Catejan Mendonz has a teeny stall called Saffron Spice at Pike Place Market, a space about the size of a Mommy van. And in that space he makes some kick-ass Southern Indian food. While growing up in Goa, he worked at his mother's restaurant. He grinds his own spices and makes most everything from scratch. Read part one of this week's Grillaxin Q & A to learn more.
SW: So, your food seems lighter and fresher. What do you do differently?
Catejan: I use less spices. I still get a lot of flavor, but I use less spice, so it's not so hot. I use whole spices. I make my own curry powder. I toast them up and grind them. I try not to use nuts like cashews and almonds, which add to the richness of some Indian cooking. It just makes it heavy. This is daytime food. You don't want to have to go take a nap.
SW: You can't cook everything in that teeny little kitchen. What's your cooking routine?
Catejan: I cook in another kitchen a couple of days a week. Making my tandoori chicken, but I do make a lot of my sauces here.
What are your favorite cooking tools?
Photo by Leslie Kelly
The combo plate's a whole lot of food for under $10.
Catejan: There are three main flavors in Indian food: tumeric, cumin, coriander and chili. So, you've got to have a good grinder. I use chili from the North. I get it from an Indian grocery store in Kent, Sunni's Supermarket.
Any favorite pots and pans or knives?
Catejan: I use Henkels knives. The pots and pans I use are aluminum because they heat faster and use less energy.
SW: What do you like to cook at home?
Since opening up this place, I eat a lot of what's leftover. Maybe I'll make a sandwich.
SW: Where do you like to eat at the Market?
Catejan: Oh, I like to try a lot of the different places around here. I like Bavarian Meats. You know the German restaurant in Magnolia? Szmania's. I worked for him when he had a second restaurant in Kirkland.
SW: Has your mother been to visit and try your cooking?
Catejan: No, but we are saving up for a ticket to bring her here for a visit. I always talk to her on the phone, sometimes I get advice on cooking from her, but she likes to cook the same things. When I went to visit her, I took some roast beef from Bavarian Meats and she really enjoyed it.
Check back for part three of this week's Grillaxin for a recipe from chef Catejan.