Share Buttons

Showing posts with label CULINARY STORIES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CULINARY STORIES. Show all posts

Friday, April 24, 2020


If there is a biscuit that’s authentically and genuinely Indian then it’s the Nan Khatai.
Is it really of Indian origin?
Wikipedia says that, Nan khatai is believed to have originated in Surat(Gujarat) in the 16th century, the time when the Dutch and the Indians were the important spice traders. A Dutch couple set up a bakery in Surat to meet the needs of local Dutch residents. When the Dutch left India, they handed over the bakery to an Iranian.
Yet there is a version that says, that the word Nan Khatai is derived from the Persian word Naan, which is a type of flatbread and Khatai is an Afghan word and means biscuit. In fact, this biscuit is also famous in Iran and Afghanistan, that could be the reason that we see most Islamic bakeries make different assortments of these lovely baked biscuits. Now, yet another version doing the rounds is that the Parsi Bakers invented the Nan khatai.
It really doesn’t matter who invented these beautiful delicacies but I’m glad they did it.
In the yesteryears, Nan Khatai’s were baked in old style urn ovens using firewood.
Nan khatai is popular and available all over India and every region has its twist to it.
My daughter who loves baking says that Nan khatai cannot be classified as a cookie. It’s more like a biscuit. According to her cookies are much buttery and melt in the mouth and the texture of Nan khatai is like a biscuit.
The eggless version that we get in Singapore during Hari Raya known as Sugee Cookies, have a high content of vegetable shortening in it, which feels rich and soft but leaves a waxy coating on the roof of your mouth.  
The Nan khatai in India is not melt in the mouth (Although we can make it in that texture too) but my biscuits come with a crunch like the ones we get at The Mumbai Bakeries.
I personally love the home made ones as I know exactly the ingredients that go into the making and nothing tastes as good as homemade ones, so here’s a recipe if followed perfectly would result in awesome Nan khatai biscuits.

All purpose flour (Maida) - 1 cup + Standby (2 tablespoons)
Semolina (Rava/Suji) - 2 tablespoons
Caster Sugar - ½ cup
Unsalted Butter (or ghee) - ½  cup at room temperature
Baking Soda - ¼  teaspoon
A pinch of Salt
Cardamom Powder - ¼  teaspoon
Crushed Nuts - 1 tablespoons (Preferably Almond and Pistachio finely chopped)

In a big bowl, Sieve the All purpose flour, semolina, baking soda and a pinch of salt.
In another Bowl take the melted butter, to it add the caster sugar, Using a whisk or hand mixer blend until smooth and frothy. Add in the cardamom powder and give it a good stir.
Add this mix to the Dry ingredients and mix well and knead into a dough.
In case the dough looks very greasy, add in the 2 tablespoons of flour that we kept as standby.
Knead well,
After this, divide dough into about 20 equal portions and make round shaped balls from it, press these between the palms and place it over baking tray. Line your baking trays with a baking sheet/parchment paper/aluminium foil and place the dough balls on it, allow sufficient space between the biscuits, usually 1.5 to 2 inches as the biscuits tend to expand in size during the baking. Top each one with a little bit of finely chopped nuts and press gently with your finger.
The next step…….Baking, if this goes wrong everything is wasted, so here I’m sharing some tips of how to bake the Nan khatai
·       For even baking, position the rack at the centre of the oven and bake one tray of the biscuits at a time. If you want to bake two trays, space the racks, and switch the racks from top to bottom halfway through the baking.
·       Always Preheat the oven 10 to 15 minutes before baking the first batch.
·       Check the oven temperature with an oven thermometer (if you have it or else you can go by Visual judgement).
·       Once pre-heated, bake your cookies for about 15-20 minutes @180 degrees centigrade (350 degrees Fahrenheit)
·       Visual judgement is the best when it comes to baking your biscuits, follow the abovementioned time and check for the colour (light beige golden)
·       Using a timer would be good. Most Ovens come with a recipe book or instruction printed on it, which includes a range in baking time; check what’s the range for your oven. If not follow the minimum time stated in the recipe. Example, my recipe says, minimum time is 15 minutes.
·       Every oven has different settings and it may take a little longer or shorter time based on the oven you use.
Once Baked…..♨
Remove the baking tray from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a cooling rack (or wire rack). The biscuits can’t be eaten yet. Internally the heat is still cooking it. After about half an hour you can indulge in these beautiful Nan khatai Biscuits. Store them in an airtight container.
Enjoy these beauties with your tea/ coffee☕. I love dunking them into my tea☕. Sweet and Sinful Indulgence.

·       Just follow the Recipe As-is
·       Ensure that the butter in the recipe is soft but not completely melted
·       If Caster sugar is not available, you can powder the coarse sugar in the dry blender
·       If you are using ghee instead of butter, it should have semi solid consistency. It should not be completely melted or look like oil.

Monday, May 17, 2010


What is Gobi 65 and how did it get its name? Is it a North Indian dish or is it an Indo-Chinese fusion recipe coz it tastes and looks a lot like Gobi Manchurian or is it South Indian. I am sure it is not a North Indian recipe, because I never saw this on the Menu card in restaurants in Mumbai while growing up. The recipe does resemble an Indo-chinese fusion, but no….there are a lot of Indian ingredients in it….Surprised as you maybe this recipe has emerged from South India, where a dish called Chicken 65 became immensely popular and the Gobi 65 is a vegetarian twist to it. The anecdotal theories as to how they stumbled upon this name are many. Some say the 65 represents the 65 separate ingredients in the dish. Some say that a restaurant in Chennai came up with this dish and as it became popular with these signature 65 dishes the fever caught on. Some say that the dish was the 65th dish on the menu card and as people started ordering for it on a regular basis the name of the dish changed to this. Whatever be the theories, but as the saying goes, “Call the rose by any other name and it smells just as sweet”…and so it is for this dish. It’s such an exotic looking and tasting dish that you can surprise your guests or hubby with it. I had a few guests at home and I was pondering over what to cook. I was bored of cooking the same things over and over again. I was quite fancied by the look and taste of the Gobi 65 in a restaurant here in Singapore, so I thought why not try it and started searching for recipes desperately over the internet but none that I found were near to what I had at the restaurant, I would call them Gobi pakodas but not Gobi 65 as they didn’t have the masala. Here is the complete recipe of the Gobi 65.
Cauliflower – 1 big
Corn starch - 2 tbsp
All purpose flour (Maida) - 2 tbsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsps
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Chili powder -2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Light Soya sauce - 2 tsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp (I don’t like garlic in my cooking, but for those who enjoy you can add ginger-garlic paste)
Saffron Color – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Onions – 2 nos
Capsicum – 1 (big size)
Fresh Coriander leaves – 2 tbsps
Oil for frying
Salt as per taste
Pluck the florets of the cauliflower and rinse well under running water in a colander. Heat a big pan of water, drop in the florets, ¼ spoon of turmeric powder and 2 pinches of salt. If there are any worms they will come floating to the surface, if that happens, throw the water and redo the process. Now cook the Cauliflower florets in boiling water, the florets must be half cooked, don’t cook until soft, they should be only semi-cooked. Now remove them from the heat and drop it through a colander to drain all the water. Keep aside. Now in a big salad mixing bowl, Take the two heaped tablespoons of All purpose flour, add Corn starch, Coriander powder, Cumin powder, Chili powder, Light Soya sauce(Dark soya sauce gives a very dark color to the dish, we want a reddish color so please use light soya sauce. Soya sauce is only for flavor and helps greatly in the marinating process), Ginger paste, saffron, and salt as per taste (Soya sauce is salty so taste and add salt accordingly. Mix all the ingredients well by adding water (just like we make a batter for bhajiya’s, the batter shouldn’t be very watery). Drop in the semi-cooked cauliflower florets in the batter and mix well. Let it marinate for a while. Marinating imparts better taste to the end product. You can marinate it for a few hours. For example if you are making this for dinner marinate it in the afternoon itself. It will taste awesome!!!as all the masala enters the florets. Now heat oil in a pan, when the oil is heated, drop the florets like pakodas(bhajiyas) one by one. Keep the flame low while dropping and let it get cooked slowly and properly in the oil. When the florets are golden brown in color remove from the fire and drain on a kitchen towel. 
Once all the florets are done in this fashion the next step comes into place and i.e the masala for the Gobi 65. Restaurants serve them in this fashion.
Take a pan, add one tablespoon oil, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds and when they fry, add in the onions and cook until transparent, then add in the capsicum chopped into chunky square pieces, add some salt and toss well, don’t over cook the capsicum, it should just be sautéed for about 5 minutes, then add in the fried cauliflower florets and toss well and garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot and enjoy the lovely restaurant style Gobi 65. 

