“When I first moved to New York City and discovered that the Tex-Mex was seriously lacking in this town, I embraced Indian food.” –Lisa Fain, of Homesick Texan
Last week I shared a drink, the unique and uniquely delicious Paloma with Chaat Masala, which can be found in blogger Tara O’Brady’s amazing cookbook, Seven Spoons. That recipe grabbed my immediate attention upon my very first read-through, but despite the strong intrigue, I delayed making it. Because I am
neurotic obsessive in only charming ways, I insist that the vast majority of cocktails be paired appropriately with a snack. And because this is an unusual paloma that is basically half Indian, I had no idea what snack it should accompany. Until…
Blogger Lisa Fain, in obvious service of the Lord’s work, published a book on nothing but queso in 2017. Among the many tempting, glorious, cheese-adulating recipes she published, this Indian-inspired one caught my eye – not only because it looked so tasty (it very much is), but also because now I finally knew what to pair with that drink I’d been eyeing in Seven Spoons! These are the weird, little things that make me happy. I’ve accepted it.
According to Fain, this queso is inspired by the influx of Indian immigrants in the state of Texas. As more and more open Indian restaurants and grocers, particularly in Houston, it’s inevitable that Indian cuisine will meld with Tex-Mex and Mexican cooking, especially because they inherently have so much in common. Think about it: same climate, same spice tolerance, same spices, and even the same sensibilities. Both cultures love wrapping spicy, meaty fillings in soft, bready packages, they both love the cooling effect of either crema or raita. Indians tend to treat lentils much the same way Mexicans treat beans.
Kaiser Lashkari, a half-Indian-half-Pakistani Houston immigrant and Indian restaurant owner, agrees. As he told food historian Robb Walsh:
“I love Tex-Mex, too. Fajitas are just like grilled beef dishes we have at home. Chili con carne tastes like keema, only with ground beef instead of ground goat. Chili powder, cumin, garlic – these are seasonings that Texas and Pakistan have in common. … Flour tortillas are just like chapati. It’s the same recipe.”
Growing up in Dallas suburbs in the 1980’s, I had little exposure to Indian or Pakistani food, but boy did that change when I moved to NYC. Fain is correct: Americans well-versed in Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex flavors adapt to Indian food quite seamlessly. This queso is at once familiar and surprising. And while I refuse to participate in the Fusion Cuisine Debate, I’m personally thrilled to see this food friendship. It’s a natural match, a beautiful marriage, the creation of unique but familiar, delicious food. I hope to find more of these new dishes that combine the best of two highly flavorful cuisines in the future.
Indian Queso with Jalapeno Chutney
- 2 jalapenos, seeded if desired (I did not), and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs fresh lime juice
- 1 tbs unsweetened flaked coconut
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- Pinch of ground ginger
For the QUESO:
- 1 lb. brick processed cheese, cubed (Velveeta)
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- Cayenne, to taste (suggestion is ¼ tsp, I used a tad more)
- Tortilla chips, for serving
- Place the jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, coconut, cumin, salt, and ginger in a food processor. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
- In a medium saucepan combine the cheese, milk, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the cheese has melted. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
- Transfer the queso to a bowl. Top with the chutney and gently swirl it in. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.