Praveen Subramani design + technology + cities

Food

Cooking, food, and exploring new culinary techniques and styles are among my greatest passions. Here I will share some of the recipes I've developed over the years, news about my latest culinary endeavors, and some general tips for working in the kitchen. I also occasionally write restaurant and food store reviews for MIT's student newspaper, The Tech. This section is very much a work in progress!

Ginger Scallion Stir-Fried Pork (Oct 2013)

Ginger is one of my favorite ingredients -- it seems like almost any stir fry is better with a hefty dose of ginger and you can put the stuff in everything from black tea to ice cream! I crafted this recipe for ginger scallion pork whose deep, earthy garlic and ginger flavors are rounded out by the fresh taste of scallions and cilantro. The stir-fried pork goes particularly well with the ginger and the broth that collects at the bottom at the end -- a simple mix of ginger, garlic, pork fat, soy sauce, vegetable oil, sautéed onions, and chili sauce -- is nothing short of ambrosial. I served the stir fry over white rice and garnished with black sesame seeds and fresh cilantro for a nice contrast of colors and textures.

Ginger Scallion Stir-Fried Pork

Ginger Scallion Stir-Fried Pork

Panang Curry with Chicken (Sep 2013)

I'm an absolutely fanatic for Thai curries and my friends have been known to catch me sneaking extra chili paste into the wok whenever I can get a chance. For my birthday in September, I decided to try my hand at making a Panang curry completely from scratch (including the curry paste). For the main protein, I used chicken thighs which can be cooked slowly with the curry without losing their tenderness, unlike breast meat which has a tendency to firm up when slow cooked. Fresh carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers provided a nice crunch to contrast the tenderness of the chicken and the creaminess of the curry. It was a nightmare tracking down ingredients like galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai chilies in Santiago, but a little ingenuity and a few trips to Barrio Patronato (home to a sizable Asian community) allowed me to get my hands on most of the essentials. The result was a spectacularly creamy and mouthwatering Panang curry with chicken that almost set my guests' mouths on fire and was served, quite appropriately, in our beloved chicken-shaped serving bowl.

Panang Curry with Chicken

Panang Curry with Chicken

Grilled Beef 'Carpaccio' (Aug 2013)

Ceviche is ubiquitous and spectacular throughout South America but it's equally delicious cousin, carpaccio, is notably absent on tables in Chile. I soaked this thinly sliced beef for six hours in a marinade similar to Mexican carne asada -- fresh orange and lime juice, olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, ground cumin and coriander, fresh cilantro leaves, and a splash of tequila. Then we tossed it on a hot grill for just a few seconds on each side to warm it up and barely cook the meat. Though not a true carpaccio since the meat was lightly cooked instead of raw, it came out so delicious that I couldn't even manage to grab a picture of the finished product since it got devoured so quickly. The thinly sliced beef in its marinade is pictured below.

Grilled Beef 'Carpaccio'

Grilled Beef 'Carpaccio'

Experiments with Infused Olive Oils (Jul 2013)

There's no such thing as Trader Joe's in Chile so sometimes finding things we take for granted in the US like spice blends and infused oils can be tough. Fortunately, this served as good inspiration for an evening of experimentation with homemade infused olive oils. Yes, it's just about as easy as it looks. Some chefs suggest gently heating the oil with the ingredients to extract the flavors better, but a two week soak seems to do the trick pretty well. The winner was the garlic, rosemary, whole coriander seed, merquen, black peppercorn, and sea salt combination in the big bottle on the left. It's amazing on salads, with bread, pizza, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Infused olive oil with garlic, rosemary, whole coriander seed, merquen, black peppercorn, and sea salt.

Infused olive oil with garlic, rosemary, whole coriander seed, merquen, black peppercorn, and sea salt.

Feijoada Brasileira (Jun 2013)

Inspired by a recent trip to Brazil and a cold winter in Santiago, I decided to try my hand at making feijoada, the traditional Brazilian stew of black beans with pork, beef, chorizo, and various meaty odds and ends. After soaking dried black beans overnight, they were cooked slowly for about six hours with the variety of meats. While the dish is time consuming, the beans pick up an incredible amount of flavor from the smoked meats and the rich texture and color is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

Feijoada Brasileira

Feijoada Brasileira

Murgh Cholay (Apr 2013)

My twist on an Indian classic, Murgh Cholay, a curry with chickpeas, chicken, onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala. While normally bone-on chicken is used for these type of slow cooked curries, I used boneless thighs and breasts to speed up cook time. And the addition of an untraditional ingredient, carrots, gives a nice crunch to the otherwise stew-like texture and adds a vibrant orange color to the dish.

