The exotic sub-continent, and a place, much like Brazil last week, that for some reason has never really been on my must-visit list. I’ve heard mixed things, that it’s a love or hate sort of a place. But there’s no question India is important historically, economically, demographically, and culinarily. Indian food, in particular, is a cuisine I find fascinating, dependent on exotic mixes of dried spices that – in some cases – I’ve never heard of, added in an order and proportion that gives a complexity and depth of flavor that is hard to match.

So, what the heck, right? Since Covid is still running circles around the world and California is potentially looking at another lockdown (seriously, just wear masks and keep some distance, people!) travel date night number 14 takes us to India!

Indian-Themed Date Night

Eat: Butter Chicken; Saag Paneer; and Gulab Jamun

I wanted to make butter chicken with rice, but A’s favorite Indian dish is saag paneer, so I decided to make both. Butter chicken, otherwise known as murgh makhani, is sort of misnamed, as while it has a bit of butter (or ghee) in it, it is by no means a main ingredient. The chicken is marinated in a spiced yogurt, then seared, and finally braised in a sauce of onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and spices that is blended to a creamy texture. My immersion blender decided today was a good day to start smoking (seriously, it partially melted) so mine is a tad chunkier than it should be. Still awesomely tasty, though, and sopped up with some store-bought naan since we don’t yet have a clay oven.

Butter chicken

Saag paneer is spinach (again, normally blended smooth but in my blenderless case, just chopped finely) with homemade peasant cheese. Think of paneer as a set-up ricotta. It’s just milk brought to barely a boil with lemon juice added to cause the curds and whey to separate. Filter it through cheesecloth, drain, and firm it up into a block in the fridge for a few hours. I then marinated it in a bit of oil and spice – turmeric gives it the color – and griddled it before adding it to my spinach, seasoned with garlic, onion, garam masala, cumin, and coriander with just a touch of cream. A says it’s her favorite thing I’ve made as part of these date nights, so that’s a source of pride for me!

The saag paneer was so good, and the paneer was shockingly easy to make!

Gulab jamun are Indian donuts, basically, a dense cake made of flour, cream, sugar, and milk powder, then fried and left to sit in a sweet syrup for several hours to absorb the moisture. Traditionally the flavoring is rose, but A used orange. They were marvelous, especially served with a non-dairy lemon-blueberry ice cream she bought!

In the words of Homer Simpson, “mmm… donut…”

Learn: 15 Minute History of India

This was not one of the best dinner documentaries, as it was an electronic voice reading a transcription. That said, the country is fascinating and I’m sure YouTube has better options. So I don’t think I’m even going to link to it. But I did learn a lot!!

Experience: Taj Mahal

Google Arts and Culture comes through again. Just do a search for Taj Majal, and you’ll be greeted with a couple stories, and a TON of street-view options all around the magnificent structure that is often called the world’s most beautiful building. We also found a brief virtual tour separately. The building is old, intricate, stunning, and easily worth spending an hour virtually exploring!

One of the street views is from the TOP of one of the towers!

Watch: Dilwale

Bollywood has become synonymous with Indian culture, so we thought to give Netflix’s offerings a try. This one sounded interesting. It had everything: a Romeo and Juliet plot with elements from James Bond, Love Actually, and a scene straight out of How I Met Your Mother; kung-fu with terrible stunt work; totally odd dialogue in Hindi that is half English; and the Bollywood signature huge musical numbers. I was transfixed, but not totally in a good way. I’m glad to have the cultural experience, but I’m not a Bollywood convert. Also, why are all the main characters and good guys light-skinned? Racism everywhere.

Just your typical spy thriller with musical numbers

So that was India night! I hope this inspires you to adapt this to your own date night. Remember, take out works just as well, and the activities can be anything that make you smile. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed this, please click here to check out all of our travel-themed date nights!

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