Indian food in all its avatars – recipes, reviews & essays
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India is the land of many cultures, many people – and many foods. Vikas Khanna’s ‘Utsav’ captures the many festivals of India and the unique dishes associated with each religion and region. Here’s a chance to experiment with different dishes and celebrate all the wonderful festivals of India!
The Obamas have it. So do the Pope and the Dalai Lama. And Queen Elizabeth too. As does Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan. But unless you’re world-famous or have loads of moolah you probably won’t get your hands on ‘Utsav’ – Vikas Khanna’s book of festivals. That’s because he’s made only 12 customized editions and over 12 years has presented it to some of the world’s movers and shakers.
On Valentine’s Day we share some of the fabulous chocolates and desserts created by Indian pastry chefs, culinary experts and entrepreneurs – and to add some extra sweetness, we also unearth their personal romance tales, from New Delhi to New York! Meet Divya Burman, Shefalee Patel, Monica Bhide, Surbhi Sahni and Aarti Mahtani Raman – taste their chocolates and hear what Valentine’s Day mean to them. We ran this story last year – and this year it’s twice as sweet!
Strolling through the Chocolate Show in Manhattan (and munching as I went) I thought I had seen it all – chocolates with a hundred different flavors, chili chocolates, chocolates mixed with bacon, even chocolate lotions, lip glosses and potions. – until I came to the most unexpected – camel milk chocolates!
What can be better than going home for Christmas, especially if home happens to be warm and sunny Goa? Chris and Beverly D’Souza with their young son Luke visited Goa, their hometown, far away from the cold of New York. This story is a Christmas tradition on Lassi with Lavina!
For most Indian immigrants the two most mouth-watering words in the English language are “Indian Food”. Last summer I enjoyed a great culinary journey back to India: I visited Anjappar, a noted ‘military hotel’ in Chennai famous for its non-vegetarian Chettinad cooking , and also the iconic Sarvanna Bhavan beloved for its dosas, uttappams and other vegetarian delights. I next ate my favorite street foods at Kailash Parbhat, my family’s favorite Sindhi eatery in the by-lanes of South Mumbai. Final stop was of course the classic Moti Mahal in my hometown of Delhi where I’d first tasted the divine makhani murg or butter chicken in my childhood.
Yet you’ll be surprised to know that I visited all these treasure troves of regional cuisine without ever boarding a flight or stepping out of America!
Did you ever hear of the arrival of the turkey on to the Thanksgiving table being heralded as the arrival of the ‘dulhan’ or Indian bride? For Sunita Advaney’s family fixing the 30 lb bird was like preparing for an elaborate Indian wedding. Trust desis to bring their own take on this American holiday, imprinting it with their own special flavor!
When Sunita Advaney, now married and settled in Forest Hills, was seven years old, she came home from first grade and asked her immigrant parents about Thanksgiving. Her father Lal Lakhati, who had migrated from India, didn’t just explain the holiday to her, he actually went out and bought a small rotisserie bird and all the trimmings and the family had a Thanksgiving dinner. In later years they did two turkeys – one traditional and the other a bright red, coated with tandoori spices, coloring and stuffed with biryani and boiled eggs. Says Sunita, “We need our chillies and it was a good way to ease people into turkey because turkey is not our culture.”
How do you create sweet things and also sweeten life for others? Ask Surbhi Sahni – the mithaiwalli of New York. A Michelin-starred chef, she recently became the pro-bono Director of the Tiffin Project operated by the nonprofit organization SAPNA NYC through which low-income South Asian immigrant women train for marketable jobs in the culinary industry.
Some people infiltrate a country to conquer it. My invasion was simply to – eat it! To swallow it whole, the foods, the tastes, the spices – to make it a part of me.
I’ve been popping pieces of India into my mouth since childhood – and it’s an insatiable hunger for more and more. This year my trip to India was about reliving the past and enjoying the present, when it comes to the ever changing and unchanging world of Indian food.
In a changing economy & environment, it helps to have always been creative with very little. Every day at lunch break at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in Delhi, India, hordes of ink-stained white-uniformed schoolgirls would surround me, salivating for a taste of my home-made lunch: aam ke achaar ke sandwiches.
When immigrants came to America, they bought their home cures and folk remedies along, a legacy of mothers and grandmothers. It is surprising how many families still turn to ginger as the first remedy for coughs and colds, and even motion sickness. Ginger has certainly been around for centuries and everyone from the ancient Greeks to Confucius to the Emperor Akbar is supposed to have been a fan, not to mention the sage Vatsyayana – author of India’s famed sex manual, Kama Sutra, who recommended ginger as an aphrodisiac for lovers.
If there’s only one thing you do today to make yourself happy, watch this excellent video! For all those who love the street foods of India this is the ultimate experience, traveling state by state and eating the delicious eats right on the road. The tears sting your eyes, your nose runs, your tongue burns – and you’re in foodie heaven!
It is amazing how everything is available in the open – be it spicy chat papri, ragra patice, alu tikki, chole bature or seekh kebab. You’ll see foods you’ve never eaten!
Vikas Khanna’s new book ‘Indian Harvest: Classic and Contemporary Vegetarian Dishes’ begins and ends with his poems. No, it is not a book of poems but a recipe book which is part memoir, part travelogue and part encyclopedia, as well as his repertoire of traditional and modern vegetarian recipes.
Getting Hooked on Indian Sweets…
We all love kaju rolls – the cashew nut mithai which comes in cool cigar shapes with a pistachio filling – but I didn’t quite expect a one-year-old Italian- German toddler to be such a fan of this Indian sweetmeat! Call him a Mithai Monster instead of Cookie Monster but he sure loves the desi sweets.