Murgh Cholay (Plated)

Murgh Cholay (Plated)


Murgh Cholay

Murgh Cholay

La Vega Arrabbiata (Mar 2013)

I'm currently living in Santiago, Chile and some of my favorite parts of the city are the local produce markets where endless stands of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Chilean Central Valley are sold on the cheap. La Vega Central is one of the largest and most famous of Santiago's produce markets -- it's a maze to navigate but contains a veritable cornucopia of amazing food if you're willing to spend some time hunting. This month's dish, called 'La Vega Arrabbiata,' is a twist on a classic arrabbiata sauce, spiced with merquen, a traditional Andean dried chili flake. To kick it up a notch, I rendered down some smoky Chilean chorizo and some fatty bacon that comes from a special butcher south of Santiago, courtesy of my buddy Darren. The dish features a variety of fresh produce from La Vega including tomatoes, zucchini, red bell peppers, Chilean garlic, and onions sautéed in olive oil. Tossed over rigatoni and garnished with fresh parsley, this is an easy but incredibly flavorful weeknight dish that leaves you hungering for more.

La Vega Arrabbiata

La Vega Arrabbiata

The Providence Pizza (Jul 2012)

A garlic & herb "flatbread style" pizza with pesto sausage, goat cheese, crispy kale, caramelized onions, and fresh mozzarella. Kale is my new favorite leafy green and pizza ingredient -- topped with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon zest, it crisps up very nicely in a hot oven. If you enjoy spinach on pizzas, try switching it out for kale for an extra crunch.

The Providence Pizza

The Casablanca (Apr 2012)

My friends Tiff Chu and Mark Watabe invited me to participate as a guest chef in her new foodie experiment, Social Colander. Social Colander is Iron Chef meets dinner party and the competition was looking stiff, so I teamed up with my buddy Rich Whalley to bring some heat to the kitchen. The theme of the competition was "When a Twinkie Dreams," subject to chef's interpretation. We called our creation, "The Casablanca" a.k.a. "The Sultan's Twinkie."

The Casablanca, a.k.a. "The Sultan's Twinkie." Our homage to Moroccan cuisine for Social Colander.

The highlight of the plate was our "twinkie," a stuffed, butterflied chicken breast, which we dry rubbed with a mixture of spices (including turmeric for the yellow color), and stuffed with an herbed goat cheese, laden with fresh basil and currants. To balance out the spiciness of the chicken, we topped it with a reduction of currents, dates, port, and amchur (dried green mango powder) for a hint of tartness. We paired the chicken with a delightful Mediterranean couscous, seasons with cumin, mint, lemon zest, and plenty of olive oil. Finally, we rounded off these bold flavors with a tart and refreshing mixed bean salad, featuring a trio of beans, fresh cilantro, bell peppers, mango, and lime juice. We cooked and plated for 18 people (16 guests and one plate for each of  the other two chef teams).

Restaurant + Store Reviews

Cooking Philosophy

  • Simplicity: Often a small number of high quality ingredients prepared slowly and with great care produce a far more delicious result than a wildly complex dish made from a vast array of ingredients.
  • Fresh Ingredients: I can't emphasize this concept enough. If you use fresh and good quality produce and meats in your dishes, it's difficult to go wrong.
  • Tasting & Cooking by Feel: Recipes are guidelines, not instructions. Think of them as suggestions for a dish. Nothing encumbers the novice chef more than sticking to recipes line to line. A half teaspoon of salt doesn't mean get your measuring spoons out! Measuring is for bakers! A cook seasons everything to taste, tastes his dish at every step, and never serves without tasting. Following guidelines of what someone else thinks tastes good won't get you anywhere. Your produce, meat, dairy, and even seasoning probably taste different from those of the person who wrote the recipe. Plus, tasting gives you a sense of what different amounts of your ingredients taste like, so you can quickly learn to stop relying on recipes.
  • Confidence: I've always thought  that cooking is at least 60% confidence. I've watched novice cooks completely lose it in a busy kitchen because they're not confident enough to make decisions. Be bold with your flavors and don't be afraid to experiment or make mistakes. Some of the best cuisine was developed accidentally.

To anyone who is interested in the culinary industry or food and cooking in general, I highly recommend the books Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits by Tony Bourdain. These two well-written books combine a mix of trade secrets with stunning autobiographical accounts and amusing exaggerations to create a vivid portrait of Bourdain's life in the culinary underbelly and his travels around the world. For a more traditional perspective on kitchen hierarchy, George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London is a must read.