Mizoram – Vegetable Bai

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The other day I had lunch at my friend’s place. It was a fabulous lunch with the Kerala Matta rice (red rice) and coconut oil based curries and sambar. It was a feast for me.

And it would have been a punishment for my husband, had he been there.

Reason? He doesn’t like red rice, says it’s too thick for him. And he hates coconut oil in everything. Funny….he doesn’t like it for the same reasons that I love it!

The point is….food is an acquired taste.

We are fine with what we are used to all our lives. And we find it surprising if someone else doesn’t find it tasty.

Same way, I couldn’t enjoy this dish much as it was a totally new taste for me. But for the people of Mizoram, this is one tasty dish – Bai, a stew kind of dish made with green leaves and assorted veggies.

Recipe: Boil about half a litre water. Add salt and half a tsp of cooking soda. Once the bubbles subside, add stalks, leaves and a few florets of a small cauliflower. Add chopped beans, 2-3 green chillies, one tablespoon rice and one diced potato. Cook in a low heat, adding more water as required, until the rice is done and potatoes and beans are cooked.

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Meghalaya

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They say that sometimes the simplest things are hard to come by. The North Eastern part of India, where the cuisine is simple and close to nature, gave me days and nights of tension as I was not able to find any recipes.

The area is predominantly non-vegetarian, so that makes it all the more difficult. I wouldn’t say these are authentic Meghalaya recipes, but these are the best I could find from the limited sources in the internet.

With people crossing borders for jobs and livelihood, now the cuisine is changing everywhere. The dal-chawal combination is quite common in all the NE states now.

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To help me out, Mireille had sent across a recipe for Dal (called Daineiiong) from Meghalaya. I again had to simplify it since I didn’t have sesame seeds with me. Anyway, the plain dal prepared with mustard oil was quite nice and paired really well with the tomato chutney.

I have never roasted a tomato before! I couldn’t make out too much of a taste difference, but yet this very simple recipe tasted good and was great with the dal. The spinach is just boiled with salt, again – light on stomach and tasty.

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The Menu:

  • Simple Masoor Dal : Pressure cook 1 cup masoor dal (red lentils) until done. In a pan, heat 1 tsp mustard oil, add 1 teaspoon crushed ginger and garlic and saute. Add the cooked dal, salt and let it simmer for 4-5 minutes, mashing with a ladle. *You are supposed to roast and grind 1 tbsp sesame seeds and then grind them with water. This paste should be sauteed for a minute after ginger garlic paste is added. I was out of sesame seeds and couldn’t do this. Recipe source: Mireille
  • Spinach: I adapted this recipe from one for fish. It involves boiling of the leaves with a bit of water, salt and green chillies. I have substituted potatoes for the fish. Wash the green and dice the potatoes. Put in a pan with a bit of salt and 2-3 green chillies. Cover and cook until the potatoes are done.
  • Roasted Tomato chutney: Again adapted from a non-vegetarian recipe. Roast two tomatoes, remove the black skin and keep aside. Pulse (not puree like mine!) this along with 1-2 green chillies, 4-5 garlic cloves, 1 tsp coriander leaves and enough salt. Add 1/2 tsp mustard oil and serve.

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Manipuri Lunch

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Recipes from North Eastern states of India were the toughest to find in this alphabetical journey of Indian states. One reason is the there aren’t many on-line sources. Second is because the cuisine is mostly non vegetarian. The third thing is that the vegetables/greens used for cooking in NE are mostly local and not available in the rest of India.

Assam and Manipur recipes were comparatively easier to find. But for Manipur, I checked with my neighbour for a doable lunch menu. Again, what you see here is what was available in my pantry that day.

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She suggested a dal kind of gravy- called Uti/Ootti. It can be made with dry yellow peas or with green peas. Most on-line resources show recipes for the dry peas. I too had some with me, which I thought would use up this way.

