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“I refuse to have tandoori or naan on my menu,” says chef Asha Gomez of Atlanta’s Cardamom Hill. Instead of northern-Indian dishes like those, which virtually define Indian cooking in the US, Gomez focuses on the foods of her native Kerala, on the southwest coast. Using staples like shredded coconut, coconut milk, rice (one of the region’s most important crops) and spices like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, she creates haute Keralan cuisine inspired by her favorite home recipes. To make her vegetable “stew,” for instance, she cooks each ingredient separately, then arranges it elegantly on the plate. For F&W, however, she simplifies her restaurant food, evoking the wonderful Keralan dishes she grew up with.
Chef Way At her restaurant, Asha Gomez tops a cabbage stir-fry with fresh coconut, a Keralan staple.
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Easy Way Home cooks can substitute shredded dried coconut (not sweetened) for the fresh kind; it’s easier to find in stores.