Thursday, November 3, 2011

Turmeric Trail’s new line of secret herbs and spices from America’s top cooking teacher* Raghavan Iyer

by Phyllis Louise Harris
November 2011

Award-winning cookbook author and cooking teacher Raghavan Iyer was the youngest of seven children.  So as he was growing up in Mumbai (Bombay), India, there was always someone in the kitchen preparing food.  His mother, grandmother and sisters all took part in the daily ritual of preparing three meals a day from scratch.  And, they always roasted and ground each spice blend for each dish just before they used it.

It is a habit he has tried to instill in the 25,000 students he has taught over the years throughout the United States and in Canada.  Now, he has made that chore much easier with his Turmeric Trail line of Indian spice blends.

“While I still believe the best way to season food is with freshly roasted and ground spices,” commented Iyer, “we wanted to make the chore easier for busy cooks.”  The result is his new line of Turmeric Trail spice blends already roasted and ground, ready to use.

“Whole spices can be kept for months without losing their flavor, but ground spices have a shorter life,” Iyer advised, “so when we created the ground spice line we packaged it in 2.5 ounce packages and suggest a shelf-life of 2 – 3 months maximum.”  The smaller packages providing flavorings for 10 – 12 dishes are intended to be used up in a month or two to assure the best possible flavor.

Garam Masala, Mumbai Masala, Madras Masala and Chai Masala are the first four blends in the Turmeric Trail line.  Each blend is designed to enhance certain types of food.

Garam Masala is a warm blend of spices that may include cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and bay leaves.  It is used for meat and poultry rubs, sprinkled on stir-fries and mixed into soups.  It can also be used as a coating for fresh fruit that is to be grilled.

Mumbai Masala, named after Iyer’s hometown, blends the fire of red chilies with the coolness of coconut and the texture of sesame seeds.  Add it to any type of curry or sprinkle it on hot buttered popcorn for a particularly flavorful snack.

Madras Masala is named after the famed city now called Chennai that exports large quantities of curry powder all across the world.  This blend is composed of roasted spices and yellow split peas that work well with vegetables or may be sprinkled over stir-fries.

Chai Masala is the seasoning behind India’s famous tea.  It is brewed in milk for a rich creamy texture then combined with the tea.  The seasoning is also used in or on desserts for something unique.

Turmeric Trail spice blends were introduced at Kitchen in the Market at the Global Market in Minneapolis on October 27 and are available for purchase there or through the website

*Iyer received the International Association of Culinary Professional’s Award of Excellence for Cooking Teacher of the Year in 2004.  He was also a finalist for the James Beard Journalism Award in 2005 and his “660 Curries” received the 2008 Best Asian Cookbook in the USA by World Gourmand Awards.  He is the author of four cookbooks and co-founder of Asian Culinary Arts Institutes.

The Hmong New Year will be celebrated in several venues this month.  One will be November 5 and 6 at the Mall of America Field (Metrodome), Minneapolis.  For information go to  Another celebration will be at the St. Paul River Center, November 26 and 27. 

Fall Food Fun Around the State

By Phyllis Louise Harris
October 2011

Farmer’s Markets are closing, pick-your-own pumpkin fields are brimming with orange Jack-O-Lantern materials, apple picking and wine tastings are in full swing around the state…its October.  While most of the food and wine mentioned are not Asian, they are wonderful opportunities to taste locally grown items.

Many Farmer’s Markets will be closed by the end of the month with a few staying open all year round.  For complete information visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website  Their free booklet on food products and events around the state is available online and by mail.  Look for locations of corn mazes and family weekend activities such as the Berry Hill Farm in Anoka, the Gilbertson Farms in Scandia,  Dunsmore Family Farm in Mora or The Farm on St. Mathias in Brainerd to name a few.

Wine tasting is at its peak at many of the state’s wineries including Morgan Creek Winery near New Ulm.  Tours and tastings are offered throughout October on Saturdays and Sundays 1 – 4 p.m.  Winery hours are Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.  For more information go to

Here’s a popular place to pick-your-own apples, enjoy weekend entertainment for the whole family and taste local wine as well.  Aamodt’s Apple Farm and Vineyards just outside of Stillwater has a multitude of activities for the whole family.  Pick-your-own apples, taste award winning wines from the St. Croix Vineyards, take the kids on hayrides, soar above the fields in Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon rides or find your way around the Hay Bale Maze.  Get complete information at Open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.           

One of the most beautiful spots to visit this time of year is the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum near Chanhassen.  October is especially fun with special events, beautiful fall colors and apples from the Arboretum’s own orchards.  Here are just a few of the food events for October:

Magical Pastry with your Pinot presented by Pastry Chef Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart Bakery on October 27, 6:30-8:00p.m.  Cost is $45 for members or $55 for non-members.  Class includes demonstrations and food and wine tastings.  Limited to 30 participants.