In South, people usually eat rice with veggies on the side. It’s called palya in Karnataka, thoran in Kerala, porial in Tamil Nadu. So if the veggie used is cabbage, it’s cabbage palya/porial/thoran. If it’s beans, then its beans palya/porial/thoran. The Manipuri side dishes are called Kangho. The one here is potatoes and green peas combination.

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The aloo kangmet was quite easy to prepare. Fry red chillies, fry onions and mash it all with cooked potatoes. You are done! It’s slightly spicy, so you need to adjust the chillies accordingly.

Chamfoot is boiled vegetables. It’s like a simple salad. My neighbour told me that sugar can be added if you find the taste too bland.

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The menu:

  • Aloo Kangmet    :   Boiled potatoes mashed with fried red chillies and fried onions.
  • Uti (Ootti) : Pressure cook 1 cup dry yellow peas or fresh green peas with sufficient water along with a spoon of oil, 1 or 2 green chillies and a tablespoon of rice. Once its cooked and the pressure is released, boil the cooked mix for a couple of minutes. Add 1/2 tsp cooking soda and boil again, mashing it well. Add salt, taste test and adjust accordingly. Keep aside. For the tadka, saute chopped onions, couple of garlic cloves, 1-2 red chillies. Add a pinch of jeera powder and coriander powder. Add this tadka to the cooked Uti.
  • Aloo and Peas Kanghou : Kanghou is the regular side dish. It takes the name of the vegetable used to make it. Like our Kerala thoran or Tamil Nadu porial. If it’s carrot, then it’s carrot thoran or porial. Here it’s potatoes and green peas, because that was all left in my pantry that day!! I have used chilli powder and coriander powder as well in this preparation.
  • Chamfoot : Simple boiled vegetable salad. A combination of carrots, beans, bottle gourd, cucumber is used here. A spoon of sugar can be added, for taste (I didn’t).
  • Rice

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Maharashtra Puri Bhaji Thali

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This was one of the earliest posts I did. The state of Maharashtra. This was one of the easiest one as well, since I blindly followed Pradnya’s post, combining it with her rural Maharashtra thali and changing a thing or two here and there.

In India, you are not a mom, if you can’t make pooris. And in my case, it’s not as a mom I have been failing, but as a wife. My son doesn’t like poori, but it’s the man’s favourite food.

And with this thali, the pooris came out brilliant for a change. So the man was indeed happy!

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Pradnya had made a sweetish dal with the thali. I went for a different version, a simple non sweet basic dal.

Varan-bhath (rice with dal) is a meal combination all over India and this is just one version.

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Masale bhath is a spicy flavoured rice. Coconuts, cashew nuts, gherkins all go into this dish. This, apparently, is a regular item in the wedding feast menu.

I found these two write ups about food from Maharashtra quite interesting, A Cook at heart and Food For Thought.

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Meal Idea : The Pumpkin Farm

Read some sweet write ups about food @ A Cook at heart and Food For Thought

  • Puri                 :  Deep fried whole wheat bread
  • Batata Bhaji :  A simple potato preparation, semi-gravy style that goes along with poori or roti
  • Shrikhand    :  Sweetened thick yogurt preparation
  • Varan Bhat  : Plain rice and dal (lentil) combination
  • Masale Bhat : Spiced rice with ivy gourd and nuts, a regular wedding menu item
  • Capsicum Zunka : Capsicum cooked with gramflour, quick and easy recipe
  • Mattha           :  Spiced butter milk

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Madhya Pradesh: Poha-Jalebi and Bhutte Ke Khees

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I tried getting a lunch menu for Madhya pradesh, but wasn’t successful. I didn’t know anyone personally from there and I was not confident about the menu I created.

But browsing for recipes from the region, I realized that there was a totally new dish for me to try : Bhutte ke khees, corn grated and then cooked in milk until its dry. It was a recipe I wanted to try. Apparently it’s famous in Indore, a happening city in the state.

