Kolkata Egg Roll

Egg rolls, also know as frankie or wrap are a popular treat from streets of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Flaky flatbreads (parathas) that are rolled from a dough made of flour and shortening and cooked on a heavy tawa(griddle), then beaten eggs are spread on the flatbread. These are then stuffed with ketchup, a fresh salad made of onions, cucumber & cilantro, green chilies and sprinkled with chaat masala. These rolls are sold at every other street vendor and they are delicious, satisfying and have numerous varieties from fish to mutton to chicken stuffed ones.

I can eat these egg rolls everyday, they are so delicious!. In fact these make for an amazing breakfast. My love affair with Calcutta Egg rolls started much before I married into a Bengali family. Delhi is a culturally diverse city and during Durga Pujo you would find a lot of pandals springing up like wild mushrooms all the walled city. The evenings of navami were reserved for Durga Puja pandal hopping. There used to be a big pandal near our house and we used to walk our way there to attend the evening aarti and sample the food from the stalls.

Most of it is a fading memory because its been close to 13-14 years since I went to a pujo pandal but as I write this,I vividly remember the aroma of egg rolls and fried pomfrets that filled the air as well as the vibe.

Making these egg rolls is very simple. Probably the only time consuming part is making the paratha. However, if you don’t want to do that, you can very easily take a shortcut and buy flatbreads from store. Use something which is unleavened, not too thick or thin (don’t use a tortilla though :))

Here is a visual look at how to assemble the egg rolls.

A few things to be kept in mind when you make egg rolls :-

  • Make the dough for the parathas ahead and always always rest it for atleast 30 minutes. You can make the parathas ahead as well, cook them ever so slightly, don’t brown too much, cool them down and stash them one on top of other with a parchment/wax paper in between. Refrigerate for 2 days and freeze for up to two months. If you want to freeze, layer the parathas in a single layer on a plate or sheet and freeze for 3 hours.Once frozen, store them together in a zip loc bag.
  • One egg per roll is more than enough. If you will addd too much egg, it will remain raw while your paratha will become soggy. I like to individually crack and beat an egg for each roll while I make them.
  • Salad :- The traditional salad is onions + cucumbers +green chillies + cilantro tossed with some black salt. However you can add tomato or green pepper as well, it tastes quite good, especially the peppers.
  • Sauces :- Traditionally ketchup is added. However, at my in-laws I saw them using ketchup mixed with red chili sauce (Ching’s brand :)) and it tastes good. I sometimes add little sriracha as well.
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Kolkata Egg Roll

Popular Calcutta style egg rolls made with flakey crisped parathas topped with beaten egg and stuffed with fresh salad and sauce. These make for an amazing take along, finger food.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 rolls

Ingredients

For the Parathas (Flatbread)

  • 2 cup all purpose flour/maida
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Water to knead the dough

For the Egg Rolls

  • 6 large eggs
  • Salt
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • chopped green chilies, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black salt
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Red chili sauce or sriracha
  • Chaat Masala, to taste
  • 6 tbsp Oil, to cook the rolls

Instructions

Prepare the dough for paratha

  • In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, salt and oil. Mix with hands. When the flour can be held in a lump when you squeeze it between your palms, its ready for adding water.
  • Slowly add water and knead the dough well. It should be soft and pliable and not sticky at all. It took me little over 1/2 cup water to knead the dough. Once the dough starts coming together in a ball, moisten your hands with 1 tsp oil and knead for 2 minutes to form a smooth ball. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. While the dough is resting, you can make the salad (recipe below).

Make the Salad & Sauce

  • In a bowl, mix onions, cucumbers, cilantro, green chili along with black salt and salt. Toss well and keep ready.
  • In a small bowl, mix the ketchup and chili sauce (or sriracha). Mix and keep ready.

Make the Egg rolls

  • Take one egg, crack it in a bowl, add salt and using a fork beat the egg lightly.
  • Once rested, divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Roll each portion into a round smooth ball.
  • Roll each portion into a 6 to 7 inch diameter circular flatbread. Don't make very thin or very thick flatbreads. Thin parathas will not take the weight of egg and tear away, thick ones won't crisp and remain undercooked
  • Heat a tawa or heavy pan on medium heat. Once hot, lower the flame.
  • Place the rolled paratha on the tawa and lightly cook for a minute. Flip and cook for 30 seconds on the second side. Lift and place the paratha on a plate nearby.
  • Now, add one tablespoon of oil and pour the egg mixture on oil. Let the egg semi cook for a minute.
  • Place the semi cooked paratha on top of semi cooked egg and press down slightly. The paratha will stick to the egg. Let cook for another minute till the egg is completely cooked. Flip using a spatula and brown the paratha on the other side, you can crisp it as you like.

Stuffing the Rolls

  • Place the egg paratha on a plate and on the egg side, slather a little sauce, then add little salad that we made earlier. Sprinkle the chaat masala and roll it up. You can wrap in parchment or secure with a tooth pick. Repeat for all the parathas. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • Make the dough for the parathas ahead and always always rest it for atleast 30 minutes. You can make the parathas a day ahead as well, cook them ever so slightly, don’t brown too much, cool them down and stash them one on top of other with a parchment/wax paper in between. Refrigerate for 2 days and freeze for up to two months. If you want to freeze, layer the parathas in a single layer on a plate or sheet and freeze for 3 hours.Once frozen, store them together in a zip loc bag.
  • One egg per roll is more than enough. If you will addd too much egg, it will remain raw while your paratha will over crisp. I like to individually crack and beat an egg for each roll while I make them.
  • Salad :- The traditional salad is onions + cucumbers +green chillies + cilantro tossed with some black salt. However you can add tomato or pepper as well, it tastes quite good, especially the pepper.
  • Sauces :- Traditionally ketchup is added. However, at my in-laws I saw them using ketchup mixed with red chili sauce (Ching’s brand :)) and it tastes good. I sometimes add little sriracha as well.

Chicken Manchurian

Manchurian is a widely popular Indo Chinese dish in the indian subcontinent. Sold on streets as well as in good restaurants, it is fried vegetable or chicken dumplings in a  â€˜Manchurian†sauce. Do not confuse the origins of  â€˜Manchurian†sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with the region by the same name in South East Asia. Creatively put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of  India for centuries, imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot sauce with hints of spices.

We are huge fans of Indo Chinese food at home. It is a much needed break from the usual daals and curries for dinner. The flavors are enticing and a lovely balance of sweet spicy tangy umami.

