Tag: Indian (page 2 of 6)

Sweet Potatoes with Dried Fenugreek (Inspired by Madhur Jaffrey)

I love reading about food.

P calls it an obsession. “You read food blogs, you watch food TV and you buy more cookbooks!” His point? All these are merely passive activities; you need to get into the kitchen and “get your hands dirty,” as an experienced cook would point out.

Sure, I get “my hands dirty,” and on a daily basis… dinner and lunch, most days of the week. All that being said, there is a certain pleasure derived from reading about food. And it’s doubled when I am eating something delicious at the same time. This routine dates back to childhood. One of the most delicious dishes Mummy used to cook was an okra-potato sabzi, served with piping hot rotis. It was a favorite of G’s and mine. So, on the nights when okra-potato sabzi would be on the menu, G and I would race to the bookshelf and pick out our favorite books. Then, balancing the plate of food in one hand and holding the book in the other, we would each settle down into the comfy sofa chair and proceed to read and eat.

I don’t think Mom or Dad were particularly excited at the habit of reading during dinner (or lunch) but they chose to turn a blind eye. What can I say… they knew the right battles to pick when it came to their daughters.

I picked a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s memoir Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India from the library. I think what piqued my interest was the fact that she is a celebrated cook and I figured that food would feature prominently in the book. And I was right. Madhur Jaffrey hails from the Kayastha community that lived in North India. Affluent and cultured, the Mathur (her maiden name) family enjoyed many luxuries that included good food, music, art, literature and travel. The book contains vivid descriptions of traditional Kayastha dishes, both simple and elaborate, featuring meat, spices, vegetables dried fruit, nuts, etc. The Kayastha community is not traditionally vegetarian, so meat and vegetable preparations are both featured in the book. Yes, recipes are included as well.

Here is a recipe that I adapted from the book. The original preparation features carrots but I used sweet potatoes instead.

2 tbsp oil
1 green chilli (chopped)
Asafoetida (hing)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 lb. diced sweet potatoes
3 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1 tsp garam masala
1 cup fresh cilantro
salt to taste


  • Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, chopped green chilli, asafoetida.
  • As soon as the cumin seeds begin to splutter, add the diced sweet potatoes and salt. Stir well, reduce the heat.
  • Add the dried fenugreek leaves and mix well. Add 2 – 3 tbsp water, let it simmer.
  • When the sweet potatoes are cooked (taste a piece to check for softness), add the chopped cilantro leaves and garam masala. Stir. Turn off the heat.
Sweet Potatoes with Dried Fenugreek

Sweet Potatoes with Dried Fenugreek

This is a simple yet delicious preparation. The mild sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the leafy flavor of the cilantro-fenugreek combination make a good couple. Kasoori methi can be found at most Indian stores, FYI. I think a few drops of lime/lemon juice would be a great addition to this dish. Sweet potatoes cook up in a jiffy and are easy to digest. I hardly ever buy potatoes now, preferring sweet potatoes instead.

Naanstop Indian Street Food

Everyone loves street food and I am no exception. My occasional cravings take us to Mumbai Masala in Norcross where we tuck in to the best chaat in Atlanta, or so my inner persnickety Bombayite street food lover thinks. Mumbai Masala serves the usual routine that includes bhel puri, sev puri, ragda patties, pani puri and other delicious goodies. The food is cheap, fresh and flavorful. Actually, let me rephrase: it is fresh, flavorful and cheap. Sometimes it is a little too fiery for my sensitive taste buds but for most part, Mumbai Masala is my favorite, hands down, when it comes to Indian chaat in Atlanta. And this site bears testimony to that. Just check out the number of posts I have dedicated to this little eatery in Norcross!

Enough about Mumbai Masala; this is a post about Naanstop.

I heard about Naanstop many months ago, but given that it is located in Downtown and I neither work nor live in the neighborhood, I didn’t get a chance to visit until this week. T and I decided to go out for lunch and I thought we could go check out Naanstop, and so, off we went. Parking is a hassle in Downtown, as anyone will tell you. So we drove around the block, trying to find a place to park T’s car. When we found one, T realized that she didn’t have any quarters for the parking meter. I had a few and I fed those to the machine. I asked some of the stores around if they could give me loose change but everyone looked at me as if I was asking them for a kidney! Not very welcoming… until I walked into Dania’s Restaurant where the nice young guy behind the counter happily gave me $2 in quarters. Thanks, thanks!

Finally, we got to Naanstop, a little place on Broad Street, busy and cheerful. The menu is limited and there are only a couple of vegetarian options. It isn’t exactly Indian street food although a few of the items can be easily categorized so. Naanstop’s invention, the Naanwich (think of a pita wrap that uses a Naan instead) is a handy invention and it nicely fits in all manner of fillings and sauces.