So to go along with it, I decided to feature another interesting combination that I haven’t heard before – Poha and hot-hot jalebis!

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Poha and Jalebi together is a new combination for me and this apparently is a popular street food there. Through this journey of the Indian states, I am learning so many new recipes and new combination of food.

Poha is rice flakes and this is a very simple dish to prepare. It can be modified to include as many vegetables as you want. In my place, this is an occasional breakfast or an evening tiffin/snack to have when you are back from school.

There is a tamarind version and a curd version as well, and I like the first the best. This is a simple version with lemon and potatoes.

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I never thought I would make jalebis at home one day. And the surprising fact was that it wasn’t all that complicated. If you can make sugar syrup and you know how to deep fry, then it’s a breeze.

Now, for me, I am still struggling with both. Yet I was able to get decent results.

The traditional recipe for jalebi requires overnight fermentation. But there is an instant recipe, which uses yeast for rising. I used this recipe. And one main thing to notice is that when they say instant, they MEAN instant. Ie, this recipe is not great for refrigerating and using the batter later (def not in Chennai). And even if you leave it outside for more than 2 hours, the batter rises a lot. So it might spread out more. There will be more holes in the jalebi as well. And more holes means it will soak up the sugar syrup a lot.

So prepare the batter in smaller quantities if you are not planning to make it right away.

 

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Bhutte ke khees is a good exercise recipe for your arms. You have to keep on stirring for about 20 minutes plus. I made only with one corn, but I don’t think that mattered. It took all the time in the world before it was ready.

The good thing was that it was worth it. It’s not a recipe I might try again as it was time consuming, but it’s definitely worth trying once at least.

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The Menu:

  • Poha : A breakfast preparation made of rice flakes. It is paired with hot-hot jalebis.
  • Instant Jalebi : A sweet preparation, that is deep fried first and then dipped in sugar syrup. This is an instant version using yeast. The traditional method uses yogurt for overnight fermentation. Check out this video from Tarla Dalal before attempting this recipe.
  • Bhutte Ke Khees

 

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Kerala Breakfast – Puttu & Kadala

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Sorry..long post. Couldn’t help myself.

Kerala. God’s own Country. The place where I was born and brought up. My home.

They say we don’t know the worth of our blessings until it’s taken away from us. When I was in Kerala, I never appreciated the greenery, the beauty and the laid back lifestyle. All it took was an year in Chennai to learn, love and respect mother nature’s blessings. When you travel in train, there is a noticeable difference in the scenery outside when you enter Kerala. It’s green and pleasant and many-a-times it might be raining as well.

Rain is a big part of the life there. And unlike Chennai, we hardly had the schools off because of rains.

Our old house has a well inside. Yes, inside the house. It was an old ‘nallu kettu’ style house, which has an opening in the middle of the house. Our favourite time pass was to watch the water flow in the small canals (oda) from our windows. We had two such openings, and so it’s an ‘ettu kettu’ veedu.  It’s similar to the one below, but on one corner, next to the kitchen, there is a well. It’s in ruins now :-(, the house, I mean..the well is still fine.

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My place is surrounded by temples. Usually temples have a pond nearby and we have one right opposite our house.

Now, during the rainy season, the water level inside the well increases. But it’s connected to the pond, so the excess water flows off to the pond via some hidden channel and the water level in the well is maintained without overflowing. It’s like marking a ‘maximum height’ point and then connecting to the pond using some pipes (made of what? No idea!!) once the water rises that level.

And the pond is connected to a lake nearby. So there too, when the water level goes beyond a point, it flows off to the lake and hence never overflows.

And yes, it was done centuries back. Some architecture, huh?

But those were the good old days. Now, life is much busier, no one has time for anything, lots of trees are gone, building have come up like mushrooms and the rains are much lesser.

The price we pay for progress!

