are multiple main dishes, side dishes galore and an assortment of
small bowls filled with brightly colored condiments.
are, scanning this glorious spread, the diner will be unable to
spot a single bite of meat. Medini Pradhan,
creator of a Web site dedicated to Indian cuisine and culture in
the United States, said about 70% of residents of India are
vegetarians. The concentration is higher in the south, she said.
south is noted for its exceptional vegetarian cuisine," said Pradhan,
who lives in Pewaukee. Cooks from this part of her native country
use coconut products and unique spice blends and "make things
with rice that you can't even dream of."
Vairavan of Shorewood, co-author with Patricia Marquardt of
"Art of South Indian Cooking" (Hippocrene, 1997,
$22.50), said vegetarian meals are more popular in the south
because "north India was subjected to a lot of foreign
invasion. South India preserved its culture and cuisine because
they did not have foreign invasions. The food and the traditions
were all well preserved and remain that way."
said some of the best vegetarian dishes come from the south. She
was born in a small southern Indian town called Karaikudi and
raised in Madras (also in the south) before moving to Wisconsin in
dishes "are so delicious that one can easily pursue a
vegetarian lifestyle without missing the flavors of meat-based
dishes," Vairavan said.
are also remarkably nutritious, high in fiber and protein and low
in fat because (in India) you learn to cook with so many different
lentils, which are high in protein and fiber, and have little or
enjoys restaurants that serve authentic Indian vegetarian dishes, Pradhan
said. However, most of them offer foods typical of those served in
the north. Therefore, diners here often miss tasting some of her
country's best cuisine, she said.
Indian cuisine is distinctive in its use of curry leaves and black
mustard seeds. And they would have a predominance of coriander. In
the north you would have a predominance of cumin, cloves and
the south almost every dish contains something from the coconut
palm. Other ingredients used widely in the south include coconut
milk, yogurt, tamarind (a bean), freshly grated coconut, red
chiles, rice, urad daal (a lentil) and kokum (a sour tasting dried
fruit)," Pradhan said.
Indian meals, especially vegetarian ones, are sometimes served on
a banana leaf, though on some occasions they are also served on a
`thali' or metal plate," she said.
of the biggest differences in cooking from the two areas is that
tandoori cooking -- cooking in a large clay oven -- is never done
in the south but is very popular in the north, Pradhan added.
born in Bombay, where she learned to cook at her mother's side --
making her first elaborate meal at the age of 9. She earned
degrees in food and nutrition and in dietetics in Bombay, then
moved to the United States where she has lived for 15 years.
started her Web site, www.cuisinecuisine.com, in May 2000. It
includes recipes, information about ingredients used in making
Indian foods, plus a wide variety of information on different
aspects of life in India not related to food.
teaches cooking classes and is in the process of writing five
books on various topics related to the foods of India. She plans
to publish the books herself and the first two should be available
by the end of the year. Even though traditional Indian meals
consist of various dishes -- and most of those have many
ingredients -- it is not hard, Pradhan maintains,
to duplicate the cuisine of her homeland. But, she admitted, it
can be time consuming. Depending on how efficient a cook is, a
traditional meal can take three to four hours to prepare.
you could also make it shorter. A lot of Indian chefs do part of
the cooking ahead of time" and also process spices and mix
spice blends in advance, she said.
often difficult for cooks who are unfamiliar with this cuisine to
choose the right mix of dishes. When putting together a menu, Pradhan said,
all one needs to do is look for "six tastes."
need something sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and
astringent," she said. "For a well-balanced Indian meal,
you would have these six tastes. Side dishes and condiments like
chutneys, curries, daals and Indian pickles also contribute to --
and add to -- the overall flavor and texture of a meal and provide
creating a meal with all these elements cannot always be
accomplished, "it's a great rule of thumb to follow," Pradhan said.
"This rule explains the use of the numerous spice
combinations and the depth of flavor found in Indian
cuisine," she said.
provided this example of a typical vegetarian meal:
first thing you want is an appetizer with a chutney to dip it in.