I asked for a Naanwich with garlic Naan, Paneer Tikka Masala filling, grilled vegetables and apple-tamarind chutney. Lucky me, I got a piping hot Naan, fresh from the Tandoor, crisp and crackling. I also got a chance to see how it is made. Wish I had taken some pictures. Anyway, the Tandoor is a large pot (of stone?) with a hole at the top. The Naan dough is rolled out, a fistful (or lesser) of minced garlic is added in, and then the Naan is put inside the Tandoor, poked around with a long stick, then taken out when nicely done. You will know when it’s done, I suppose, by the toasty fragrance that fills the air. The garlic gains a slightly charred flavor, losing its sharpness, turning mild. The Paneer Tikka Masala filling was perfectly spiced, red in color. I wish Indian restaurants would stop using red food coloring; the food wouldn’t taste/look any lesser, I am sure! The apple-tamarind chutney was sweet-sour, a perfect foil to the creamy paneer, and the grilled onions/peppers provided a nice crunch to the filling.

Naanwich with Paneer Tikka Masala, Grilled Vegetables and Apple-Tamarind Chutney

I also ordered a side of fries topped with Tikka Masala and Yogurt-Cilantro Chutney. This is a BIG side, almost half a meal. Lucky for me that T was there, so we could share it. This dish is a new invention, an Indian-American fusion item and I liked it… well, a little. The chutneys turned the fries soggy in minutes and I had to throw most of them… sigh.

Fries with Chutney

Another vegetarian filling option is Chhole (chickpeas in tomato-spices sauce, for want of a better description). You can get either that or the Paneer Tikka Masala filling over basmati rice as well. I wanted to sample the Garlic Naan, so I picked the Naanwich instead.

A little detail that annoyed me a little… I noticed one of the guys behind the counter checking the temperature of the food with a thermometer. He stuck it into one of the fillings (chicken, perhaps), took it out, read the temperature. He then rinsed the thermometer in a little plastic bowl of water (that didn’t look too clear, really), then stuck it into another container. I asked him about it and he explained, (a little apologetically, I thought) that he was rinsing the thermometer between sticking it into different fillings. Looked like a situation ripe for cross-contamination issues, hmmm.

Anyway, I would love to go back to Naanstop and I would love for them to have more vegetarian options. Some ideas that come to mind: Potato Patties with Date-Tamarind Chutney, Naanwich filled with Palak/Saag Paneer, Basmati Rice Bowl with Rajma, Basmati Rice and Dal Tadka with a side of lime pickle… A list of delicious possibilities comes to mind!

64 Broad Street NW
Atlanta GA 30303

Vegetarian Eats, Savannah Edition – Part 2

Vegetarian Eats, Savannah Edition – Part 1

Sunday dawned rainy and dull. Decided to walk to Downtown and find a place for breakfast. Ah, Goose Feathers! The cafe was closed the evening before but it was open that morning. So we trooped in. It was almost eleven, so I could have gotten myself a bowl of vegetarian chili. But it didn’t feel right…eating chili first thing in the morning. Regretfully, I let it pass. P’s cousin ordered a plate of Belgian Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream while P got a bowl of oatmeal with apples/cinnamon. I ordered a whole wheat bagel with butter. I think we also got a hot chocolate and/or a cappuccino. I wish I could remember better! Anyway, Goose Feathers is a nice, bustling place. The lines to the counter moved fast and brisk, and the servers kept up the cheerful service. I could/should have ordered the chili, sigh.

The night before, we had gone to Kayak Cafe in Downtown. No pictures, sorry! Funnily enough, it so happened that I was chatting with a friend after we returned to Atlanta and she told me that her husband and she had also gone to Kayak when they visited Savannah! Hungry vegetarians think alike. Kayak has an interesting menu. I would have liked to order the West Indian Trader salad except that it featured curried chicken salad. If only it had been curried tofu salad… Combined with walnuts, mixed fresh fruit, roma tomatoes, cucumbers and a slice of homemade banana bread on organic greens, it would have made for an interesting combination. Well, now I cannot even recall what we ordered. I think I got myself a Roasted Vegetable Balsamico Panini while P ordered a Tofu and Vegetable Quesadilla. Don’t recall what P’s cousin ordered. The food was fresh and flavorful. We ate well that night. Kayak has a youthful vibe and I would go back there in a heartbeat.

Back to Sunday… We went over to Savannah Museum of Art, gawked at versions of the little black dress brought to life by various designers (P was singularly unimpressed but amused) and the other art installations. The rain had turned to a steady drizzle. It was close to afternoon, and so we decided to head home to Atlanta. Learned that there were two Indian restaurants in Savannah and decided to stop at one for lunch. Taste of India was closed, so it was Pakwan where we stopped.

