not the usual bhaji
January 29, 2016 12:30 PM   Subscribe

This is an awesome post.

A bit ambitious: "Chola bhatura… A fairly simple combination of ingredients, it’s all about the heart of cooking." Yeah, good luck making one that looks like that. When my dad makes them, most of them don't inflate.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:50 PM on January 29, 2016

Bookmarking the hell out of this one. Thank you, this is great!
posted by skybluepink at 1:03 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bisibele bhaat is probably the best thing I ate on my trip to India a few years back. The only time I've seen it on a menu in the US was at the Hindu temple canteen in Queens, but it just wasn't the same.
posted by jessssse at 1:06 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

A quick note for anyone else who is planning on trying some of these this weekend: it can be hard to find mustard oil in the US, which several of these recipes call for, because it's illegal to sell as a cooking oil here (due to probably-spurious health concerns). You'll find mustard oil for sale in the US, but it will always say "for external use only" on the bottle for legal reasons; you can still cook with it as long as its pure mustard oil.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:13 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ooo this is fun! Also way to ambitious for me as an American cook. After a trip to India last year I bought a stack of Indian cookbooks and even the ones explicitly made for American cooks are still really challenging. Not just the ingredients you need on hand, but the techniques and the amount of sheer labor.

I do appreciate the diversity of Indian cuisine. I had no idea having only had the basic American take on mughlai takeout with maybe the odd dosa thrown in for a nod to the south. So this article is fun! Pleased to see a couple of other regional dishes I enjoyed very much when there. Chicken Chettinad is fantastic and not too different from what most Americans think of as "Indian food", except the coconut makes it interesting. And the Bengali fish with mustard sauce looks great. I was really struck by the use of mustard in the food I had in Kolkata, a totally different set of flavors than I'd ever had anywhere.

(Should you be looking for a Chettinad cookbook, I can vouch for The Bangala Table. I had a lovely time meeting the author in Delhi and learning about Chettiyar food. The book is great.)
posted by Nelson at 1:14 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

And now I'm dreaming of the Channa Batura from Kwality Restaurant in Connaught Place in Delhi. Tearing into it and getting the hot greasy facial from the escaping steam was transcendent.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:22 PM on January 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

STFU, I'm hungry in a weird hotel in random rural Africa. All I have is glucose biscuits and the internet.
posted by infini at 1:25 PM on January 29, 2016 [16 favorites]

even the ones explicitly made for American cooks are still really challenging.

I have an American cookbook that has a curry recipe in it for 4 people. As I read the ingredients its says 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper ... This makes a hot but not fiery curry. needless to say I stayed my hand on that one.
posted by lilburne at 1:29 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Random thoughts
- I've never heard of every sixth ingredient or so. But it all sounds amazing and I read every single recipe.
- I love the use of "spluttering".
- Now I have an inkling of how big I dia really is.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:31 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

  … it all sounds amazing …
posted by Omnomnom at 16:31


Mad props for the Chicken Chettinad recommendation. It's a symphony of flavours.
posted by scruss at 1:54 PM on January 29, 2016

After a trip to India last year I bought a stack of Indian cookbooks and even the ones explicitly made for American cooks are still really challenging.

As someone who's made it his goal to learn Indian cooking in 2016 -- recognizing, of course, that this is a very broad goal -- I'd like to put in a good word for Meera Sodha's recently published Made in India. Sodha is British with Ugandan Asian parents of Gujarati descent, so the cookbook is broadly Gujarati/north Indian-inspired as far as I can tell, but it does incorporate a couple of southern recipes with coconut milk, curry leaves and the like.

I've found the recipes to be very easy to follow -- in fact, if you're an experienced cook, you may find some of the recipes to be too simple. Of what I've made so far, I've really liked the karahi paneer (red peppers and paneer), green beans with mustard seeds; cauliflower with cumin, turmeric and lemon; all the chutneys and pickles; naan; and fennel seed shortbread. (It is not a vegetarian cookbook and has many chicken recipes and a couple for lamb and goat, but I haven't tried most of those yet.)

The "Indian ingredients" section is very useful, there's an "alternative contents" ("midweek meals", "good party food", "fun to make with kids", etc.) and menu idea page, and a couple of pages about pairing Indian food with wine. None of this is major, but especially if you're totally new to cooking this kind of food, I think all this kind of supplementary stuff is really very helpful.

I promise I'm not a paid shill for the book but I really do like it!
posted by andrewesque at 1:55 PM on January 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

That's it. I'm going.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:04 PM on January 29, 2016

That's it. I'm going.

Me too, in March :)
posted by ersatzkat at 2:10 PM on January 29, 2016

Looking forward to reading these :)
posted by yaymukund at 2:45 PM on January 29, 2016

Ok, plan is to make jadoh and bai tonight. I'll report back with updates.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:51 PM on January 29, 2016

I went into it thinking "eh.. I've seen many of these 'authentic' claims before" but seriously you guys.. this is the real deal.

Sarvapindi is amazing and it doesn't get the respect it truly deserves. Easy, healthy, tasty, homeliest of homely things on the list.