Maybe little samosas (deep fried vegetable patties), or pakoras,
which are vegetables (often potatoes, onions or non-spicy green
chiles) that are coated with a graham flour batter and fried. That
starts the palate waiting for the next meal.
you would have at least three entrees. In Indian cooking there is
never just one main entree. The main part of the meal would
probably consist of a salad or a raita. A raita would be onions,
tomatoes and cucumbers mixed with yogurt, salt and chile. The same
dish without yogurt is a salad. Then you want a rice based dish
with vegetables . . . Another thing you would have if you're
vegetarian is a korma, a vegetable medley with a mild sauce."
a very thin, soup like dish made from lentils, and an
accompaniment called papadum might also be included.
are little crispy, thinly rolled out disks made from different
kinds of lentils and rice flour. They are fried in hot oil or
roasted on a pan. They are always salty and served hot with a
meal," she said.
different kinds of curry, yogurt and rice also would grace the
said bread, which is referred to as roti and is generally
unleavened, is "nothing more than flour, water, salt and
sometimes oil, or ghee (clarified butter) that is kneaded and
either dry-fried, deep-fried or baked.
play an important role in the Indian menu for they serve not only
as an accompaniment -- but since Indians eat with their fingers --
they are also used as an implement to scoop up the vegetables and
rich curries from the plate," Pradhan said.
yogurt and rice -- mixed together and seasoned -- can be served at
the start or the end of a meal, but other tasty rice dishes also
might be included.
have this wonderful dish called lime rice that is very popular. It
includes lime juice, turmeric powder and mustard seed. It's a
light dish. There is also another popular rice dish made with
peanuts," she said.
small dish of salt, wedges of lemon, sweet or hot "Indian
pickles" (pickled vegetables) and lassi, a yogurt-based drink
made sweet or salty would complete the table.
drink is very, very versatile. There is mango lassi for after the
meal and a salty lassi for during the meal or before the
meal," she said.
lots of dishes make up an Indian meal, the number of seasonings
that make up a dish seem even more abundant.
seasonings are essential to creating great Indian cuisine, and
that in India young girls learn about spices at an early age when
they get their own spice boxes from their mothers. "Every
mother wants to give her daughter her own masala dabba (spice box)
that holds the spices you most frequently use." She said the
box has seven containers.
spice mix used extensively in India is a curry powder called garam
masala. Its main ingredients are cloves, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom
or coriander, but Pradhan
said the ingredients and/or amounts of ingredients in this mix
change from region to region and even from household to household.
India, cooks often make their own combinations in their homes
rather than buy them premixed. In southern India, garam masala has
a "very distinctive taste" because it includes a lot of
coriander as well as a spice called methi that gives it a unique
following recipes are from Pradhan and
are pictured with this story. Additional recipes from Vairavan are
included in the online version of this story at www.jsonline.com.
a white-flour flat bread, is one of the most loved Indian breads.
A trip to an Indian restaurant usually involves the ordering of
some kind of naan. It is traditionally served as an accompaniment
with an Indian curry. Naan also can be used to wrap seasoned
grilled meats, seafood or vegetables. A naan should be served hot
and eaten immediately or else it will get chewy. Here is an easy
Naan (Indian Flat
4 cups flour
flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in bowl. Stir
in beaten egg, yogurt and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Gradually
stir in enough milk to make a soft dough. Cover with damp cloth
and place in warm place for 2 hours. It will rise slightly.
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
6 tablespoons plain yogurt
3 tablespoons butter or ghee, melted (divided)
1 cup lukewarm milk (about)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
oven to 400 degrees. Knead dough on floured surface for 2 or 3
minutes until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces.
each piece into a ball, then into an oval about 6 inches long.
Grease baking sheet, and brush underside of bread with water.
Brush top of bread with remaining 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle
with poppy seeds.
in preheated oven 6 to 10 minutes until puffy and golden brown.
The bread puffs slightly and browns on the sides. Serve hot, plain
or with your favorite Indian curry. Makes 8 servings.
are a great way to add flavor and zest to a meal. They are served
or taken in small quantities, one teaspoon at a time. Because they
are extremely flavorful, they give a burst of flavor to a meal.
Most chutneys are made from raw, cooked or pickled vegetables and
fruits. This mint chutney is very versatile and can be served with
almost any appetizer or meal.
1/2 cup mint, stems removed, washed, uncut (see note)
The mint and coriander leaves should be thoroughly washed and
tightly packed to measure.