As we walked in and were guided to our table, I looked at the young manager and wondered where I had seen him before. Then it struck me. A couple of years ago, I had attended a Yesplus workshop at Georgia Tech. He was one of the participants on the same workshop. He recognized me too and he knew about this blog! Turns out that his father owns Pakwan. So we asked him to recommend what we should eat. He asked us to order off the menu instead of getting food from the buffet. So we ordered a plate of Samosa Chaat, Navratan Korma, Paneer Makhani and the Bread Basket. As with all Indian restaurants in the US, the server brought us a plate of Papads with chutneys. Then the food started to arrive. The Samosa Chaat was fairly good. The coriander-chilli chutney looked unusually green, I thought! P and his cousin liked the Navratan Korma although I found it a tad too sweet. Actually, that is the predominant flavor of the original recipe, so I cannot really complain. The Paneer Makhani had a buttery gravy, red in color, smooth in texture and perfectly spiced. I wish I had ordered another vegetable dish… Bhindi Pyaaz, Sookhi Sabji or Chana Saag. Well, that’s the menu for another visit, I guess. We couldn’t do justice to the Bread Basket but we did the best we could! The Naans and Kulchas were piping hot, crisp and crumbly.

Eats from Pakwan Cuisine, Savannah

Eats from Pakwan Cuisine, Savannah

My friend insisted that we get dessert. When we demurred, he said that it was on the house. A little bowl of Rasmalai and another containing rice pudding arrived soon after. The Rasmalai was divine! Creamy and pink, perfectly portioned and with the right level of sweetness, I couldn’t have thought of a better ending to this meal. Actually, it is one of my favorite desserts, so my opinion is biased, most likely. P’s cousin cleaned up the bowl of rice pudding and I am guessing it was equally delicious. I couldn’t help noticing the cute copper bowls used to serve the food… very nice looking, indeed.

Bellies full, we stepped into the rain… off to Atlanta!

Kayak Cafe
One East Broughton Street
Savannah, GA 31401

Goose Feathers Cafe
39 Barnard Street
Savannah, GA 31401

7102 Abercorn Street
Savannah, GA 31406

Presenting the Masala Dabba… Spice Box!

Masala Dabba, usually in stainless steel, comes with seven little dibbis, each one carrying a colorful spice, covered by a steel lid. Indispensable in every Indian kitchen. Yes, that about describes it.

When I first moved to the United States, I was entranced with IKEA. I snapped up a set of their cute little glass jars, thinking they’d be perfect to store spices. The transparent glass exterior would render it easy for me to view and pick the spice of my choice. My mother and mother-in-law use the renowned Masala Dabba but I was building a new kitchen, the first one in my life. And I was determined to be different. (Why do we want to forge a separate identity for ourselves? Question for another time.) So I went ahead, picked a bunch of the little glass jars, filled them with spices. And waited. No, I didn’t… 🙂 I set about learning to cook, poring the Internet for traditional recipes. Growing up, neither my younger sister nor I expressed the slightest intention to learn cooking, and my mother gave up on her efforts to make us do so. She wisely decided that when push came to shove, we would learn to cook. And we did.

The glass jars didn’t quite cut it. They looked so hip and trendy but maybe I wasn’t hip enough for them? Aah, well. Anyway, next India trip, I made a beeline to the nearest Indian kitchen appliance store and got myself a stainless steel Masala Dabba with the seven little dibbis. Brought the set home to Atlanta, washed and dried them all, filled them with my favorite spices and seeds. What’s in my Masala Dabba currently?

Take a look.

Masala Dabba

Bright yellow turmeric or haldi (center) – Fragrant, healing, warming, antiseptic

Starting from top right and moving clockwise,
Garam Masala – A unique combination made by dry-roasting and grinding a bunch of whole spices including cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves and others, a little Garam Masala goes a long way! This one came home with me from India.
Mustard seeds – Indispensable to many South Indian dishes! When the seeds begin to pop in hot oil, it is time to get moving!
Dhania-Jeera Masala (Coriander-Cumin Powder) – A light spice combination that brings in a “green” (for want of a better word) flavor to all dishes
Fenugreek Seeds – Excellent digestive properties that have a bitter crunch to them when cooked. I don’t use them as much as I wish I did.
Kashmiri dried red chilli powder – Potent in small doses, a pinch or two does the trick.
Cumin seeds – I throw a couple of spoons into almost every lentil dal and/or vegetable dish I make.

Indian cuisine is not loaded with spices, as many people are wont to think. It is more accurate to state that Indian cooking relies on a huge plethora of spices for its rich flavors and varied taste palettes. However, throwing copious amounts of spices into any and every dish is not a sign of a good cook, although it may very well be the hallmark of chefs cooking in Indian restaurants here in the U.S… sigh. Instead, knowing the essence of each spice and intuiting the best method and quantity to use it, at the right time… these are signs of skilled cooks world over, aware and reflective, intuitive and listening.

These days, my mother (and my mom-in-law) use spice mixes sparingly. With age and experience, maturity and sensitivity, their hands and minds work skilfully, adding a teaspoon of turmeric here, a pinch of red chilli powder there, a cup of freshly ground coconut+cumin+dried red chillies into a pan of cooked amaranth and lentils, a handful of chopped cilantro into a pot of steaming moong dal…. and the end result is harmony, flavor, nourishment, health.