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Dahi Vada – An Indian Street Food Affair

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[ I wrote this post last week before the baby’s arrival; am simply posting it  today. We are at home, resting, nursing and catching up on sleep. Will resume blogging soon!]

Pushpa: Le Dahi Vade kha le.

Urmila: Nahi mann nahi kar raha.
Pushpa: Arre Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi kar raha. Agar kisi ladki ka Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi karta to do cheeze ho sakti hai,

  • ya to woh dheere dheere ladki se ladka ban rahi hai…
  • ya to usse PREM ho gaya hai

Ek din mujhe bhi Dahi Vade khaane ka mann nahi kiya, teen din baad pata chala ki mujhe Bunty se Prem ho gaya hai 🙂 (and bluntly blushing)
Bol ri! Kya naam hai unka?

Urmila:(sharmate hue) Lucky naam hai…

[Don’t worry if you don’t understand the dialog exchanged in Hindi above. The humor will be lost in translation.It doesn’t really impact the recipe or why you should make it. You should make this recipe to get a taste of India, regardless of movie scene that recommends it.]

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This is a classic scene ( copied from being desh blog) from a very popular oldie- goldie Hindi movie “GolMaal”. Its hilarious in its reasoning.

Dahi vada’s have been on my mind lately. At least since mom is here. And they always remind me of GolMaal.

There is a reason why these are not on the menu of any and every Indian restaurant that you have visited. Unlike Saag Paneer, Chole or Alu- Gobi, dahi vada’s are tricky, need a lot of patience and muscular strength.

The lightest,fluffiest melt in your mouth vadas are made solely by whipping the batter with your hands. Whip and whip till you feel that your arms are going to fall off. And then some.

Then this fluffy batter is deep-fried in hot oil.

Once golden brown, they are dunked in a buttermilk bath to soften the core and then immersed in cool tangy yogurt sauce. It is served with a variety of spices – cumin powder, red chilli powder and a tangy tamarind chutney.

But once made and chilled, they are these lightly puffy yogurt soaked lentil balls that you will fight  over.

One bowl or serving will never be enough. At least plan on 2 to 3 servings per person.

This is one recipe that is worth the effort. Every single time.

Here is mom’s recipe below.

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Dahi vada Recipe

For vadas 

  • 3/4 cup urad dal (black lentils)
  • 1/4 cup moong dal 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
  • Pinch of asafoetida (optional)

For buttermilk bath

  • 1/2 cup curd
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste

For the Dahi ( Spicy yogurt sauce)

  • 3 cups thick yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For garnish

  • Tamarind – date chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Green chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Finely chopped cilantro ( for garnish)

1. Wash both the urad and moong  dal well ( at least 7 – 8 times in plenty of water) till the water runs clear. It will be milky at first and then run clear.

Soak dal in plenty of water for at least 5-6 hours to overnight.

2. Discard water from the dal and finely grind it with as little water as possible. Set aside the dal batter for 1 – 2 hours.

3. In the meantime prepare the buttermilk bath. Whisk all the ingredients listed till you get a thin batter. Set aside in a large shallow bowl.

4. Heat oil in a wok on medium-high heat.

Add salt and ginger to the dal batter. Whisk the batter with hand for at least 10 minutes in a flat plate. Whisk and whisk some more till you feel the batter to be light and fluffy.

4. Fry small golf ball sized vadas in hot oil till golden brown. Test one vada to ensure that the vada is cooked evenly through the center. If not, lower the heat and cook till they are golden brown.

6. Soak the vadas in buttermilk bath for at least 2 hours. Remove the vadas from the buttermilk bath and keep aside covered. They can be kept at room temperature.

7. Prepare the yogurt sauce by missing all the ingredients and adjusting to taste. Keep the yogurt in the refrigerator to chill till ready to serve.

8. When ready to serve, layer the vadas in serving bowl. Pour the yogurt sauce over the vadas.

Garnish with chutneys and cilantro.

Serve with additional bowls of chutney, cilantro, cumin and chili powder to add per taste.

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Chicken Momos (Dumplings)

Momos

Original to North eastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim and other bordering countries like Bhutan and Nepal, momo’s are now available in all malls  and Indo- Chinese restaurants in metro cities. Mildly spiced minced chicken fill in thin wrappers and steamed, they are Varun’s favorites.

Chicken momos

I have been meaning to make them for a while but never got a chance till this weekend we bought some minced chicken and decided to make momo’s. Varun helped me mix the dough and then proceeded to create a mess. I couldn’t form them as well as I hoped to but they tasted like the ones you would get in Mainland China.

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This is a hit recipe that is going to stick around in our household for good!!

Chicken Momos Recipe

For the filling

  • 3/4 lb minced or ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root ( about 2 inch root)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Salt to taste

For the Cover

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling and set aside.

2. Mix the ingredients for cover starting with a cup of water and adding more as needed to make a stiff but pliable dough.