The Betwitching Buffet on October 22, 9 – 11:00 a.m. includes hands-on cooking, demonstrations and tastings.  Just in time for Halloween treats.  Cost is $30 for members and $40 for non-members.

Plus many more October events at the Arboretum.  For complete information visit or call 952-443-1400.  The Arboretum is on State Highway 5 just 5.4
miles west of Chanhassen.  While the Arboretum is open year-round, hours vary so call for current information.

Flavors of Asia Spotlight on . . .
Thai Cooking Classes

Sawatdee Thai Restaurant founder Supenn Harrison offers her semiannual cooking classes this month October 29 and November 5, 1 – 3 p.m. at Sawtdee, 607 Washington Avenue S., Minneapolis.  For information or registration visit or call 612-338-6451.  Classes are $60 per person per class or $110 for the 2-class series.  Learn how to make the flavorful food of Thailand in your own kitchen.

Enjoy the Last Days of Summer Dining Al Fresco in the Twin Cities

by Phyllis Louise Harris
September 2011

Patio dining at a local restaurant is still the best way to enjoy the best part of Minnesota weather and your favorite food. There is still time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer outdoors so here are a few suggestions…..

Supatra’s at 967 West Seventh in St. Paul is a very good place to go for outdoor dining and fresh, flavorful Thai food. The cozy patio is filled with colorful flower boxes and umbrella tables for dining or drinking under the sun or stars. Try the Silver Noodle Salad with Chicken and Shrimp for a tasteful mixture of bright Thai flavors combined with cellophane noodles and fresh vegetables. Sarongs are a fun way to eat meatballs wrapped in noodles and deep-fried for a crisp crust. Dip them in the sweet dipping sauce for a great snack.  Satays, those nicely charred skewers of grilled meat, are a traditional street food so good for outdoor snacking, or try Country Style Red Curry or Holy Basil Supreme for heartier dining.  In addition, Supatra’s now has more than 50 items on the menu that are gluten-free for people on restricted diets.   For hours and information call 651-222-5859.  Closed on Sunday.

Thom Pham’s Wondrous Asian Kitchen on 6th Street and Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, offers a sidewalk cafĂ© where Twins fans congregate before and after ballgames.  It is one of the few restaurants offering outdoor dining downtown.  Some favorite choices of Thom Pham diners are Walleye with Jalapeno and Basil, Cranberry Curry, and Spare Ribs in a Korean BBQ Sauce. Or just sip a selection from the area’s largest sake collection and munch on Wondrous Cranberry Puffs.  The restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner and offers all-you-can-eat Dim Sum on Saturdays and Sundays.  For information call 612-338-1479.

Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro’s backyard patio at 1510 Como Avenue in Southeast Minneapolis is a cozy place to dine under the stars (or sun as the case may be). Here the Miso Soup is one of the best in town. Also check out the Robata selections along with a variety of Sushi, Sashimi and other Japanese dishes.  Call 612=331-1432.  Open for dinner every day and lunch Monday through Saturday.

Curry ‘N Noodles in downtown Hopkins has a small enclosed patio for their Chinese and Indian menu or lunch buffet.  Located at 802 Mainstreet just a few steps from the Hopkins Theater, the restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes.  Closed on Tuesday.  Call 952-681-7834 for information.

If picnics are still your favorite way of dining outdoors head to Sakura’s Japanese Restaurant at 350 St. Peter Street in St. Paul and pick up a Bento Box filled with a complete Japanese lunch.  Choices include Tempura, Sushi, Teriyaki, Sashimi and more.  Then head to Rice Park a block away and enjoy outdoor dining in the city or take the short drive across the river to Harriet Island and dine by the water with a view of downtown St. Paul.  To order ahead call 651-224-0185.  Open every day for lunch and dinner.

Or stop by Keefer Court Foods at Cedar and Riverside in Minneapolis, the state’s first Chinese bakery and choose from an assortment of picnic food such as Barbecued Pork Buns, Coconut Tarts, Sticky Rice Dumplings, Soups, and Moon Cakes to name a few.  Take an assortment to your favorite picnic spot or head to the river drive just a few blocks away.   Closed on Tuesday.  

NEW HOME: "Flavors of Asia" is now "Asian Flavors"

"Flavors of Asia" is now "Asian Flavors"

Reaching 150,000 readers in the Upper Midwest five state area in print each month from 1991 to 2011, Asia Pages' "Flavors of Asia" column continues here to offer a world of culinary information.

Asia's culinary history dates back 6,000 years to the Nomads in China who stopped wandering and settled down to grow rice and other agricultural products. It is a history rich in the influences of conquerors and the traditions of centuries of cooking. It encompasses a wide variety of food and the people who help shape the culinary arts of Asia.