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.


January 31, 2012

Simple Coconut and Tomato Rasam

I love rasam. The simplest meaning for rasam is juice. So mango rasam means mango juice. There's also a South Indian dish called rasam. It goes great with any type of rice or also can be eaten as soup. A well known rasam that is offered in most Indian restaurants in the US is Mulligatawny soup (made with pepper).  Did you know there are 25 variations of rasam? That's a lot of rasam. I've probably tasted only about 5 in my life, which means I've still got a lot of ground to cover. I love the one I'm going to tell you about today. It's a step up from the basic rasam recipe; the additional ingredient is coconut powder.

- 3 Plum tomatoes, chopped into 1" pieces
- 2 tbsp Coconut Milk Powder (or 4 tbsp of unsweetened coconut milk if coconut milk powder is not available)
- ½ tbsp Salt
- 400 ml Water
Finely chopped Fresh Coriander for garnish

Ingredients for Seasoning (Taalimpu):
- 1 tbsp Vegetable oil
- ½ tsp Mustard seeds
- ½ tsp Whole Cumin seeds
- A pinch of Hing (Asafoetida)

Dice tomatoes into cubes and grind them in a blender until sauce consistency. Transfer the sauce into a (2qt) medium saucepan and add water, rasam powder, salt, and coconut powder. (Hint: mix the coconut powder with a little bit of water so when it is mixed into the tomato sauce, it doesn't clump).  Bring the rasam mixture to a boil on medium heat (approx. 7-10min). Check to see if all the coconut powder is mixed into the rasam, and no lumps are noticed. Continue to boil for another 2 minutes and remove from heat. 

In a smaller saucepan (tadka pan), heat oil on low-medium heat. When you feel the heat on your palm, add mustard and cumin seeds. When they splutter, add hing. After about 1-2 minutes, remove from heat, and add directly to the rasam. Add chopped coriander and serve hot with rice or as soup with croutons.

I enjoy eating rasam on cold nights; it warms me up instantly. What is your favorite kind of rasam? Please share with us. 

January 29, 2012

Here's To Another Sweet Jump!!

Woohoo! We crossed the 25,000 page views mark and the year just got started!

Thanks everyone! This year will be even more exciting than last year; with loads of recipes, reviews and giveaways. 

50K page views here we come!!

Udupi's Frozen Mendu Vadas

Dahi Vada is an Indian chaat that is prepared with vada (donut-like shaped crispy lentil fritters) and yogurt. The vadas are made from urad dal and some spices for added flavor. Making vadas from scratch is a laborious process:
1) Soak the dal in water for at least 5 hours and blend it to a smooth consistency.
2) Mix in salt and other spices, press small portions of the dough into donut like shapes on your palm and fry them to golden brown color.
3) Soak the fried vadas in seasoned yogurt for couple of hours until they are ready to be served.

Although I was able to describe the process in a few steps, it typically takes about half a day to make this snack from scratch. And if you are pressed for time but still want to enjoy this delicious snack, then there is a solution. 

The solution is Udupi's Frozen Mendu Vadas. Udupi is another brand under the Deep Foods' Company.

On the Upside
- The vadas are fried and packaged, so there's no need to re-fry them.
- The vadas were moist and not oily. They were very flavorful and light.
- They also do not contain onion or garlic as it is noted on the package.
- The packet contains 8 pieces and costs about 2 USD; so it's reasonably priced. 

Currently available at Indian Grocers.