1/4 cup cilantro, stems removed, washed, uncut (see note)
1 green chile, chopped (use any kind, from mild to hot)
1 1/2 tablespoons onion, chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 to 5 teaspoons water
3/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend on medium speed until
mixture has smooth consistency. If chutney is not to be served
right away, cover tightly and refrigerate. It can stay fresh in
the refrigerator for 1 week. Makes about 3/4 cup.
well-loved and most popular snack is very easy to make. Served in
many movie theaters in India during the intermission, in Indian
snack bars and restaurants, it can be enjoyed anywhere.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil plus oil (about 3 cups) for frying (divided)
make filling. In large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil and season
it with cumin seeds, asafoetida and green chile. Add mashed
potatoes and peas, ground cumin, garam masala, pepper, red chili
powder and mango powder and mix well. Cook covered 5 to 6 minutes.
Add lemon juice and mix well. Remove from heat and set aside to
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
Pinch of asafoetida (available at Indian grocery stores)
1 finely chopped green chile
4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed coarsely
1/2 cup peas, cooked
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (available at Indian grocery stores)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon dry mango powder or amchur (available at Indian grocery stores)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pastry (see recipe)
pastry dough into 4 equal parts. Take each part and roll it out
into a circle about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Cut
each circle into two parts, forming half circles. You will have 8
half circles. Moisten straight edges of each half circle with a
finger dipped in water. Then take one semi circle and fold it into
a cone shape.
about 1 tablespoon potato-peas mixture in each cone and seal top
edge with a drop of water on your finger and press edges together.
Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. While making samosas, keep
both unused dough and filled samosas covered with towel.
remaining oil (to a depth of 3 to 4 inches) in medium-sized
skillet. Deep-fry samosas, 4 to 5 at a time, cooking them 2 to 3
minutes or until a rich golden brown, turning once about halfway
through cooking process. When done, remove with slotted spoon and
set on paper towels to drain. Serve hot with mint or tamarind
chutney. Makes 8 samosas.
salad made in yogurt is called a raita. It usually accompanies a
meal and is served chilled.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Mix all ingredients to make a stiff dough.
Ka Raita (Cucumber in Spiced Yogurt)
2 large cucumbers, peeled, finely grated
1 green chile, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro leaves, plus a sprig of cilantro for garnish
4 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
excess juice from cucumbers by straining through vegetable
strainer or use your hands as strainer. Set aside.
medium bowl, mix green chile, cilantro, sugar and salt with
yogurt. Add cucumber and mix well. Garnish with fresh sprig of
cilantro leaves. Serve chilled. Makes 1 1/2 cups or enough for 4
to 5 servings.
Fat-free yogurt can be substituted for plain yogurt. Artificial
sweetener can also be substituted for sugar, if needed.
is an easy version of Biryani, a dish that is considered elaborate
and therefore is usually made on special occasions. It can be made
with vegetables or meat. It can take a long time to make; but is
worth the effort. It always tastes better the next day because the
spices marinate and flavor the meat or vegetables and rice. It is
generally served with a raita.
(Spiced Rice with Vegetables)
5 to 6 tablespoons vegetable oil plus 1/4 cup oil (divided)
1 cup finely chopped onions, for garnish
2 tablespoons golden raisins, for garnish
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, for garnish
Wet masala paste (see recipe)
2 1/2 cups of Indian basmati rice
2 green cardamom pods
2 to 3 (1-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 green bell pepper, cored and sliced
1/2 cup cubed potatoes
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup cubed carrots
Salt to taste
5 cups water (about)
garnish. In medium skillet, heat 5 to 6 tablespoons oil. Saute
onions until deep brown. Add raisins and almonds and saute until
almonds are lightly browned. Set aside.
wet masala paste and set it aside.
Wet masala paste:
rice, drain water and let sit 10 minutes with no additional water
added. Set aside.
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon garam masala (available at Indian grocery stores)
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 cup freshly ground coconut or unsweetened dry coconut
Water as needed
remaining 1/4 cup oil in heavy pot. Add cloves, cardamom pods and
cinnamon sticks. Saute 30 to 40 seconds. Add reserved onion
mixture. Add reserved wet masala paste and saute a few minutes on
medium-high, until oil starts to separate, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add bell pepper, potatoes, peas and carrots, and saute a few more
minutes. Add reserved rice and salt; mix well. Saute for a few
mixture to a microwave-safe serving container. Add 5 cups water.
