Chef Floyd Cardoz Brings Spice to Everyday Meals with 'Flavorwalla'

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Chef Floyd Cardoz' "Shrimp Curry with Cauliflower"

NYC chef and restaurateur of Tabla, North End Grill and Paowalla Floyd Cardoz talks about his cookbook, Flavorwalla: Big Flavor. Bold Spices. A New Way to Cook the Foods You Love. Cardoz, who won season 3 of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” tells us how using simple spices and flavors - like adding mustard seed and lemon to give grilled asparagus a boost - can transform everyday dishes.


*All photos and recipes are excerpted from Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla by Floyd Cardoz (Artisan Books). Copyright ©2016. Photographs by Lauren Volo.

Shrimp Curry with Cauliflower

When I was growing up in Bombay, this was a very common lunch dish at our house. Once Barkha and I had kids and I began to serve it in our own home, I quickly realized why it’s such a great family meal. Adults appreciate the excellent taste of the mild, tender cauliflower and sweet, toothsome shrimp simmered in coconut milk with lots of aromatic flavors. Kids just really enjoy it because it’s yummy and different without being particularly spicy. And everyone agrees that it makes the kitchen smell delectable while it’s cooking. My mom taught me the trick of simmering the throwaway parts of the shrimp—the heads and shells—to quickly make a really flavorful stock. (If you’re pressed for time, though, you can use peeled shrimp in place of the head-on shrimp called for here, and use 3 cups of fish stock instead of making stock from the shrimp heads and tails.)

We always eat this with steamed white rice or “Beryl’s Sunday Lunch” Basmati Rice to soak up all the delicious coconut curry broth.

If you have leftovers, use them for breakfast the next morning. Place the curry in a wide pot and simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Serve with fried eggs and crusty bread.

1½ pounds/680 grams (21–25 count) head-on shrimp

Sea salt

1 tablespoon canola oil

1½ cups thinly sliced onions

5 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 tablespoon turmeric

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds, ground

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, finely ground

1 serrano chile, sliced lengthwise in half

1 tablespoon Tamarind Paste

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

3 cups cauliflower florets

One and a half 13.5-fluid-ounce cans Chaokoh-brand coconut milk (stir well before measuring)

1. Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp, reserving both. Devein the shrimp and rinse them well. Season the shrimp with salt and refrigerate.

2. Place the shrimp heads and shells in a medium saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 3 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Strain the stock and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, turmeric, cumin, and pepper and cook until the garlic is lightly colored and the spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Add the reserved stock, the chile, tamarind paste, and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Add the cauliflower and coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Season with salt. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the cauliflower is just beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.

6. Stir in the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and discard the serrano, if desired. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.

Cooking Time: About 1 hour

Changing It Up

Sometimes I make this with fish instead of shrimp, using one 4- to 5-ounce (113- to 142-gram) halibut or fluke steak per person. (The steaks come from cutting a whole fish crosswise into ½ - to 1-inch-thick slices. It’s a very pretty cut, resulting in a nice oblong shape with a bone in the middle and the skin ringing the steak.) Use fish stock or plain water in place of the shrimp stock; the fish’s bones and skin add depth and richness to the curry, just as the shrimp shells do. Add the fish steaks where the recipe instructs you to add the shrimp and cook until the fish is opaque and flakes easily.

Grilled Lime Chicken

Grilled Lime on a grill that you don’t have tight control over—and when you tailgate, you definitely don’t have much control. Wings flame right up on a too-hot grill; there’s nothing worse than burnt wings. So I came up with this, which is easy to transport to a tailgate—just bring the ziplock bag with the marinated chicken and grill it there—and not as prone to flare-ups as wings. Plus, this surprisingly simple recipe has amazing taste, in large part because it uses chicken thighs, which have so much more flavor than breasts.

You want thighs with the skin on to prevent them from drying out on the grill, but it’s also ideal if the bones are removed. Removing the bones allows for faster cooking and easier eating—and both of these attributes are especially nice when you’re feeding a big crowd. It can be hard to find skin-on boneless thighs, though, so you’ll usually need to remove the bones yourself. Don’t worry if you’ve never done it; it’s a breeze to learn (see Note). Just make sure that your knife is sharp, and by the time you’ve removed the bones from all the thighs, you’ll be an expert. The bones freeze well and make great stock. If you’re really determined not to remove them, it’s okay to leave the bones in, but you’ll need to give the chicken extra time to cook.