Thanks infini.. I need to tell my mom how much I miss her tonight
posted by savitarka at 2:56 PM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is the best of all things. Thank you so much for the post. Also a big old shout out to the Asafoetida-love herein. Just a pinch but so important to the final dish.
posted by pipoquinha at 5:09 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I want everything.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:15 PM on January 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow, this may be the single best page I have ever seen on the internet. You win.
posted by arha at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2016

I was only familiar with one of these. Guess I'll just have to eat more Indian food. Oh darn.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 8:11 PM on January 29, 2016

Oh god I want all of this.
posted by equalpants at 9:52 PM on January 29, 2016

Please tell me that there's an Indian restaurant somewhere in the US that has all of these dishes on the menu. They all look delicious, and I want to try every one of them!
posted by monotreme at 9:57 PM on January 29, 2016

Oh fantastic. Lots of inspiration here.

Strangely I don't remember being served avial in Kerala at all - but I do remember the most amazing mango fish curry, and prawns cooked in coconut oil with curry leaves and fish tamarind, and Syrian Christian bread, and and and and.... to my local Punjabi joint to have a thali for dinner right now.
posted by girlgenius at 12:09 AM on January 30, 2016

Currently in Mumbai... and going out for Morimoto sushi tonight :/

But I will attempt to eat all these soon!
posted by whitewall at 3:15 AM on January 30, 2016

This looks great! For someone who doesn't eat meat and loves spicy food, so many Indian dishes are a perfect match and yet I am so terrible at cooking them.

Does anyone know if the scent of fenugreek seeds lingers about in the same way the scent of the green plant does? That was the only real downside the last time I used it.
posted by postcommunism at 4:00 AM on January 30, 2016

Oh huh, i had no idea about the mustard oil. It was the only ingredient on the list i'd never seen in the store (well, asafoetida too - what is that???) so on a whim i stopped by a S. Asian cornerstore on the way home and bought a big bottle.

Will probably never use it bc i am lazy, but hey, if for some reason i feel like cooking smthg with a ton of spices in it from scratch, now i have everything i need.
posted by subdee at 1:14 PM on January 30, 2016

asafoetida too - what is that???

The German word for it is lovely: Teufelsdreck, literal translation: "Devil's dung". In Indian groceries I've usually seen it labelled "hing". It doesn't really have an analog in European cooking. It's one of those magic spices that harmonizes the rest of a dish. Here's a nice article about it.

While I'm here, a reminder from last time we talked about Indian cooking about tadka, or tempering. It's one of the techniques in Indian cooking I find so interesting and difficult. The same spice may be added to the dish at two or three different times, to develop different aspects of the flavor with different cooking methods. European cooking does this some too, but not nearly as much.
posted by Nelson at 1:46 PM on January 30, 2016

Asfoetida is kinda like fish sauce: on its own it's disgusting, but a small amount added to a dish can be the difference between a good dish and a great dish.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:11 PM on January 30, 2016

Also: I cooked the jadoh and vegetable bai last night. The jadoh was delicious - as written it's almost like an Indian pork risotto. I'm gonna make it again the classic way next time I can get a hold of pig blood. The vegetable bai was pretty bland yesterday (which makes sense, it was mostly just boiled vegetables) but the flavors melded really nicely and it was a lot better today. I might up the chillies next time though.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:14 PM on January 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Reading y'all talk about how challenging this is makes me realize how much we take for granted. Plus having 2 aunts and a mom who were foodies.

If you know the basics, the rest is detail. Just like french cuisine has your basic white sauce, cheese sauce and the bain marie, the indian kitchen (in the north, for instance) will have your tomato/onion paste curry/gravy (boiled eggs! potatoes! cauliflower! whats in the fridge?) - I think someone had once posted on AskMe the basic tomato gravy they learnt from their Punjabi roommate. That is it.

The south indian kitchen's basics are mustard seeds, curry leaves, two more types of seeds (urad dhal and methi/fenugreek seeds), and dry red chillies, that start everything from sambar to green beans wtih coconut (I'll make this 2/3 times a month) I think they also throw in some poppy seeds.

This green bean with coconut style can be replicated with cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, for instance.
posted by infini at 8:38 AM on January 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

Even (especially?) as a vegetarian with a bunch of food allergies, I'm really excited to make a bunch of these. Thanks for posting!
posted by bile and syntax at 11:36 AM on January 31, 2016

A bit ambitious: "Chola bhatura… A fairly simple combination of ingredients, it’s all about the heart of cooking." Yeah, good luck making one that looks like that. When my dad makes them, most of them don't inflate.

I'd look at some of the variables with your Bhatura recipe if they aren't puffing up. I use some plain yogurt and a small amount of yeast rather than baking soda as the leavener. I use half whole wheat and half white with a couple tablespoons of semolina flour. It is important to let them rest for a bit - 6 hours is generally long enough but I usually do it over night. Roll them thin and fry them in hot oil and they never fail to puff up for me. The chickpea part is pretty easy - the recipe presented on this page is even easier then the one I use.
posted by Ashwagandha at 10:15 AM on February 1, 2016

Anything to be puffed in oil should be rolled in oil, not flour. Lightly oil the rolling surface and the pin.
posted by infini at 11:27 AM on February 1, 2016

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