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The good thing is, the food remains just as simple and just as tasty. That hasn’t changed. After covering the sadya recipes last September, I chose something basic from my native state this time.

Something that you can begin your day with…Puttu and Kadala curry.

Puttu is made with ground rice. The ground rice is then steamed with grated coconut filling in between. Earlier it involved soaking, drying and then grinding of rice. Now, all we need to do is pick up a ready-made ‘puttu podi’ packet from the supermarket aisle.

In olden days, the steaming was done in hollowed bamboo stalk or in a coconut shell. Now we have stainless steel cylindrical tubes, just for this purpose.

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Puttu is a really filling breakfast. It can be served with a whole lot of curries. Kadala curry or chickpea curry is a famous combination. Mutta curry and whole green moong curry also goes well with puttu.

But the simplest and the tastiest way is to have it with milk and banana. Break the puttu and then add a bit of milk to moisten it. Top it with sugar and eat it with a small piece of banana. Childhood memories :-) (Not quite childhood, I still do it :D).

Food has a lot more to do with familiarity than the taste itself. Something that’s tasty for me doesn’t appeal that much to my husband since they weren’t brought upon it. So I don’t make this at home as much as I would love to, because my husband and my son are not from Kerala and they don’t have a connection with this food as I have. Well, that’s the way of life..

Anyway, scroll down for kadala curry’s recipe and the link for puttu.

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Recipe Source: My Friend

Serves : 2-3

For making puttu, check out this link : Puttu. There are step wise pictures, making it easy to understand. For the curry, the recipe is below.

Ingredients:

  • Black Chana/Chickpea            :           1 cup, cooked
  • Onion                                               :           1 small, chopped fine
  • Ginger garlic paste                    :            1 tsp
  • Tomato                                          :             1, optional
  • Coconut milk                               :             1/2 cup, optional

Tempering:

  • Oil                                                   :              2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds                           :              1 tsp
  • Curry leaves                               :              6-8
  • Red chillies                                 :              1-2

Spice powders:

  • Chilli Powder                              :             1/2 tsp (or per taste)
  • Coriander Powder                    :             1 tsp
  • Pepper powder                          :              1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder                     :              1/4 tsp
  • Garam Masala powder            :              1/2 tsp

Method:

  1. Wash and soak chickpeas overnight. Pressure cook the next morning with salt and enough water to cover the chana. After the first whistle, lower the heat and cook for 20-25 minutes to cook the chana thoroughly. Take off the heat and once the pressure drops, keep it aside retaining the water in which it’s cooked.
  2.  In a kadai, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and red chillies. Once the mustard crackles, add the chopped onions. Saute till pink and add the ginger garlic paste. Cook for a minute or two.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, if using. Cook till it’s a bit mushy. Add the spice powders. Saute till it’s a bit brown.
  4. Now, add the chana with the water in which it’s cooked. Check and add salt (keeping in mind that we have added some while cooking the chana) and adjust the other seasoning as well.
  5. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then to avoid burning. You can add more water if the curry thickens too much. Ideally you can stop when the gravy is not runny any more and is slightly thick.
  6. If you want more gravy, you can grind half a coconut into a smooth paste and add it to the curry along with a cup of water and let it simmer for sometime. I added coconut milk powder with 3/4 cup of water and let it cook in low heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with puttu, aapam or even rotis.

Notes:

  • As kids (even now :D), we would add milk to moisten the puttu, then add a bit of sugar to it and eat it with a banana. A pappadam to this would take it to the next level :).Puttu goes well with kadala curry, green moong curry, spicy egg curry. It pairs well with pappadam as well.
  • This kadala curry will go well with aappam as well.
  • My friend sometimes pressure cooks the chana in the night without soaking. She then lets it rest in the cooker overnight. That way you don’t have to wake everyone up by using the cooker in the morning. And no soaking as well. Brilliant!