Sunday, August 19, 2007


BARBECUE - A Fashion Statement and a means of Socializing

Al Fresco Eating is the fashion statement of today for young Indians who migrated abroad in the recent years. The fever hasn’t caught on in India yet.

Staying Abroad changes the way of socializing and celebrating as we tend to adopt a lot of practices of the western people and Barbecue is very popular in the West.

Getting together for a barbecue party is something relatively new for the younger generation of Indians who migrated abroad in the recent past


Barbecue has always been associated with non-vegetarian items and hence attending a Barbecue party for a vegetarian is simply not very happening.

But you will be surprised that such a lot of vegetarian recipes can be cooked on the barbecue with much of it being similar to that at a traditional barbecue and they taste very good, with the added benefit of being lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. You can easily say that it is cheap, fun and healthy. And your neighbours wont get annoyed with the smell of burning fat.

Living in Singapore and having regular barbecue events kind of left me in the lurch because here Non vegetarian barbecue is very popular and there are a lot of frozen ready stuff available to go on the grill for the meat eaters. But for people like me, we have to be limited to the tomatoes and onions and maybe the salads. Since we had a huge Indian presence in our group and all were open to vegetarian barbecue, it led me to think what we could add to our menu so that even the vegetarians can enjoy. I am very lucky as we have 2 grills, one for the vegetarians and one for the non-vegetarians, so we don’t have to mix up and usually the vegetarian stuff is grilled first because non-vegetarian items emanate a strong meat and fat smell.

Peppers, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes and onions can simply be halved or quartered and cooked directly on the grill, while more robust vegetables such as squashes and potatoes can be wrapped in foil and baked amongst the coals. Spring onions, garlic and many herbs will find a place in marinades and dressings while lettuce, cucumber, peas and beans form key ingredients of tasty side salads.


Barbecue parties are not celebrated commonly in Indian cities, although we do have Tandoori food and Tandoor is a traditional grill used to barbecue food.

But you will be surprised to know that barbecuing was always done in India. In the traditional style, in the fields, a small pit was made and coals were burnt and fresh vegetables from the fields would be roasted on it and people would happily sit around the fire during cold winter nights and eat the grilled vegetables with some salt and lemon and sometimes with masala (spice) powders. Corns, brinjals, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and many other vegetables would be barbecued and eaten with great relish.

Barbecue Tradition can be seen in a state like Maharashtra, where Bajra and Jowar (sorghum) are grown in abundance. The young jowar or bajra which is at a pre-stage is cut from the plant and roasted over a coal fire. The sorghum has a sweet and succulent taste and is usually eaten with a pungent chillies and green garlic ground to make a tongue-scorching chutney or Maharashtras famous lasoon chutney (dry garlic chutney) or some people like it with just a dash of salt and lemon.

(Refer to the Chutneys and Sauces section of my blog for the recipe of the Lasoon Chutney.)

First timers must go slow on this delicacy as it may not be so gentle on your stomach

In December - January Agriculturists/Farmers usually invite neighboring villagers, families and friends to celebrate the onset of a successful season of the Jowar crop. Sholapur is very famous for its “hurda” parties and it is a social or family event in these areas to go to the fields early in the morning to have the hurda and the associated goodies. “Hurda”. Parties are also becoming an increasingly popular activity with city dwellers who want to get a slice of this rural pleasure, people get together and book a place in the fields on the outskirts of the city and have the hurda party.

Barbecued food is not new to India, as the Moghuls brought in grilled kebabs and breads as an addition to our already rich cuisine. This food is popularly known as Tandoori food and is cooked in a Tandoor (which a traditional grill)

BARBECUE - How to go about it?

Barbecue is usually an outdoors thing and hence when people in the western countries meet outdoors they celebrate by grilling food so they can eat hot and freshly cooked food usually enjoyed with a cool drink.

Nowadays a lot of different grills are available in the market. There are portable grills and all the equipments like fire starters, tongs etc available in one section of the supermarts. Even a beginner can host a fine barbecue party.

Grilling is more art than science. It takes a few go-rounds to get the knack of working with whatever equipment you have, be it a fancy gas-powered unit or a simple barbecue pit in the ground. Remember, though, that expensive equipment is not necessary to create a tasty outdoor meal. It's more a matter of learning about the coals and woods befitting your particular grill, how to light them easily, and how long to let the hot coals die down in your unit before putting on the food. Generally, it takes 30 to 45 minutes for hot coals to reach the right temperature for grilling foods.

Having a barbecue doesn't have to be an expensive or complicated undertaking either. At the simplest end of the scale, an al fresco meal for one or two could be cooked on a grid over a bucket of charcoal. At the other end of the scale you can feed the five thousand on a sophisticated gas or electric barbecue - the choice is yours.

Barbecued or grilled food is fun way of eating vegetables dipped in a marinade and barbecuing them on a grill, you can do it even on the terrace or patio or backyard. Just pour yourself a tall cool drink and select a couple of dressings and dips and you are ready to chill out on a party of your own right there in your backyard.


It is very realistic to want to purchase new and exciting tools to assist in the preparation of your barbecue. A jumbo barbecue turning tool works well for turning food. The ideal model is large enough to flip two burger patties at one time.

Another time saving barbecue tool is the barbecue basting brush and bottle. This unique basting brush is complete with a silicone brush at one end and a bottle with a stand able bottom on the other end. This reasonably priced barbecue tool is very useful in evenly basting grilled foods while they are cooking.

When shopping for barbecue tools, it is very important to remember that barbecue tongs are an important tool that makes grilling foods much easier. These barbecue tongs make rotating items such as corn on the cob, large pieces of food much easier.

The most important barbecue tool is the grill cleaning brush. Without a doubt, each new grilling season demands that a new grill brush replace the previous seasons. While these barbecue tools are sold to last a long time, I have yet to have discovered a grill that could hold up to the heavy demands of a barbecue season in my home. So rather than worry about trying to make the grill brush last more than one season, just buy a quality brush and figure that it has certainly gotten its use out of it by the end of the season.


Ah, what can be better than a great barbecue on the beach? The beach is definitely one of the best locations to have a barbecue. After all, the nature of grilling and barbecuing as a cooking technique is that it's fun, exciting and very rewarding. Similarly, the beach pretty much exudes the same atmosphere. There are a lot of fun and exciting activities to do at the beach. It's a place where people can be themselves in their 'bare essentials' and the relaxation factor is definitely rewarding. Putting these two wonderful concepts together, a barbecue on the beach is pretty much a recipe for a great time!

