Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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Everyday Dal

I think it is the quintessential South Indian dad thing: going to a “multi-cuisine” Indian restaurant with the family (whilst cribbing about the overwhelming flavor of Masala in every dish that rolls out of the kitchen). And raining on the parade by ordering a drab ‘ol Dal with his Phulka while the rest of us act specifically embarrassing, like kids in a candy shop, and drool all over the lengthy menu while trying to decide what to order. Oh, it gets worse. We would all ultimately end up over-ordering, thanks to all the excitement over the non-home cooked meal and would look towards Appa, asking him politely if he wanted some, subtly screaming for help with finishing off the meal. He would grimly shake his head and go on with demolishing his Dal, saving the proper dressing-down about wasting food (the take away box would never hold him back, no sir!) for later.

dal tadka3We’ve never been adventurous foodies at home, hence, we had a hand-full of restaurants that we would always frequent: Sree Ram Bhavan, Dhabba Express and later, Madras Race Club (where we set up camp and refused to go anywhere else since the late 90’s). Although the similarities between every restaurant we’ve visited were never stark, the plain Dal, I’ve noticed, were actual doppelgangers: it would always be Dal Tadka… which, as I grow older I find, is not as boring as I always thought it was. Tadka, in Hindi, simply means tempering. So Dal Tadka roughly means Tempered Dal.

It is my go-to Dal these days and we love it with Rotis, Phulkas (so that my dad’s spirit is happy) and Jeera rice. Today, I decided not to be lazy and went in search of a nice homestyle Pulao for the Dal. And as she has been for months now, Nags at Edible Garden came to my rescue. Her simple veggie Pulao, I discovered today, was the perfect compliment to my Dal Tadka. The only small substitution I made was using brown rice instead of white and my trusty slow/rice cooker came to my aid by cooking the best Pulao-worthy plain rice. So if you need the recipe for the awesome Pulao, you could follow the link to her blog and recipe on this post. As for the Dal Tadka, here is the recipe-

Dal Tadka

Ingredients:
3/4 cup red gram Dal (Toor)

3/4 cup Mung Dal

Six pods of garlic and a small piece of ginger, chopped

Four Thai chili peppers, washed and stalks removed

One huge head of onion and two Roma tomatoes, finely chopped (separately)

Two dried red chilis, broken into halves

Two tsps salt

A pinch turmeric powder

One tsp each Jeera, Mustard seeds and Nigella seeds (optional but recommended)

A pinch of Asafoetida powder

A tsp Am-Choor (dried mango powder) which you can substitute with fresh lime juice

Lots of fresh cilantro leaves

Method:
Wash the Dals together and soak them in warm water for half hour. Pressure cook/cook in your rice cooker or a saucepan with the Thai chilis, chopped ginger-garlic, turmeric powder, little salt until well-cooked. Fish out the chilis and whisk the cooked Dal. Heat oil in a pan and add the “Tadka” ingredients: Jeera, mustard, Nigella seeds and asafoetida. When it starts popping, add the onion and saute till translucent on med-low flame. Add the tomato now and cook until slightly mushy. Mix in the Dal with the Masala. When it starts boiling, switch off the heat. Stir in the Am-Choor/lime juice and garnish with cilantro leaves.

dal tadka

 

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Best Indo-Chinese Ever!

Oh yes, there really is a cuisine called Indo-Chinese and it is big in India. No, I am not making it up. Being neighbors and all that, Indian and Chinese cuisines share a similar spice palate and a lot of Chinese dishes have been Indianized and cooked all over the country. Every multi-cuisine restaurant worth its salt has a column in its menu solely dedicated to Indo-Chinese food. Beauties like Gobi (Cauliflower) Manchurian, Schezwan Chicken, Egg Fried Rice and Spring Rolls are a few gems from the Indo-Chinese trove. We love it at home because the cuisine offers a lot of vegetarian options.

I have never made a mean Indo-Chinese curry and never thought I ever could. But today, when my culinary creativity was at its lowest and I had this desperate craving for something Indo-Chinese, I decided to make my own version of a family favorite during our Madras Race Club frequenting days: Veggie Balls in Garlic Sauce. The chef at the club restaurant rocked the gravy like no one ever can. And since we were a family full of garlic lovers, we would order it every time we visited MRC. I cannot claim that I made the dish exactly how I like it but the husband loved it and he claims this is the best chow I’ve made in the recent past. I took the compliment rather reluctantly.

So here is how I made it.

Veggie Balls in Garlic Sauce

Ingredients:

For the balls-
One cup shredded cabbage

One cup shredded carrot

One cup chopped onion

(You can add any vegetable you want as long as all of them together make three cups)

Half a cup fresh bread crumbs

Two Tbsp Cornstarch

One large egg

Half tsp Ajino-moto (you can find this in any Asian store)

1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce

Pepper to taste

Oil for deep-frying (or you can make this in the oven. 400°F or 205°C for 30 minutes)

For the gravy-
Eight garlic pods finely chopped

1/4 onion finely chopped (to make it better, replace with a bunch of scallions. Chop and separate whites and greens)

Two Thai green chilies finely chopped

One Tbsp grated ginger

1/4 cup tomato ketchup

Two Tbsp soy sauce

One Tbsp cornstarch

Two tsp brown sugar

Two cups water

A dash pepper

A pinch red chili flakes

Method:

The balls-
Slightly saute the vegetables with soy sauce, pepper and Ajino-moto. Switch off and let it cool. When cool enough to handle, mix the other ingredients. The mixture must be semi-solid which you must be able to mold into balls. Add more bread crumbs if it is a little loose. Make 12 medium-size balls. Deep fry in oil or bake in the oven.

The gravy
Mix together ketchup, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, water and pepper. Heat oil in a wok. Add the chopped garlic, onions/scallion whites, chili and ginger. Saute for five minutes on medium-high heat. Add the gravy mixture and switch the heat to low. Let the sauce cook for a few minutes. Increase the heat back to medium-high and let the sauce thicken. When done, add the chili flakes and then turn off.

Add the balls to the pan and let it soak up the good gravy. If you used scallions, garnish the dish with the greens. I did not have scallions so I used normal onion and garnished with cilantro. Very Indian, no?

Ps: This gravy is traditionally eaten with white rice or fried rice but my mom loves it with Naan/Roti or any other Indian flatbread.

I went blog accessory shopping over the weekend. And now, I am in love with my black soup/serving bowl!