At Badmaash, the Indian-influenced gastropub in downtown Los Angeles, you can get your pumpkin fix without having to carve up jack-o'-lanterns or go to Starbucks for a spiced pumpkin latte. Nakul Mahendro is using his pumpkins in a traditional Punjabi-style dish. Mahendro runs the restaurant with his brother and their father, Nawan, who is the chef.
The dish is made by cooking pumpkin in spices, aromatics and mango powder. What kind of pumpkins? Mahendro likes either Jamaican or Long Island Cheese pumpkins from Tanaka Farms in Irvine. At the restaurant, it could be served with black lentils cooked with ginger and poori. Or, really, whatever suits you: On a recent visit to Badmaash, Mahendro suggested naan and pickles, yogurt and other condiments. It’s a family-style thing.
“It’s really a soul-warming experience to be in Punjab in the winter,” says Mahendro. “This is the food that warms you up and sticks to the stomach. Winters in Punjab get really cold, and the homes are made of cement. Until recently, central heating hadn’t really been a thing there. So the food you prepare and eat is very important.”
Heat a large, deep, nonstick pan or wok over high heat. Add the mustard and fennel seeds, and toast until aromatic, about 1 minute, stirring the pan so the seeds do not burn. Add the oil, and when it is hot, add the ginger, garlic and chile, stirring to combine.
Stir in the diced pumpkin and sauté until the pumpkin is coated with oil, cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the pumpkin, stirring occasionally, until softened, 12 to 14 minutes.
When the pumpkin is softened, stir in the salt, mango powder and sugar. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to marry the flavors. Taste and adjust the flavorings and seasonings as desired. Transfer to a dish and garnish with cilantro before serving.
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