But before you pack your stuff, gear up your grill and hit the sand for one hell of a barbecue on the beach party, bear in mind that there are various safety procedures and other rules governing beach areas so it would be best to consult authorities and secure the proper permissions before you even think about organizing a beach barbecue party.


ALWAYS make sure that the barbecue is on a firm heat-proof surface, away from buildings, trees, fences and anything else that might catch fire.

NEVER leave the barbecue unattended

KEEP CHILDREN away from the barbecue area

It is a good idea to rope off the cooking area to prevent accidents.

ONLY use proper barbecue lighters, NEVER use paraffin, petrol, white spirit or lighters to fuel the barbecue.

USE long handles tongs and oven gloves to avoid burning yourself.


Prepare as much as you can before you start cooking. Good organization makes for a relaxed barbecue.

Bring your marinated vegetables in a cooler or in airtight boxes and take them out only when you're ready to start barbecuing to avoid spoilage. Further, the last seasoning you would want on your barbecue on the beach is sand right? So keep them covered!

Food keeps fresher and cleaner if kept inside until needed; keep prepared food covered where possible.

It is imperative to practice basic food hygiene.

Incase, you are using a public BBQ pit, then clean the grill well with an antibacterial soap and water. Soak the grill in water if there are stubborn remnants, before scrubbing them well with antibacterial soap and water. Come early and prepare, so that you can have a hygienic BBQ.

LIGHT THE BARBECUE 45 minutes before you start cooking.

Relax. Wait until the flames die down and a layer of ash forms. If you start cooking while the coals are still glowing, the food is likely to burn.

Lightly brush the cooking rack with a little oil to help prevent the food from sticking.

Wooden skewers are great for vegetable kebabs soaking them in water for 30 minutes stops them catching fire.

Vegetables that don't have a strong flavor benefit from a tasty marinade and basting during cooking - barbecues do not lend themselves to subtle cuisine.

To prevent your food from becoming overcooked or burnt on the outside wrap it in foil as a protective barrier.

Throw a handful of herbs on the charcoal and enjoy that delicious aroma.

Spare a thought for the global environment. Use environment friendly charcoals, this automatically reduces the demand for fuel made from tropical hardwoods.

Then at the end of the BBQ hand your guests a trash bag and encourage them to take part in the great clean up. It’s a very good practice to clean the grill and the area that has been used during a BBQ party, which serves people who come after using the place.

Before, you leave just sprinkle some water on the burning coals to extinguish the embers, so that there is no accident, after you leave.


Planning a cookout is not as easy as some very organized people make it appear to be and actually requires BBQ plans be made on different fronts to be a success. Some of the details are obvious such as how many people and in what age groups will be in attendance as well as the type of food wanted for the cookout. The number of people is part of a larger equation, determining the different types of food that will be needed. Keep more of the popular foods which you will learn with experience and limit the other items to one to two pieces a person.

The only part of BBQ plans the organizer will have no control over is the weather and the sponsor of the party will be responsible for making alternate plans in the event of bad weather and decide if the party must go on or reschedule for another time. Most cooks’ at large barbecues can be prepared with appropriate weather protection to keep themselves and the cooked food dry and available. However, the attendees will want someplace dry in which to eat the bounty.

Timing is very crucial for food to be ready at mealtime. If it becomes late, the people won’t eat well leading to the food getting wasted. Part of the BBQ plans will include what time the food should be ready and will help the cooks decide what time they have to start cooking. With good BBQ plans in place, all the different foods should be ready at about the same time, with some coming in later to be hot and fresh as those at the end of the line make their way to the food. Cooking the correct amount of each different food item is not an exact science and making good BBQ plans can help bring it together on the day of the big event. Most organizers plan about 10 to 15 percent more food than they expect to need to feed those who unexpectedly show up and for those who may be a little more hungry than others.

Many BBQ plans will also include the responsibility of supplying condiments and other items such as potato chips, side dishes and salads if needed. The plates and plastic ware should also be planned will ahead of time to insure the supplier will have what is needed on the day it is to be picked up.


I've yet to meet anyone who says, "Boy, I just love to clean my grill." In fact, that ranks right up there with toilet cleaning and washing the deep fryer. But, it's a necessary evil. No one wants food served from a filthy grill—not healthy and not appetizing. So, grill cleaning is one of those deeds that must be done.


Using foil eases your Grill Cleaning Job

One clean up short cut that I would not recommend as far as preparation is to cover the grate with tin foil. Though it's easier to clean a grill that is covered with tin foil, the result is that food is basically fried and not grilled. The food does not taste as good, and it's not as healthy. You're better off cooking inside over the tin foil method. It really defeats the whole idea of grilling out.

Tonight or Tomorrow Morning?

One big problem with charcoal grill cleaning is that the grill stays hot for a good period of time after cooking. There are two theories as far as the best way to handle this hot situation.

One camp leaves the grill running wide open. The thought is that the fire bakes off a lot of the grease. This does greatly extend the time between cooking and cleaning, since the grill stays hot for a long time if left to burn off.

The other approach is to put the lid on the grill and close down all the vents. This caps the fire, and unless it's a late night party, the grill is often cool enough to clean before bedtime.

I generally let the fire burn out. This eliminates the need to dispose of the extra unburned coals. They simply burn up. And, a lot of the grime does cook off the grates and sides of the grill. This does mean, however, that I'm usually grill cleaning the day after. Or, I forget about cleaning the grill and then have a mess to deal with before the next cook out.

Down and Dirty

Once the grill is cool (or not hot enough to be painful), clean out all the old coals and dust. These need to go in a bag and in the garbage. Charcoal mulch is not good for the garden or the yard. The acid level is too high. Throw that in your vegetable bed, and you're not going to have a productive season.

Squirt a good Kitchen Grease Cleaner on the grill and grates. This will save you from the rigorous scrubbing. The basic cleaning gets some but not all the grime. A second cleaning with a scrub brush and/or a scratchy pad (those green 3M rectangles sold in the grocery) is necessary. Brushes are more appealing with the handle, but it's hard to find a good brush and one that will hold up. I find that brushes last only a few cleaning sessions (and I've tried a number of brands), so I often use the less expensive scratch pads. Squirt on Kitchen Grease Cleaning Liquid and rub away. Most of the mess comes off.

For those really stubborn remnants of food particles stuck to the grates, keep them soaked in a soap solution overnight. In the morning, it will be soft and can be easily scrubbed off.

Touch Up and Pack Away

A good cleaning usually takes care of grill grunge. Give the grill a quick look over and touch up any spots still needing attention. Then, cover the grill. There are covers made for various grills, and trash bags or homemade coverlets (old quilts or towels) can also be used. If using plastic, don't seal up tight. Sealing traps moisture and can cause the growth of things better not mentioned. If you do end up with a science project growing in the grill after cleaning, it does clean off pretty easily, but it is not a good pre-meal sight.

Fun? No! But, a Clean Grill is a Happy Grill

If you stay on top of your grill cleaning, it's much easier to take care of the messes and much more likely that your family will be "up" for a barbeque. Grills also last much longer if they are tended to. There are a variety of ways to approach this rather unpleasant task, and some products that make the clean up much easier. There's room for error too. We've really disrespected our grill a few times, but it's always cleaned up and continued to give good service with a little extra loving care.