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Karnataka Oota – Karnataka Mini Meals

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Karnataka is clearly a state that loves food. They don’t just love food, but they come up with their own recipes as well. No South Indian can be away from a masala dosa or Mysore rasam. Who can resist the melt in the mouth, made out of pure ghee Mysore Pak? All these are from the state of Karnataka.

Their akki rotis (rice rotis) are famous and delicious. And their ragi mudde is not only cooling to the body, but healthy as well.

And do you know that kesari, yes – our own sweet semolina kesari, is originally from Karnataka? The wiki says so.

Clearly a state that loves and experiments with food!

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Bisibela bath is another famous dish from Karnataka. It’s our sambar rice, but with a little bit of twist. The basic formula is this : Cook rice, dal and veggies together. Roast and grind masalas for sambar powder along with roasted coconut. Boil tamarind water,salt and let the masala paste cook. Add the rice-dal-veggies to it and adjust the consistency. It’s better if it’s slightly on the gravy-ish side since the rice solidifies as it sides.

All it needs is a simple raita to go along with it. Add on a pappadam/fries and you have a feast!

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Like in most of the Southern Indian states, Karnataka too prefers rice a lot. Their regular cooking has a gravy based dish(varieties of sambar and rasam) and a veggie to go with it.

The veggies can be anything, prepared in a basic – cook it, season it, serve it kind. A bit of coconut is added and it’s called palya. If it’s carrots, that’s made – then carrot palya. If it’s cabbage, it’s cabbage palya and here I have beans palya. A simple uncomplicated way of having your veggies. Give or take a few spices, this basic side dish is same for most of the South.

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Rava kesari is an often featured sweet in Indian homes. It goes by different names in different states. The basic preparation is almost the same. It’s called halwa in the North, Kesari in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and kesari bhath in Karnataka.

It’s basically roasted semolina cooked with sugar. Sugar syrup is made and then semolina is added to it or you can roast the rava, add water and then add sugar. I prefer the second method, since my sugar syrup making capabilities are questionable.

The end result is delicious in both methods and you can make it better by adjusting the sugar measurement according to your taste preference.

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The Menu:

  • Bisibela Bath : A version of Sambar rice where in you have to roast and grind the masalas and then add in already cooked rice and dal.
  • Beans Palya : Beans side dish prepared with coconut
  • Menasina Saaru : Pepper rasam. Sweet, spicy and tangy
  • Kesari bhath : A sweet made with semolina
  • Rice
  • Tomato Mosaru Bajji  : Tomato raita. Onion, tomatoes and green chillies in curd. Pairs well with bisibela bath

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Jharkhand – Chilka roti & Chana Dal ki Chutney

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Once upon a time in a small town, there lived a woman who knew only one breakfast to prepare. Arisi upma. And everyday she prepared it with a lot of love for her husband. But after eating it day in and day out, the husband was bored with the dish. He decided to take her to a restaurant nearby to show her that there are dishes beyond upma.

So off they went to a fancy restaurant. He ordered a porridge/pudding from the menu. And with great expectations, they bit into their lovely looking, all dressed up porridge.

….and the wife blurted out,”Upma!”

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The scene above is not unlike my experience with this chilka roti and chana dal chutney. I didn’t believe Jharkhand dishes would taste like our everyday South Indian recipes. But one bite into this roti and I blurted out,”Ada dosa!”

And a bit of chutney had me shouting,”Parippu thogayal!

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It’s amazing that people in two different zones of the country have come up with very similar dishes. Our South Indian Adai dosa has a combination of lentils and this chikli roti has only chana dal.

The chutney tasted really close to our thogayal which is made of a toor dal and chana dal combination. Though this chutney goes well with the roti, I felt it would pair well with rice and a more gravy-ish chutney would be suited for the roti. This is again because my taste buds are tamed to that way of eating. No other reason.

