EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Lifestyle

September 23, 2012

Classes help bring a bitofAsia toyourfamily's kitchen

If you think dishes like wonton soup, spring rolls, and chicken tikka masala are solely the stuff of take out menus, think again. Asian home cooking is alive and well at Northern Essex Community college, where students can learn recipes, tips, tricks, and techniques from two local Asian chefs.

This semester, the college is offering four noncredit courses that aim to demystify Asian and Indian food by taking it out of the restaurant and into the kitchen.

Asian food, from Thai to Japanese, Chinese to Indian, has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade among people who are looking for tasty and nutritious meals.

“I think it is a shift toward healthier eating and the world becoming a smaller place,” says Shilpi Ranjan of Andover, who is teaching three Indian cooking courses at NECC. She also offers private cooking instruction through her company, E-Z Compliments.

As people travel and try new things, they’re eager to learn how to replicate at home the dishes they sample on the road. That’s where chefs like Ranjan and Phuong Lai-Matzker of Londonderry, N.H., come in.

“They have tasted it and they love it and they want to learn how to make it,” Ranjan says.

They’ll get a great start with the three classes she’s teaching: All-Time Indian Favorites, Indian Snacks and Desserts, and Indian Vegetarian Delights.

Because of her father’s job, Ranjan lived all over northern India as a child. She has traveled extensively across the southern part of the subcontinent, as well.

“I had the chance to soak in the culture from everywhere,” she says.

Her Indian cooking reflects this.

The basis for her Indian meals is simple: She always to have five colors on the plate and something from each food group, including lentils, vegetables, bread, and meat, such as chicken, fish or lamb.

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