Indo chinese tastes best when you use of Indian condiments – I make it a point to use the brands from Indian store for that authentic taste. However, you can very well do few a substitutions and use your pantry to try this recipe. If you have an Indian store near by, do pay a visit and try to stock on these things to try many other recipes already on my blog. There are many condiments and sauces available, but below is a terse list of sauces from the brand “Chings” which will equip you to make some delicious Indo chinese food at home.

  • Chings Dark Soy Sauce – Its thick and dark and has a strong aroma, not your regular soy sauce used for dipping dumplings or tasting. This robust sauce can stand cooking and is full of umami.
  • Chings Green Chili Sauce – This is hot. Its basically green chillies ground with vinegar and it lends a grassy heat to the recipes.
  • Chings Red Chili Sauce – This is red chilies ground with vinegar and it lends more of a smoky rounded heat to your sauce base.
  • Chings Vinegar or Chings Chili Vinegar – You choose! The latter has chilli notes along with tangy.
  • Chings Schezwan Chutney – Amazing way to start the recipe, the chili garlic base when sautéed in oil lends a beautiful fiery garlicky notes to whatever you are making. It can be served as it is on a side or tossed with noodles and rice, its just super delicious.

Here the machurian sauce is little different from the vegetable manchurian or gobi manchurian I shared earlier. The selection and measurement of condiments different because chicken needs a more robust sauce. You can serve it with fried rice or hakka noodles for a lip smacking meal.

Recipe

For the Chicken Dumplings

  • 1 lb ground chicken (dark meat,dont use ground chicken breast)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tbsp red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Chopped scallions (optional)
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Fresh ground black pepper to tatse
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil to spray (if baking) or enough oil to deep fry

For the Manchurian Sauce

  • 1 tbsp Chings dark soy sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp Chings Red chilli sauce or Sriracha
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp extra hot red chili powder (or to taste)
  • 3 tbsp dark clover honey
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (its a strong unique flavor, can be skipped)
  • 1 cup+1/2 cup chicken stock (you can use 1/2 stick 1/2 water, dont use only water)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (make a slurry with 2 tbsp cold water)
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1-2 thai bird green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 2 scallion stalks, white & green parts chopped separately
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 tbsp vinegar (or to taste)
  • Chopped cilantro to garnish

Serve with – Fried rice, Hakka Noodles, Chili Garlic Noodles

Notes :-

  • Don’t use flavored oils like olive or coconut oil for making the sauce. Neutral Oils are best for the sauce.
  • Use any diced vegetables like bell peppers or baby corn etc in this recipe. Add them after the onions ginger & garlic have finished sautéing.
  • Add more cornstarch if you like a thickish sauce.
  • If you dont want to make ground chicken balls, you can add chicken breast or breaded fried chicken pieces to the sauce. Works great!

Method

For the Dumplings

Mix all the listed ingredients except oil in a large bowl. Gently mix everything together using spatula first and then if needed with hands without squishing a lot. Let the mix rest fir 10-15 minutes. If you feel its too sticky (depends on water content of your mince, add another tablespoon of cornstarch). Oil your palms and make lime sized balls with the mixture.You should get about 12-15.

If you are baking:- Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large sheet with parchment. Place the chicken meatballs in a single layer and spray or brush linberally with oil. Bake for 8-9 minutes until the meatballs are firm and whitish from outside. They will finish cooking in sauce.

If you are deep frying – Heat up 3 inch oil in a frying pan. Fry chicken meatballs a few at a time until golden and crispy on medium heat. Drain on a paper towel.

Set the cooked chicken meatballs aside.

Make the Sauce

In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, red chilli sauce, tomato puree, coriander & red chilli powder, sesame oil and honey. Taste this concoction a tiny bit once (this is a strong paste right now) and you can adjust the heat or sweetness as you wish. Keep it ready.

Also keep all the chopped vegetables and cornstarch slurry ready. Warm up the chicken stock a bit. Keep everything ready to go because this sauce comes together very fast once you start cooking.

In a wide wok or heavy bottomed, heat up the oil on high. Once the oil is smoky, add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger scallion white parts and green chillies all at once. Saute for 2-3 minutes until you smell a nice aroma. If you are using any vegetables, now is the time to add them and saute on high heat for 1-2 mins. Dont cook a lot, they will be perfect by the end of cooking. I did not add any vegetables.

Add the soy sauce mix we made earlier to the wok. Saute for a couple minutes on high heat continuously stirring and then add the warm chicken stock. Add the salt to taste. Reduce the heat to medium and let the stock heat up. You will start to see bubbles on the sides. At this point add the baked chicken meatballs and let them finish cooking for 2-3 minutes or so in the sauce. Dont add the meatballs if you deep fried them (We will add at the end).

Add the cornstarch slurry next and let simmer for 2 minutes until the sauce is a bit thick and smooth. Switch off the stove. If you deep fried the meatball, add them now. Add the vinegar and green parts of the scallions along with some fresh chopped cilantro. Mix together gently and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Hot & Sour Chicken (Indo Chinese)

If you asked me about what eating out during childhood years meant, I would have nothing vivid to recollect about fine dining and celebratory dinners. Except for may be the street foods which we gorged on every other evening at Arun Chaat Bhandar, a tiny one room eatery which had been around ever since I have known,the restaurant trips were rare. More so because my grandmother and mother had this undying wish to recreate all kinds of food in their kitchen and less because eating out was not as big part of the indian culture during the 1980s as it is now-a-days. You can gauge that from the fact that whenever I tell my mother about anything non indian food that my daughter likes her play school, she asks me to look up the recipe on internet and cook it for her. ‘Ghar par hi bana do, accha rahega“, cook at home, it will be far better in taste, she tells me. Well, we will keep it for another day as to how I go about her suggestions (wink!) but coming back to my chidlhood days, other than the chaat corner, the other place that me and my siblings looked forward to was indo chinese food at ‘Sabus‘, a neon red-painted food van permanently situated at the front of the back wall of an old housing complex, itched with graffiti of an indian comic character, Sabu, a monstrous alien from planet Jupiter, huge & strong, bald and muscular,always wearing gumboots. It would be slightly untrue to state that we loved eating at that van just because of the noodles, there was more fun in the form of free stickers, liquid filled transparent chopsticks and cheap stamps if you placed a large order. Unlike the food trucks in the States, that red van without tyres was a lot dilapidated, with a much tamed down kitchen as far as cooking facilities & techniques available, but the food from there made sure that the street infront always smelled of soy & spices. You know that burnt, fermented savory ‘stink’?, when the soy bubbles & splutters when as soon as it hits the hot as volcano wok, that! As I write this, I can still remember the taste of food there from some 20 years ago, of the greasy chowmein and the scarlet colored chilli chicken. “It’s all in the wok”, the little Nepalese guy with golden hair and wrinkly forehead replied whenever questioned about his recipes or where he got his condiments.

