Hornbill (Delhi, January 2020)


Back to Humayunpur, back to another restaurant featuring the food of a North Eastern state. On Sunday I reviewed a dinner at the Manipuri restaurant, Eat Pham—a dinner we really enjoyed. A few days later we went back to the same market and embarked on a very similar hunt for another restaurant, Hornbill, which serves food from Nagaland. While our Eat Pham outing was our first encounter with Manipuri food, Hornbill was our second Naga meal in Delhi in as many trips as a family. We were last here all together in January 2016 (I’ve come on my own in between a few times) and on that trip one of our favourite meals was at Dzükou in Hauz Khas. Dzükou has since closed in that location. I’ve heard tell it has reopened in Vasant Kunj, but we didn’t need to go quite that far from Noida when there are a number of Naga places in Humayunpur and environs, and Hornbill particularly well-reviewed among them. We descended on them with the same friends we’d eaten at Dzükou with four years ago. Here is what we found after we found the restaurant. Continue reading

Chana Masala


This is a dish prepared in two ways that are unusual for me. First, it uses non-Rancho Gordo chickpeas. That is because this uses kala chana or black chickpeas (though in practice they’re usually a dark brown). These smaller, darker chickpeas have been eaten in India much longer than the relatively recently arrived garbanzo bean or Kabuli chana—which name likely refers to its direction of entry. Kala chana has an earthier flavour and denser texture than Kabuli chanaa and maintains its shape as it cooks. Rancho Gordo does not currently sell kala chana (though I have heard a rumour this may change in the near future). It is, however, easily found in South Asian groceries and also on Amazon. Non-Rancho Gordo beans means a longer stovetop cooking time but if you use a pressure cooker—as I do—this is not an issue. Continue reading

Roasted Beet Soup with Cracked Cumin


What is this, a roasted vegetable soup blog? Last week I had a recipe for a soup made with roasted carrots; two weeks ago I had a recipe for a soup made with pan-roasted asparagus; this week I have a recipe for a soup made with roasted beets. If you’ve made the two other soups and fretted that they were not carroty or asparagusy enough then you will be happy to learn that this soup is quite beet-forward. It includes very few other ingredients and a relatively light touch with spices. It does, like the other two, require blending the soup.

Is this an Indian dish? You may well ponder this question after eating this soup or even just after reading the recipe. Well, it’s not a traditional preparation. There aren’t a whole lot of soups per se in the broader Indian repertoire (caveat: it’s a large country) and this does not follow any sort of traditional recipe. But to me it tastes very Indian. I could see making a dish of sauteed beets with much the same ingredients, save the stock. I’d say it’s an Indian dish insofar as it deploys an Indian flavour palette and an Indian technique: adding a tadka of cumin seeds and curry leaves at the end just as you would do with most dals. If you like beets, give it a shot. Continue reading

Roasted Carrot Soup with Tamarind


The very first vegetable soup I ever made was a carrot soup, the recipe for which I found, of all places, on the Williams-Sonoma website. That bookmarked link no longer goes anywhere but the recipe lives on in my kitchen as a sort-of template for a large number of vegetable soups: carrots cooked with sauteed leeks in stock till softened, pureed and given some brightness with acid. The recipe I have for you today differs in some important ways—there are no potatoes in this, the acid comes from tamarind, and I add toasted spices and finally the nutty zing of a mustard seed-curry leaf tadka. But the structure is still the same. My thanks to whoever it was that put that recipe up on the Williams-Sonoma site back in the day. Continue reading

Kumar’s Mess and the Changing Face of Indian Food in the Twin Cities Metro (Apple Valley, MN)


We are well into the Golden Age of Indian food in the Twin Cities metro. You might not have a sense of this from the local food media’s restaurant coverage but over the course of the last half-decade or so the Indian population of the Twin Cities metro has been growing steadily and newer restaurants have been opening to cater to this market. As I’ve noted in a number of write-ups on the blog, the new(er) population is likely highly skewed towards South Indians. This can be seen both in what’s on offer in Indian groceries around the metro (see my look at TBS Mart in Bloomington, for example) and in the fact that more and more restaurants have opened in the last few years that have menus focused on South Indian dishes. (I’ve reviewed a few of these—Persis, Bay Leaf, Hyderabad Indian Grill.) Continue reading