3. Make small balls ( cherry or lemon sized) and roll out thin circles ( like rotis or tortillas).

4. Place a tablespoon or two filling ( based on how large is the circle) in the center and scoop the edges up to form a dumpling. Repeat till all the dough and filling is used up.

5. In the meantime, set a saucepan with water to boil. Keep an well -greased steaming basket inside it.

6. Keep the dumplings in the steamer and steam for 10 – 12 minutes till they are done.

Serve hot with Siracha sauce.

Pepper Rice With Hot Tomato Carrot Soup

Pepper rice

Its raining, in fact pouring all day here in Hyderabad. So much so that when I went to pick up Varun I was soaked to the skin. I somehow managed to keep him dry.

We came home, a bit cold and wet. And I wanted something light and piping hot for dinner.

Soup came to my mind. Or rather rasam did. I didn’t have any curry leaves on hand so wondered how rasam would taste without it. Without another moment’s hesitation I decided to make simple tomato carrot soup. Now that  alone wouldn’t be sufficient for dinner. I always wonder when people say they had soup for dinner, how much of that tureen of soup they had? I decided to make some rice so Varun could eat plain rice if everything else failed.

When I opened the fridge to take out carrots and tomatoes, I saw the red and yellow bell peppers smiling at me. They wanted to join the party and thus the idea of a simple bell pepper rice along with the soup was born.

Rice was being cooked. Tomato and carrot were merrily boiling with a clove of garlic and a couple of peppercorns. I diced up green onions and bell pepper and then went to solve a couple of puzzles with Varun.

Once the rice cooled, I quickly stir fried the pepper with simple spices ( turmeric, bay leaf and cinnamon), puréed the soup’s vegetables and then added cooked rice to the pepper stir fry.

Within minutes we had a hearty and comforting dinner ready to eat.

Varun was hungry by now and we sat down with our respective meals.

Making the dinner was super easy, if only other things in life were as quick and easy!

Pepper Rice and Tomato-Carrot Soup  Recipe

For Pepper Rice

  • 1 cup long grained rice
  • 2 cups water to cook rice
  • 1/2 cup green onions sliced ( just the white and pale green parts)
  • 3/4 cup yellow bell peppers cubed
  • 3/4 cup red bell pepper cubed
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 medium-sized dried red chillies
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon urad dal soaked in water for 10 minutes or so
  • 1 tablespoon channa dal soaked in water for 10 minutes or so
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup green onions ( green parts) diced (for garnish)

For Tomato Carrot Soup 

  • 2 roma or 1 beefsteak tomato
  • 1 carrot – peeled and chopped into 1 ” peices
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 pepper corns
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

To Make the Pepper Rice

1. Set the soup ingredients (other than salt and pepper) to boil while  the rice cooks. Once rice is done, fluff it and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a wok. Once it is hot, add mustard and cumin seeds.

After they sizzle, add bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Keep stirring for 20 – 30 secs. Now add the dried chillies. Crush them if you prefer a spicier rice. Keep stirring while the spices cook without burning them.

3.  Now add urad and channa dal after draining the water. Let this cook for about 1/2 a minute. Keep stirring to prevent them from sticking to the pan.

4. Add the green onions, flash cook for 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers.

Cook for another couple of minutes.

5. Once peppers are partially cooked, add turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning’s.

6. Add the cooked rice, stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning’s. Cover with a lid and let cook for a minute or so on low flame.

7. To make the soup, blend the cooked soup ingredients together till there are no lumps. You can strain the soup to remove any lumps or skin.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve soup with rice while its still piping hot.

Andhra Special: Gongura Chicken ( Chicken in Sorrel Leaves Gravy)

Gongura chicken

For my 201’st post, I thought I should post a regional recipe. When I first moved to US in 2001, we all had packed food items from home – be it pickles, papads or even pulses. While we were getting adjusted to the new life there, we all bonded over homemade simple meals. News,updates,learning’s were shared. Daal-chaawal for the dil ( aka Chicken soup for the soul).

Most folks from Andhra had a bottle of gongura pickle.The tangy sour sorrel leaves picked in a hot oil tempering. The combination is amazing and most Indian stores across US stock this.  It soon became a staple in our house and even today stands next to mom’s sweet and sour pickle.

When we moved to Hyderabad, we were introduced to another Andhra specialty made with red sorrel leaves – Gongura chicken. And the pairing is classic. Italians have their Chicken with Spinach, North Indian with fenugreek leaves (Methi– chicken) and Andhra has it with gongura leaves.

Renuka making chicken

Alas not all places make it well and we have had varying degrees of luck. Some places it was too sour,others it was too bland. Till recently, Renuka, our cook made it when she saw chicken and gongura leaves. And it was lip-smacking good. So, good that I asked to make it again when we had friends over.

Cooking

She willing shared her recipe and blushed when I told her I would share it with you all on Internet.