My mom has been making this hot and sour chicken for so many years, the only difference being that she serves it with a runny sauce than what we ate at Sabus. I follow her recipe mostly except that I do not deep fry the chicken, rather lightly sear it before proceeding to make the sauce.This recipe is more of for an appetizer or starter course than the mains, however the husband insists on combining it some steamed jasmine rice each time. Any which way, the way that garlic & hot chili laced sauce with hints of tomato, soy and fresh cracked black pepper combines with vinegar soaked succulent morsels of chicken is just too delicious. Try it!

A tangy fusion dish of vinegar soaked chicken stirred with garlic – chili paste, soy and spices. 

  • 1 lb boneless chicken thighs,skinless
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce ((I use Chingâ€s brand)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, fresh cracked
  • 1.5 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoon of oil (for skillet frying)

Notes:

  1. Use tofu, paneer and assorted vegetables for a vegetarian version of this recipe.
  2. If you would like to deep fry the chicken before adding to the sauce, mix 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon corn starch when you marinate.

For the Sauce

  • 6 fresh garlic pods
  • 2 whole fresh Fresno chillies (or any hot chili pepper, adjust to tolerance, de seed if you like )
  • 2 teaspoon dark soya sauce (I use Chingâ€s brand)
  • 2 tablespoon chilli tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet, substitute with Sriracha & 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or use 1.5 – 2 tablespoons Sambal oelek )
  • 1.5 tsp honey (or brown sugar, adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon pure, untoasted sesame oil (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water
  • 3-4 tbsp oil (I used sunflower, use any neutral oil)
  • 5 scallion stalks, white & green cut separately
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1.5 – 2 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste, or use a few dashes of balsamic vinegar)
  • For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts)

Method

Preparation

Clean the chicken, pat it dry. Cut the cleaned chicken into bite size pieces. Rub it with garlic, chili, soy sauce, salt & pepper, vinegar and let sit for about 25-30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, using your mortar and pestle or mini processor, crush the garlic and Fresno chillies to tiny bits.You could use some water if required for blending.

In a small bowl, mix up the soy sauce, chili tomato sauce, honey and sesame oil(if using). In another bowl, mix the cornstarch with the stock and set aside.

Cooking

In a wide skillet (I used my 12″), heat up 2-3 tbsp of oil on high. Pick up the marinated chicken pieces, shake to release vinegar and layer on the skillet and let sear on both sides, flipping in between. Make sure that the chicken pieces cook all the way through. This may take about 7-8 minutes or more depending on the size of pieces.

Once done, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and reserve the drippings in the skillet itself.

Add the 3 tbsp oil into the same skillet and heat it up on medium. Add the crushed garlic chili paste  and fry up these for 20-30 second or so till you smell the aroma. Be careful that the garlic does not burn (else it will be bitter). Next add the chopped onions and scallions (white parts) and cook on medium high for 3-4 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the tomatoes next and let cook till they begin to soften. Next, add the ginger along with the soy sauce mix made earlier, let cook for 3-4 minutes till everything starts looking glossy or till you see bubbles on the sides. Next, add the cornstarch mix to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-3 minutes till the sauce thickens slightly.

Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the red chili flakes & vinegar to the skillet and stir everything well. Add the chicken & toss so that the pieces are evenly coated.

Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.

Roasted Flattened Rice & Spiced Sweet Peas (Chivda-Matar)

Many times, it really takes a beating to make favorite foods from childhood healthier. I don’t know. I always feel that childhood could absorb all that gluttony of sweets, fat and carbohydrates. Not that now my metabolism won’t permit, but my mind seriously watches goes into my system. When I was changing this recipe of fried chivda(flattened rice), a favorite snack from my years of growing up and an immensely popular street food in the northern parts of india,usually served in soiled newspaper cones, I wanted the flattened rice to make the same crackling cripsy sound between my teeth as it should  but did not want to sink it down in a pool of hot oil. I wanted that rich salty grease from it to drown my tastebuds and coat the roof of my palette but did not want to witness the flakes swimming and popping inside oil. Not really.

You know sometimes, you might feel that the close-to- perfect meals that you see on this blog are easy and I work wonders like michelin chefs in my home kitchen,but truth be told, on few days, there are bundles of failures and wastage (eeeks) associated with experimenting while cooking .It happens al the time with me, I dream of something and the reality of the finished dish is not so awesome. Anyhow,while I turned to my try-new-things idea, out came the cookie sheet and on the lines of making granola, I set out. I tossed the flattened rice in tablespoons of oil and actually used all the patience I could muster at that ungodly hour of the night to lay it in a single layer. I might have gone  a bit too far by actually trying to separate each and every rice flake from the other with help from chopsticks under the dim night kitchen lights. Hmm. Into a low oven for under half an hour and out came the baking sheet. My fears came to life when the rice did not look or smell up to the mark, not like I dreamt it to be. I would not categorize it as inedible but the long story short, the granola procedure failed me.The count of  beating went another notch up. Some other  time,I told myself and retired to bed.

Then another day, in the bright of the noon, I took out the trusted cast iron skillet, heated oil to smoky and sizzled rice flakes in it and then with a lot more patience on my side, watchfully, slow roasted the chivda, stirring it continually with fork to a crispy goodness, sniffing it, observing how the toasted brown to a bowlful, one which crinkled in the mouth and coated the tastebuds with salty fat. I got it.

When we were kids, 5 pm foods were the best.No jokes. From piping hot samosas and jalebi from the neighbourhood halwai (sweets vendor) or instant noodles from neon yellow pouches, curry puffs and puddings, fruit shakes to potato balls, it was real fun everyday to see mom, badi mummy(my grandma) and aunts cook up new things for us.This chivda (flattened rice) is one from those days. During the spring and early summer season, fresh peas were tossed in cumin and green chillies and served along side. The rustic, mish mash snack plate of sorts is a burst of textures – sweet, salty, smoky and hot. The chaat masala and bits of ginger combine with the sweetness of those peas to make up a pleasing bite. I could never get the same taste with frozen peas, you need to make this before the fresh pea season lasts. Whats more? Its gluten free, vegan and tad healthy. Go make some. Now.

