food recipes

Indian recipes with a Southern twist from former ‘MasterChef’ contestant Farhan Momin

Today, Momin, once torn between a career as a chef and a dentist, manages to balance both worlds. When he’s not filling cavities or setting crowns, Dr. Momin — aka Chef Farmo — partners with his dad at Atlanta Halal Meat & Food, the combination butcher shop/fast-casual restaurant they opened a year ago in a Suwanee strip mall.

Farhan Momin, a first-generation Indian-American from Duluth, will be on the new season of ‘MasterChef’ premiering May 30 on FOX.

“My whole angle of cooking is all about these memories I have of eating my mom and dad’s food, and combining it with the food I was missing out on,” says Momin, 27. “I couldn’t eat Chick-fil-A. I couldn’t eat at a barbecue restaurant that all my friends were eating at. So how could I bridge the gap between these two things and come up with food that’s unique and very tasty?”

Chef Farhan Momin (second from left in back row) is shown with (back row, from left) sister Arshiya Budwani; father Ahmed Momin; mother Eliza Momin; brother-in-law Nadeem Budwani; (bottom row from left) nephew Ayan Budwani and niece Saira Budwani. On the table in front of them are (from left) Khaman Cornbread, Black-Eyed Pea Vada (Fritters), Tandoori Fried Chicken and Crispy Black-Eyed Pea Chaat. (Styling by chef Farhan Momin / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

On a recent Sunday, Momin cooks the recipes for this article and, surrounded by family, sets the food on a table in front of the restaurant. The spread exemplifies his talent for combining Indian and Southern foodways.

There’s his famous Tandoori bird, marinated in buttermilk and deep-fried to perfection. There’s cornbread, modeled after a Gujarati snack cake traditionally fashioned from besan (chickpea flour). And there are two black-eyed pea creations, a falafel-like fritter and a chaat. Both are inspired by Indian street food. Both employ a legume as common to Atlanta as Ahmedabad. Both are transformed by the Momins’ green and tamarind chutneys.

A couple of bites, and you know why Farhan Momin is such an original.

RECIPES

Fried chicken, black-eyed peas, cornbread: Farhan Momin’s dishes marry Indian and Southern food in delicious and surprising ways.

Tandoori Fried Chicken. Farhan Momin made a rudimentary version of spicy fried chicken when he was 6 years old. He’s been refining the dish ever since. Traditional Indian tandoori chicken is allowed to soak in yogurt and buttermilk, then cooked in a tandoor — hence the name. Momin’s take mingles his combined Indian-Southern heritage: He marinates chicken tenders in a buttermilk-based marinade, then deep-fries it. The sauce shown with it is Maggi Hot & Sweet Chilli Sauce, which Momin calls “Indian ketchup.” (Styling by chef Farhan Momin / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Farmo’s TFC (Tandoori Fried Chicken)

Traditional Indian tandoori chicken is soaked in yogurt and spice, then cooked in a tandoor. Farhan Momin’s mingles his combined Indian-Southern heritage: He marinates chicken tenders in a buttermilk-based marinade, then deep-fries it.

Farmo’s TFC (Tandoori Fried Chicken)

  • 3 tablespoons Kashmiri chili powder (may use paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Measure chili powder, black pepper, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, garam masala, garlic, ginger and cayenne into a large bowl. Pour in buttermilk; mix well. Toss in chicken, making sure to coat it in the marinade. Cover and chill for at least 12 hours or overnight.
  • When ready to fry: Pour enough oil to fill the bottom of a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven to about 2 inches. Heat to 350 degrees over high heat.
  • Mix flour and salt in a shallow pan or pie plate. Pour off buttermilk mixture, and working with a few tenders at a time, dredge chicken in flour mixture. Let chicken sit in flour mixture for at least 5 minutes to allow coating to stick.
  • Fry chicken for 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown and internal temperature is 165 degrees. Drain on a wire rack. Sprinkle chicken with a little salt while still hot. Serves 2-3.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 2: 1,109 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 90 grams protein, 68 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fiber, 53 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 262 milligrams cholesterol, 1,600 milligrams sodium.

