Arts, Culture & Media

Geo answer

We serve up a spicy mix of culinary cultures for today's Geo Quiz:

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We're looking for the names of two countries today, two countries separated by oceans and continents. But don't be surprised to see spices and herbs and recipes from both of these countries turning up in some Thanksgiving feasts.

Chef Rohini Dey says it's not that surprising really:

"There are a lot of common ingredients such as the black bean in the fejoada, coconut milk, guava, plantain, rice, corn, and spices that were brought from the Portuguese to both coasts."

Head Chef Maneet Chauhan and owner Rohini Dey (right)Head Chef Maneet Chauhan and owner Rohini Dey (right)

We'll hear more about her new spin on an old menu, one that borrows culinary ideas from two countries. One is the largest country in South America.

The other is the 7th largest country in the world...

By creatively combining their spices and culinary traditions, two American chefs are putting their signature on the traditional Thanksgiving feast as the World's David Leveille explains:

Messing with the traditional Thanksgiving menu of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie can be a risky proposition. But Rohini Dey prefers to experiment a bit.

"We are doing a very renegade approach to what is a very traditional American festival and we're very excited about taking a lot of elements that derive from American comfort and putting our unique spin on them."

Rohini Dey is the owner of the Vermilion restaurant in Chicago, as well as the newly opened "At Vermillion" in New York City. She along with head chef Maneet Chauhan came up with a new take on the Thanksgiving menu. They both grew up in and around Calcutta, Rohini Day also travelled around Brazil...the result is a cooking style that's heavy on Indian and Latin American spices and herbs. Maneet Chauhan says their Thanksgiving feast calls for equal parts India and Brazil.

?We have a five course meal which starts with a Bhuna Bhutta roasted corn soup very warming...we do have Brazilian black bean slowly cooked chorizo, it's a nice hearty stew and to give it the Indian flair, we have added garam masala which is our house blend of spices then of course the turkey is marinated in ginger and Indian black cardamom cumin and seared cooked to perfection.?

The idea of mixing and mashing Indian and Brazilian flavors isn't that radical. The two countries actually share a Portuguese connection. Portuguese mariner Vasco de Gama charted a new sea route to India in the 15th century that led to spice trading posts along India's west coast, in the city of Goa for example. The Portuguese also settled in along the coast of Brazil, and eventually founded the city of Rio de Janeiro.

So these chefs have exploited that historical connection and married their favorite Indian spices with Brazilian recipes. They actually tried out the Thanksgiving menu last year. With little expectation that it would fly:

?We really thought let's just try it for laughs and guarantee we're going to be giving our staff a holiday every year onwards on this day, guaranteed, who's going to come for a Latin Indian thanksgiving, right??

Panch Puran Cranberry ChutneyPanch Puran Cranberry Chutney

But they were overwhelmed by the response. Their eclectic menu proved very popular. Maybe it's the turkey served with a choice of mango cumin, madras curry, or tandoori rubs. Or it could be the dessert. There's Pumpkin Pie Horchata, a variation on a Mexican rice pudding. And a white chocolate pudding called bebinka, a sweet Portuguese concoction that's popular in Goa.

But for anyone who's daring enough to test out this Indian Latin fusion, here's their simple Bengali twist on a classic condiment. This one's called Panch-Puran Cranberry Chutney.

?You can get the Panch Puran mix in any Indian store or we can go ahead and mix the spices cumin, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, and kilanji which is onion seeds; so you take a little bit of oil, put spices in it till the spices start to splutter and that's very important because you need them to start releasing their essences and their oils, then put in some fresh cranberries, along with some grated ginger, red chilli powder if you want it spicy, and a little sugar and just cook it down.?

Cook it down, then serve it up. It's a nice illustration of how you can throw spices and flavors from different parts of the world into the same pot. It's a bit of a stretch for some purists but

Rohini Dey and Maneet Chauhan want to reach out and convert those who've never experienced Indian or Latin American food and turn them into believers. They promise it will be a meal to give thanks for.

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