 Printable Recipe

Both the components of this recipe can be done ahead. Roast the chivda (flattened rice) and store it in air tight jar for up to a week. I usually make the peas 3-4 hours ahead (they have better flavor if they sit for a while) and warm up later but you can totally make them when ready to serve.

Ingredients (Serves 4-5)

For the Roasted Chivda (Flattened Rice)

  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 2.5 cups thick poha (flattened rice, available in any indian/pakistani stores)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional  – add any nuts or seeds of choice, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds etc

For the Spiced Peas

  • 10oz (about 280 grams) shelled fresh peas, blanched
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (about 2.5″ piece of ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  • 2-3 Thai green chillies (or adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala 
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon chaat masala (skip if you do not have, and add fresh lemon juice to taste)
  • 1.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (from 4-5 stalks, optional)

Method

Roast the Chivda

In a wide, cast iron skillet (I use my 10″) , heat up the oil to the point that it about to smoky. Put off the stove. Take a fork in one hand and start adding the flattened rice with the other, continuously stirring else it will burn. Add all of the rice, and stir so that all the flakes are coated in oil. Add the salt and stir to combine. Return the skillet to stove and on low heat, let the rice toast up. Keep on stirring it a lot of times, else it will burn and you will see that the flakes start to change color. You will smell a nutty aroma too. It takes about 8-10 minutes on low heat for the rice to completely roast and turn pale brown. This time will depend on the variety and thickness of flattened rice you are using. Adjust.

Once the flattened rice has roasted, let it cool down completely. Transfer to an air tight jar. Use a clean, dry spoon to serve it. Store up to a week.

Make Spiced Peas

In a wide pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.Add the chopped onions to the pan and let the onions cook till transculent.Don’t brown them.Next, add the chopped ginger & green chili to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the blanched peas next along with garam masala and salt to taste. Stir to combine and let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chaat masala and chopped cilantro next and stir fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.Take care that the peas do not turn mushy.

Put off the heat, add fresh lemon juice.

To serve, plate up the roasted chivda and spicy peas. Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top along with a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Enjoy with a cup of chai.

Thank you for stopping by!

Stay Spicy.

 

Hot & Tangy Pan Fried Fish (Chatpati Macchi )

Growing up, we ate ridiculous amounts of fish. Friday was precisely the day to turn to our local fish monger, who proudly called a dimly lit, dilapidated tiny room as his shop but boasted of best quality fish in the neighborhood. The place smelled of salt and sweat and was choked with buyers most part of the day. There was the owner and two helpers who sat at the back corner of the room, cleaning and cutting fish at a constant pace, hardly lifting their heads to see what was going on around them. They did not talk to each other or exchange glances, those expressionless faces often left me wondering as to what their motivation could be to come to this job everyday. Anyhow, the owner solely dealt with each customer and maintained level-headed heated & humorous bargains. The regulars, obviously had a better chance compared to everyone else to snatch an unbeatable discount.

On each visit, I saw my dad, inquiring the price of one variety more than a couple of times, smirking, looking at him and then quickly pointing to some other variety in few minutes,repeating the process with all the seafood infornt of him. After good fifteen minutes or so of this (almost) wordless conversation, just looking at  each other, soft smiles and the owner came out with his  best offer. In less than ten minutes, we were headed back home, walking hand in hand, thinking about fish meals later in the day.

This is usually a way of life in India. Bargaining. Close association with store owners and vendors, knowing a little more than usual about them, discussing with them, arguing with them, saying the hardest, listening the heartiest, it is often enjoyable and seldom effortless. After living in States for all these years, everytime I go to India, I vouch to put forward my best foot when out strolling and shopping in the bazaars, much to the disappointment of mum who thinks I have kind of lost my skills.

Eating fresh water fish is another agenda when visiting. Mom’s fish curry with in season rohu(carp) or fried fish with surmai. This spice rubbed pomfret is another favorite and so is this mustard laced light fish curry. You could get an idea from all these recipesthat I have already shared here about how serious my love is for all seafood.

I am really lazy when it comes to cooking just for myself. If it’s not buttered toast or scrambled eggs for lunch,this quick, pan fried fish is what you will find me pampering myself with for the past couple of months. It is pretty simple and fast to put together and differs completely from another pan fried fish I have posted earlier. This recipe relies on warm flavor of ginger, sharp garlic and the grassy heat of green chillies along with a tang from vinegar & chaat masala to  give the required acidity as well added notes of  heat. I pan fry the fish in virgin mustard oil, you need to try fish cooked in it to know how awesome it tastes but olive oil will work fine too. Also, broccoli or zucchini is my preferred side with seafood, however you can serve some rice pilaf or lentils too.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 lb fish, cleaned( I use Tilapia, I asked my butcher to cut in into 4 thick pieces. Or use ready to use thick fish fillets)
  • scant pinch turmeric powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughy chopped
  • 2 inch fresh ginger shoot, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1.5 tablespoon oil (grapeseed or canola)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard (or use bottled kasundi sauce)
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon chaat masala (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1.5 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 or 2 tablespoon rice flour (or as needed)
  • salt to taste
  • Mustard Oil ( or grapeseed/canola oil)to cook
  • chopped cilantro, lime wedges to serve

Notes –

  1. If you do have chaat masala, add 3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika to the marinade.

Method

Pat the fish completely dry using paper towel or kitchen towels.Sprinkle with turmeric and set aside.

Meanwhile, using your mortar and pestle, smash the garlic, ginger and green chillies to a coarse paste.

In a medium bowl, add this paste along with all of the ingredients listed except the rice flour to form a marinade.Rub the fish with this marinade. Let sit refrigerated for atleast 30 minutes or not more than 1 hour.

When ready to cook, set the fish out of the refrigerator.

In a heavy bottomed, wide pan (I use my cast iron) , heat up 1-2 tablespoon of oil on medium. Mix the rice flour 1/2 tablespoon at a time with the fish. The liquid in the marinade and from the fish should be enough to moisten the rice flour. We are not looking for any batter or flour dredging here. The flour will scantly stick on the fish here and there. If you feel that you have added too much flour, use 1-2 tablespoon of water. If you feel that the marinade is still runny (this will depend on the variety and water content of the fish), add more rice flour.