Black-Eyed Pea Vada (Fritters). On a trip to India in 2016, Farhan Momin encountered a vendor frying fritters (vada) made of ground mung beans, a traditional Gujarati street snack. He came up with the genius idea of replacing the mung beans with black-eyed peas, a staple in the cuisines of India and the American South. The fritters are excellent with a drizzle of the Momin family’s green and tamarind chutneys (in background; recipes included). (Styling by chef Farhan Momin / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Black-Eyed Pea Vada (Fritters)

On a trip to India in 2016, Farhan Momin encountered a vendor frying fritters (vada) made of ground mung beans — a traditional Gujarati street snack. He came up with the genius idea of replacing the mung beans with black-eyed peas, a staple in the cuisines of India and the American South. Serve them with Mrs. Momin’s Green Chutney and Tamarind and Apple-Butter Chutney (see recipes).

Black-Eyed Pea Vada (Fritters)

  • 4 cups black-eyed peas
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 jalapenos, stemmed
  • 15 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Oil for frying
  • Place black-eyed peas in a large bowl. Cover with water, and allow to soak overnight. (The peas will absorb the water, so make sure you cover them by a couple of inches or so.)
  • Grate 1 large onion over the largest holes of a box grater. Squeeze out excess moisture using a cheesecloth or kitchen towel. You want the onion to be as dry as possible so your batter won’t be runny.
  • Drain black-eyed peas well, and place in the bowl of a large food processor. Add onion, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, cumin and salt. Process to make a coarse paste. (You shouldn’t see any whole peas in the mixture.) If your food processor isn’t big enough to accommodate all the ingredients, work in batches, dumping each batch into a large bowl, and mixing well at the end.
  • Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of a large-iron skillet or Dutch oven by about 2 inches. Over high heat, bring temperature to 350 degrees.
  • Using a tablespoon, drop in dollops of batter. Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. (You will need to flip the fritter.) Serves 12 (about 3 to 4 fritters each).

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 253 calories (percent of calories from fat, 26), 14 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 7 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 971 milligrams sodium.

Tamarind and Apple-Butter Chutney (left) and Mrs. Momin’s Green Chutney (right) can be sauces to serve with Black-Eyed Pea Vada (Fritters) or used as part of Crispy Black-Eyed Pea Chaat to lubricate the crispy snack. (Styling by chef Farhan Momin / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Mrs. Momin’s Green Chutney

Farhan Momin’s mother, Eliza, is famous in her circle for this bright condiment. Coconut powder can be found online or in Indian supermarkets, or you can make your own in the food processor. Simply grind unsweetened coconut flakes to make a coarse powder.

Mrs. Momin’s Green Chutney

  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons coconut powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Place cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, coconut powder, cumin seeds, black pepper, salt, water and lime juice in a blender or food processor. Blend until a smooth sauce forms. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 6 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 41 milligrams sodium.

Tamarind and Apple-Butter Chutney

Cooking India’s classic tamarind chutney can be an all-day affair of stewing dates, tamarind pulp and unrefined cane sugar, then grinding the sludge into a sauce. Over the years, the Momins found that spicy apple butter is great stand-in for the dates.

Tamarind and Apple-Butter Chutney

  • 1 cup apple butter
  • 1/4 cup tamarind paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Place apple butter, tamarind paste, water, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Mix well. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 22 calories (percent of calories from fat, 3), trace protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 39 milligrams sodium.

Crispy Black-Eyed Pea Chaat. After seeing an episode of Alton Brown’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” in which the TV star visited a bar that served fried black-eyed peas as a crispy snack, Farhan Momin was inspired to used crispy black-eyed peas to build a chaat. This recipe is a cooling side dish, perfect with the Tandoori Fried Chicken and Khaman Cornbread (recipes included). (Styling by chef Farhan Momin / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Crispy Black-Eyed Pea Chaat

After seeing an episode of Alton Brown’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” in which the TV star visited a bar that served fried black-eyed peas as a crispy snack, Farhan Momin was inspired to used crispy black-eyed peas to build a chaat.

