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Foods of India
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:55 pm    Post subject: Foods of India Reply with quote

I love Indian food but am realising I have little experience cooking it. So far I have mainly been exposed to foods from the Punjabi and Kerala regions, but am interested in learning more. If any of you would like to share recipes and techniques with me I would be grateful. Also, what are some essential Indian kitchen tools? I already have a spice stone and a grinder.
Here's a link to one of the many sites I have been checking out. http://www.food-india.com/recipe/main.htm

Thanks!
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erin,

I'm so excited to see a question that I can actually answer (my knowledge of French and Italian food is sadly very thin Smile ). The cuisines of the subcontinent can really be broken up into regions and sub-regions, since everything depends on local climate and agricultural patterns. So the best way to explore Indian food is to try and discover it region by region. Something you seem to have already begun doing.

A good place to start is Madhur Jaffrey's _A Taste of India_ where the recipes are arranged by region. They range from the simple to the more complex, but you can start with something that seems relatively familiar to you and then expand your repetoire slowly. And if you like food from Kerala, check out _Curried Favors_ by Maya Kaimal Macmillan. She takes a lot of short cuts, but the results (I have to admit) are very tasty. As far as websites, there are growing numbers of Indian-food-related blogs. And one of my favorite sources of recipes is a site called Amma's. It started out as a site featuring Andhra food, and has burgeoned into everything under the sun (which is a bit annoying actually). But the original recipes are still there:

http://www.ammas.com/ar/home.cfm?r=b_arec&topicid=2

As far as equipment goes, there are two things that are fairly indispensible in my kitchen: an electric coffee grinder, for grinding dry spices, and a blender for grinding chutneys and batters. There are other more specialized pieces of equipment, but they aren't needed by beginning chefs. A rice cooker is nice to have too.

As far as ingredients go, there are Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Sri Lankan grocery stores all over the place these days. Check to see if there is one in your neighborhood, because the spices you get there are generally cheaper and much fresher than what you can find in a general supermarket. Buy spices in small quantities, and remember that whole spices stay fresh longer than ground spices. If you live in the US, you can mail order ingredients from Kalustyans or Patel Brothers:

http://www.kalustyan.com/orders.htm
http://www.patelbrothersusa.com/subcat.asp?cat_id=1&cat_name=Groceries

And if you live in the New York City area, check out Kalustyans on Lexington Ave. A great place to seek inspiration for making Indian food.

I could go on and on and on, but perhaps I'll stop there, and if you have other specific questions, I would be happy to try answering those too.
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dadegroot



Joined: 25 Feb 2006
Posts: 81
Location: Cedar Creek, Qld, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:55 am    Post subject: Re: Foods of India Reply with quote

Erin wrote:
I love Indian food but am realising I have little experience cooking it. So far I have mainly been exposed to foods from the Punjabi and Kerala regions, but am interested in learning more. If any of you would like to share recipes and techniques with me I would be grateful. Also, what are some essential Indian kitchen tools? I already have a spice stone and a grinder.
Here's a link to one of the many sites I have been checking out. http://www.food-india.com/recipe/main.htm

Thanks!


I have a couple of basic Sri Lankan (Ceylon) recipes up here:

http://degroot.id.au/recipes/index.php?s=ceylon

But have yet to put up the main courses I have written down somewhere.

As for equipment, a heavy based pot, a stone mortar and pestle ( I use that for grinding spice, (wet or dry), muddling wet ingredients, etc), and a small cast iron fry pan for roasting spices.

If you want to go really authentic, build a little tandoori oven out of firebricks in the backyard. Smile

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Dave
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you both, those sites are great! They have a lot of things I have never seen before. What I know about Indian food I learned from Maya Kaimal and a bit from Madhur Jaffrey. I only know a tiny little bit about Sri Lankan food from a friends mother who is from there, too bad I didn't take more advantage of her knowledge when I had the chance. What are your favorite dishes, and what region are they from?

Dave, the Rogan Josh looks great. I have been wanting to give it a try, I think I will tonight! It will give me a chance to use the astofoedtida finally.

I have pretty much all the equipment you have listed, if their is anything more specialised I would love that. I collect things like that. Kalustyans is an awesome store! I think a trip into the city is in order.

When I was in England recently I had a dish that I am dying to replicate, though I can't remember what was in it. The restaurant called it Chicken Tikka Punjabi, I can't find the recipe anywhere and think it's a made up name. The dish was very spicy, with cilantro, chilies, coriander,maybe lime and a tomato base. There didn't seem to be any yogurt as the sauce was a deep firey color, though I am learning that a lot of restaurants add food coloring. I know this could describe any number of dishes, but if anyone has an idea please share it with me.

