Taizu's Chick Pea Koftas in Curry Sauce, Southern Indian Style

Chick Pea Koftas in Curry Sauce. Photos courtesy of Taizu. 

By Danielle Frum

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with chef Yuval Ben Neriah of the white hot restaurant, Taizu, in Tel Aviv. Ben Neriah has managed to fuse together the Jewish love of Asian food with, well, the Jewish love of Mediterranean food. I was, admittedly, somewhat skeptical. Faced with the Taizu menu – altogether so entirely foreign I couldn’t even BEGIN to taste the flavors in my head – I couldn’t imagine how Yuval made this work:
 
Taizu Tartar
Crispy Rice Cone, Black Sesame Seeds, Soy Foam, Flying Fish Roe
 
Salmon Peking
Chinese pancakes, Hoisin Sauce, Salmon Roe, Micro Celery
 
Shanghainese Dumplings
Veal Cheeks, Beef Soup, Pstachio Masala, Pomegranate Broth
 
Black Cod Fish
Tomatoes Honey, Peanut, Crispy Shallots, White Peach
 
Like, seriously?
 
“I take inspiration from the street food of five South Asian cultures,” Yuval told me, as we sat one morning in the beautifully designed modern glass-and-wood interior that is Taizu. “Chinese, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and India.”
 
Was this some longtime affinity with Asian cuisine, I asked him? Why these five cultures? Why street food?
 
Interestingly, the Israeli-born Yuval had little experience with this type of cuisine. He allowed that he had always been “attracted to Asian food” not least because its appeal to him “is much like storytelling. There is a story to every dish – the layers of sauces, spices, and textures.”
 
Before founding Taizu, he was the executive chef at the well-known and highly regarded Herbert Samuel restaurant. When the opportunity arose to start Taizu, he followed his dream and spent four months – with two sous chefs – traveling the five countries of interest and experiencing their food cultures.
 
“Before I started the journey, I didn’t realize that street food would be my inspiration,” he said. “Over there, everything starts from the street.”
 
This week we are proud to publish Yuval’s recipe for chick peak koftas in curry sauce. When I received the recipe from Yuval I was again skeptical. This was so beyond my comfort zone of cooking -- a lot of exotic ingredients, a lot of chopping. And I had absolutely no feel for how the recipe might turn out.
 
However I gamely, if nervously, tried it. All the ingredients turned out to be readily available at Whole Foods. Much of the chopping could be done in the Cuisinart. It ended up being way more simple than the recipe seemed at first. And: what a hit. The chick pea “koftas” are delectably moist patties simmering in maybe the best curry sauce I’ve ever tasted. The sauce alone could be adapted to other dishes, such as braised chicken thighs. In any case I urge you to give it a go. Serve with a big bowl of jasmine rice, prepared according to directions on the package.
  
Serves 6

For the Sauce:

1/3 cups canola oil
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
5 dried whole chilies, shredded 
A handful of curry leaves if available, otherwise omit
 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
7 shallots finely chopped
5 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 lime thinly sliced
2 tbsp brown sugar
4  plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1\8 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
2 1/2 cups of coconut milk

For the chickpea koftas:

1 1/2 cups chick pea flour (with slightly more, if necessary)
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp lime juice
3/4 tbsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 small ginger bulb grated
1 big white onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalapeno chili, deseeded and coarsely chopped
Zest of 1/2 lime, grated
1 1/2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 carrots grated
1 1/2 cups finely chopped leaks
1/2 cup fresh green peas (frozen are fine, if fresh are unavailable)  
  
For the sauce: 

Heat oil in a large .deep frying pan over medium heat. Add fenugreek, cumin, chilies and, if using, curry leaves and fry until lightly browned.

Turn the heat to high and add ginger, shallots, and garlic and fry for two minutes. Add turmeric and yellow curry and fry for another minute. Add lime, sugar, tomatoes and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes start breaking apart. Add water, salt, and coconut milk and bring to boil.

Turn the heat off.
 
For the koftas:

Mix all ingredients in a Cuisinart for five minutes.  
Form koftas (golf-sized balls) using wet hands and throw them into the sauce. (*Note: the kofta dough can be moist. If it seems that it is falling apart and won't hold its form, add a bit more chick pea flour.)

When the koftas have been added, bring the sauce again to boil, turn the heat low and cook for 10 minutes.

Serve over steaming hot jasmine rice.

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