The Most Disgusting, Inedible Dinner I’ve Ever Cooked

We all mistakes in the kitchen, even those of us who’ve been cooking ten years or longer. My mistakes are all documented here on the blog: The Pound Cake That Threw Up. The Fried Chicken That Wasn’t Crispy. The Blueberry Disaster.

In all of these cases, the food was salvageable. The pound cake went back into the oven, the chicken was edible if not exactly crunchy, and the blueberry innards tasted OK over ice cream. But last week I made a dinner so repulsive, so awful, it could only go one place: the garbage disposal. Here’s what happened.

In our new apartment, we live very close to one of L.A.’s best Indian markets, India Sweets & Spices.


On this particular evening, I decided to make a chickpea curry, something that I like to do on a pretty regular basis. But instead of using just my usual ingredients, I decided to shake things up with a panoply of interesting spices and condiments and, my favorite Indian secret, fresh curry leaves. Here’s what I came home with:


That’s (clockwise from top left) coconut oil, black cardamom, mango pickle, coconut milk, coriander seeds, fresh ginger, black cumin and fresh curry leaves. For this particular post, we’ll want to pay attention to the black cardamom and the black cumin.

See, I didn’t know much about them but I’m pretty sure they’re mentioned in Daniel Boulud’s Braising book. “Oooh,” I thought to myself, “this isn’t just regular cumin, it’s BLACK cumin.” And: “Oooh, this isn’t just regular cardamom, it’s BLACK cardamom.”

When it was time to make my curry, I started by toasting my spices.


That’s coriander, mustard seeds, a few pequin chiles and the black cumin. (The black cardamom was already ground up.) I ground these spices in my spice grinder and set them aside.

Then I heated the coconut oil, and when it was hot added the curry leaves plus the stem, just like Asha Gomez taught me.


To that, I added a chopped onion:


Then lots of ginger:


Then all my spices:






And, finally, when the tomatoes broke down a little, a can of coconut milk.


I let that perc away for a while and after 20 minutes or so, I tasted.

Cue: the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when that guy’s face melts. Not because it was hot or spicy or mouth-scorching in anyway; because it was powerfully, mind-alteringly disgusting.

Here’s a video of Craig trying it:

“It tastes like ash…not ass as in butt, but ash as in embers.”

That’s pretty much exactly right. It tasted like soot, like the stuff left over in a fireplace after you burn a pile of already burnt stuff. When we used to go to EPCOT, as children, we’d ride Spaceship Earth and they’d pump in this artificial fire smell when you rode through the burning of the library at Alexandria. It tasted like that.

And so it was that my authentic, Indian dinner ended with an inauthentic, Mexican meal down the street.


Black cardamom and black cumin? You are not my friends.

25 thoughts on “The Most Disgusting, Inedible Dinner I’ve Ever Cooked”

  1. plumpernickel

    HAHAHAHA……….. (a) Never substitute spices in Indian recipes. Black cummin is completely different from cummin, as you found out. (b) WHO puts coconut milk in chickpea curry? What sort of an Indian recipe is this? Chickpeas are mostly a North Indian thing and no one would ever dream of putting coconut milk in chickpea curry.

  2. It looks like you used WAY too much of both – typically, you leave black cardamom whole and put maybe one (at most) of them in there and fish it out. It’s generally used more for meat curries, as something like lamb or goat stands up to it well. Black cumin, or jeera, is used a bit more widely, but again use far more sparingly than you would regular cumin!

    Chickpea curries, at least in the North, traditionally use ordinary cumin (or jeera/zeera as it’s called in India), tumeric, garlic, ginger, onions, some coriander, and amchur (a sour mango powder you should totally seek out!) + tomatoes. I like to add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end to amp up that slightly sour taste, which contrasts with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the spice of the cumin/ginger in a lovely way.

  3. I adore you for sharing this. Thanks for the confidence boost today. Always good to know that not all cooking projects turn out well…or edible. :)

  4. Melinda Montana

    HAHAHAHAA…I think what I like the most is the video. I love that like a good boyfriend, even after he knows it’s bad, he tries it again. I laughed so hard, I cried. Thank you for showing this, I feel better that even experienced cooks make mistakes…lol

  5. Hillarious! Being an indian, I had arched eyebrows (as in what the he** are all those ingredients doing together!?!) the minute I saw your snapshot of ingredients. A few humble tips from an Indian who loves Indian food and loves to cook:

    1. Don’t take coconut oil lightly, it has a strong and distinct flavor & is used predominantly in the south of India. In my humble opinion it tastes the best when cooking south Indian fish curries (Yummm!)