Thanks!
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dadegroot



Joined: 25 Feb 2006
Posts: 81
Location: Cedar Creek, Qld, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erin wrote:
Thank you both, those sites are great! They have a lot of things I have never seen before. <snip>

What are your favorite dishes, and what region are they from?


Well I'm a real sucker for Peshwari Naan breads. They're Naans, stuffed with dried fruits and coconut. I could eat then happily on their own, but they also go well with just about anything Indian you through at them.

I'm also quite fond of the Sri Lankan dish, Mas Ismoru. It's one of the ones I have written down but haven't put up on my site yet (mainly because I'd like to photograph it).

Until I get around to making it and photographing it, the recipe can be found here (scanned from my loose leaf notes):

http://www.vikings.homeip.net/recipes/MasIsmoru.jpg

Quote:
Dave, the Rogan Josh looks great. I have been wanting to give it a try, I think I will tonight! It will give me a chance to use the astofoedtida finally.


I'd be very interested to see how it goes with astofoedtida, as I don't have any myself so make do with garlic. Fresh coriander (cilantro) is a must. Tonight's Rogan Josh was not up to snuff because all I had was some frozen packaged coriander I got from Mum when she moved North.

Quote:
I have pretty much all the equipment you have listed, if their is anything more specialised I would love that. I collect things like that. Kalustyans is an awesome store! I think a trip into the city is in order.


I'm not aware of any other essential gadgets. Traditionally most Indian cooked at home is done either over a fire, in a suitable pot, or in a Tandoor (wood fired brick oven). What I found most interested when I looked into Indian and Sri Lankan cooking is the lack of cooking implements. Some don't even use wooden spoons to stir, etc, opting for hands. Personally I can't imagine putting my hands in a hot dish, but there you go. Obviously one can't generalise all Indian cooking as such, but it's handy to be aware at least some cooking is done like that.


Quote:
When I was in England recently I had a dish that I am dying to replicate, though I can't remember what was in it. The restaurant called it Chicken Tikka Punjabi, I can't find the recipe anywhere and think it's a made up name.


I suspect it was a fairly standard Chicken Tika Marsala, as that dish comes from the Punjab region. Thus in an English setting, one might call it Chicken Tika Punjabi, to emphasize it's origins (since the English, I'm told, are enamored with Chicken Tika so much they almost claim it as their own).

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Dave
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave,
Tikka Masala was everywhere when we were there, I picked up a few bottles of Sharwood's sauce to bring home. I like it, but usually when I want Indian food I want more spice.
I would love to have a tandoor, and have looked into building one. I am waiting until we're back in Seattle so I don't have to haul it around the country for the next nine years.
Today I am actually testing out a recipe for naan. I will have to look up a recipe for the Peshwari style, it sounds great.

Your info is great thanks!
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erin,

It's hard for me to speak about Indian food in the abstract. So I thought I would post on a few different topics.

Because of the religious, regional and caste differences that distinguish the various communities of the subcontinent, cooking and dining are deeply inflected with the legacy of these social barriers. So most foods are associated strongly with particular communities. Learning about different food traditions gives you a great introduction to the social history of South Asia.

My own family is from coastal Andhra Pradesh, in South India, where local food tends to be very spicy, and there's a general preference for slightly tangy flavours too (so you'll see people use lots of lemon juice, yoghurt, green mango, tamarind pulp, etc.).

Generally the kinds of dishes you find in restaurants are much heavier, greasier and richer than what people eat in their own homes. I don't mind restaurant fare, but I can't eat it too often. Also, restaurants tend to cook their meats and veggies in pre-prepared sauces (it's saves time), but that means that the main ingredients don't take on the flavour of the spices in the sauce. Most curries are really stews, designed to be simmered over a long period of time using tougher cuts of meat. And when you try it at home, the results are noticeably nicer.

As for my favourite foods, oh there are so many. I love my mother-in-law's Sri Lankan mutton curry. And the simple daal I make most days. It's really hot in Delhi right now (the summer is just starting and it's already about 38 degrees C). So I like having fairly simple things this time of the year. I'm having some friends over and was thinking of making a simple pulao, some kebabs (marinated in green papaya to tenderize them) and a raita (yoghurt relish) with smoked eggplant.

Finally, if you want to collect some cool funky gadgets, try adding these to your list: idli plates (generally stainless steel) used to steam idlis (rice and lentil cakes), an appam pan (a small, double handled wok with sharply sloping sides), a pittu steamer (a long tube-like contraption used to steam rice flour and coconut), and a South Indian filter coffee 'machine' (a coffee filter used to produce strong espresso-like coffee, that you can later stretch with milk and sugar). Some of these can be found in Kalustyan's and others at Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights. If you can't find the pittu steamer or the appam pan, you can try the Sri Lankan Groceries stores in Staten Island (they do great take-out too).
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Erin,

Oh, I thought I would mention that I always put asoefetida in daal.