Pan fry the fish on medium low heat in a single layer, flipping midway to brown on both sides. It took me about 3 minutes per sides. (If your fish cut is thicker, it will be more time to cook and vice versa).

Sprinkle with some chaat masala and red chili flakes as soon as the fish is cooked, if you would like (depending on how tangy or hot you like)

Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top. Serve immediately with lime wedges, steamed broccoli or choice of steamed vegetables, rice pilaf or lentils.

Rabdi Falooda With Rose Jelly (Vermicelli Dessert)


This recipe is my take on the popular indian dessert called ‘rabdi falooda‘, which is basically vermicelli (falooda) soaking in sweet thickened milk(rabdi) and consisting of a burst of texture in every bite, studded with chopped nuts & soaked basil seeds and is usually topped with a big scoop of ice-cream.

To me this dessert brings with itself the memory of my college days. When we set out in the wee hours of the morning for a tour of the city. Shopping in our minds and skipping breakfast so that we could start as early as possible, hopping on to three or four buses (the Delhi metro was not operational back then) and changing routes as per bus schedules that day, we measured length and breath of the city to reach our favorite area in the south of Delhi. If you reached the place by 11 in the morning, the day presented myriad way to shop, eat and relax.Not only you could choose and bargain with the vendors for chunks of bohemian jewelry but reaching early would also mean that the time spent in queue at the eating joints would be less. What I would have on my mind since morning were the silky smooth milk shakes and dense rabri falooda in the tallest tumblers available. After a tiring day, I inhaled the chilled rabri falooda like a portion of ambrosia – full of textural bites and smelling of rose and cardamom.

The weather in my part of the world has already touched 80 F and we could not have asked for a better dessert for Holi (indian color festival) last week. This dessert, or if you want, call it a thick sweet cold beverage is served with a straw as well as a spoon.It is an immensely popular as a street food in Delhi but maybe not so much in the rest of India(I could be wrong!) since it was the husband’s first time sampling it.

There are many flavors and combinations that can be done- strawberry, orange, vanilla or butterscotch but my favorite has always been the rose. Prepare the ingredients before you start layering. Add as much or as little of whatever you want. You can use any flavor of jelly or icecream. The loaded the better!So exotic and extremely cooling on a warm day. It is something you are bound to like. I made it last week and served along with homemade rose jelly thrown in. It was well received and all I could say is that I wish I could have made a little more.

Prepare the ingredients before you start layering. Add as much or as little of whatever you want. The loaded the better!

Ingredients (Makes 2-3 servings)

  • 1 package falooda sev ( 2 oz, or use colored or plain vermicelli)
  • Rabdi, as much as you like (recipe below)
  • Whipped Cream, as much as you like (recipe below)
  • Ice cream, as many scoops you like
  • Rose Jelly, as much as you like (recipe below)
  • Rose Syrup, as much as you like
  • Chopped pistachios or almonds, as much as you like
  • Chopped fruits, any kind, as much as you like
  • Tutti fruitt
  • Soaked holy basil/tukamaria/sabja seeds, as much as you like

For the Rabdi

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2-4 tablespoon sugar (adjust quantity depending on how sweet you desire)
  • 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder

For the Rose Jelly

  •  3 tablespoon water, room temperature
  • 1.5 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 4 tablespoon rose syrup (easily available in indian/pakistani/middle eastern stores, I use this )
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

For the Whipped Cream  

  • 1/2 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1.5 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • pinch green cardamom powder (optional)

Notes

  • Use a dollop your favorite ice cream on top.
  • You can add chia, sunflower seeds for extra crunch.
  • If you do not get rose syrup, use strawberry syrup at the bottom layer and for making jelly.

Method

Making Rabdi (This can be done 1-2 days in advance)

Pour whole milk into a heavy, deep bottom pot (preferably non stick) and put on stove on medium low heat. Let the milk cook till it is reduced to half the quantity.You will need to stir every few minutes or so, make sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. You can scrape the sides as you stir(this kurchan or lacey thick milk is important to the the texture of rabdi). The milk will thicken and change color to pale. After about 30-40 minutes, you will see that the milk liquid has evaporated and thick solids remain. is thickened. Take off the stove.

Let cool down slightly (about 5-8 minutes). Th milk will be almost custard like. Add sugar & cardamom powder and mix well. Let sit to cool down completely.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or till ready to use.

Making the Rose Jelly (This can be done 1-2 days in advance)

In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoon water and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let bloom.

Meanwhile, in a small jug/tumbler, mix together hot water, rose syrup, sugar and lime juice. Stir so that sugar has dissolved. Add the bloomed gelatin to it.

Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to cool down.

Pour into a small square glass dish and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Once chilled and set, unmold (by running a sharp knife along the edges and tapping the bottom of inverted dish) and using a sharp knife cut into squares.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Making the Whipped Cream (This can be done 1 day in advance)

In a cold bowl, using a whisk or hand mixer, whip up the cream to soft peaks. Add powdered sugar 1/2 tablespoon at a time and whip to incorporate.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Making Rabdi Falooda

Cook the falooda sev or vermicelli as per package instruction.Let cool completely. Toss the noodles with rose water.Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Keep all the components ready to go.

Layer however you like. I never make tow falooda same! Start with 1 tablespoon rose syrup at the bottom of a tall glass. Add the chilled faloooda(or vermicelli). Add 2-3 tablespoon of cold rabdi. Top with 1 tablespoon chopped nuts, add ice cream scoops and 1-2 cubes of rose jelly.

Repeat 2-3 times to make a layered dessert. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Scatted nuts or tutti frutti.

Serve chilled.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Dal Makhani – Creamy Lentils



You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cooker to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.

Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.

In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something away from the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signature recipe.It’s one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.

It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of  crazy family.

A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.

Ingredients  (Makes 3-4 servings)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup whole black urad dal (lentils)
  • 2 tbsp red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tejpatta (bay leaf)
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Baghaar (Tempering)

  •  1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
  • 4 tablespoon oil(any neutral)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoon butter 
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
  • Cilantro to garnish

Method

Cooking the lentils  (This can be done a day ahead)

Stove Top Method 

Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. Open the pressure  cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.

Slow Cooker Method 

Add the cooked beans along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.

For the Tempering 

While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and  peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).

In a pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced  garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4 cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.

Once the lentils have simmered, add the kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.

Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads).

