Demystifying Indian Food

DISCLAIMER:
This blog post may make you drool, so prepare yourself accordingly ­čÖé

Indian food feast – photo by Erinda Martin

I already loved Indian food before going to India. But while traveling and living there for three months, I quickly discovered how few dishes I had even tried from this vast and delicious cuisine. I vaguely remember way back when I first started going to Indian restaurants in USA and trying to understand the menu so I can decide what to order. Usually, I would end up confused and just order some type of curry with rice and naan bread, missing out on so many other dishes because simply I did not understand them or had not seen them before. This was before the time of “googling” your food. I bet many people have experienced this before, whether it is with Indian food or some other exotic cuisine. With this in mind, I prepared this blog post in attempt to simplify some Indian food staples for anyone out there who is curious to try it but is not familiar with it yet. Some of these dishes may not even be available in typical Indian restaurants outside of India. At least, this list of dishes with photos and explanations will give an idea of the variety and options there may be available when considering ordering something else in a restaurant, instead of some type of curry dish with rice, naan bread…. Are you ready for a delicious ride?

 

Breakfast Dishes:

Masala Chai, spiced black tea with milk. Traditionally this is made with cow milk, but I found places that offered plant based milk options as well. Visit my previous blog post here for the step by step recipe including the full list of spices.

Kashmiri Chai, spiced tea from the Jammu and Kashmir area of northern India

Lemon Ginger Honey tea, a staple in every eatery I visited across northern India

Paratha, a pancake type flatbread, with porridge and Masala chai

Paratha with poha, flattened rice mixed with spices, veggies and roasted nuts, served with sauteed vegetables and curd

 

Lunch and Dinner:

Thali, a buffet style dish typically served for lunch or dinner

Matar Masala, a spicy sauce dish with green peas  served with rice and Chapati, unleavened flatbread

Khichri (or Khichdi), a dish made with lentils, rice and variety of spices and ghee

Dosa, an Indian style crepe made with spices and fillings, served with chutneys

Masala Dosa with sambar,  a spicy stew, and coconut chutney served with chai
Masala Dosa in the making
Dessert Dosa (Banana Chocolate) in the making
Dessert Dosa (Banana Chocolate)

 

Street Food and Snacks:

Alooo Chaat, mashed potato cake with lentils, spices and chutneys

Aloo Chat in the making
Aloo Chat ingredients

Pani Puri, also known as Gol Gappa, crispy puff balls served with sweet & spicy sauce

Momos, a type of dumpling, filled with veggies and served with chili sauce

Steamed momos
Fried momos

Aloo Bonda, potato bread roll made with spices

Vada, a savory doughnut made with spices

Papad, crispy spicy and savory bread chips

These are only a few of the dishes and snacks I experienced (and loved) during my time living in India. Keep in mind how large of a country and vastly diverse India is, even though in the west we tend to categorize Indian food and culture as one size fits all. Each region of India has its own style of cooking, spicing food, and preparing as well as serving dishes. My experience was primarily in northern India, but I know for sure that soon enough I will experience the rest of this beautiful country and its cuisine.

I hope you enjoyed this read and feel motivated to experiment with your taste buds.

~ Erinda

A Perfect Cup of Chai

Chai stand in India – photo by Erinda Martin

During my travels across India I got spoiled with delicious Masala Chai everywhere I went. Masala means spice mix, and Chai means tea. I find it funny that we usually call it Chai Tea in the west, because obviously we are calling it “Tea Tea” if you think about it. Anyways, whatever you want to call it, there are tea stalls everywhere in India and there is no shortage of spices or the will of Chai makers to prepare a fresh cup upon request. A cup of freshly prepared Masala Chai became a daily ritual for me, one that I knew would become challenging to maintain once I returned home in USA. I find that any Chai that I have tasted in USA is saturated with cinnamon flavor and aroma lacking on all the other spices. Realizing this quickly as I have just arrived back home in the U.S., I decided to make my own Masala Chai following the authentic recipe that my good Indian friend and fellow Yogi, Sumit, shared with me in India. Are you ready? Below I have listed all the ingredients for a spicy cup of fresh Masala Chai. If you are trying this on your own, I recommend testing out the amounts of each listed spice until you find the perfect balance for your own taste buds. Ready, go!

Dry spices for Masala Chai – photo by Erinda Martin

Ingredients:

  • Milk – whole or hemp milk for non-dairy option – half cup milk per one cup Chai
  • Water – half cup of water per one cup of Chai
  • Black Tea – English Breakfast type, unflavored – 1 table spoon per cup
  • Ginger – 1 inch or 2.5 centimeter piece
  • Nutmeg powder – half teaspoon
  • Cardamom pods – 2 to 3 pods
  • Cloves – 2 to 3 buds
  • Fennel seeds – about 10 seeds
  • Cinnamon stick – about 1 inch or 2.5 centimeter long stick
  • Whole black peppercorns – 2 to 4 or more for spicier Chai
  • Saffron – 1 to 2 pistols
  • Sweetener – jaggery, brown sugar, or coconut sugar for low glycemic diet – amount to taste

You will also need a mortar and pestle to freshly grind the spices, as well as a fine mesh strainer.

Preparation for Masala Chai – photo by Erinda Martin

Preparation:

  • Peel and chop the ginger.
  • Break up the cinnamon stick to small chunks.
  • Crack open the cardamom pods extracting the seeds and discard the shells.
  • Mix the cinnamon, cardamom, clove, fennel and peppercorn and grind them with mortar and pestle.
  • Add the nutmeg powered to the ground spices, along with the ginger and water in a pot and bring them near boil over medium heat.
  • Add the black tea and bring them to quick boil.
  • Add the milk and bring them to another quick boil, occasionally stirring the mix to avoid over-boil.
  • Just before the boil add the saffron.
  • Remove from heat and pour over fine mesh strainer onto a container.
  • Double strain to remove spice residue, pouring directly to cup the second time.
  • Add sweetener of choice to taste.Here you have it, a delicious home made cup of Masala Chai, spicy and delicious to make your taste buds dance with excitement! Cheers!
Masala Chai ready to enjoy – photo by Erinda Martin

Special thanks to my friend Sumit for passing on this recipe to me. I have tested it on my own and shared some homemade Chai with family and friends, with satisfactory feedback. I hope you all give it a try and enjoy it as well!

~ Erinda