Monday, May 18, 2015

Kadhi for the Soul- a Yogurt Soup Comfort Food.

I don’t think anything like dahi existed anywhere other than in India. Dahi is a kind of Indian yoghurt. It is late in life that I realised that it is a luxury and many poor people in India do not even know what it is. However, in my family, we had dahi at lunch and dinner. I love it so much that I can smother (almost) any food with dahi.

In some regions in India dahi is not much of an item. This could be because of the weather or other factors. In Bengal, it is mainly served as Mishti Doi, a sweetened form. A similar thing is done in Gujarat and Maharashtra and it is called Shrikhand. I’m not too fond of either.

Dahi is hard to make though it’s not that complicated. Take about half to one litre of real milk (I feel that some pouch and carton varieties have some preservative added which prevents the formation of dahi) and heat it. You should be able to put your finger in but it should be warm. Add a few tablespoons of real dahi. One should be able to get some at an Indian dairy. I do not think that the yoghurt in cartons works to make dahi. Give the milk with the starter a good stir. Leave it in a warm place and it should set in a few hours in an Indian summer.

In colder weather, the milk has to be hotter and the container in which you set the dahi should be kept warm. An insulated vessel is a good idea.

Dahi gets sour in time and, in any case, it is always a bit tangy. When it is too sour to eat as such or with rice, people turn it into many dishes.

There’s the refreshing more or South Indian buttermilk, chaas, lassi, etc. And dahi is used in cooking -in meat and fowl and fish dishes, as a flavouring and thickening agent in curries or as garnish like a swirl of cream. It is also cooked into a curry and there are variations of a dahi based curry all over India.

My mother was Punjabi and Kadhi is a Punjabi dish. A good kadhi is real comfort food-something like a yoghurt soup.
1 cup dahi-preferably a bit sour and thick
1 glass of water
3 T chickpea flour (besan)
1 T garlic ginger paste
1-2 green slit chillies (don't slit them if you can't stand the heat-and avoid or add only one mild chilli in that case)
1 sprig of curry leaves
½ t haldi (turmeric pwd)
1 t chilli pwd
1 t salt (or to taste)
1 pinch hing (asafoetida)

Blend the dahi and water well, either by beating or in a mixer.

Make a smooth paste of the flour and add it to the above mixture and blend again adding the powders and other ingredients.

Pour it into a casserole or saucepan and put it on the fire. Stir continuously or it will curdle or split. Once it comes to a vigorous boil, lower the flame and let it boil for a little longer.

In the meantime, you can make the pakoris and the tadka.

Ingredients for the pakoris:

1 cup chickpea flour (besan)


Mix the besan into a smooth batter with water to form a thick dropping consistency. Let the batter rest for some 15 minutes.

Heat about 1/2 a cup of oil in a pan.

Beat the batter till light and fluffy and drop spoonfuls into the hot oil.

Lower the flame.

The pakoris will swell a bit and change colour-do not let them get too brown. Turn them over and drain them and drop them into the kadhi.



1-2 T oil or ghee

1 tsp mustard seeds

A pinch of fenugreek seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 dry red chillies, whole or broken into bits

Heat the oil/ghee and add the mustard seeds first, then the red chilli and fenugreek and lastly the cumin. The mustard seeds should splutter but not burn. The chilli should darken but not get black and similarly for the other things.

Pour this into the kadhi and serve hot with plain rice.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Steven's Corner, KL, Malaysia

From 2006 to 2010 we lived in KL, Malaysia. Our townhouse in Jalan Nyaman, Taman Gembira (Happy Garden), had easy access to many kinds of eateries. Most were within walking distance. Just a few roads away was a whole street of restorens

By night, Kuala Lumpur comes alive with roadside dining. Dinner is not, however, the only goal of nighttime outings. After dinner comes supper and Stout and Big Screen Football.

Steven's Corner, OUG, was, my husband told me, the place to hang out, after hours. It became a favourite haunt, a place we took many friends visiting from back home in India. If you ask me about my days in KL, I'll surely bore you with memories of this area.

Carlsberg in ice buckets
Beer equals a full bladder and, unlike back home in India, in Malaysia, you can, mostly, easily access a fairly clean toilet. The latrines inside this eatery had football fan graffiti.  Something or the other about Liverpool.

A little further up, here is another place we visited. Malaysian eateries are much frequented by these 
The Strange Tail of the Malaysian Cat
cats with bizarre tails. I wonder what is the tale behind these tails? 

Soto Ayam is a kind of chicken soup and who has not heard of Satay, Malaysia's signature dish? Ayam is chicken and Kambing is lamb.

In the same area, we once heard some exquisite whistling. The man, in the photo below, whistles as he cooks up 
Am I this Whistler's Mother?
a hearty and sustaining meal at his "Western Food" outlet.

The Multilingual Man from Bangladesh
This smiling waiter from Bangladesh could speak fluent Chinese, Malay, Tamil, Hindi and English. Dynamic of body and tongue, it is such as he who bring sparkle to places like Steven's Corner. 

Proud to be Indian!
Though life was good in Malaysia, I was always homesick and would leap at the chance to meet other "real" Indians from back home. This youngster from Tamil Nadu let me try out at his wok.
The Boys from Back Home
In fact, I met many such as he and was so proud of their spirit and hard work and level of intelligence. Alas, there are some in these ranks who have advanced academic degrees under their belt. 

Nostalgia apart, Steven's corner was our place to sip a few late night beers, often served by sweet Indonesian girls (I think). Sometimes a wandering minstrel would serenade us for some small tip. Most probably from the Philipines. 

From the mundane roti canai to deep-fried quail (burung puyuh goreng-burung is bird and goreng is fried), Steven's Corner is the best place to discover a particular essence of Malaysia.