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Aloo Jhol-Poori (Spicy Potato Curry & Fried Puffed Flatbread)

Long railway journeys.Picnics.Lunch.Festivals.Breakfast.Street Side Eating.Snacks.Dinner. Name the occasion and ‘poori‘, this deep-fried,unleavened bread has been my companion. Thin, thick, staining fingers with oil, flavored with ajwain(carrom seeds),crispy yet soft – this little puffy bread  has been a steady thing in our kitchen, bringing us comfort and gluttony(sigh!).I could trade saturday pancakes for these, for they will bring the same deliciousness to the table.

Poke your finger to puncture that crispy skin on top, bloated from the heat of deep-frying and chew on it. Combine it with a spicy potato curry or jhol and you have an overdose of carbs, but, trust me you could feel bad before eating these or after, but, never ever while eating jhol-poori 🙂.It is not a that healthy,’superfood’ thing, but most good things in life bring a fraction (or more) of guilt with them! Or so I think.

Chopped or pureed vegetables like spinach and methi (fenugreek) leaves are many times added to the dough as variations. You could add a lot of or less powdered spices as per your liking. You could even mix up flours – semolina, cornmeal or all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour and fry up. The tastes and texture changes but the dough takes all for there is hardly anything deep-fried which tastes less than lavish. You get what I mean,right?

A hot cup of chai,stale pooris  slathered with chutney or pickles rolled cigar like is how enjoy it the most but traditionally pooris are served with a side – usually a spicy potato based dish(though in many parts they serve with meats and fruit purees too) and essentially achaar(pickle), mango or lime in my grandma’s house.In my family, the side curry is cooked without onion and garlic and I still make it the same .However there are no rules, if my grandma was short on time, she would sometimes slice a few sweet mangoes or so with them. Basically, you get the idea – its is delicious with just about anything.

Jhol Poori is a combination which makes an appearance atleast once a month in our house if not more. In my mums house, this is typical Sunday breakfast. While I knead the dough, the pressure cooker hisses and the potatoes boil inside. My mom always always cooked aloo John in ghee and I do the same, the taste is so amazing. If not, you can use normal cooking oil to make it. A quick tempering with simple aromatics-pungent hing(asafoetoda),smoky cumin & turmeric hit the hot ghee along with tomatoes, green chillies & ginger, awkwardly crumbled potatoes join the pot, simmer for under twenty minutes or so and done. While traditionally jhol is a term used for much thinner, almost water like consistency, we like ours on the thickish gravy side, just go stingy on the amount of water that you add, everything else remains the same.

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Poori (Puffed Fried Indian Flatbread)

Deep fried puffed flatbreads made with whole wheat atta. These are best served with a spicy aloo curry.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 pooris

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup atta (durum wheat flour)
  • 2-3 tbsp oil for dough
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ajwain
  • room temperature water
  • Oil for deep frying

Instructions

  • In a wide dish or large bowl, mix flour, salt, oil and ajwain. Mix well to combine.
  • Adding little water at a time, start kneading. I used a little over 1/2 cup of water. Add water slowly until there is no dry flour and then bring together and knead using your knuckles and fingers until smooth for about 8 minutes or so until the dough appears smooth and is firm to touch. The dough should not be soft.
  • Cover with damp flour and rest for 20 minutes.
  • Divide into equal portions.Roll each portion between palms to make balls(about the size of a lime).
  • Set about 2 inches of canola oil  for deep frying to heat up in a kadhai or in a dutch pot.
  • Keep a a little oil nearby. Start with 1 ball at a time, dip the ball in bowl of oil,  flatten it lightly on the rolling board and with the help of a rolling-pin, roll into a 3" or 4" circle, about 1/8 thick. When you are rolling, you could slather some oil if  dough sticks.
     It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you do not get perfect rounds its okay, doesn't affect the taste. When you are rolling the dough you can lift it and move it around to get a round of uniform thickness.
  • To check the temperature of the oil, pinch a small portion of dough and add it to the oil, it should quickly rise to the top without changing color. If the dough rises slowly or remains at the bottom,wait for the oil to heat up more.
  • Once the oil is hot, fry rolled pooris one at a time, flipping once, lightly pressing with a slotted spoon (else it will not puff up), until puffed and golden brown, about 30 to 45 seconds. Drian fried pooris on paper towel. Serve.
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Aloo Jhol/ Hing Vaale Aloo

A spicy potato curry usually served with pooris. These potatoes are cooked without onion or garlic and spiced with ginger, hing and cumin seeds in a tomato based sauce.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium boiled potatoes
  • 3 tbsp ghee or cooking oil
  • 3/4 tsp hing powder
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 green chili, slit
  • 1.5 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp hot red chili powder, adjust to taste
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1.5 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 cup water, or as needed
  • Chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • Peel the potatoes and using your hands light crush them into random pieces. Set aside.
  • In a cooking pot, warm up the ghee on low medium.
  • Once ghee is hot, add hing and then crackle the cumin seeds. Next add the ginger and green chillies together and saucer10-15 seconds.
  • Next, add the powdered spices – coriander, turmeric and red chili powder to the pot. Ad 2 tbsp water so that the spices don't burn. Saute the spices in ghee for 2 minutes or so till you smell a nice aroma.
  • Net add the tomatoes and sauce them for 4 minutes or so until you see ghee bubbles separating on the sides.
  • Add the potatoes now, sprinkle salt, mix well and sauce themfor 2-3 minutes with tomato and spices.
  • Add the water next and let come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Halfway, open the lid and mash a fe potatoes using back of the spoon, this helps in thickening the curry.
  • Switch off the stove and add the amchoor and garam masala. Mix and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Reheat, garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Vegetable Manchurian



If there has to be a dish that I overindulged on during college days, it has to be Manchurian – chicken, cauliflower, vegetable, dry, gravy, sweet,spicy, salty, you name it and I would raise both my hands. With that extra cash at the end of the month, saved from pocket-money each week, I, along with few other girls could be found in all sorts of street side places in and around the college or hopping onto public transport to far away Dilli Haat.There would be plates of greasy noodles, lightly crispy vegetarian(or not) deep fried dumplings coated in spicy manchurian sauce, gossip, laughter, half-finished assignments and a compulsory side of fruit beer for late lunches.