Finally, here I’m presenting this for just eight for those times when you’re serving a smaller crowd. If you want this to go a little further, cut each thigh in half after you grill them. But if you’re serving a larger crowd, it is very easy to double or triple the recipe. And if you want to transport the finished dish—to a Super Bowl party, perhaps, as I have done on occasion—grill the chicken not long before you leave the house and transport it in a foil container. Then just pop the whole container in the oven to warm up a few minutes before putting the chicken out on the buffet table. The dark meat of thighs makes them very forgiving.

3½ pounds/1.59 kilograms whole chicken thighs (at least 8 thighs), boned

Kosher salt

6 tablespoons canola oil

Juice from 4 large limes (about
5 tablespoons)

12 garlic cloves, chopped

One 4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons black peppercorns, finely ground

1. Season the chicken thighs with salt. Put on a plate and let stand in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

2. Pat the chicken dry and place in a large ziplock bag.

3. In a blender, combine the oil, lime juice, garlic, and ginger, and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken, add the pepper, and seal the bag. Massage the marinade and pepper into the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, and up to 24 hours.

4. Prepare a medium grill. Remove the bag of chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while the grill is heating.

5. Remove the chicken from the bag and place it skin side down on the grill (discard the marinade). Grill until the chicken is nicely browned and releases easily from the grill, 9 to 12 minutes. Turn the thighs to the other side and cook until cooked through; the juices will run clear when pierced with a sharp knife. Serve hot right off the grill.

Cooking Time: 20 to 30 minutes / Inactive Time: 1 hour for standing and 6 to 24 hours for marinating

Note: Deboning a Chicken Thigh

Boneless chicken thighs cook faster than bone-in, which is great when you’re cooking for a crowd. But it’s tough to find boneless thighs that still have their skin, which is a shame, because the skin adds flavor and protects the meat from drying out during cooking. So it’s a good thing that removing the bones from the thighs is so easy! And you can always use a few more bones in your freezer bag of bones for stock.

Lay a chicken thigh bone side up on a cutting board. Scrape the bone with the blade of the knife that is closest to the handle, starting at the knee joint, moving toward the hip joint, and pressing firmly on the bone as you move the knife. Then use the tip of the knife to slice the meat away from either side of the bone, cutting down its length on both sides but not piercing so deep that you cut through to the skin side. Finally, put the point of the knife under the bone just above the knee joint and slice the meat away from the bottom side of the bone. Now the bone will be free from the thigh at all points except the knee joint. Pull the bone up away from the thigh and cut the last bit away from the knee joint. Trim away any excess skin and fat from the chicken thigh and set it on a platter or baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining thighs.

Tamarind Margarita

Serves 10

This was the most requested cocktail at Tabla, hands down. In fact, it was so popular there that we put it on the menu at North End Grill, where it again became the highest-selling drink on the menu (by seven or eight times!). And now it’s on my menu at Paowalla.

Fair warning: This cocktail goes down very smoothly. So to make sure that no one overdoes it, serve it in reasonably sized rocks glasses—not too big—and with generous amounts of ice. You want your guests to keep their focus on what’s important: the game and the food!

This recipe presents a great opportunity to mention again that it’s best to juice citrus fruit when it is at room temperature, so that it gives up maximum juice. 

15 fluid ounces tequila

10 fluid ounces Triple Sec

2 fluid ounces Tamarind Paste

20 fluid ounces fresh lime juice (from 20 to 30 limes)

4 fluid ounces fresh orange juice (from 1 to 2 oranges)

4 fluid ounces Simple Syrup (recipe follows)


For Rimming the Glasses (optional)

½ cup kosher salt

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1 to 2 lime wedges


10 lime slices for garnish

1. Pour the tequila, Triple Sec, and tamarind paste into a 2- to 3-quart bottle with a lid. Cover and shake well until the tamarind paste is dissolved. Pour in the lime juice, orange juice, and simple syrup. Shake until very well combined.

2. If you want to rim the glasses with orange salt, on a small plate, combine the salt with the grated orange zest and stir well with a fork. Have ready ten rocks glasses. Run a lime wedge around the rim of one of the glasses to moisten it and, holding the glass at an angle, roll the outer edge of the rim in the salt until fully coated. Repeat with the remaining glasses

3. Generously fill the rocks glasses with ice and pour over the tamarind margarita. Garnish each serving with a lime slice. Serve.

Cooking Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Simple Syrup

Makes 1 cup

1 cup (7 ounces/198 grams) sugar

1 cup water

1. Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

2. Transfer the syrup to a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Cooking Time: About 10 minutes