A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
My hubby has always been a big lover of Indian cuisine - so much so that whenever we are back in Singapore, the very first restaurant he heads for is Shahi Maharani. We eat there so frequently that even the manager recognises us instantly whenever we are back in Singapore, never mind that he hasn't seen us for over a year.
Since we haven't been back to Singapore for almost a year and I haven't been cooking any Indian food for a long long time, he needed to satiate his cravings, and I gave in after a few days of bugging. Flipping through our favourite Indian cook book, of course, he had to pick THE dish that has an ingredient that not only I had no idea what it was nor where to find it: madras masala paste. The book did not say how to make it or what it's supposed to be like. The Internet came to the rescue, and once I got the paste made it was now time to do this Beef Madras, which according to the book is a popular South Indian curry prepared mainly by Muslims.
It's very aromatic, delicious, tender and super spicy. I personally couldn't take the heat of this dish eventhough I was wise enough to put only 2 green chillies minus the red ones. Hubby loves it so much that he didn't even care if his taste buds were on fire. He had 2nd and 3rd helpings. I salute him for his bravery - not bad for a ang mo (a Singapore local word for 'Caucasian').
This dish taste even better the next day.
I realised when preparing this dish the 3rd time that how spicy this dish is depending on how spicy is your Madras Masala paste. If you reduced the spiciness in your paste, then you can add more fresh chillies (1 green & 1 red) or whatever combination you prefer. However if your paste is very spicy like mine (when I first did it), reduce the amount of paste added to the dish or simply leave the fresh chilies out.
Did you ever find yourself getting stuck with a recipe that list a paste or ingredient that you have no idea how to get or make? I often did and it is so annoying. Recently I was trying to making an Indian recipe and I stumbled upon Madras Masala Paste??? erhm... huh? What is that? I flipped through the whole book from back to cover... no mention of what this paste is nor how to make it. Thank goodness for the Internet, without it, I wouldn't be able to make this paste nor know what it is.
Ok, Confession time: when I made this paste the first time around, I didn't have exactly all the ingredients and I improvised a bit. I replaced the spices with ready-grounded spices. I replaced black mustard seeds (I didn't have them at hand) with wasabi (I know, the Indian chef would have a heart attack if he knew this) and I used balsamic vinegar instead of cider. On top of that, I absently added the oil into the paste mixture. I realised my mistake too late. Anyway I cooked the paste, curious to see how it would turn out - although the oil never separated from my paste, the paste was still delicious and very fragrant.
Coming soon, recipe that uses this paste. Do watch out for it.
As noted by one of my reader and confirmed by my friend from India, vinegar is not part of any traditional madras recipe. As far as my friend's knowledge goes, South Indians use tamarind juice wherever they need the sour taste and not vinegar. So I guess the vinegar is an improvised solution when one doesn't have tamarind on hand.
This paste is very aromatic and spicy - as it is really white-hot-fire-burning-inferno-from-hell. For those who can't take it very spicy, reduce the quantity of chili powder added to the paste. You have been warned!