Saira Malhotra's Victory At The Varli Cook-Off and Her Winning Recipe would like to send out a big congrats to our contributor Saira Malhotra for her recent win at the first ever Varli Cook-off! On April 6th, 2012, one day after the Varli Food Festival, Celebrity Chefs and Next Iron Chef competitors Jehangir Mehta and Maneet Chauhan hosted foodies, aspiring chefs, and lovers of all-things-Indian at the Varli Cook-Off competition.

Saira was one of the 8 participants in the fierce two-round competition that was judged by 4 internationally renowned and talented chefs and restaurateurs: Sanjeev Kapoor, Kunal Kapur, Prasad Chirnomula, and Rajesh Bhardwaj. As Saira mentioned, she was quite nervous about competing but her two sons and husband showered her with support all throughout.

The first round was the appetizer round with shrimp as the primary ingredient. Saira prepared an Herb-Crusted Shrimp with Peruvian Salad that got her safely into the next round. In the final round with only four competitors left, she whipped up a Kung Pao-Inspired Chicken dish with Deconstructed Egg Fried Rice that won her first place! As the winning prize, she's being whisked away on a trip to Dubai come next February. Congratulations, again Saira!

Check out Saira's winning recipe below...

Kung Pao-Inspired Chicken and Deconstructed Egg Fried Rice Recipe

Ingredients: 1/4 cup of cashew nuts 4 whole red chilies 2 cloves of garlic (chunkily chopped) 2" piece of ginger (chunkily chopped) 1 green pepper, medium dice 6 Scallions chopped (white and green separated) 2 tbsp soy sauce Juice of 1 lime Salt to taste

Chicken & chicken marinade: 1lb, 1" diced pieces of chicken 3 tbsp soy sauce Salt to taste

Deconstructed egg fried rice: 1 1/2 cups rice 4 eggs 1 1/2 tsp mango pickle


Kung Pao Chicken:

  1. Combine all marinade ingredients and marinade chicken for 10 minutes (I didn't have time for marinating).
  2. Heat the wok on high, add 2 tbsp of oil, when hot add cashews and sesame seeds and keep stirring. As the cashews and sesame become golden brown in color, remove immediately (approx 1 1/2 minutes) and drain on paper towels.
  3. In the remaining oil, saute the chicken on high heat and cook for approximately 7 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
  4. Add 2 more tbsp of oil and throw in the chilies, continuously tossing until they turn a shade of burgundy. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and after 1 minute, add the white part of the chopped scallions and then the green pepper. Add remaining soy sauce.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine: soy sauce, lime juice and salt to taste. Add this mixture to the pan and cook for 4 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken to the pan and just before serving, toss the scallion greens and peanuts and green pepper.

Deconstructed egg fried rice:

  1. Boil rice and keep covered on low to make it sticky.
  2. In a frying pan, saute the pickle on medium heat, evenly distribute on the base of the pan.
  3. Break four eggs on to the pan and cook until almost done (as egg continues to cook in its own heat)
  4. Remove eggs and lay over the top of the rice.

Photo: Saira Malhotra

For more community news and recipes, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)