I hope you all love this tangy chicken recipe as much as we did 🙂

Gongura Chicken Recipe

Serves 4

  • 1 lb chicken(boneless skinless cubed into bite sized pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups Gongura leaves – washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon – turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon – garam masala powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons -coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons – red chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups water

For the Marinade

  • 2 tablespoon yogurt
  • 3- 4 garlic pods minced
  • 1 inch ginger root peeled and grated
  • 1 green chilli diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon ( about 1 tablespoon)
  • Salt to taste

 For the Coconut Paste

  • 2 teaspoons Desiccated coconut ( thawed if frozen)
  • 10 -14 cashew nuts ( unsalted)
  • 3 garlic pods -roughly chopped
  • 1 green chilli – roughly diced

1. Marinade the chicken in the ingredients listed above. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker ( or a pot with tight fighting lid). Add onions and fry till translucent. Add the coriander and mint leaves and saute them for about 30 seconds till wilted.

Then add gongura leaves and saute them for about a minute.

3. Now add all the spices – turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and salt. Keep stirring as you add the masalas so they wont stick to the pan and burn.

4. Add the coconut paste and cook through for another minute.

5. Finally add the chicken along with the marinade. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add water.

Pressure cook for 2 whistles or cook till chicken is cooked through but not tough about 8 – 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or parathas.

Everyday Chicken Meatballs

Chiken meatballs 2

I mentioned that I made two types of meatballs for my June Daring Kitchen Challenge – Mutton Apricot meatballs and Chicken meatballs. This post is about the chicken meatballs. Simple and easy to make, they can be cooked ahead on weekend and added to your salad , pasta or in a sandwich. They are perfect as appetizer with some mint chutney at an open house or a potluck.

The flavors in this recipe are inspired from Northwest Frontier Province of Indian subcontinent  – whole coriander seed pods, cumin seeds and red chili powder. The flavors though can be easily altered to taste.

I sometimes flatten them into nuggets and pan fry with a crumb coat. Either ways it’s a wonderful back up to be stocked in your freezer for those busy weeknight when you want something yum for dinner but don’t have energy to tinker around in the kitchen.

Chicken meatballs

Chicken Meatballs Recipe

  • 1 lb chicken breast ground
  • 3- 4 garlic pods finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon finely diced green chili
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 inch root ginger freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion chopped
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/4- 1/2  teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon – garam masala 
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoon – Oil (for frying)

1. Mix all the ingredients well (except oil for frying). Form meatballs and set aside.

2.Heat oil in a non-stick skillet and fry the meatballs  for a couple of minutes on each side till golden brown.

3. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil

Serve warm. Or store in an air tight container in fridge once cool.

The Daring Cooks June Challenge: Mutton Meatballs With Apricots

Kebab

Long long ago in mid May, the Daring Cooks posted there June Challenge on Meatballs from around the world. Meatballs being a family favorite,I wasted no time in making them. In fact I made 2 types of meatballs.

They were made and devoured the first weekend after the challenge was posted and amidst all other things never mentioned. Not on the Daring Cooks internal forum nor here when the “day” we can go public with our challenge.So, while it’s still June I must correct this oversight.

One of my friends mom had made these Turkey meatballs stuffed with apricot and light spiced gravy a few summers ago. They were really awesome. Juicy, flavorful with the sweetness from the hidden apricot. Spices from the northern state of Kashmir – cardamom, saffron and cinnamon. Or so, I recalled of that dinner.

When the challenge was posted, I decided to use spices common to the northern state of Kashmir and extend that to the flavors of Silk Route. Ingredients sourced and recipe built from a variety of sources – memory of that turkey meatball, lingering taste of kafta kebab and shammi kebab.

Here I had a recipe that was great on paper.When I actually made it, it turned out a bit dry and not so juicy. An egg or two should help with that problem. I was hasty and added the kebab to the gravy before they achieved their golden – brown color. Cooking them in gravy instead of adding at the last-minute to get the flavors to meld was another rookie mistake. Here is a modified recipe that I am sure would work. I just need another free weekend to re-try this.

Kafta kebab

Mutton Meatballs With Apricots Recipe

  •  10 – 15 dried apricots soaked in water for an hour, seed removed
  • 1 lb Mutton or Turkey mince ( use ground and mix of dark and light meat to make juicy meatballs)
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chili finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 3- 4 cardamom pods , shelled and seeds powdered
  • A pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 inch ginger root, grated
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoon oil for frying

Gravy:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves finely diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  •  2 inch  cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 Red Onion finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt
  • Salt to taste

Make Meatballs

1. Mix all the ingredients listed except the oil and mix well. Adjust seasonings per taste.

2. Form the meatballs, stuffing an apricot in the center of each. Set aside.

3.Heat oil and fry the meatballs on medium-low flame till golden brown. Set aside.

Make Gravy

1.Heat oil. Add spices once the oil is hot but not smoking. Add onions and fry till cooked through. Add yogurt and let onions cook in this yogurt base.

2. Crumble a meatball in the crazy and cook through so that the gravy thickens.

3. Add salt and adjust seasonings to taste.

To serve

1. Add the meatballs to the gravy and cook together for few minutes till heated through.

2. Serve warm with rice or rotis.

Enjoy!

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