today’s special


I always break for foodie films when surfing Netflix, but initially I zoomed right by Today’s Special, maybe I was too busy with the popcorn bin. But after another go around, when I paused it was Madhur Jaffrey’s name that jumped out at me, then the chef garb on Aasif Mandvi made me smile and the spice bowls next to him hit me. It was food starring in film at my fingertips!

During a visit to Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco, somehow (and not so far fetched really being it is a bookstore) Jhumpa Lahiri, an author who’s work I deeply appreciate, came into conversation. That soon lead to a recommendation to read Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey’s name vaguely tickled my memory, but regardless, fascinated with Indian cuisine and culture, I couldn’t let go. Climbing the Mango Trees ventured home with me. Not long after that, I stumbled upon one of Jaffrey’s cookbooks and that too made it’s way to my overstuffed bookshelf. With Jaffrey’s memoir and cookbook on my mind, discovering the movie all within a short time span was a little bit like serendipity.


The Movie: Today’s Special

While the art of crafting authentic Indian food takes a bit of serious persistence, there’s plenty of laughs coming out of the Today’s Special kitchen. The film shares the story of Samir (played by actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi) a sous chef at a fancy New York restaurant. Rather content with his work, it wasn’t until he was passed over for a promotion that he impulsively decides to quit his job. Samir whips up a plan of apprenticing in Paris, and then attempts to pursue his dream. Fate has other plans though. Samir’s father Hakim (Harish Patel), turns ill and is unable to manage the family business. Samir’s mother Farrida, (played by legendary cookbook writer and actor, Madhur Jaffrey) reaches out to persuade her son, despite his rocky relationship with his father, to help manage Tandoori Palace. The restaurant is nearly bankrupt, has a disorderly kitchen and practically no customers to serve, a sharp change from what Samir is accustomed to. Despite his own heritage, Samir is not at all familiar with preparing Indian dishes. Luckily, he crosses paths with a cab driver named Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah, an icon of Indian cinema) who happens to be a passionate cook. Samir finds himself doing a little persuading of his own and entices Akbar to head back into the kitchen along with him. Both Samir and Tandoori Palace are eventually inspired and transformed.

Akbar and Samir shopping for Indian spices.

Akbar and Samir shopping together for Indian spices.

The film was thoroughly entertaining, and had me craving Indian food by the end of it. Luckily there’s an abundance of Indian restaurants and markets within reach here in Silicon Valley. Even our farmer’s markets on the weekend host stalls with fresh made Indian curries and hot naan bread. Here’s my recipe for a fun evening and great way to enjoy the film.

Cook Together
There’s nothing more fun than cooking in a group. Celebrate Indian cuisine with one of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes. There’s a recipe on Yumivore from an Indian friend for a dish called Chayote Squash Subzi, it’s delightful. Or visit Deb at Kahakai Kitchen who’s hosting a Food’n Flix evening with lots of special dishes on the menu.

Make It Movie and Moves Night: Go Bollywood
Invite friends over to dress up in traditional Indian garb before coming over to watch the movie together. Afterward, play the soundtrack from Today’s Special or your other favorite Bollywood-esque movies such as Slum Dog Millionaire or Monsoon Wedding and you’ve got a party going.

Dish Up Something Delicious
Whether you cook together and or dress up for the occasion, you’ll want food at this affair, otherwise the movie will leave you famished. It’s customary in Indian to eat with your hands, so finger foods is a great option. Small size potato and pea samosas is a tasty way to start. Consider using a cookie cutter to cut small rounds out of the naan bread and place your favorite curries on top for small appetizers. Or serve a medley of Indian dishes on a silver (okay metal) platter for each guest. Mango lassi is a wonderful drink along with the meal, and festive when poured into a shot glass. End the meal with Indian sweets and you’ve just hosted a perfect food and film date.

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Be sure to visit Kahakai Kitchen for delicious Today’s Special inspired recipes and dishes, along with Food’n Flix for more wonderful food and film evenings.

What would you serve with Today’s Special? And your favorite Indian dish?

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7 Responses to today’s special

  1. Deb in Hawaii February 28, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    So great to have you join us for Food ‘n Flix–and hope you join in again. Your entire Indian dinner looks fabulous and I love your “recipe” for a fun evening with all of the little tips and ideas.

    I chose Climbing the Mango Trees a while back for another blog event I co-host, Cook the Books and we are currently cooking the recipes of Madhur Jaffrey through the end of March at I Heart Cooking Clubs so I too am a big Jaffrey fan. 😉



  2. yumivore February 28, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Aloha! and Mahalo Deb for having me! Dinner was delicious (in honor of this post I might add) glad I got to it just in time. I Heart Cooking Clubs sounds fun, I’ll have to check that out. And eventually I hope to read Climbing the Mango Tree. Stay tuned, I’ll post more photos from dinner on soon and share the movie. Delighted we “virtually” connected over food and film!

  3. Heather @girlichef February 28, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Such a fabulously inspired post – I’m so happy that you joined us for Food ‘n Flix this month! I loved Climbing the Mango Trees (read it for Cook the Books that Deb was talking about)…it made me long to try so many Indian dishes. The samosas I made for F’nF are actually something that has been on my since I read it! Wish I had a little chunk of that Indian fudge (that’s what it is, isn’t it??) right now. 🙂

  4. yumivore February 28, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    Thanks so much Heather for the welcome wishes! Delighted to join. Sounds like I need to catch up and read Climbing the Mango Trees and join Cook the Books. Lovely to be a part of your group! The Indian sweets are a Besan Barfi, Orange Ladu and Jamoon (and more photos are on facebook).

  5. Hannah March 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    This is a terrific post, Orly! My husband and I visited India and can’t wait to return. We went for a wedding, which was unbelievable. I adore Indian food and Bollywood movies. Your photos are marvelous and making me hungry! Madhur Jaffrey is a gem. I also like cooking Maya Kaimal’s recipes. Love your party suggestions, as well. One evening a few years ago we cooked feast with my brother and his wife and watched Bride and Prejudice – so much fun. We need to do it again – thanks for the inspiration!

  6. yumivore March 7, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

    How amazing you got to visit India! It seems like a magical place to be. I look forward to reading Madhur Jaffrey (I buy books faster than I get to read them). And thanks for the movie idea (and your warming comments as well) I think I need to watch Bride and Prejudice!


  1. February Food 'N Flix: Today's Special: The Roundup! | Foodie Blog - March 17, 2013

    […] join me in welcoming Orly from Yumivore, joining Food ‘n Flix for the first time and creating a whole evening’s menu of wonderful Indian dishes and tips for serving them. Orly says, “The film was thoroughly entertaining, and had me […]