Worth the Effort? You Bet!

Whether you're new to grilling or dealing with a nasty, messy grill, you can do this. It takes a little time and effort, but when you're eating a big juicy steak hot off the clean grill, you'll be glad you took the time buy and keep up a charcoal grill.

Please check out my tongue tickling Vegetarian BBQ recipes in the Vegetarian BBQ Recipes section of My Blog.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007



Pickles are the life of every Indian meal. Indians are a breed who can’t live without their pickles, so wherever in the world they are traveling to, the pickle jar is always part of their luggage. If the food is not palatable, a good pickle served as an accompaniment will save you from the pangs of hunger. Just plain rice and curd can be had with a good pickle to accompany it. Any dish whether it be a meal or a snack gets enhanced with a good pickle accompaniment.


The history of pickles is believed to be over 4,000 years old. In 2030 B.C., cucumbers, native to India were brought to the Tigris Valley. There, they were first preserved and eaten as pickles. Pickles are mentioned in the Bible and history records their usage over 3,000 years ago in Western Asia, ancient Egypt and Greece. In 850 B.C., Aristotle praised the healing effects of cured cucumbers.

Cleopatra attributed her beauty to pickles. Pliny's writings mention spiced and preserved cucumbers; in other words, pickles. The enjoyment of pickles spread far and wide through Europe. In the 13th Century, pickles were served as a main dish at the famous feast of King John. In the 16th Century, Dutch fine food fanciers cultivated pickles as one of their prized delicacies. Napoleon valued pickles as a health asset for his army. A fondness for pickles has always been a national characteristic of the American people.

In India as early as the Vedic times, salt, vinegar, jaggery, honey, asafoetida and tamarind were used for preserving and lending taste to foods as the accent was always on the preservation of good health through a well adjusted diet. In the medical treatises of Susruta and Charaka the use of these spices and condiments are widely referred.


Pickles are those tasty morsels of vegetable/fruit drenched in oil and suffused with spices. Pickling to put it simply, is nothing more than preserving fruits, vegetables, meat or fish in salt alone with or without the addition of oil and spices. Spices are the aromatic leaves, buds, fruits, seeds or barks of plants. Pickles, contrary to what people imagine, are not either difficult to prepare or preserve. It is only that one has to observe certain canons regarding cleanliness as for example the use of clean, dry and quality fruits and vegetables, sterile jars and dry ladles, which if disregarded makes the pickle-venture a disaster, with the formation of mold and fungus. Also one has to liberally use salt, oil and chilly powder, if one is averse to the use of preservatives.

The Art of pickling has raised culinary art to such a high level of sophistication that it has acquired an exotic, almost legendary reputation. One aspect of pickling is the great variety and range it offers for all seasons and occasions. This is made possible because of the tremendous variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from, starting from the humble potato to the heavenly lemon, the mild pear to the strong smelling garlic, the bitter gourd to the sweet beet.


Pickle-making is thoroughly exciting and a continuous process of discovery. One is amazed at the astonishing range of pickles available in India. While there are as many varieties of pickles as there are dialects in this country, there is a certain uniformity in diversity. Most of all Indian pickles are spicy - the quantum and nature of spices varying from region to region.

The Indian subcontinent is a veritable spice shell. The available spices span a spell binding range from aniseeds, asafoetida, cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves to fenugreek seeds, flower essence, mace, mango powder and mustard seeds. No less impressive is her range of seasonal fruits and vegetables.


The taste of pickles made in the South of India differ from the taste of the pickles made in the North of India. I think, Climatic conditions also change the usage of certain spices in the respective regions. Although the same or different vegetables may be pickled, the spices, oils, souring/sweetening agents and treatment may be dissimilar in different parts of the country.

The same mango pickle when prepared in the South tastes different from the one prepared in the North - the difference is the oil base - the south predominantly uses gingelly oil (sesame oil) whereas in the north the preferred oil is mustard oil. Strange as it may seem, spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper although grown in South India are more generously used in the northern parts of the country, attributed perhaps to the Moghul influence.

In the south, chilly powder, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, asafoetida, jaggery are the favoured spices. Although in the north, chilly powder is used, sweet spices like cardamom, cloves, aniseeds etc. are additionally used. Sugar takes the place of jaggery most of the time.

The souring agents used in the south, apart from the pickled vegetable itself, are tamarind or curd or lime juice or a combination of them, as opposed to vinegar in the north.

The real secret of spicing and seasoning pickles is not only which spices you use but also how you use them, whether raw or roasted, whole or ground etc. Remember however, that whole spices retain flavor longer than ground spices.

Although the weights of the ingredients are mentioned, in India most pickle-makers do not use any system of weighing or measuring pickling ingredients. They rely solely upon what they have learned by trial and error, by what they have been taught or by what is passed down from generation to generation. There are no hard and fast rules for the preparation of any particular recipe, because the ingredients remain the same, only the quantities vary. Common sense and your instincts are all you need. In time you will develop a better understanding of the relationship between aromas, flavors and textures. Practice makes the art of pickling perfect.

As interesting and tasty as pickles may be, one should be careful not to overdo or underplay any particular spice. Equally difficult is harmonizing the various flavors to compliment the basic ingredient without swamping it. Though spices enhance the taste, they will not disguise ingredients that taste bad and hence quality fruits and vegetables should be pickled and preserved. It would be better to have less of a fine ingredient than a large quantity of an inferior one.

Pickle making can get a little tricky. Much of the ingredients which go into the making of a pickle, as for instance the chillies that go into the chilly powder, cannot be accurately stated, as the pungency of the chilly powder depends on whether it is made from Andhra red chillies or ordinary red chillies or Kashmiri red chillies. The pickle in general turns out all right but to make a great pickle one requires dedication and commitment - it has to be a passion as with all art forms.

Pickles cover a broad range from fermented pickles, fresh pack pickles, fruit pickles and relishes, which are primarily vinegar based. The vinegar used should be atleast of five per cent acidity so that the vegetables/fruits are properly acidified. White vinegar is preferred where light coloured fruits or vegetables are used. The use of canning salt or pickling salt is advised as iodised salt darkens the pickle.

Pickles taste equally good when prepared in tamarind sauce, lime juice or curd. Use of mango powder or pomegranate seeds imparts an unforgettable flavour. It is the pickle that adds to the allure of tongue-tickling dishes, creating a complete, memorable meal. Most pickles keep for a few months, some like avakkai (Andhra mango pickle) keep for years.

Ginger, asafoetida, turmeric are all considered digestives. They are pickled with beans or split peas to fight off their hard-to-digest stubbornness. Mint does the same thing. It also kills germs. Asafoetida is considered a nerve tonic. Cumin and green cardamom are cooling, clove and cinnamon are warming, ginger is good for colds, while raw garlic is good for circulatory ailments and jangled nerves. Red chillies in small doses have an antiseptic effect. Black pepper livens the appetite and also acts as a tonic for new mothers. Aren't we lucky to have such an extraordinary range of spices and aromatic herbs?

It is evident therefore that no meal is complete without a pickle. There are numerous varieties to choose from -

· The Instant (quick-serve) pickles which are instant no-nonsense recipes turning out to be time-saving, tongue-tickling temptations in a jiffy - mango ginger slices pickled in lime juice, the instant maanga curry of the south etc.

