Cooking

Tim Graham's Secret Weapon

Meet kasundi, a condiment with Bengali roots
Photos: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
Kasundi
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It may take a while to make kasundi (see the recipe), a slow-cooked relish packed with spice, but when it's done, you'll be glad you did.

Tim Graham of Chicago's Travelle calls the slow-cooked Bengali condiment "ketchup with a lot more going on." Toasted cumin, coriander, mustard, turmeric and chili powder "come together into one flavor that's both fruity and funky," he says. Tomatoes and malt vinegar bring acidity, brown sugar adds a bit of sweetness and the heat and bite come from Thai chiles and garlic.

"It starts as a bunch of different flavors, but after a long period of cooking together, they come together into something insanely addicting," Graham says. We couldn't agree more: We've been slathering kasundi on anything that will sit still. Come to think of it, you may want to make two batches at once.

Here are a few of Graham's favorite ways to use kasundi:

Ketchup Swap: Though its pungent funk may not be for everyone, Graham suggests trying kasundi anywhere you'd smear ketchup. Serve a dollop alongside an omelet or fold it directly into whipped eggs before cooking to give a bland breakfast a vibrant red hue and hefty hit of spice.

Aioli Booster: Take a cup of mayonnaise and whisk in anywhere from four to six tablespoons of kasundi, depending on how much heat you'd like to add. The aioli shines as a dip for chicken tenders and can stand up to equally sharp flavors like pancetta and arugula when layered on a sandwich. "It's so strong and so pronounced that you don't need to add anything else," Graham says. "Let it be the loudest voice in the choir."

Lazy Person's Marinade: You'll get maximum flavor impact without the fuss with this simple formula. Combine one and a half cups of a neutral oil like grapeseed with half a cup of lemon juice, then whisk in half a cup of kasundi. Coat skin-on poultry or hearty fish like swordfish or mahi, let it sit for a few hours, then cook as you please. Pair with a nutty grain like wild rice, sweet vegetables like butternut squash or sweet potatoes, or greens like kale or cabbage sautéed with a touch of mustard.

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Crudo Finisher: To bring a little something unexpected to homemade crudo, slice a sturdy raw fish like snapper into small pieces, then toss the pieces with a little lemon juice. Plate the raw fish and top it with a smear of kasundi. Don't rub it in, instead letting the slightly sweet fish and kasundi each have their turn on the tongue.

Salad Savior: Make an Asian-inspired dressing by whisking together three cups of olive oil, half a cup of kasundi, one tablespoon of sesame oil, one cup of nonsweet white rice wine vinegar and a dash of soy sauce. Toss together crunchy lo mein noodles, sesame seeds and shredded cooked chicken, then coat with the kasundi dressing for a salad that hits all the right notes: fresh, sweet, salty, crunchy.

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