Crispy Black-Eyed Pea Chaat

  • 4 cups black-eyed peas
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chaat masala, divided (may use a mixture of 2 teaspoons each of salt, black pepper and chili powder)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Mrs. Momin’s Green Chutney (see recipe)
  • 1/2 cup Tamarind and Apple-Butter Chutney (see recipe)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sev (crispy chickpea noodles)
  • Place peas in a large bowl. Cover with plenty of water, and soak overnight.
  • Drain and rinse peas under cold running water. Place in a large boiler or pot. Cover with water and boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 35 minutes. (The peas should be al dente but not cooked through.)
  • Drain off water. Place peas in an even layer on 2 large baking trays. Allow them to cool and dry out for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 hours. (You may also pat them with a clean kitchen towel to dry.) Pour 1 tablespoon oil over each tray of peas; toss well to coat. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the peas are crispy, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle each tray of peas with 1 tablespoon of chaat masala. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes.
  • Pour peas into a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, onion, cilantro, Mrs. Momin’s Green Chutney and Tamarind and Apple-Butter Chutney. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with sev. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 526 calories (percent of calories from fat, 20), 26 grams protein, 81 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fiber, 12 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 588 milligrams sodium.

Khaman Cornbread. In Gujarat, where Farhan Momin’s parents are from, a favorite street snack is khaman dhokla (squares of steamed chickpea-flour bread). Use cornmeal as the base, and you have something very similar to Southern cornbread. Momin finishes his jalapeno and whole-kernel cornbread the traditional Gujarati way — tempered with a heady drizzle of oil (or ghee) infused with dried chiles, black mustard seeds, coconut and curry leaves. (Styling by chef Farhan Momin / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Khaman Cornbread

In Gujarat, where Farhan Momin’s parents are from, a favorite street snack is khaman dhokla (squares of steamed chickpea-flour bread). Add cornmeal and buttermilk, and you have something very similar to Southern cornbread. Momin finishes his jalapeno and whole-kernel cornbread the traditional Gujarati way: tempered with a heady drizzle of oil (or ghee) infused with dried chiles, black mustard seeds, coconut and curry leaves.

Khaman Cornbread

  • For the bread:
  • Vegetable oil or shortening for greasing skillet
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder (may use paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup whole-kernel corn, roasted (may use canned, unroasted corn)
  • 2 jalapenos, roasted, seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut powder (may use flakes)
  • For the tempering:
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil (or ghee)
  • 2-3 dried chiles (or sliced jalapenos)
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 3 sprigs curry leaves
  • To make the bread: Grease a large cast-iron skillet, and place in a 400-degree oven.
  • In large bowl, mix flour, chickpea flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, salt, chili powder, turmeric and baking powder.
  • In a small bowl, mix egg, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Pour liquid into bowl with dry ingredients. Add corn and jalapeno. Stir until just combined. There should be some visible lumps.
  • Pour into hot cast-iron skillet. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and sprinkle with coconut powder.
  • To temper the bread: Heat oil or ghee in a small pan over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to glisten, add chiles and mustard seeds. Toast for about 30 seconds. Strip curry leaves off sprigs, and carefully add to pan. (They will sputter.) Once the curry leaves turn bright green and slightly translucent (2-3 minutes), remove from heat. Pour over bread. Cut into squares, and serve. Serves 6-8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 6: 553 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 9 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 34 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 35 milligrams cholesterol, 713 milligrams sodium.

Detail of oil (or ghee) infused with dried chiles, black mustard seeds, coconut and curry leaves, a mixture that was put on top of the Khaman Cornbread. (Styling by chef Farhan Momin / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

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