· The Oil-free pickles which open up a staggering variety of fabulous low calorie but tasty delicacies for the health conscious - like pickled cucumbers, vegetable pieces pickled with green chillies

· The Diet pickles, full of the goodness of vitamin and mineral-rich fruits and vegetables, skillfully combined - bittergourd pickled with ginger in lime juice and last but not the least is

· The Anti-waste pickles - unforgettable, tasty, tangy, nutritious morsels combining skins, peels, rinds and seeds with aromatic spices - the orange peel pickle.

The preparation of Indian pickles remains a mystery to most. The purpose of this article is to demystify it. Before embarking upon pickling it will be useful to understand and learn to select vegetables and fruits of good quality, to clean, cut and cook them without much loss of nutrients. It is worth noting that vegetables are in their prime in the season. Buying them out of the season, is not only uneconomical but also less tasteful.

My Blog has a Pickles section which has some of the most tongue-tickling Pickle recipes from all over India.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Vatta Kozhambu is a spicy tamarind based curry which goes well with steamed rice & pappads.
The Vatta Kozhambu also known as Vatthal or Vettral(Vettal) Kozhambu ( Because of the use of Vattals also known as Vettral/Vettal(dried vegetables)).
It may be also known as Vatha kuzhambu because of the process. As a joke, you can say, “Vatti vatti pohara kuzhambu (means you add the water and let it reduce and keep repeating it till the raw smell of the tamarind goes).
Vatti vatti pohardu (in Tamil means as the water starts to reduce).
No cooked lentils are added to this kuzhambu, so this kuzhambu can be prepared immediately with no much preparation with the ingredients available in your kitchen.
The Vatta Kozhambu is a famous Tanjorian preparation.

The divide between the Tanjorians and the Pattars of Kerala was not more sharply delienated than in the making of the staple sambhar. The tanjorians were fearfully called easterners by the Kerala Iyers - they would not give their daughters in marriage to a Tanjore family for fear of ill treatment of their daughters but welcomed the Tanjore daughter-in-law as she could be depended upon to run the family with smartness and acumen - make the vettal kuzhambu(sambhar without paruppu (dal)) more frequently. The price of dal was prohibitive for an ordinary family making its living by rituals and temple largesse. So a spoonful of dal, the paruppu at the corner of your banana leaf was served, labelled auspicious, and the rice was eaten mixed with the tamarind pulp, spices and rice-powder-thickened kuzhambu.
(Excerpts from my Article : Sambhar- Story of the South Indian Curry. Refer to the Culinary stories section of my blog for the entire article.)
In the olden days Vatta Kozhambu used to be packed and taken while traveling from village to village for trade or business purposes, as this dish doesn’t tend to get spoilt.
I still remember the aroma and taste of the Vatta Kozhambu prepared by my mom, when we used to be travelling to Madras (now Chennai) by the Madras Mail from Mumbai, a journey of 2 days. Amma would carry the Vatta Kozhambu in a bottle and the taste when mixed with rice would be heavenly.
Incase you are putting onions or any other vegetables, you must remember that it wont last as long as the plain vatta kozhambu but still lasts longer than any other curry.
The Vengaya Vatta Kozhambu tastes better when older as the essence of the onions enter the curry completely and enhance the taste. I am sure once you have tried this recipe, your family will be begging for more.
It remains for 2-3 days in the refrigerator if vegetables are added and lasts upto a week if vegetables are not added even without refrigeration.

Vattals used:
Sundakkai / Manathakkali or any vegetable Vattal - 1 tbsp of the vattal
Papadams – 2

Vegetables used:
Fresh Brinjals / Lady's fingers / Tomatoes / Small onions (Chinna vengayam) / Onions. -1 cup of chopped vegetables.
Tamarind - a golf size ball soaked in water
Sambhar Powder / Vattha Kuzhambu powder – 1 ½ - 2 tbspn.
Mustard seeds – 1 tspn
Udad Dal - 1 tspn.
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tspn
Dry Red Chillies - 4 de-seeded (if you are adding with the seed just add 1-2)
Asafoetida Powder – 1 tspn
Curry Leaves - One Sprig
Oil - 4-6 tbsps.
Sugar – 1-2 tspns
Salt to taste
Rice flour – 1 tablespoon (for thickness)

Soak the tamarind in water & extract the pulp (juice). Keep this aside.
Heat 4-6 tablespoons of oil in a kadhai. Break the papadams into small quarters and fry them. Keep aside on a plate.
Now Fry the Vattals, You can use one or all of the vattals mentioned above. I have used Sundakkai and Tamara Kazhangu (lotus roots) vattal.
Sundakkai and Manathakkali vattals are very good for health.
You can use any vattal like Pavakkai(Bitter gourd), Vendakkai (Ladies Fingers) vattal, Maa (Salted dried Mango) Vattal  etc.
Keep aside the fried vattals on a plate.
Now in the same oil, Add mustard seeds, udad dal, fenugreek seeds and the dry red chillies. When the mustard seeds start to crackle, Add the curry leaves.
Now add the vegetables you are using and stir fry in the oil.
If you are using only Chinna Vengayam (Small Onions) – Peel and use as whole
Incase of big Onions, peel and chop into small pieces. Incase of onions stir fry until transparent before adding the next ingredient.
When you add onions, it is called "Vengaya Vatta Kozhambu".
Incase, you are using other vegetables, for example Brinjals have to be cut into long thick slits. If you make the Vattha kuzhambu using Brinjal, it is known as Katrikkai Vattha kuzhambu
Ladies fingers are cut into lengthwise finger length strips. If using only ladies finger, it is known as Vendakkai Vathha kuzhambu
If fresh Lotus roots are used cut them into roundels.
If tomatoes are used, you can cut the tomatoes into small cubes.
Once the seasoning is ready, add the vegetables you are using and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
Now add the sambhar powder and salt and mix well. The sambhar powder should get fried in the oil (not only will this remove the raw powder smell but give a good color and aroma to your vatta kozhambu).
At this stage add your fried papadams and fried vattals that you have kept aside and stir fry with the masala and vegetables.
You can use freshly prepared Vatta Kozhambu masala (as shown below) and add to the vegetables instead of using the Sambhar powder.
Add the Tamarind water (pulp) and mix well.
Add 4-5 glasses of water & allow to simmer nicely.
The longer it is cooked the better it tastes. After 15-20 minutes of boiling. If you see there isn’t much water left, add some more water as much as the quantity required by you. You keep adding water, till the raw smell (pacchai vaadai) of the tamarind disappears.
Once you feel the raw tamarind smell disappears. Add water according to the quantity of kozhambu required by you. Allow it to come to the boiling point.
Now take the Rice flour in a small bowl and mix with water, ensure there are no lumps. Add this solution to the boiling vatta kozhambu and boil for another 5 minutes. This thickens the kozhambu.
Switch off the gas.
Serve the Vatta Kozhambu with Hot Steamed Rice, A teaspoon of melted ghee and roasted or fried pappadams.

  • Vatta Kozhambu will last longer when more oil is added, hence 4-6 tbsps of oil are added.
  • Can add Fresh Brinjals / Lady's fingers / Tomatoes/ Lotus roots
  • You can avoid Onions completely.
  • If you are using only Chinna Vengayam (Small Onions) - Peel and use as whole
            You can use any vattal like Sundakkai and Manathakkali vattals, Tamara
Kazhangu (lotus roots),  Pavakkai(Bitter gourd), Vendakkai (Ladies Fingers), Vattal Maa (Salted dried Mango) Vattal  etc.
  • You can add Pappadams - cut them in small quarters & fry them. Keep aside on a plate.

