most would be afraid to tell their mothers that it was an Italian who had lured them into bliss with his savory food.

roger bissell

photo credit: Roger Bissell

 


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WHAT IS CURRY?

Contrary to popular belief, curry is not the name of a particular type of spice.  It is actually a blend of many different spices and should actually be referenced by the name of a savory, regional dish such as the popular Rogan Josh. Without going into too much detail, as one could write an entire book on curry from every region, I shall attempt to break down the basics for you as known to me.

Most curries take a long time to prepare as it involves a multi-step process of layering in the different flavors of an eclectic mix of ingredients.

Some commonly found spices/ingredients in different regional curry dishes:

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Mace
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Melon Seed Paste
  • Yogurt
  • Cardamom
  • Fenugreek Leaves
  • Curry Leaves
  • Various Chili Powders
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Mustard Powder
  • Melon Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes

Curries usually hails from parts of Africa and Asia. The best curries are made completely from scratch without the usage of pastes, powders or bullion cubes which are predominately found in Japan. Pastes that are sold in jars such as red, green and yellow are the most commonly found but are not very authentic or good. ). Finally the pre-boxed curried spices usually are found in Indian style curry also wont be as good because the spices are ground well ahead of time losing their potency. Also to make a great curry it requires layering in the flavors/spices at different points in time rather than just dumping an entire mix of ingredients all in at once

Some of My Favorite Curry Dishes:

Goat Biryani is a slow cooked rice and protein dish which is traditionally slow cooked in the oven with many different spices including saffron. There are over 26 different types of biryani found in India using different types of protein and cooking methods. One of my favorites can be found at Baar Baar in NYC.

Haddar Yakkhan is a Kashmiri mushroom masala done traditionally with morel mushrooms, one of the more expensive mushrooms in the world, but very abundant in this region of India so its accessible to all of the locals. One of the finest examples is at Wazwan in Chicago.

 

Rajma Masala

Rajma Masala is a kidney bean dish hailing from Punjabi with a base of onion/tomato with various spices. One of the best recipes can be found here.

 

WINE PICKS

One of my favorite aspects of my personally curated UNWINED dinners that I host around the country is taking on the often complicated but thrilling process of pairing wine with these intense, complex, flavored dishes.

UNWINED Roger Bissell ROOH Chicago

UNWINED By Roger Bissell, ROOH Chicago photo credit: Kim Yeoh

 

Some of My Favorite Wines to Pair With Curry Dishes:

Trimbach Riesling

Erste Neue Gewurztraminer 

IL Borro Rose Toscana

Domaine Bruno Clair Chambolle Musigny 

Pierre Usseglio Lirac 

Bright red wines work well with some of the meat-based curry dishes while snappy, crisp whites can pair well with cream or butter-based curries. Try fruity roses as well; they work with many different curries.

JUST UNWINED

Don’t be afraid to embark on a new culinary adventure and try some authentic regional dish curries. You just might catch the bug like I did!

Have a favorite curry dish or restaurant recommendation? Shoot me a line here.

I would love to share it!

UNWINED By Roger Bissell

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