During the first class, participants prepare popular dishes such as Aloo Tikka (potato pancakes) with chutney, a dipping sauce variously made with tamarind, cumin and chilies, and raita (yogurt) during the first class.
The next week, they prepare a vegetarian entrée, Aloo Saag (cubed potatoes and fresh spinach slow cooked in herbs and spices), with roti, a tradition unleavened flat bread made with chapatti, or whole wheat flour. Indians use breads such as roti and naan as utensils, scooping the food and sauce, which adds a tactile experience to the other sensory pleasures of the cuisine.
A nonvegetarian entrée is offered during week three: Chicken Tikka Masala (boneless chicken pieces with onions and spices such as turmeric, garlic and ginger) with Basmati rice.
Desserts are the focus the following week, in particular, Gulab Jamun, dough balls in syrup. Chef Lal also covers Chai, traditional Indian tea, served with a cinnamon stick.
For the last week, students prepare and present their takes on Indian dishes pot luck style.
Zeke Valladolid, a Chandler resident who attended the classes, prepared Paneer Tikka Masala for that final class. His daughter, Vanessa Yellig, also of Chandler, enrolled in the course with him.
“I had never cooked with paneer [an Indian cheese] before, so this was a great opportunity to work with a new item,” says Valladolid, who regularly cooks at home and took the classes because Indian food, and The Dhaba, are among his and his family’s favorites.
“Pallavi brought Indian cooking to a level where you can cook at home without feeling intimidated,” he says. “It was a tremendous opportunity to learn the mysteries of Indian cooking. Just great fun.”
Another student, Tempe resident Dani Bonvouloir, is a professional chef who owns a catering company. “I was excited to find out about Pallavi’s class at The Dhaba so that I could explore Indian cuisine more in depth.”
Despite her food knowledge, Bonvouloir learned new techniques in an entertaining atmosphere at The Dhaba Cooking School.
“Pallavi was excellent in explaining the flavors and techniques in layman’s terms, and I could see that even the most novice students would be able to duplicate her dishes at home,” she says. “She showed the different stages the dish would go through until it was the right consistency, texture or doneness.”
What’s more, “Pallavi kept the class entertained with her stories of family, her times in India and the way that she learned different dishes when she was growing up. It was that personal touch that endeared me to Pallavi — and I will definitely attend the next round of classes with her!”
The five-week Dhaba Cooking School course starting Aug. 11 is $99, but students can also attend individual classes for $25. For more information, call India Plaza, 480.557.8800.