Fresh Vatta Kozhambu Masala
Udad Dal - 2 tspns
Pepper corns - 1 tspn
Fenugreek – ¼ tsp
Coriander – 1 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3- 4
Asafoetida a bit
Oil – A tsp
Fry all the above ingredients in a little oil until golden brown & grind to a smooth paste. Add this paste, After you add the tamarind juice to the vegetables and follow the above method to prepare delicious Vattha Kozhambu.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RASAM (The South Indian Soup)

RASAM (The South Indian Soup)History and originsRasam is known as Chaaru, in Telugu or Saaru in Kannada, means "essence," and on improvisation it means, "juice" or "soup."
Tamil Iyengars, called it 'Chaathamudhu' (Chaaru + Amudhu, the Tamil form of Amrit (ambrosia)). One must understand the benefits of a dish that is equated with Amrit or Ambrosia (elixir of life)
Sourashtras, an immigrant community living in Madurai from the 16th century, still call it Pulichaar (Puli = Tamarind + Chaar).... (Puli or Pulipu means tart (tamarind)).With hoteliers and restaurateurs expanding their joints in South India in the mid-twentieth century, it was popularised and came to be known by its Tamil name as Rasam. World over it is most popularly known as Rasam.
Interestingly, rasam is the basis of mulligatawny soup, which is an Anglo-Indian version of the same.In the olden days it was prepared mainly with black pepper and tamarind, the ingredients native to and abundant in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and South India in general.In a formal meal, the rasam course is served after the sambhar course and followed by curd rice.
It is eaten mixed with rice, or drunk by itself. but it can also be had as an appetizer before the beginning of a meal.

Traditional Method of making Rasam
A Brahmin household will always have rasam as part of their daily meal.
Rasam is traditionally cooked in an alloy vessel (Eeya pathram). Eeyam means lead in Tamil, since lead is poisonous, people stopped using the eeya pathrams(vessels) or eeya chombu(pot), but there is no lead involved in the making of this vessel. It is primarily an alloy of tin and other metals.
The Eeya Pathram is said to add taste to the rasam, though modern science doesn’t really advise us to do so.
Nowadays there is a craze of reverting back to the things that were traditionally done and Eeya patrams are becoming popular again and have re-entered the stores.
One should be careful while using this vessel, for, it melts when on fire. You could call it a melting pot!
Rasam is prepared mainly with the juices of tamarind or tomato with pepper and other spices. Lentils are added frequently and other vegetables optionally. It differs from sambhar in that it usually relies on tomatoes for its sourness rather than tamarind, and it is usually much thinner. The sambhar has more lentils than Rasam. Ideally the water of the cooked lentils are added to the Rasam, thus giving the benefits of the lentils but at the same time keeping its consistency drinkable. Every rasam in every household is unique (even when the same ingredients are used), holding the distinct character and imprint of its cook.
Health Benefits of having Rasam
This light broth is not only a treat to the mouth but also has medicinal values.
Soups are usually known to act as an appetizer, similarly the rasam when had at the beginning of the meal is said to increases the appetite.
Rasam contains many spices which are considered beneficial to health.
Steaming hot rasam is supposed to be very soothing when you are suffering from a cold, cough or sore throat.
Rasam is usually served to the person who is sick with fever and has no appetite and feels tastelessness in the mouth, it not only increases the appetite but also the spices in the rasam hit the mouth and throat increasing the taste in the mouth.
Rasam is also had when someone suffers from a headache.
No wonder it was consumed everyday. Nowadays people are so busy they don’t get the time to cook, so people make do with either sambhar or rasam. There are hardly a few households left which prepare both like the olden times.
Saaru in Karnataka
A special reference to the Rasam or Saaru as it is known as in Karnataka. Karnataka is very famous for it distinctive taste of the Rasam. They prepare many varieties of the rasam. Rasam is so popular in their households that it is enjoyed as a main dish in many regions of Karnataka. The saaru of Karnataka is different from the rasam of Tamil Nadu, and the chaaru of Andhra Pradesh. It has more protein, thicker consistency, and more varied ingredients. Typically lentils are set to boil along with a teaspoon of oil. Lentils are cooked with a curry powder known in Karnataka as Saarina Pudi (saaru powder), along with salt, sugar, lemon juice, curry leaves, fried mustard seeds and a pinch of asafoetida powder. The curry leaves are added towards the end. Optionally, chopped coriander leaves and grated coconut are also added.
You will be amazed at the variety of Saaru prepared
Milagu Saaru - Known in the West the Mulligatawny soup (milagu = pepper, tanneer = water).
Tomato Saaru - With tomato puree as main ingredient.
Tamarind Saaru - With tamarind extract as main ingredient and without lentils.
Hesaru Kaalu Saaru - Green gram soup.
Pappu Saaru - Common variant made with pulses and tomato stock.
Baellae Saaru - Most common variety with toor dal, coconut & tamarind juice.
Vankaaya Saaru - Eggplant & tamarind juice.
Majjiga Saaru - Soup made with seasoned buttermilk.
Ulava Saaru - Horse gram soup.
Kattu saaru - Kattu refers to the water drained from the cooked dal.
Kattina saaru - a semi-sweet rasam using jaggery.
Jeerige saaru - made with jeera, cumin.
Lemon rasam - a sour soup made with lemon juice.
Hurali saaru - another healthy rasam made with horse-gram.