    2. Black cardamom is nothing like green cardomom, in fact they are both very contrasting. While green cardamom is floral and fragrant (used a lot in desserts) black cardamom is smoky & very earthy (my family traditionally uses it in meat curries and biryani). It’s the same with the black cumin.

    3. I hope that pickle didn’t make its way into the curry. FYI it’s made in my home town of Pune and is meant to be a condiment.

    4. One last tip, while making chick pea curry, if you add the tomatoes after cooking the onions and saute them till they have rendered their juice, you might surprise yourself by how much better your curry tastes.

  6. Oh man. Thank you for sharing this because I’ve had these experiences more often than I’d like to admit!

  7. There’s definitely something to be said about a cooking blogger admitting that he makes mistakes in the kitchen. Thanks for being so real, and congrats on the engagement!

  8. Awwwww….btw……Black cumin or “Jeeri” isnt used much in cooking in India anyways, my parents actually use it as a blood pressure medication. Its supposed to hve pretty kickass medicinal qualities….. so if it makes you feel better, considering the amount of Jeeri you used, tell craig that you two should hve ur bp’s under control for another decade or so….!!!

    “Jeera” or regular cumin is really really common Indian spice (and freshly roasted and ground regular cumin actually tastes very good with curd/yogurt…look up some “raita” recipes when you want a more exotic tzatziki replacement)

  9. no meal is a complete disaster if you learn something from it. thanks for having the confidence to share your mistakes Adam.

  10. I love the inclusion of this video, it was so….real! Thanks for sharing, some bloggers seem to pump out tons of recipes and I always wonder if they only share the great recipes, or post just anything to boost content. I love your recipes and this only gives me more confidence in your food!

  11. Well it’s always best to do things in a big way LOL – this seems like an epic fail – and you learned some things – and had some fun :)

  12. Adam I sympathize with you because I too have made some god awful dishes in the past including a curry except mines was a Thai style one that I tried to make with chicken, brocolli, lime, coconut milk and green curry style sauce.

    It was one of the most revolting things I’ve ever tasted and I could not eat it. Was really annoyed as it was supposed to be my lunch for the next few days.

    So I feel your pain. Indian curry and coconut milk aren’t a good mix IMO anyway.

    Hope whatever you make next is 100x better.

    Happy cooking!

    Jen Walker

  13. Thank you for this post!!
    I LOVE that video and was sooo impressed when he went for a second bite!
    Glad to know even seasoned cooks make some epic disasters once in a while :)

  14. I could not stop laughing as soon as I read the name of this post. Brilliant. I love reading people’s recipe disasters as well as their successes. It makes me feel less alone in the culinary world! I made a horrible curry once as well that was somehow 60% oil. No clue what happened. Sometimes a curry just gets away from you!

  15. Too funny and I can relate!! I am a good cook. I am of Italian heritage, and I know what to sub for what in Med. cooking, but I STRUGGLE with all Asian cooking; I just don’t have any instinct for it!! I’ve RARELY made an even GOOD Asian dish, which is SO disappointing b/c my hubs spent two years in Maylasia and LOVES everything Asian. SIGH

  16. Thanks for sharing! It’s nice to know things aren’t always picture-perfect. Also, more videos! The two of you are cute together. :)

  17. This is hilarious! So encouraging to know that other amateur chefs have cooking disasters. Also, thank goodness that Baja Fresh exists.

  18. Hilarious. I actually tried to buy black cumin not too long ago after seeing it in a Michael Ruhlman recipe for Lemon cumin dahl in his “Twenty” book (though it’s an optional ingredient, and he calls for half a teaspoon). I went to my usual Indian store, and I would have had to buy a pretty large bag of it. The guy who worked there asked me what I was looking for and when I told him kali jeera, or black cumin, he said “Are you sure?” He told me that it’s very bitter, and I wouldn’t like it. He thought of opening one of the larger bags to only sell me a bit, but decided against it. He also told me Indian people use it for medicinal purposes. I thought it was funny that a salesman convinced me not to buy something. I bought a small amount from an online spice dealer recently, but only used a tiny bit…but I wouldn’t have known this, either. Glad you posted your disaster, though! Funny to watch, but sad too. Could have been so good, with regular cumin and cardamom.

  19. WHAAAAAAAAAATTT? please tell me this was a spoofy post for April Fools Day..You started off right though, a rather common beginning for a South Indian dish, the tempering. That mutt spice blend killed it with the kala jeera & black cardamom. .w/o that spice blend and just a tsp of toasted cumin coriander powder, you could have cobbled up some pretty decent ‘Kadala curry’, a Kerala staple. weirdly enough I’m soo tempted to test this recipe now

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