Having said that, indeed my appreciation for this ever so popular indo chinese dish stems from those days. Mum hardly made it, for cooking indo chinese at home is slightly redundant when you are living in India because (almost) always you will end up comparing  it with that fantastic taste from the sloppy joints at street side. So while the hotspots around the city are to be held responsible for  my insatiable  appetite towards indo chinese, I never made it at home, it was only after I moved to States some five years back that I tried recreating it at home. Take chicken in hot garlic sauce or fried rice, talk gobhi manchurian or spicy schezwan noodles,by the end of the first couple of  months here, I started getting there, developing recipes with the memories of how they should taste in my head and trying to replicate that inside the super hot wok. The fact that the husband shares my love for indo chinese fare and we kind of got tired of consuming overly sweet chili chickens & hakka noodles tossed with snap peas & broccoli (yikes!) and accepting the fact that the restaurants here just do not get it(or we like to think so),it was exciting to see those similar tastes turning on our meal tables from our own kitchen.

When you make indo chinese, besides ingredients, bring along a lot of patience to the cutting board. Spend the late afternoon mincing garlic and chopping ginger.Shred those carrots and cabbage finer than you think you would need, sniff and taste that mix of soy sauce with coriander & turmeric and shy away from de seeding those hot chillies, coz boy is this one spicy cuisine or what?This vegetable machurian recipe has stayed in my kitchen for few years now. I often make it on non-meat eating days or when I have a stash of miscellaneous vegetables that need to be used up right away. I would not say that deep-frying them is the best option but then you are not eating fried chicken so its kind of okay.You know what I mean, right?After all, its veggies!

Vegetable Manchurian is a widely popular dish of the indo chinese genre. It is nothing by vegetable dumplings in a  ‘Manchurian†sauce. Do not confuse the origins of  ‘Manchurian†sauce – it definitely has nothing to do with that region in South East Asia. Creatively put together by chinese who lived in eastern parts of  india for centuries, just imagine it to be an amber-colored, tangy and mildly sweet but hot sauce with hints of indian spices. Indo chinese is what it is due to typical indian condiments – I make it a point to use the brands from indian store for the authentic taste. However, you can confidently do few a substitutions (see notes ) and use your pantry to try this recipe.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

For the Manchurian Sauce

  • 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce (I use Chingâ€s brand)
  • 2 tbsp chilli- tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1.5 tsp cornstarch +4 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2  tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 small green chili (use any mild/hot variety)
  • 5-7 garlic pods, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to tolerance)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup stock (vegetable or chicken, don’t use water)
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar (or to taste)
  • For Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts), ginger, chopped green chillies

For the Deep fried Vegetable Balls

  • 1 cup finely chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4  cup finely chopped green beans
  • 1 small green chilli, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • scant 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Oil for deep frying

Method 

Making the Manchurian Sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together soya sauce, tomato-chilli sauce & honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix cornstarch & water and let stand.

In a wok/pan , heat up the oils to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic, green chillies & ginger and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander & black pepper powder next, stir for 10 seconds and then add the soya sauce mix made earlier.Stir for a minute or so and then add the stock. Simmer for 2-3 minutes  on medium-high heat or till you see bubbles on the sides.Add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce starts to thicken.

Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Add the vinegar to the wok and stir everything well.Remove from heat and add the fried vegetable balls to the pan. Dont stir too much with spoon at this point.

Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.

Making the Vegetable Balls

In a large bowl, mix together all the chopped vegetables. Add salt, mix(do not squeeze) and let sit for (not more than) 10 minutes. Add the all-purpose flour and corn starch next and gently mix together. If you feel that the mixture is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of water (ideally you will not be needing it since the vegetables leave water from sitting in salt).

Heat up 2-3 inches of oil in a frying pan on medium high. Shape into small lime size balls and add to the frying pan, Make sure that the oil is not too hot(else the balls will remain raw from inside) or too low (else they will scatter in oil). Fry, turning on all sides to golden dark brown

Drain the fried vegetable balls on a paper towel before adding to sauce (recipe above).

Serve immediately with noodles or fried rice.

Notes :-

  1. Use any vegetables that you like (just do not use potato)coz trust me after frying they will anyhow taste good.
  2. You might be tempted (like me) to use food processor to chop the vegetables but trust me it makes them watery. I recommend chopping them with knife.
  3. Substitute dark soya sauce with tamari (for vegan)
  4. Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds extra heat. I get this sauce from indian stores. You can use just plain tomato ketchup or add mix of sriracha & tomato ketchup for a sweet, spicy tangy flavor to the sauce.
  5. The sauce can be made 2-3 hours in advance. Just fry up the vegetable balls and serve when you want to.
  6. If you forsee leftovers, store the sauce and vegetable balls separately. Toss them together just when you want to serve.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Roti/Chapati – Everyday Indian Flatbread



I can’t remember a single meal in my home when there weren’t homemade flatbreads to eat.Except a few days when khichdi( gooey lentils & rice) formed dinner, soft and steam filled rotis smothered with homemade ghee or  with grainy white butter were brought fresh off the tawa (griddle) to everyone’s plate.You would hardly count how many you to eat,the ladies of the house took rounds to roll, puff and help each other on occasions like Sunday lunch when the whole family was eating together.Always; there were always plenty for everybody.

My badi mummy made the best rotis and parathas that I have ever tasted.She rolled perfect rounds,as if  a compass or a cutter has been used with the dough, rotis so soft that you could use just thumb and index fingers to break a bite, perfectly charred with black spots from the high flame on both sides. My mother makes the second best to her, paper-thin and larger rounds but still delicate and slightly chewy.I might already be sounding obsessive with these sorts of descriptions but trust me in indian homes, especially in norther parts,roti making is a serious business.A deft technique which is taught to daughters when their  wedding day approaches. It is the bread of life, something you start and end your day with. Giving away a roti to a needy & poor is symbolic of highest level of ‘punye‘ or good deed in Hindu vedas, it is a thing which subsides the hunger of animals, birds or humans equally. The daily bread is revered.

Roti is a everyday unleavened flatbread in our homes,cooked on stove, chapati is similar to roti just rolled out much thinner, phulka is another name used in India for rotis, a Hindi word denoting the puffy look of it.Parathas(skillet-fried dough) or Pooris (deep fried dough) are also made from the same dough, layered or unlayered, stuffed with fillings, rolled in all different shapes.You could see my triangle paratha as an example. But, necessarily, the dough remains the same. It is only the handling and shaping that differs Hoping I have not confused you too much!

It would be really surprising but as compared to the naan, which got more popular in the west, in indian homes, you will found rotis and parathas cooked on a daily basis. Naan, fine all purpose flour (maida) flatbread is a once in a while thing, something you order when eating at restaurants or like in my home,when mom made really special exotic curries or we had family gatherings with lots of guests, she would send us with home-made yeasty dough to the street side guy with the tandoor and we came back with stacks of naan for supper.