Mysore Rasam - A fragrant soup made with fried grams/dals.
Bassaaru - Deriving its name from "busodu" (Kannada), which is the act of draining water from boiled vegetables/greens/lentils.
Kottambari jeerige Saaru - made with coriander and cumin seeds.
Kadale Saaru - Soaked black chickpeas, coconut and ginger.
Alasundae Saaru - Black eyed peas and potato, coconut and ginger.
Rasam in Tamilnadu
There are different kinds of rasam depending on the ingredients:
Tomato rasam – Made with tomatoes and spices
Pineapple rasam – Made with Pineapple and spices
Meriyala/Milagu (Pepper) rasam – Pepper being the main ingredient here
Jeera rasam – Cumin being the main ingredient here
Kandathippili rasam – A herb used for illness
Neem leaf rasam – Neem Leaves are used to make this rasam which has immense health benefits
Lime rasam – Lime being the main ingredient here
Ginger rasam – Ginger being the main ingredient here
Garlic Rasam - Garlic being the main ingredient here
Chaaru in Andhra Pradesh
The Andhra Chaaru is similar to the saaru and rasam but more spicy than its counterparts as Andhra cuisine usually is.
There are vegetable rasams, fruit rasams and herbal rasams. You will be seeing a lot of Rasam recipes in my blog.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Hyderabad – The capital of Andhra Pradesh.
It was founded in the late 16th century by the Qutab Shahi dynasty, a line of rulers known for their beautiful "monuments, mosque and mistresses". In 1589, Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah decided to shift his capital from Golconda to the banks of river Musi. Consequently, a city adorned with magnificent palaces and mosques, embodying a style of architecture that was unique to the place - the domes and minarets dressed with splendid stucco ornamentation - was born. In 1724 taking advantage of the waning Mughal Empire the viceroy of Hyderabad Asaf Jah, declared Hyderabad as an independent State and founded his own dynasty. So begun the dynasty of the Nizams of Hyderabad, a dynasty that would, for seven generations, rule the kingdom, a dynasty whose scions would be included among the "richest men in the world", a dynasty under which traditions and customs of Islam flourished and a dynasty under whom Hyderabad developed into a focus for arts, culture and learning and the centre of Muslim India. The Nizams held sway over Hyderabad until 1948, when the State was merged with the Indian Union.
A state located in the south of India influenced by the north Indian and Mughlai cuisine.
When u talk of the rich Mughlai or Nawabi food we cant forget the Hyderabadi cuisine which is unique, a fusion between the north and the south. A rich marriage of 2 cuisines. The word "Nawabi" is as synonymous with the Hyderabadi cuisine as "Shahi" is with Lucknowi. These terms conjure delicacies that are rich in taste and texture with mouth-watering aromas. Hyderabad's 400-year-old culinary history, like its culture, is unmatched by any other state in India. In fact Hyderabad was known for the spectacular way its aristocracy entertained. Of all the Muslim cuisine, Hyderabad is never complete without the mention of the "Shahi Dastarkhan". The Dastarkhan is the Dining place where the food is served and eaten. It is normally a low chowki for the dining table and cotton mattresses for squatting and bolsters for the back rest. The Dastarkhan holds a place of reverence in every household. The Cuisine of Hyderabad has been influenced by various regional and religious cuisines, both Indian and Foreign, despite which it has been able to create an identity of its own. It has also been able to contribute towards making Indian cuisine popular world wide. The "Biryani" from this cuisine is one such example. What makes the Hyderabadi Cuisine special is the use of special ingredients, carefully chosen and cooked to the right degree. The food is very rich, spicy and aromatic, to match their lifestyles. They use plenty of whole spices, Whole cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon are daily used spices to flavour their dishes, also used abundantly are are the key flavours of coconut, tamarind, peanuts, cashwenuts, sesame seeds and chilly(which is used in abundance in the entire Andhra Pradesh). Some exotic ingredients significant to this type of cooking include tamarind flowers, drumstick flowers and leaves, and rosella leaves(rosella is a sour herb which enhances the taste of dishes. It looks like spinach it is also known as Lal Ambari in Hindi). Their style of cooking is also unique, the food is usually slow cooked. It is cooked on Dum. Dum pukht refers to a slow method of cooking food. ''Dum'' means steam and ''dum pukht'' literally means to choke off the steam. The food is placed in a pot, usually made of clay, and dough is used to create a tight seal to prevent steam from escaping. The food is slowly cooked in its own juices and steam, allowing herbs and spices to fully infuse the meat or rice, preserving the nutritional elements at the same time.
Most of their dishes are cooked on a handi (Shallow wide flat bottomed). You could easily say that handis are their favourite cooking vessel. The Masalas or the rich blend of herbs, spices and condiments give the dishes a base, or what is popularly known as "Gravy". Some of these blends are a well-kept secret that pass only down the family line or from the Ustad(Teacher) to his Shagird(Pupil). The head cooks or the "Khansas" were an asset to the household, and were treated with due respect. The "Kebabs" in Hyderabad need a special mention, the "Shammi Kebab" is one such popular dish. The Kebabs are originally from Greece!! The Hyderabadi meal is never complete without the bread from the kilns of the local bakers. The breads from this cuisine are equally popular, be it rich "Sheermal" or "lukmi" (bread stuffed with savory mince meat). Bread is not only an accompaniment to the meal but also forms a base for a popular sweet dish "Double Ka Meetha".

Though most of their fare is non vegetarian, The Hyderabadi cuisine also offers a lot of mouthwatering dishes for vegetarians. It is the only cuisine of the sub-continent that can boast of a major vegetarian element which has much to do with the local influences. Considering that the elite of the erstwhile Hyderabad state came from the north of India and was almost entirely Muslim, this is a little surprising. The nation's vegetarians, of course, stand to gain by it And so do we as my blog is dedicated to vegetarianism and vegetarian cooking.
There is 'Bagara Baingan', a rich spicy preparation of brinjals and Mirchi-ka-salan (Mirch-ka-sabu), a preparation of chillies in a creamy gravy. Apart form these, the 'Tomato Qoot' is an aromatic puree of tomato with flavorings and 'Shahi Dahi Vadas' which are lentil dumplings in Youghurt sauce.
On the dessert menu, Hyderabad is famous for double-ka-meetha (a bread and cashew nut pudding) also known as Shahi Tukda, Badam-ki-Jhab (marzipan or a candy), Another popular sweet dish is the 'Qubani-ka-Meetha' which is a stewed apricot dessert and 'Dil-e-Firdaus', a rich, milk-based sweet are widely eaten. During the festival day of Id-ul-Fitr, it is traditional to serve 'Sheer Korma', the delicious 'Kheer', made with 'Sevian', dried fruits and dates. Apart from these delectable desserts, one can also enjoy a wide variety of fruits like Mangoes, 'Anabshahi' grapes, custard apples, etc. Their sweet dishes are also quite unique and rich. Sweet dishes usually include milk as a major ingredient.

After consuming such rich food, we come to an end of this gastronomic journey with a 'Paan'. Which aids in digestion and serves as a mouth freshner.

Refer to Vegetarian Hyderabadi dishes like the Rumali Roti in my blog

Friday, July 1, 2005

SAMBHAR - Story of the South Indian curry

About South Indian Cuisine
South Indian cuisine according to me is the healthiest of all Indian Cuisines, since it is less in spices andvery light on the stomach.Rice is the staple food down south. Rice forms a majorpart of the meals. The meal is consumed by using the right hand fingers. A traditional full meal is served on a fresh banana leaf comprising of; Rice, followed by paruppu(lentils), servings of ghee which melt in the hot rice giving it that additional flavour and aroma. and with curries Sambhar, Rasam, Kulambu, Rasam - which also at times is consumed straight as anappetizer.3 types of vegetables i.e. a vegetable with gravy(kootu, aviyal, molaghutal, molaghusheyam etc), acurry (Mezhukku varatti, podutuval, poriyal, etc as itcalled by different names) and a patchadi (vegetablesin yogurt); Pickles (spicy and sweet, puli inji(tamrind ginger pickle)) and Pappadam (or Appalam),Paruppu vadai, also combined with sweets or chips orand a banana. After the curries (Sambhar, Rasam,Kulambu) are served, the Payasam (a sweet dessert madeof milk and rice/ vermicelli/lentils) is served beforethe yogurt. Payasam is also served in the beginning(it is believed that every meal should begin with a sweet, indicating sweet beginnings.)
Lastly, is the coolant which finishes the meal that is; the Yogurt or Thair. This is mixed with rice andeaten, all this is washed down with a glass of buttermilk (moru) All this makes a grand meal. A grand meal is never complete without the sweet dessert. Payasam is served at the beginning, before the yogurt is served and again in the end. People consume it according to their choice or at all times.
After the meal, paan or betel leaf & betelnut (vetelai & paku), which freshens the mouth and aids in digestion.

Hats off to the person who invented dosais, idlis, vadas and uttapams, Rice is combined with lentils to make these dishes. After soaking and grinding this into a fine paste, it is fermented; the fermentation process makes it easily digestible.
Chutneys are carefully prepared by grating coconut(only the white portion or tenga poo is grated, stop grating when it nears the cherattai or shell), this part of the coconut need not be wasted, it can be grated and stored in a dabba and used for grinding for cootu or aviyal. The recipe also contains tamarind, curry leaves, green chillies and coriander leaves and salt according to taste
Variations :- Peanuts (variation used for thickness and taste enhancer), Chana ka daali (pottu kadalai, (variation used forthickness and taste enhancer)).
Tip :- The tenga poo must be ground until it releases the coconut milk. Only then will the chutney taste very good.