Below is how we prepared the Dahi Vada from the Frozen vada packet:
- 1 box Udupi Frozen Mendu Vada packet
- 16-20 oz of Yogurt
For seasoning:
- ½ tsp Whole Cumin seeds (jeera)
- ½ tsp Mustard seeds
- 2 Green chilies, finely chopped
- ½ inch piece of Ginger, grated
- 1tbsp Vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp Coriander leaves, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp Salt or as needed
Tamarind & Date Chutney for garnish

1) Whisk the yogurt and set aside. Heat oil in a small seasoning pan and add mustard and cumin seeds. When they start spluttering, add chilies and ginger along with a pinch of salt. Transfer the seasoning into the yogurt and mix well. 
2) Transfer the vadas from the packet into a microwaveable dish. Microwave them for 2-3 minutes with closed lid. Immerse each vada one at a time into a bowl of water. Remove it immediately from the water and squeeze the water out by pressing it between your palms. Then add each one into the seasoned yogurt. (Please Note: Make sure all vadas are in the yogurt and allow them to soak for at least 30 min. - 1 hour. 
3) Garnish them with chopped coriander. Serve each vada along with some yogurt in a small bowl and top it with a tbsp of chutney. 

Enjoy the coolness with tangy sweet taste!
***Quick Tip: If you prefer a less spicy taste, skip seasoning the yogurt.

Our conclusion: We would definitely recommend this product. The pros out way the cons. It's the perfect size for your family or get together. It saves time and lets you enjoy the rest of your day.

January 22, 2012

Daily Delight's Fresh Frozen Aviyal Mix

Ever since we ate Aviyal at Rajni Restaurant, I wanted my mom to try to make it at home. She found a packet of Aviyal Mix at Subji Mandi (Indian grocery store) last week and tried to recreate it. Aviyal is a mixed vegetable dish with a coconut and yogurt gravy sauce, originating from Kerala.

On the upside:
- All the vegetables needed to make this dish were included and they were straight from the source - grown and packed in Kerala.
- The cost of this mix was under 2 USD.

The packet contained fresh frozen pre-cut vegetables and spices found in a typical Aviyal dish: 
1-2 Drumsticks
50 grams of Elephant yam
1 medium-size Cucumber
50 grams of Snake gourd
50 grams of Long beans
50 grams of Carrot
1 small green mango
3 medium-sized green chilies
10 curry leaves

The only downside is that the packet didn't come with a recipe. Lucky for us, my mom is a genius. I cheered on as she did her magic.    

Below are the ingredients for the gravy:
12oz Yogurt
1/2 cup Coconut (fresh/frozen), grated
1 tsp Whole Cumin seeds
A pinch of Turmeric
Salt, as needed

Let's get started:
1) Empty the cut vegetables into a heavy-bottomed saucepan (3-5 Qt). Add 1½ cup of water, ½ tsp of turmeric, and cook until soft and firm.  Drumstick takes the longest time to cook, so make sure it is soft. Transfer into the serving dish and allow it to cool down.
2) Blend together grated coconut, green chilies, cumin, and approximately 1/3 of yogurt and a pinch of salt until it is a smooth mixture.
3) Add the remaining yogurt, blended coconut mixture to the cooked vegetables and mix well. For seasoning, heat a tablespoon of coconut oil on low heat and add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, cumin, and red chili. when they splutter, add asafoetida and curry leaves. Stir 10 seconds and immediately transfer it into Avial and mix well. 
4) Serve it with warm rice or pooris.

Served hot over brown rice
***Quick Tips:
- The packet includes 3 chilies, use 2 if you prefer less spice level.
- On the packet, the serving size is listed as 3 but we found that after combining all the ingredients together, the dish is enough for 4-6.

Our conclusion: The dish turned out well and didn't require a lot of time since most of the prep work was done. Also, the spices included in the packet were packed separately to prevent any wetness or sogginess. We would buy this mix again.

January 14, 2012

A Kite Festival...Up, Up & Away!

Happy Sankranti!! Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated all over India. It's the only holiday that follows the solar calendar unlike all others which follow the lunar one. On this holiday, families prepare a dish, using rice and lentils from the new crop, which is popularly called as pongali (sweet or savory). Also, one of the popular pastimes on this holiday is flying kites. One can see kids of all ages flying them from rooftops and sometimes even on the streets. As a kid, my mom and her siblings used to compete with their friends to see whose kite can go the farthest. She told me that the sky used to be full of kites of various sizes, colors and shapes.

