Chicken Fajitas – in India

I was on a business trip to India for the month of May, and stayed at a hotel with a kitchen. That gave me the opportunity to cook dinner in my room in between late night conference calls back to the US when I didn’t have time to go to the restaurant.And how many times can you have the paneer butter masala with garlic naan, anyway?  (this place had a good one). Actually, I can answer that question. Three times.

On the weekend, I was determined to make some Tex-Mex for my colleague and me, just to get a break from the standard fare of curries and kebabs. So I ventured out and found a grocery store full of imported goods.  Things like Maxwell House coffee (oh my!), De Cecco pasta, and other good western foods. No tortillas though (and frankly, I won’t even buy tortillas in New York or Arkansas, let alone India).  So I had to find some ingredients for my own fajita fest.  I bought flour, olive oil, salt, cumin (fortunately, I knew the Hindi word for that – jeera), and red pepper.  I had to search for a rolling pin, as my kitchen was not outfitted with one.  Later, I went to the local supermarket (basically, a little one room store, smaller than Imelda Marcos’ shoe closet) and asked, “Aap ke pas rolling pin hai?” (do you have a rolling pin?) while making the universal rolling pin motion.  “Chapati karna ke liye”  (to make chapatis, an indian flatbread).  Ahh, their eyes would light up and they’d be on the floor digging around behind toys, kitchen goods, you name it in search of that elusive rolling pin.  In two places, they came up with the base – something that looked like a tambourine – it seems making a chapati requires a rolling pin and a counterpart underneath.  “Uper, uper” I’d say, again making that rolling motion.  After a couple of stores, I walked back to my hotel, the proud owner of a proper Indian chapati rolling pin.   I was able to find baking powder at the first place I went.  It had a nice layer of dust on top of the lid, so I imagine this was aged baking powder, but why be picky?  I went to the local subzi walla (vegetable vendor) and picked up some of the wonderful red onions they have in Maharashtra along with some chili peppers, limes, and garlic.  These red onions are so sweet, they are served in many restaurants as side dishes – peeled and whole, smaller than a golf ball, you just pick them up and eat them like fruit.  Man, those are good.  And the limes you get in India are smaller even than the Key limes we buy in the US, with very thin skin.  You have to only slice them in half to provide a perfect fit between the thumb and index finger and complement any spicy kebob. 
But I digress.
To make the tortillas, I found a recipe on You Tube.  I don’t remember the specifics – many recipes call for shortening or lard, but I went with olive oil for health reasons (and that’s what i had).  Tortillas call for only flour, salt, water, baking powder, and oil (or shortening).  The key is to use warm water – it makes the dough more pliable.  The recipe I found had me making the dough, letting it rest for 5 minutes, then rolling golf sized balls, and let them rest for some time before rolling out the tortillas and frying them in a skillet.  They turned out pretty good, although I think you need higher heat than what I had and cook them very quickly (grrr – trying to cook on an unfamiliar electric range is no fun).  If you cook too long on lower heat, they’ll be a bit stiff.
To make chicken fajitas, marinade chicken breasts in olive oil, chopped garlic, cumin, red pepper, and lime juice for at least an hour.  Back home, I’d use cilantro too, which they have in India – I just couldn’t find any on this particular day.  These are best when grilled, but you work with what you have.  I sauteed some onions and peppers in olive oil after sauteeing the chicken, chopped it up and rolled it into my freshly made tortillas.  One thing I didn’t find was cheddar or jack cheese.  Even though I used most of the ingredients I use back home, these had a distinctly Indian flavor to them.  I don’t know if it was the flour, the red pepper, cumin, or onions, but it just wasn’t the same as the Tex-Mex I know.  Regardless, it was a nice variant on a long trip.  Of course, my colleague and I found a baseball game to watch while we ate, so we felt like we were back in Houston, having a little cookout.

2 Responses to “Chicken Fajitas – in India”

  1. Meghan says:

    This is interesting, seems like this was at Oakwoods. Next time, I will help you gather ingredients. Also would you like to try some authentic Maharashtraian food?

  2. dudecancook says:

    Yes, I loved staying at Oakwood for a three week stay, so I could go to Dorabji’s and load up on ingredients and cook my own meals on the weekends or some nights when i had a late conference call.

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