Panch Mishali Torkari


I have for you today a recipe for a homely but essential dish from the Bengali repertoire: panch mishali torkari. “Panch” means five, “mishali” more or less means mixed, and this is by definition a dish that involves five vegetables cooked together (except when it involves four or six). It is a highly flexible dish. Classically, I suppose, you are most likely to see potatoes and radish and eggplant and snow peas/broad beans and pumpkin in it but really you can make it with whatever mix of vegetables you have at hand. This version, for example, uses asparagus, which you are rarely likely to see used in Bengali kitchens in a dish like this. The dish is a concept not a fixed list of ingredients—I make versions with zucchini and bell peppers as well. No matter what combination of vegetables you use, it is a good idea to have a mix of textures. The flavour of the dish is really carried by the ingredient that more than any other ties the Bengali kitchen together: panch phoron, the mix of five seeds that goes in almost ever Bengali vegetable and fish dish. When I first came to the US panch phoron was not easily found but these days you can purchase it easily in any decent South Asian grocery store. and if you live somewhere without a decent South Asian grocery store at hand you can even buy it on Amazon. Get some and get cooking (and while you’re at it, get some mustard oil too). Continue reading

Stir-Fried Broccoli with Kashundi


Like any other above average Indian home cook in the United States, I’ve been told over the years by American dinner guests that I should open a restaurant etc. It’s flattering to be told this, of course, even if in the context of most Indian restaurants in the US it seems like somewhat dubious praise. Of course, I am never going to open a restaurant. But two and a half years ago I decided to scratch that occasional itch without flirting with bankruptcy, and launched a little series of “pop-up in my own home” dinners for eight. As a tribute to the North American curry house I call it India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal. The guests are all friends and friends of friends and the dinners have become quite popular. I’ve done 14 of them so far. The first 13 were seven course meals with each course served individually plated. The recipe I have today was the second course at the tenth dinner. It is, as you will see, very much a slight play on a very traditional dish. I thought it came out very well, and the diners enjoyed it very much. Continue reading

Beetroot Poriyal


I’ve mentioned on many occasions before that growing up in India in the 1970s and 1980s my sense of South Indian food—like that of most North Indians—was restricted to the idli-dosa-vada-sambhar-rasam complex. It wasn’t till much later—not till I had left India, in fact—that my limited view of South Indian cuisines really began to open up. I don’t mean to imply that this opening up required leaving India because, of course, it did not: it’s only that it was in that time period—in the late 1990s and 2000s—that I began to become truly aware of the wider world of South Indian food. This  was due both to the publication in that period of higher profile English language Indian cookbooks on regional cuisines (see the titles in the excellent Penguin series) and to the first flowering of the South Asian food web on forums and then blogs. As I began to cook some of these dishes—this was also the period in which South Indian ingredients began to become easily available in South Asian groceries in the US—I was particularly drawn to poriyals. Continue reading

Alu-Gobi


Alu-gobi or cauliflower cooked with potatoes is a North Indian staple. It is also a dish that has no fixed recipe beyond calling for potatoes and cauliflower. Like most dishes from the home-cooking repertoire (which is almost all of Indian food) it is more a genre than a specific dish. While generally there’s a lot more cauliflower than potato in it, I’ve had and made versions where the ratio was 1:1. I’ve had and made versions that have a lot of gravy and I’ve had and made versions that are completely dry. I’ve had and made versions with pureed onions and had and made versions with fried onions. And I’ve had and made versions with various combinations of spices. I make various versions of it often. Today I have for you a recipe for a simple but extremely tasty version—as long as you are a fan of coriander seed. Continue reading

