Just how much turmeric does chef Janene Holig use, anyway? “It’s probably in at least 70 percent of our dishes,” says the chef of Hot Indian, a Minneapolis-St. Paul mainstay that operates a food truck, multiple brick-and-mortar locations and concessions at the Twins Ballpark and Minnesota State Fair. With a goal of making Indian cuisine less intimidating and more approachable for a broader audience, Hot Indian’s menu is centered around Indian flavors in familiar formats. And turmeric, a staple in Indian cuisine, is an important ingredient in many of its most popular dishes, like the original Indurrito (wrapped in house-made roti) and Indi Frites (Indian-seasoned russet and sweet potato battered fries, served with pickle aioli). It even shows up in the Indi Salad, composed of hearty greens dressed with turmeric vinaigrette and topped with pomegranate seeds, shredded paneer (fresh cheese) and lime-roasted chickpeas.
Tips from the chef
Holig calls turmeric “the wonder spice,” and says its long list of health benefits and wellness-promoting uses just seems to be growing. “It’s been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and a medicinal herb,” she says. “It contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.” She says the powdered version is the go-to option in her high-volume kitchen. “The fresh stuff is great, but it’s tiny, and prepping it can be very tedious,” she says. “We try to keep true to the traditional ways of using it, so we’ll usually heat the powder in an oiled skillet with ginger and garlic and keep it moving around. It’s important for it to spend some time in the sauté, because otherwise the powder can have a raw taste.” She uses only organic powder blends. “I think you can taste the difference,” she says. “The organic varieties give you a cleaner, purer flavor, and they’re a little less bitter and earthy.”
“If it’s gone, you’ll miss it”
Holig says that, unlike spices like coriander or cinnamon, turmeric is more foundational and less forward. She likes to pair it with fenugreek, fennel and cumin as a “bolstering” flavor. “It brings a
vibrancy to a dish, and if you taste something made without it, you might miss it without realizing what’s wrong.”