Every year, Gujarat hosts an international kite festival that is one of the grandest. People from all over (such as Japan, Australia, Malaysia, USA, Brazil, Canada and other European countries) participate in this event.

Did you know this was a favorite sport among the Maharajas? They found the sport both entertaining and a way of displaying their prowess. Trained fliers were employed to fly the kites for them. Slowly, the art caught on and became popular among the masses. Today, manufacturing of kites is a serious business. There are stores in India that are open 24 hours up till the festival so that people can get their kites and supplies to enjoy the sport. I haven't seen anything like that here, but some retail stores do carry kites. I was at Costco the other day and decided to buy one. Woohoo!! Up, up and away into the sky!!

January 2, 2012

Goodbye 2011, Welcome 2012!!

Drum Roll Please! Here's the top ten most viewed dishes of 2011: Peanut Chutney AKA The Other Dosa Chutney, Mixed Fruits Instant Custard, Baigan Bharta Sandwich, Stuffed Karela, Paneer Kati Rolls, Coconut Rice, Carrot Halwa, Pongali, Seasoned Pumpkin & Butternut Squash, and Poha Laddu: Sweet Balls of Joy.

Happy 2012!! Hope everyone enjoyed their New Year's Eve. We had a great time. My sister and I went to the city for a dinner party while my parents watched the festivities on TV. I made sure to have a toast with them after I got home. It wouldn't be the same to start the year without wishing them as well. We are looking forward to sharing more of our culinary creations that will woo and awe you.

The Wonders of India - Hyderabad

Charminar, oh what a beauty!

The last part of our India trip (November 2011) was spent in Hyderabad. It's my birthplace and favorite place to visit whenever we travel to the South. We usually spend time with family as well as do some local shopping. Many changes have occurred since our last visit...both good and bad. With the construction of the flyovers, it was easier to get around and cut travel time (specifically to and from the airport). However, during rush hour times, the traffic seems to have doubled and caused many delays.
The first couple days of the stay we spent getting acclimated with the city and bought groceries. Instead of staying in a hotel, we stayed at our grandmother's place. Near her building, there were a good number of groceries such as Spencer's and Reliance Fresh where we bought produce, snacks, and etc. There were also local shops or bodegas to get household items. It's important to remember that bargaining is essential here and not frowned upon.
When it comes to clothes shopping, there are lots of malls such as Lifestyle or City Center to get the latest fashions and accessories. If one is interested in fancy Indian clothes, we would recommend Neeru's by Banjara Hills. The staff is very courteous and helpful with whatever questions we had about the dresses. We bought a couple of party wear outfits (Anarkali style) and saris. Another trend in fashion now is antique finish costume jewelry and "blinge out" bangles and bracelets. There are a number of shops that sell good quality jewelry sets for a reasonable price. One of our favorite places to shop for bangles is Charminar Chudi Bazaar. Just look at the big smile on my face...

I'm Blingin' Out Baby!!
This picture was taken at Nazeer & Sons Bangles and's one of the biggest bangle shops in the market. I am styling my new purchase of  the gold and silver stoned kadhas (wide length bangles). Another market to purchase jewelry sets is Begum Bazaar. Please note that it is very crowded, so important to be mindful of your belongings.
Before I left for India, I made a list of all the fruits and goodies I wanted to try while I was there. On top of my list was Hyderabadi was really spicy but definitely worth it. The next few items were the savory snacks (made with rice flour/besan and fennel seeds).

We always get the most sought after savories from my grandmother's relatives. We inform them ahead of time of the quantity and pick them up on our visits. The last few days of the trip was spent relaxing and securing all our stuff into our luggage so there aren't any overages. It was definitely an exciting and busy trip filled with lots of new sights, eating, and family.

***Quick Tips:
- Other sights in Hyderabad are Buddha Island, Tank Bund, Salar Jung Museum, Golcanda Fort, and Necklace Road. Also try to go see a movie in one of the Imax theaters.
- Good restaurants/eateries: Eatmor inside Ohri's, Karachi Bakery (in Banjara Hills)