Let’s get to making some rotis.Shall we? I have invariably used the word ‘atta’ in my post and recipe. Atta is nothing but Hindi for whole wheat flour (loosely used for both dry, wet flour as well as the dough)

Measure the atta (durum wheat flour) and slowly, start adding (warm) water to it.In India, we use a paraat (a utensil made of brass/copper/stainless less specifically for kneading roti dough). The one you see in pictures, is some 40 year old treasure from my grandmother, still going strong.

Incorporate water in a circular motion into the atta with your fingers.Start kneading gently.

As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up. Continue to add water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour starts to come together.

At this point,ensure that the atta is not very dry,try to squeeze it between your palms as if making a fist and it should be soft and sticky (and messy!). Start using your knuckles to knead the atta next.

Use your knuckles to flatten it out and then pull it all together towards yourself using your palm & fingers,then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 5-7 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.

Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast).You could add a bit to oil while kneading to make it smoother.

Time to rest those gluten.Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 15-18 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really do not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 20 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.

When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter.

Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!

Roll each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly from edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.

Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.

It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, doesnt affect the taste.The trick to roll perfect rotis is that when you are rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If not, you can move it yourself and flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.

Another tip (from my grandmother) to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti.

Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on high to heat up. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.

Place the roti on the hot tawa.  Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.

Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook for another 30-40 seconds on the other side. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.

Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char them to liking.

In case, you have a electrical stove with no flame, see the recipe on how to puff up the rotis.

Very gently press on when you puff the second side too. Smear with ghee and wrap in a kitchen towel to store.

Typically, you can serve rotis as a side bread with all sorts of things – curries (both dry & wet) to lentils to as a wrap or fried and a chips or any which way you like. One of my personal favorites is warm roti, smothered with ghee and sprinkled with sugar, rolled up. In India, it is normal to consume rotis for all meals, two, sometimes three times a day,sometimes in our house we serve roti alongside spicy egg scramble for breakfast or quick lunch too.

One of my close friend once told me a very interesting way to introduce the correct way of eating rotis to the western world.”Use roti as a spoon to eat the curry and later eat the spoon”, he said.Spot on!

In other news, Sinfully Spicy was featured last week by SBS Australia as a favorite indian food blog in their food section. You could read the feature here.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 15 rotis roughly 6-6.5″ inch )

  • 2.5 cups durum wheat atta (fine ground whole wheat flour made from durum wheat)
  • 1 +1/4 cup warm water or more/less if needed

Also Required

  • 1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp any neutral oil (to moisten the dough when it rests, optional)
  • Ghee to spread on warm, cooked rotis (optional but recommended)
  • about 3/4 cup dry atta, needed when rolling the rotis

Tools Needed

  • A wide, heavy shallow dish large enough to knead and dough. In India, we use a paraat (a brass or stainless less dish specifically for kneading roti dough). You could use your mixing bowl too but a wide dish will make it a lot easier.
  • A flat, clean, smooth rolling stone or surface
  • Rolling Pin
  • 2-3 kitchen towels (to cover the dough when resting as well as to wrap the cooked rotis)
  • 1-2 sheets of paper towel (I line the kitchen towel with paper towel to absorb the moisture when storing rotis else they turn too soggy)
  • A wide container (8-10 inch in diameter) with lid to store the wrapped rotis. If you do not have, you could use a couple of dinner plates.
  • Tawa or cast iron griddle (I use my 12″) to cook the rotis.
  • A pair of tongs to be used when puffing the rotis on direct flame

Method

There are superior varieties of Indian wheat which are stone ground to make atta (fine whole wheat flour). Largely, you could choose between durum wheat or sharbati wheat. Infact, a lot of leading atta brands in India now have a mix of both. It is important to understand that atta  is different from the pastry whole wheat flour available in baking aisles. It is a much fine ground which make the rotis soft and less chewy.You will need to visit indian/pakistani grocery stores to get it.There are multigrain and high fibre atta varieties also available and all are suitable for making rotis. A 10lb pack will usually cost you $7-$8 and it has a really good shelf life of 3-4 months.

In a wide, shallow dish measure and place the atta. With one hand slowly start adding (warm) water and mixing in circular motion with the fingers of other hand. Incorporate water a little at a time and start to kneading gently.

As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up into a ball.Continue to add warm water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour will come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.

Once a ball is formed, ensure that it is not very dry by trying to squeeze the dough ball between your palms as if making a fist and it should feel soft and sticky. Start using your knuckles to knead the dough next.

Use your knuckles to flatten the dough out and then pull it all together towards yourself, using your palm & fingers, then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 7-8 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.The dough should not feel or look dry at any point.

Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast). Once the dough looks and feels really really smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 20-25 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really will not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading. The dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 30 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.

When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.(Note: If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter)

Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!

Roll and cover each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly on edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.

It takes practice to get the perfect circle shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, it doesn’t affect the taste. The trick to roll perfect rotis is that when after 1-2 minutes into rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If its your first time, this might not happen but remember practice will make you better and better each time. If not, you can move the roti yourself to roll and evenly flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.

Another tip to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti as you roll.

Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on to heat up on high. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.

Place the rolled roti on the hot tawa.  Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.

Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook on the griddle on the second side for another 30-40 seconds. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.When you cook on the second side, you will see that little puffs coming up on the surface.

Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.

Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char a little longer to liking.

In case you do not have electrical stove, you can puff up the rotis on the griddle itself. Once the second side is cooked, reduce the heat to medium and gently start pressing the roti with a soft kitchen towel on all side. It will puff up.

Smear ghee on the hot rotis and server right away or store then wrapped in a kitchen towel. I line the kitchen towel with a small piece of paper towel, this helps in preventing them from getting soggy.

In case you want to freeze the rotis (yes it can be done), make all the rotis and let them cool down to room temperature wrapped inside the towel. Then stack them on top of each other with a large piece of wax or parchment paper in between.

When wanting to use the frozen rotis, thaw them in the fridge and warm up on high for 8-10 seconds in the microwave.

Notes

  1. Roll the dough very well and as evenly thin as possible.This helps in puffing up the rotis.
  2. Store the leftover dough in the refrigerator for not more than 1-2 days in an air tight container.
  3. If you are wanting to serve rotis later in the day, you can make ahead them. In this case, add 2 tbsp of melted ghee while making the dough.They will remain soft.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!