The South Indian food is a brilliant blend of flavors, colours, seasoning, nutritional balance, fragrance, taste, and visual appeal. Did you know that?South Indian dals and curries are more soupy than North Indian dals and curries. Sambhars are prepared by blending lentils with tamarind, coconut and spices, garnished with coriander and curry leaves.

History of the SAMBHAR
environment.The genesis of this dish has an interesting tale linked to it.The Marathas were ruling Tanjore. Sambhoji was a great cook (male members please note this) and very fond of his amti with a handful of the kokum thrown in. The kokum is native to the western coastal regions ofsouthern India and is rarely seen beyond this area. Even in India it is used only in theEach state in the South prepares it with a typical variation, adapted to its taste and regional cuisinesof Gujarat and Maharashtra and several southern states where large glasses of kokum sherbet are downed during parched summer months. In this region the sweltering heat demands refrigerant (cooling) ingredients in food and drink. Kokum is well known to counteract the heat.Kokum is dark purple to black, sticky and with curled edges. The fruit is often halved and dried, so that the dried seeds are visible in their chambers like a citrus fruit. It is usually available as a dried rind, resembling a thick plum skin. When added to food it imparts a pink to purple colour and sweet/sour taste, a slightly sweet and sour aroma, a refreshing sour taste, slightly astringent. Anyways, coming back to our story, In a particular season the kokum that was imported from the Maratha homeland did not reach the bare larder of the king's kitchen. Sambhoji was cooking and the minions were shivering in their dhothis to tell him that his favourite dish could not be made that day. A smart Vidushak, who had been elected sous chef for the day, decided to solve the problem. He whispered in the king's ears that the locals used very little tamarind pulp to gain a better sourness to the curry and that Sambhoji should experiment with this variation. Voila, the dish with the tuvar dal, vegetables, spices and the tamarind pulp was cooked and served by the king to his coterie. The court declared the dish an outstanding preparation (they had no choice with the king as Chef) and thus was born sambhoji's amti that in time became sambhar.
The divide between the Tanjorians and the Pattars of Kerala was not more sharply delienated than in the making of the staple sambhar. The tanjorians were fearfully called easterners by the Kerala Iyers - they would not give their daughters in marriage to a Tanjore family for fear of ill treatment of their daughters but welcomed the Tanjore daughter-in-law as she could be depended upon to run the family with smartness and acumen - make the vettal kuzhambu(sambhar without paruppu (dal)) more frequently. The price of dal was prohibitive for an ordinary family making its living by rituals and temple largesse. So a spoonful of dal, the paruppu at the corner of your banana leaf was served, labelled auspicious, and the rice was eaten mixed with the tamarind pulp, spices and rice-powder-thickened kuzhambu. The tanjore maatponnu would not use much coconut as well. The kerala sambhar is usually garnished with slightly roasted coconut (tenga poo). Kerala cuisine is rich and a lot of nuts (grown abundantly in Kerala ) are used as a garnish for sweets and in their food as well.
The pitlai, another adaptation from the Maratha kitchen, was the festive dish as was the puli kuthinakoottu - the tamarind pulp added thick stew made with the ubiquitous white pumpkin, karela, yam, raw banana,avaraikka and pudalangai from the backyards of the village homes. The recipe was basically the same with sauteed chana dal, whole red chillies, dhania seeds, heeng and curry leaves with dessicated, roasted coconut ground on the stone and added to the vegetables. The variation was in the raw coconut or roasted coconut and choice of chana dal or urad dal that was ground to a paste and a few grains of til added. In this category the rasavangi (again the Maratha influence, vangi meaning brinjal in that language) also featured with the same basic spices but with the addition of soaked grams like kondai kadalai- the brown chana - or the karamani or chowri -black-eyed beans.
The non brahmins in Tanjore used a ready powder made from the same basic ingredients for their curries. They had one called malli powder which is a mix of red chilli and dhania seeds. The masala added powders were for their meat dishes. The canny Brahmins decided to adopt the powder concept especially when their scions and daughters migrated to Babu jobs in Chennaipattinam, Bombay and Pune and then further north to Delhi. They would make the masala powders and pack them for their children moving to greener pastures for better opportunities, the daughters-in-law were very young, in their early teens and wouldn’t know how to prepare the powder. The sambhar powder came into existence due to the lack of fresh coconut-remember again the Marathis and Gujratis used only Copra and not fresh coconut traditionally until our Nair landed with his excess baggage of coconuts. The Keralites cannot cook without a wee bit ofcoconut, be it sweet, savoury, curry, chutney, dry or wet veggies, tiffin or meals. So the sambhar moved to Kerala. It was taken by the migrant Pattars from Tanjore to Kerala.When the Travancore Maharaja invited the learned pundits to come to the Cheranaadu temples and live off the rice donations. The ground spice paste with coconut, roasted dhania seeds, chana dal, red chillies till today the base for sambhar in a Kerala home. The inclusion of the coconut milk in their cooking was an adapted taste from the local Namboodiris.

Karnataka : The Karnataka people have a unique concept. They make one dish with the coarsely ground paste of pepper,dhania and jeera seeds, red chilli, dal and coconut or copra and made into a vegetable stew. The curry is made quite watery and allowed to sit after cooking. The liquid that floats is ladled out and used as rasamandi the thick bottom portion of the curry is eaten as sambhar. I know that there may be strong objections to this tale but it is typical of the Mandayam and HebbarIyengars. The sambhar that they cook otherwise has a dash of cinnamon and clove added that gives it the special flavour-it is used in their famous Bisi Bela Huli baath. Authentic Bisi bela has only tuvar dal, rice, puli, spices and onions. The addition of vegetables is a later development.

Udipi /Manglorean : Udipi although a part of Karnataka has its own recipe for the sambhar. Can we ever forget the Udipi style sambhar? The taste of which most of the mumbaites are familiar with. The Shetty’s from Udipi and nearby Mangalore landed in their dhotis in commercial Mumbai started hotels(restaurants, cafes) and soon one restaurant branched into many restaurants and has donned the Mumbai landscape. You could give them some credit for making south Indian cuisine so famous and creating a taste for it among people of other communities also migrants in Mumbai, here to try their luck.
The Udipi style (Manglorean) style sambhar has aslightly sweet taste, sugar or jaggery is added to the usual sambhar recipe.

Andhra : The sambhar in Andhra is a Chennai export. They have a penchant for various dry and wet chutneys and powders followed by saaru or rasam. The pappu saaru (Sambhar) is their main curry which is made with either tuvar or moong dal, onions, tamarind pulp, red chilli and dhania powder, heeng and a seasoning of mustard and methi seeds and curry leaves. The curry is thick and after tomatoes entered the Indian culinary list some families add it to the basic saaru. Andhra is famous for its Guntur chillies, supposed tobe very very hot. Andhra sambhar is very spicy and sois their rasam. A lot of ghee is added to the rice tobeat the spice in the food. The sambhar powder has become extremely popular in many homes in Andhra Pradesh as well. As Shakespeare once said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.", same goes for the sambhar as well.
Whatever avatar it dons in the different states, nothing can beat the taste of sambhar. No matter how much of Tandoori / Punjabi or Chinese food we indulge in during the weekends, nothing can beat the hot rasam and beans curry our supermoms dish out on a hungry afternoon. Hope you’ll enjoyed the journey of sambhar, some parts are excerpts from an article which tells the story of sambhar.
I invite more stories from members so that we all can read and enjoy the different stories of how the sambhar evolved.
Hoping to enthuse you’ll with more culinary stories like this.


Related Posts with Thumbnails
LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs