The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including gluten-free and vegan dishes.


August 20, 2010

Tater Tots Revived - Not Just 4 Kids!

My last entry about "Hot Summer Treats" featured this snack called Aloo Papdi Chaat that I have tried at many restaurants but I never liked it as much as when I make it at home. The ingredients are fresher and everything is still crispy when you are eating it.

Well today, I've got another treat for you to try. It's called Aloo Tikki Chaat and the main ingredient is none other than TATER TOTS!!

You're probably thinking, "is she crazy, those are for kids". Well, I'm not and they are perfect for this "off the street" snack. I say it's off the street because in India, specifically in Delhi and Bombay, there are street vendors that make this hot off the grill and serve it up with different sauces and people go crazy for them. You don't have to go to India to enjoy this snack, I will show you how to make it in the comfort of your home.

In the Aloo Papdi Chaat snack, you had to add crispy bits to make it more crunchy. For this recipe, you don't need to add those because you will use baked tater tots which you can make as crunchy as you want.

Here are the ingredients from left to right: Chaat Masala, Tamarind Chutney, Coriander Chutney, Yogurt, and Tater tots (or you can use Mini Potato Patties).  

1) Thaw the contents of the tater tots bag and place them in a greased baking sheet. Follow the baking instructions listed on the bag. If you want them to be a bit more crunchy, leave them in longer.  
(Hint: Make sure they do not get burned)
2) Take 5-6 tater tots or patties off the sheet and mash them up on a plate with a fork.

3) Dilute the chutneys with a little bit of water before adding to the potato mixture. Most of these chutneys are concentrated so they will have a strong taste. Adding water to them will tone the taste down and won't clump up your snack.

4) Next add yogurt to the mixture, and then sprinkle chaat masala and sev on top. The recipe is now completed.

I now present this scrumptious snack to you. Go enjoy it. Savor every last tot morsel.

***Quick Tip: Two of the ingredients in this recipe (such as tamarind and coriander chutney) are already found in most Indian households because they are used as condiments for other snacks and dishes. They are like ketchup or mustard sauce for American food.

August 17, 2010

Friday THE 13th Dinner Date, A Curse or Luck?

Charlie Brown's, Nathan's Hot Dogs, Ruby Tuesdays, Carl Jr's and so on are some of the American restaurants that I heard and know of. Do you know what all of them have in common? Most if not all are named after a person, probably the owner.

Now take a crack at these restaurants: Tamarind, Cinnamon, Clay Oven, Dosa Hut, Rasoi, Swagat, Chola, Chennai Garden, Dawat, Udipi, and Saffron. Can you see a trend here? I've noticed that a lot of Indian restaurant names are derived from our cooking and/or the region of the cuisine. I start thinking about the flavors and the types of dishes that they prepare and before you know it, I'm get the point. I don't get the same feeling with American restaurant names...too bland.

One of the restaurants that I found interesting is Saffron located in East Hanover, NJ. You don't have to be a cook to know what saffron is. It's not just an ingredient used in Indian cooking, but also in other parts of the world such as the Middle East and Latin American countries. You know what else, it's expensive and hard to find. So it got me thinking, if someone named their restaurant after such a "royal" ingredient, their food must be least those were the thoughts running through my mind. Well, I can tell you the decor of the place was pleasing. The dining area was adorned with wooden carvings, tapestries, and paintings; and it wasn't gaudy. The menu was reasonably priced and they serve buffets Monday through Friday, if you're interested. My parents and I have tried the buffets a couple of times and found the food to be good and I decided I would tell others about it too. The following is about an outing to this restaurant where I had the most memorable experience.

My friend had nothing else in his mind except Butter Chicken. I, on the other hand, was just hungry after my intense Zumba class.  I recommended we go to Saffron for dinner since it wasn't that far from the gym. We immediately got seated and searched through the menu for his favorite dish. After surveying the menu for several minutes, we both realized the item in question wasn't there and decided to leave. Just then, the waiter walked over and asked for our order. We asked if they had Butter Chicken at all since it wasn't listed on the menu? He said although it's not on the menu, they can still make it. Right then and there, bells should have rung in my head, if it isn't listed maybe it's not that great. However, we decided to stay and ordered some appetizers to go along with the main dish.  The last time I had dinner here, my parents ordered Crispy Veggie Fritters and we all agreed, they were really tasty. So, of course we ordered that plus Shrimp Balchao (Fiery pan-fried shrimps with chili based masala).

Shrimp Balchao

If a picture can speak a 100 words, this wasn't it!! We both agreed that the shrimp dish could have been more flavorful. The sauce had just the right amount of spices and taste, but the shrimp was bland.

Our second appetizer, if you remember was the Crispy Vegetable Fritters. I already knew what they would look and taste like. I was waiting for my friend's reaction. See at most Indian restaurants when you order vegetable fritters, you get something that looks like the illustration in this wikipedia website:

They are vegetables dipped in flour and fried in oil. If they are prepared well, the veggies should still be crispy, hence the name but somehow some places always mess it up. Now, that doesn't mean they taste bad. They are still pretty good but if you are worried about oil and fat then you wouldn't be too thrilled.

Saffron's Crispy Vegetable Fritters w/ Oriental Sauce
Just look at those fritters, do they look oily and fattening to you? There's not too much flour and YOU can still see the veggies. They were crispy, crunchy and just YUMMY!! Even the presentation is just so delightful.

Ok Ok, we came here to eat Butter Chicken, remember? That's what my friend kept reminding me off so I could save room for the best part. When the "Butter Chicken" arrived with the Rosemary and Paneer Naan, we were both rubbing our stomachs, eager to dive in.

Chicken Makhani w/ Rosemary & Paneer Naan

The naans were fluffy and hot but the chicken curry wasn't up to the standards we were expecting; especially for the price we paid.  Whenever I'm feeling down, my friends try to cheer me up by saying "turn that frown upside down" and I just laugh it off. With the average taste of my friend's favorite dish, I knew I had to do something.  I ordered dessert and not just any dessert...the best Indian ice cream dessert that I know of and recommend to anyone who wants to try something funky and cool. This dessert is called Kulfi Falooda.

One of these days, I will post a recipe on how to make it at home. Now that I think of it, there's another dessert that is cool like this and its name is ABC 3.0. I tried it at this Malaysian restaurant called Nyoya. It's made up of shaved ice with red bean, corn, palm seeds, and lotus jelly topped with red rose syrup.

 Kulfi Falooda

I think the presentation alone captured the attention of my friend. His eyes lit up and we both grabbed our spoons to go at it.  I mean, just look at all the colors and the creativity. Kulfi Falooda is made up of kulfi (Indian ice cream), rose syrup, vermicelli, and tapioca seeds. It can be served on a plate as illustrated above or as a drink.

If you want to try your luck with Saffron, 1) Do not go on a Friday (hint: mom told me that afterwards), 2) Don't order Butter Chicken, and 3) If you go on a weekend, expect delays in service. I was a bit disappointed with that since our whole meal lasted almost 2 hours and we didn't even order that much. I almost ate my cloth napkin waiting for my food.

Overall, the evening wasn't that bad; there were some good moments. I blame Friday the 13th for any misgivings that occurred.

Moral of the story: We went to the restaurant for something "non veg" but ended up loving the "veg" stuff even more.

August 11, 2010

My Hot Summer Day Treats!

It seems to me that as the years pass, the summers are just getting hotter and sometimes more humid. Well to beat the heat, I relax with some cool treats that are easy to make. It's just the matter of the ingredients you have around.  My favorite treats for hot days are Aloo Papdi Chaat and Roohafza Milkshake. You are probably wondering, what is she talking about? The best way to describe Aloo Papdi Chaat is that it is like potato salad (with some dry and wet ingredients).

This is what Aloo Papdi Chaat looks like:

Isn't it so colorful?

I know you are dying to know how to make this, so let's get started. Before we begin, let's just see if you can identify any of the ingredients in the picture below?

Here are the ingredients, if you haven't guessed already (from left to right): two medium sized boiled potatoes, coriander, chaat masala, Tamarind chutney, chopped onions, diluted plain yogurt, and papdi pieces. Once you have these, it's just a matter of mixing these together. I know you can't tell in the finished picture above, but the potatoes were chopped into 1/2-1 inch pieces.

Next up is Roohafza Milkshake...I'm getting cravings just thinking about it. It's so creamy and yummy. You know, as a kid I used to mix the Roohafza syrup in water and drink it with some ice. I think I also froze the juice in the ice cube trays and eat it like the Italian Ice back home.

As you can see, half the bottle has been finished because it is THAT GOOD!!

What is Roohafza? I used to think it was Sugary Rose Syrup. I mean it tasted like it so I never questioned its origin. I'm reading about it now and it's fascinating the ingredients that are found in this syrup. It is infused with essences of Rose, Coriander Seed, Watermelon and various other flowers, herbs and fruits.

The breakdown of ingredients in my milkshake:

One banana cut up into pieces, half cup to cup of milk, 2-3 tablespoons of Roohafza and as much crushed ice as you want. The only thing left to do is blending and taste testing. You can add more banana if you want it really thick but then you may add more Roohafza to sweeten it up. You have to play around with the ingredients to get Your Perfect Blend.

This blend will get you a little over a 8 fl oz serving. I poured the milkshake into a Scotch glass to feel fancy. Enjoy the drink however you like. It's cool and refreshing!!

Interesting Fact#1: Rooh Afza is traditionally made in preparation for breaking the fast during Ramzan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. Happy Ramzan to all my friends!

August 6, 2010

A Vegetarian's Delight!

The Lotus Stem Surprise

Unlike NYC where there are a variety of Indian restaurants in almost every neighborhood, NJ has a few to choose from; especially in our neck of the woods (Morris County area). Don't get me wrong there are Indian restaurants but none that I would bet my money on. I've had the chance to go to a few with my parents over the years and narrowed down the list that I would go back and try again. Those will be ones I'll share with you today.

Most recently, we went to Chand Palace in Parsippany next to Subji Mandi (Indian Store) off of Rte. 46E. I haven't been there in years so it was a nice surprise. If you are vegetarian, you will love it because it's all VEG. I love a good Veg Buffet here and there. Now mind you, the day we went, we were all exhausted from moving and unloading into our new house so we were famished and wanted to eat some real good food. My parents have gone to this restaurant a few times and suggested it.

As you enter the restaurant, you will see a Guest Check In and then the table setting and in the back is the buffet table. I could already smell all the goodies. I couldn't wait to jump in line and try everything. I decided to stay healthy and started off with salad (cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, carrots...etc). Then I headed towards the manchurian Gobi (cauliflower) and kamal kakkadhi (Lotus Stem). That was just the first plate. I was not too impressed with the Cauliflower manchurian but I liked the Lotus Stem so on my second run, I grabbed more salad and Lotus stem with naan and rice. My friend who joined us for dinner said the lotus stem curry reminded him of being back home in India when he used to go over to his friend's place for food.

The rest of the curries were alright. I liked the lotus stem one the best. They also serve mini dosas with the buffet so there is plenty of food to go around. Oh. and don't forget to try the desserts.  Overall it was a good experience. I went over the weekend so I'm not sure how the buffet is on weekdays. If you have been here before, let me know how you found the place.

I apologize for the picture quality, I only had my phone with me at the time. Until next time, keep on eating and enjoying!!

August 2, 2010

"Just Moved In" Curry

The First Meal

Friday July 30th at 730AM - The movers came to our old house and began the hours long moving process. We thought it would take 4-5 hours. We packed everything ourselves except for the furniture. Hey, we not Super People. Anyways, long behold, 5 hours passed and we are not completely done. In fact, it was after 5 hours that the movers headed to the new house to transfer the stuff. Either they took their time or we had way more stuff than we calculated. Anyways, by the time the whole move was completed it was 10 hours and we were all tired and hungry. We tried to group the boxes in their respective rooms so we do not run around like headless chickens when it comes time to look for items. That night, we just decided to eat out since cooking was not an option.

The next night though my mom decided to make some curries so we could a nice home cooked meal. I realized you can eat out as much as you want but the meal can never be compared with what you make at home. The taste is too different. I point this out because the previous night we went to a vegetarian Indian restaurant (Chand Palace, Parsippany, NJ) and the cuisine and service was fine. Actually I haven't been there in years so it was a nice surprise to find the place more enjoyable this time around. My point is that some of the curries that I tried lacked certain ingredients (a little salt here and there). I started critiquing the items and realized that no matter where you go, you are bound to question the way it is made or the amount of ingredients used if it is not something you are used to.

On with the subject at hand, the "Just Moved In Curry" was prepared with the utensils and cookery we were able to unpack from the numerous kitchen boxes (as you may see in the pictures). My mom used a small pressure cooker to cook the curry. Mind you, you may use the pressure cooker when you are using fresh ingredients but if all you have are frozen veggies, then it is not needed. My mom used the bottom of the pressure cooker (the container part) to make the curry. When you are limited to ingredients available in your kitchen, you are really testing yourself on what you can make for dinner and you will be surprised at the results. Why you may wonder? You actually tend to cook better. At least that's what my mom figured out soon enough.

Garam Masala
Crushed tomatoes
Small boiled potatoes
Frozen vegetables
Salt to taste

Procedure (from what I recollect):

1) She started out by sauteing garam masala in the cooker with some oil. Then added crushed tomatoes and let them cook a bit.

2) Next add the frozen vegetables.  (Hint: Defrost the vegetables a bit before adding to the mixture.)

3) Add the boiled potatoes and cook everything together on simmer until it comes to a gravy consistency. Add salt for taste.

4) It should ultimately look like the picture below. I will add the exact measurements in a bit. Until then, please enjoy the story and the pictures which by the way I took with my phone since the camera was packed away.

I realized that in some cases, improvising makes the best dishes.