Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bhindi Fry (Okra Frites)

Scanlynn and I
recently paid a visit to a local South Indian eatery here on Curry Hill by the name of Tiffinwallah. It's a charming little place with a homey feel and decorated with 3-tier tiffins. It immediately brought back memories of school and my dabba wallah. As I tried explaining the concept of the Tiffinwallah to Scanlynn, I realized that the Indian tiffin delivery system that I didn’t think twice about was such an elaborate and complicated ordeal. The New York Times recently had a big article about the Tiffinwallahs of Mumbai and their FedEx like precision delivery systems. This article does more justice to it than anything I can ever say about it. And all this fuss just so that people like myself that too lazy to go down during lunch hour can get hot, home cooked lunches at their desks at work (or school). Although my dabba wallah at school operated at a much smaller scale, he did cater to about 100 students. One of my pet peeves about my dabba was getting watery curries in my lunch, which would inevitably spill out of the tiffin making a soggy mess. And my favourite tiffin food was Bhindi Fry. Just like my mother made it. Thin cut, deep fried, devoid of any nutritional content and spiced to perfection with warm thin chapattis. They were more like Bhindi Frites really. Although the Tiffinwalah remains a distant memory for this gourmand, the Bhindi Fry will always be a big hit in my kitchen

1 lb Okra (Lady Fingers) quartered longitudinally
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/4 tsp Cumin powder
1/4 tsp Coriander powder
Salt to taste
Oil for deep-frying

Deep-fry the okra till it is crisp and then drain it
Heat a deep pot and put okra in it
Add drizzle all spices and salt over okra and stir it so that the spices are evenly distributed over the okra.
Squirt a little lemon and garnish with coriander
Serve with warm fluffy chapattis or pooris.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spicy Red Lentil Soup

Since my move to Sunnyside, Queens I have been spoilt by a neighbourhood blessed with some really good restaurants. One of my favourite restaurants is a Turkish restaurant out on Queens Blvd. My girlfriend, who has spent considerable amount of time in Turkey, loves visiting our local Turkish Grill. Her favourite dish there is the red lentil soup, which I admit is really, really good. However, the only thing it misses is the burning sensation that can only come from excess spice. And that as we all know is the one thing a ‘pucca’ Puneri needs. I recently attempted to ‘Indianize’ this soup and the results turned out pretty good. Not to mention the cheap brownie points, since this can be done in a healthy 'organic' fashion.

1 cup Red Lentils
1 Onion shredded
2 cups Vegetable Stock
2 tsp Butter
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Cumin
Salt to taste

In a pot heat the butter and add onions
Heat the onions till they are light brown
Add chili powder and cumin and stir
Add red lentils and stir
Pour in vegetable stock, salt and raise heat to high
Cover with lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ragda Pattice

For students in Pune, especially those that have passed their SSC, the ones that are in the final year of their degree courses and everyone in between, hanging around spending entire evenings doing nothing is a big part of life. My immediate circle of 40 odd vagabonds such as myself had chosen a particular corner of town when we were 16 where we would waste a major part of the next 12 years of our lives. It was a small “paanwala”. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a paanwala, it is a shack, which sells beetle leaves and loose cigarettes. , a staple for said age group. Our Paan Tapri stood proudly next to a run down hotel, Village Corner. Village Corner had changed hands faster than coalition governments in Delhi till it finally shut down one day. The little cigarette shop however stands proudly to this day as the hotel that would’ve given it business stands in a state of utter disrepair. We would park our respective two wheelers next to the Paan shop and blowing hot air that amounted to very little, leering at young women making them extremely uncomfortable — every evening without fail. Down the road from us where Lakaki Road met Ganeshkhind Road, there was a Pani Puri cart. Complete with a kerosene lantern, wheels sunk six inches into the ground and an unsupervised, bottomless baby just hanging out in the mud for good measure. For some reason this dude had really, really good Ragda Pattice. Warm yellow ragdas that had been dehydrated from sitting on the tava for hours, slightly off colour yoghurt and unsolicited advice from the vendor. Somehow, it all came together quite well. I have been to the best hotels and chaat houses in and around Pune city, but for some reason, the chaat never tastes as good as it does on the street. Is it the flies, the questionable water supply or the chipped plates that at one point used to be white? As long as you don’t think too much about it and train yourself to have a cast iron stomach, you’ll enjoy the best chat you’ll ever eat… on the streets. All for next to nothing.


For Ragdas:
2 boiled potatoes
¼ tsp Salt

For Chana
1 cup Chana soaked overnight
1 Onion chopped fine
1 Tomato finely chopped
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Cumin powder
½ tsp Coriander Seed powder
¼ cup chopped Coriander
½ cup Oil
½ tsp salt.

For Tamarind Date chutney
¼ cup Tamarind paste
¼ cup Date paste
1 tsp Jaggery or Sugar
Pinch of Salt

For topping
1 Tomato chopped
1 Onion finely chopped
½ cup Coriander finely chopped
1 cup whipped Yoghurt
1 cup Sev


Mash the potatoes and mix the salt.
Pat into small patties and bake on an oiled skillet till both sides are brown.

Heat oil and add onion till edges are slightly brown.
Add tomatoes and mash till it becomes a homogenous sauce.
Add chili, tumeric, cumin and coriander and allow to cook.
Add Chana and salt.
Add a cup of water and cook till water is reduced completely leaving a thick sauce.

Tamarind Date Chutney:
In a small pot heat 1/4 cup water
Add tamarind paste, date paste and jaggery
Let it cook for five minutes. And then allow to cool.

Place 4 patties in a plate
Top each patty with a spoonful of chana
Add small amounts of chopped onion and tomato on top
Drizzle tamarind date chutney and then yoghurt over it
Sprinkle with sev and garnish with coriander