Here's a paired down version of my daal recipe:

Boil about 1-2 cups of cleaned, washed daal in about 3-4 cups of water (I use either toor or masoor daal), until fairly soft. Add salt to taste and 1/2 tsp of turmeric and 2 slit green chilies. I also add some chopped tomatoes at this point. Continue simmering until the daal is very soft, and the tomatoes (if you are using them) have softened.

In a separate, small frying pan, heat 2 tbsps of oil. Add 1 tsp of mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds, a pinch of asoefetida, 2 crumbled dried red chilies (if you like the heat), a whole clove of garlic, and some curry leaves (if you have them). When the mustard seeds start to pop, take the pan off the heat and add all the contents to your cooked daal. This is a fairly common technique in Indian cooking--heating whole spices in oil, until they pop. This flavours the oil, and the oil will then go into flavouring your dish.

Adjust your seasonings (adding salt or chili powder if you want). Add a big squeeze of lemon or lime juice and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro/coriander leaves.

It's believed that asoefetida aids digestion, and prevents gas, so it is frequently added to bean and lentil dishes. It's a bit of an acquired taste, but there is something really nice (if stinky) about the aroma. Smile
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nima,
Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your personal history with me. I have studied the many different cultures of South Asia and still there is so much to learn. The culinary history of India seems to have so much pride and meaning which is why I am so intrested. I encourage you please to share more recipes and history. Thank you!
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave, the Mas Ismoru recipe looks great. Quick question: How do you serve it, if the meat is in one piece? Do you carve it at the table? Or cut it into bite-sized pieces beforehand?

Erin, if you like restaurant style curries, especially those popular in the UK, check out this site: www.curryhouse.co.uk It has a lot of interesting tips on how to replicate restaurant recipes at home. Be warned that part of site hosts a subscription service that you have to pay for to access, but there are plenty of free recipes too.

Finally, my sister-in-law and I have been planning on writing a Sri Lankan cookbook for a while now. Sri Lankan food is not very well known by general audiences, but it has much in common with food from Kerala and from Southeast Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia) because it is located along the spice routes that linked these parts of the world. And it is influenced by Portuguese, Dutch and English cooking because it was colonized by all three countries. My mother-in-law just sent me a huge slab of love cake, a Portuguese-influenced dessert, that uses semolina, honey, eggs, ground cashews, cardamom and crystallized melon. The end result is a dense, chewy cake, that is more like a brownie than a cake. Actually, the taste reminds me of pumpkin pie (from the spices and the melon) in the US. You can find a recipe at this site: http://www.asiafood.org/recipe_list_link.cfm?recipeid=126
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dadegroot



Joined: 25 Feb 2006
Posts: 81
Location: Cedar Creek, Qld, Australia

PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nima wrote:
Dave, the Mas Ismoru recipe looks great. Quick question: How do you serve it, if the meat is in one piece? Do you carve it at the table? Or cut it into bite-sized pieces beforehand?


Sliced like a pot-roast and served with the sauce, ghee rice, breads, relishes, etc.

I really must make it again soon, it's been a few years. It works really well for dinner parties.

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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nima,
I was just reading about Love Cake! I will have to give it a try. Thank you for the links.
I am interested in restaurant style, but even more about what is eaten day to day by the average Indian or Sri Lankan.
You and your sister in-law should write one, I know I would buy it. I never realised all of the outside influences Sri Lanka has. It is so amazing how history effects how we eat.
Last night I made Maya Kaimal's peppery chickpeas and a beef curry that is supposed to be a dish created/eaten by Syrian immigrants. It all was very delicious. Tonight I will try dosas, keep your fingers crossed!
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nima



Joined: 28 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dosas? Cool. Good luck, but it sounds like you are quite an experienced hand. My mother swears that a few fenugreek seeds, added to the rice and lentils when they are soaking and then ground with the batter makes all the difference. But I've never tried it.
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
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Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am an experienced chef, just not experienced with Indian food. I have already made my first mistake, I used channa daal instead of urrad daal. I have both, I just mixed them up. Hopefully it won't be too disasterous.
The recipe roughly is;
urrad daal
long grain rice
fenugreek
salt
baking soda

I also realised that this won't be ready for dinner as it has to rise for 12-15 hours. Sad. On the bright side I did soak the first three all together, as your mom recommends. YAY!
Since it will be a while till I hit the city again, I just put in a huge order to Kalustyan's, that place is great.
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MJBodell



Joined: 07 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 12:32 am    Post subject: indian food Reply with quote

I mostly cook northern indian food -- if anyone wants any specific recipies let me know.
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Last edited by MJBodell on Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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