Microwave, covered, 35 minutes or until done and rice has absorbed
all the water. Stir after about 15 minutes. Add half of the
garnish and mix it in. Cover container and microwave another 10
minutes to blend flavors. When done, remove from cooking container
and set on individual plates. Top each serving with remaining
garnish. Serve hot with mint chutney and raita. Makes 4 to 6
all ingredients in a blender and blend into fine paste. Add water
is a mildly flavored creamy dish normally made with nine common
vegetables. This recipe uses five vegetables. You can add,
subtract or substitute your own favorite vegetables if desired.
This is an easy way to make one of the most popular, and
time-consuming, vegetarian curries.
Medley in a Mild Creamy Sauce)
1/2 cup cut green beans (cut into 1/2-inch lengths)
1/2 cup cauliflower (cut into small florets)
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup peas
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sliced onions
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (available at Indian grocery stores)
Salt to taste
all vegetables (except onions) by boiling them individually. Or,
microwave each vegetable in bowl with 1 cup water for 3 to 4
minutes, then drain.
whipping cream, ketchup, flour and milk in bowl and mix well. Set
butter in pot. Add onions and saute until golden brown. Add
prepared vegetables and saute 2 to 3 minutes or until heated
through. Add chili powder and garam masala and mix well. Add
reserved cream mixture and stir well. Let cook for 6 to 7 minutes.
Serve hot with rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Indian tea, known as "chai," lassi is the most popular
drink of the people of India. It is made either sweet or salty.
1 cup plain yogurt plus yogurt for garnish (divided)
blender, blend all ingredients except yogurt for garnish at high
speed until frothy. Divide mixture among 2 or 3 glasses. Top each
serving with a dollop of yogurt. Makes 2 or 3 servings.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ice cubes
3 to 5 teaspoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup plain yogurt plus yogurt for garnish
1 cup chilled milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice cubes
Dry-roast cumin seeds by cooking them over low heat in small pan
until you can smell the seasoning, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cool and
grind. In blender, blend cumin seed powder with 1 cup yogurt,
milk, lemon juice, salt and ice cubes. Divide among glasses and
top each serving with a dollop of yogurt for garnish. Serve
chilled. Makes 4 servings.
Fat-free plain yogurt can be used for a low-fat drink.
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mango pulp (fresh or canned)
1 cup crushed ice
2 tablespoons sugar (use sugar substitute if desired)
Blend all ingredients in blender and refrigerate until ready to
serve. Serve chilled. Makes about 4 servings.
more information on the cuisines of India, check out the following
-- Medini Pradhan:
Upcoming classes include the following:
"Classic Indian Vegetarian Cuisine" will be from 7 to
9:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and March 16.
"Introduction to Indian Cuisine" will be from 7 to 9:30
p.m. Feb. 23 and March 23.
"Indian Tandoor/Grilling the Indian Way" will be from 7
to 9:30 p.m. March 30.
are $45 each with a $5 discount per person for couples. Register
in advance. Classes will be held in Pewaukee. Call (262) 691-9731.
Alamelu Vairavan: Two classes on "South Indian Vegetarian
Cooking" will be held at Orlanu Therapies, 1025 W. Glen Oaks
Lane, Mequon. They will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 8 and March
22. Fee is $20 per class. Call (262) 241-7887.
will be a class on "Healthy Vegetarian Cooking/Low-fat Indian
Cooking" from 6:30 to about 8 p.m. April 19 at Oconomowoc
Hospital, 791 Summit Ave., Oconomowoc. The cost is $10. Register
in advance. (262) 544-2745.
Indian Groceries & Spices: Vegetarian cooking classes titled
"Naturally Lite N' Easy" will be offered from 6:30 to
8:30 p.m. March 29, April 5 and April 12. They will be held at
Taste of India Restaurant, lower level, 10900 W. Blue Mound Road,
Wauwatosa. Fee is $25 per class or three classes for $70. Register
in advance. For information, call (414) 771-3535.
LEAVES AN INDIAN STAPLE
of the most flavorful spices used in South Indian cuisine is the
curry leaf. This green leaf, which is often confused with curry
powder, comes on a thin stem and looks somewhat like a bay leaf.
The leaf is used whole -- both fresh and dried -- and is most
often found in lentil dishes or vegetable curries.
leaves can be purchased fresh at Indian grocery stores and will
keep in the refrigerator for about a week. To store them longer,
remove the leaves from the stems and place them between paper
towels. Microwave on high power 1 minute or until dry. Store in
curry leaf is used so frequently in India that in tropical areas
there, curry plants are grown in backyards and in pots inside
homes so that cooks always have it available.