Monday, April 26, 2010

Jar vs. Homemade

I received an email a few months ago from Patak's Original, the company that makes a variety of Indian cooking spices and sauces. The Chicken Tikka Masala recipe that I posted on January 27, 2007 apparently sparked their interest, and they asked me if I would try their Tikka Masala Curry cooking sauce (medium heat) and share my opinion.

Tikka Masala is a curry dish in which chicken chunks (tikka) are served in a rich red, creamy, lightly spiced, tomato and yogurt-based sauce. It's one of those dishes that I have to order every time I go to my favorite Indian's just so good.

I don't generally endorse fast food since it's loaded with sodium and other bad stuff. I actually like to be able to pronounce the ingredients that go into my belly! Plus, what if the jarred stuff is better than my recipe?! How embarrassing would that be? I replied with a hesitant "yes" and waited for my jar of cooking sauce to arrive.

I finally got around to trying the stuff out, and you know was actually very good.

The ingredient list actually impressed me: water, tomato, onion, yogurt (spelled wrong, btw), cream, spices, concentrated tomato puree, sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, garlic, salt, vinegar, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin seeds, black pepper, coriander seeds, cilantro and dried crushed chili. Not artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. WOW! Most home cooks probably know what every single one of those ingredients are! DOUBLE WOW! (P.S. - this product is Gluten Free.)

For a complete meal all you have to do is follow 3 easy steps...1-2. Heat some oil in a large skillet and brown up some chicken breast, 3. Pour the jar of sauce over chicken and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Of course, I jazzed it up a bit with some sliced onion and green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks, then served the whole thing over some steamed rice and garnished with a little fresh basil for color. Naan on the side.

This jar sauce did have a little more heat than my recipe, and it's a heck of a lot more convenient and less time consuming than cooking tikka masala from scratch...but it was missing *something* and I think that something was the tang of plain yogurt. I would probably add about a 1/3 cup of plain or Greek yogurt next time and maybe a touch of nutmeg. The jarred sauce was not as smooth as mine, but the color was gorgeous. Of course, like any curry you might make at home, the smell lasted for days. In fact, a day later I went out with some friends and one of them mentioned that it smelled like curry was seeping out of my pores. Not sure if that's a good thing!

My final verdict...if you have the time and desire to make a home cooked meal of Chicken Tikka Masala, definitely go with my recipe. However, if you want dinner in 20 minutes Patak's Original Tikka Masala Curry cooking sauce is a pretty darn good substitute. I'll be keeping a jar in my pantry.