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The Menu:

  • Chilka Roti : A dosa/pancake like preparation. Rice and chana dal (split gram) are soaked and ground together for the batter.
  • Chana dal ki Chutney : A thick chutney prepared with chana dal, coconut and red chillies.

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Kashmir – Dum Aloo, Khatte Baingan, Saag

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The Mughal emperor Jahangir called Jammu Kashmir as the heaven on earth. A beautiful place, which I would love to visit sometime…

Like I said before, the place I stay has people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. I put this Kashmir thali too with a neighbour’s help. The restaurants had me believe that Kashmiri food was all sweet and nutty. Now, that’s far from truth.

You get really spicy food there, mainly non vegetarian.Given that Kashmir is a very cold place, it makes a lot of sense. My neighbour also suggested radish chutney (its more of a salad, if I am right) and lotus stem curry. I was not able to get these two things, else I would have loved to feature them also here.

Another thing I learnt was that their regular cooking doesn’t include onions and garlic much. If I remember right, turmeric powder is also not used much. The Kashmiri chilli/chilli powder is a must, though.

This khatte baingan was a new recipe for me. This is eggplant cooked with tamarind (khatte means sour/tart).

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Next was the saag. The Kashmiri saag is not easily available here. It’s the knol khol/kholrabi’s leaves. I used a bunch of palak (a variety of spinach) for making this saag.

I followed a recipe on-line to make this simple green leafy preparation.

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And  of course the dum aloo! How can we forget the Kashmiri dum aloo?! Parboiled baby potatoes (again, I had only big potatoes and so I diced them up) deep fried  later and then simmered on a spicy yogurt gravy…

I took a lot of short cuts here and so mine weren’t the royal dum aloos, just ordinary ones :D. I didn’t deep fry, I didn’t even shallow fry the potatoes. Those are just boiled potatoes in the curry. In my enthusiasm, I overcooked the gravy and so ended up with a thicker curry. But anyway, it tasted fine, so no complaints there.

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The Menu:

  • Kashmiri Dum Aloo : A Kashmiri spicy potato preparation, with yogurt.
  • Khatte Baingan : Brinjal cooked in tamarind, sour and tangy in taste.
  • Saag  : Green leafy preparation using palak spinach.
  • Rice

 

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Himachal Pradesh Lunch Thali

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It’s great when you try some new recipe and it turns out well. But when it doesn’t, you know what happens? You have to finish off an entire thali by yourself. And it’s almost a punishment.

After being used to either sweet stuff alone or spicy stuff alone, my taste buds have become stiff and doesn’t like the combination of two in a single dish. The combination of rice and sugar as a dry dish also didn’t suit my palate.

May be I didn’t prepare it the way it’s meant to be. I will really have to try the authentic version before I judge the dish :-).

But until then, I don’t think I will be making meetha rice again.

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The good news is that madri and khatta were good. Both were easy to prepare. Khatta means sour. And this dish IS sour. It was a shock initially, but you learn to like it as you go. It tasted fantastic with curd rice (oh, come on! We have to have curd rice even if it is a Pahari thali :D).

Khatta is topped off with some boondi (ready made, of course) before serving.

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Madra is a yogurt based dish. It’s prepared with chick peas usually. But the recipe I zeroed down finally had potatoes in it. Since I was preparing a chickpea based curry (with dates), I went ahead with the potato madra.

Like Kerala feast is called Sadya, Himachali feast food (for weddings and all) is called Dham. You can read a bit here in this link about Dham.

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The Menu:

  • Khatta : The dish lives up to its name. It’s really khatta (sour). This aamchur (dry mango powder) based curry is sprinkled with boondi and served
  • Meetha Bhaat( recipe in the comments section) : This is a dessert. Rice cooked with sugar, milk and dry fruits.
  • Himachali Madra : A yogurt based chickpea curry. The one I zeroed down was the potato version.
  • Chhole Mithas Liye : Chickpea in a sweet date gravy. I personally didn’t like it.
  • Plain rice

 

 

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