Alu-Posto


Don’t tell my children but I barely ate any vegetables when I was a kid. In fact, I barely ate any vegetables till I was in my twenties. The big exception was potatoes—and I guess technically potatoes may not even be vegetables. I ate potatoes in all forms, from simple alu-sheddho (boiled potatoes mashed with either ghee or sharp mustard oil and minced onion) to alu-parathas to alu-bhaja (fried potatoes of various sizes and textures) to alur torkari to alur dom. [Be patient, I’m almost done with this fascinating dietary autobiography.] A favourite dish, however, was alu-posto, a quintessential Bengali dish of potatoes cooked very simply with a few spices and poppy seed paste. Mild in flavour and somewhere between grainy and smooth in texture, the poppy seed paste (or posto) made this dish unlike anything else made in my mother’s kitchen and all through childhood it was a major comfort food. For whatever reason, I didn’t start making it in the US until relatively recently but now I make it often. I have not yet had any success in getting my own kids to eat it though: in a wry twist neither of them is particularly into potatoes except in French fry form, and one of them doesn’t even care very much for French fries. Meanwhile the missus and I both love potatoes. Who knows how these things work. Anyway, here is the recipe for alu-posto as it is made in my family. Continue reading

Chicken Curry with Peanut Butter


I made a somewhat involved chicken curry for a dinner party last week. Made in a Hyderabadi style it involved roasting and then making a paste of sesame and peanuts and various spices. It turned out very well and as we were eating I began to think of a simpler version I could make for more everyday cooking and which might be a little more kid-friendly. This recipe was the result of that thinking. It sits somewhere between that more complex Hyderabadi prep and a “white” chicken prep that one of my aunts is famous for (and which I’ve hybridized before). It involves very few ingredients and only whole spices. And if you have a good not-too chunky peanut butter at hand you’re well past the starting line. Give it a go. It’s very tasty and goes well with rice or parathas—or for that matter you could sop it up with dinner rolls.  Continue reading

Alur Torkari


A very popular weekend brunch in our home when I was a child was luchi-alur torkari. Luchis are a Bengali relative of puris, a type of fried bread; where puris are made with whole wheat flour (aata), luchis are made with white flour (maida). They’re also typically smaller. Torkari is a term for a style of preparation of vegetables—usually with a thinner gravy. Alur-torkari = torkari made with alu (potatoes). There is more than one way to make a torkari with any vegetable; this particular version is with a thin soupy gravy and very few spices. The flavours here are of the Bengali panch phoron (five seed) mix which infuse into the tomato gravy in which the potatoes cook. This dish is very much a taste of childhood for me. I’ve been known to eat it directly out of a bowl with a spoon. Continue reading

Steamed Fish in Spicy Red Curry


It has been a long time since my last recipe post—almost exactly six months in fact. I imagine you have been subsisting in the interim on water and stale bread, hoping each day that I would bring you something new, never letting disappointment crush you entirely. Good news! Your wait is at an end! Here is a recipe for a very tasty fish dish and you can make it today as long as you have banana leaves on hand. What’s that? You don’t have banana leaves on hand? I don’t know why I bother with you bastard people. Well, I suppose you could get by with parchment paper, or perhaps even foil; but if you have an East Asian market somewhere in your vicinity you should stop reading now and go get some banana leaves and come back and find out what to do with them. And, oh yes, get some fresh fish fillets as well. Continue reading

Just Kerala (Bombay, December 2018)


Dinner plans on my second day in Bombay were for a seafood blowout at Jai Hind. The proper thing to do would have been to eat a light breakfast and early lunch to prepare. Accordingly, I had a big bowl of uppma for breakfast at the hotel and went out for a late and massive Malayali lunch. I was meeting a friend—whose love of good food matches mine but whose capacity I may have pushed to the limit over the three days we spent hanging out, discussing work and so on. Anyway, I wanted to eat Malayali food in Bombay—on the principle that it must be better than in Delhi given the greater proximity of Bombay to Kerala. Just Kerala on the second floor of Hotel Samraj in Andheri East was her pick as a casual, no-frills old-school Kerala eatery and so it proved to be. This is a good thing.  Continue reading