July 29, 2012

Going the veggie route, the Indo-Chinese way- Vegetable Manchurian

Most likely you wouldn't agree if I were to say that it takes a LOT of work into pulling off an Indo-Chinese theme party successfully or....would you? I wouldn't believe it AT all, if I had not been the one to slog for it.  So the story begins with inviting a few friends over for dinner and asking for their preferences. I got a special request for the Chili chicken that I had posted earlier in the blog. Honoring their wishes, I zeroed in on the Chili Chicken as the main dish. But with vegetarians in the group, I had to include a vegetarian dish.

The planning went into a slight disarray when just two days before the big day, my adviser decided to pile on some work and of course I got immersed into it UNTIL the day before the party. So much to be done and so little time!! Phew..shopping for ingredients, chopping the veggies, marinating chicken, the list was really endless. Seeking someone's help was not an option..so all this in so little time. Going by the Indo Chinese theme - I zeroed in on Veggie Manchurian or Gobi Manchurian as the vegetarian main dish and roasted garlic fried rice. Choosing between veggie or Gobi Manchurian was tricky and I finalized with the Veggie Manchurian mostly because it made me feel at home.

This particular recipe for veggie Manchurian dates back to one of the numerous awaited Wednesdays growing up. We would look forward to every Wednesday as a special occasion since that was the only day when all of us could eat non vegetarian food without any reservations. Most of these days, we would insist on eating Chinese and my Ma would happily oblige by making us some Vegetable Manchurian. Actually, I guess she was more than happy to oblige to any demands that included veggies and that too loads of it!!

So here's the recipe with notes/tips that will make your life a little more easier-I promise!

Vegetable Manchurian

Fried cabbage, carrot and spring onion rounds soaking up the essence of a lightly thickened broth seasoned with garlic and assorted sauces. Served with roasted garlic fried rice, it makes for a great Indo-Chinese combo.

Serves: 3-4
Makes ~25 small veggie balls

For the veggie balls:
1 C grated carrots
1½ C Finely grated cabbage
½ C finely chopped Bell pepper/Capsicum
½ C Chopped spring onions.
½ C All purpose flour/Maida
½ C Cornstarch
½ tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Sugar
½ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Kashmiri Chili powder (Optional)
1 T lemon juice (Optional)

Oil (for frying)

For the sauce:
1 T Chopped garlic
1 T Chopped spring onions (Optional)
½ T Dark Soy sauce
2 T Chili sauce
2 T Tomato ketchup
1 T White vinegar
2 T brown sugar (Use normal sugar if brown sugar is unavailable)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper powder
3 T Cornstarch + 1/4 C Lukewarm water
2 C Water

1. Add in all the ingredients for the veggie balls into a bowl and mix well. The mixture should be wet enough to form a ball.

Tip: Adding salt to the veggies makes them sweat, releasing water. So eventually the batter might feel dry but let it sit for a few minutes and you will have the desired consistency. On the other hand, if you leave it for too long, the mixture will become watery and in that case, adjust with more all purpose flour and salt. It always advisable to prepare the mixture right before frying.

2. Use a 1 T scoop for making the balls and fry over medium to low heat for about 2-3 minutes till golden brown. Keep aside.

Tip: These could be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Right before serving, warm them up in the oven and soak them with the sauce.

3. In a separate pan over medium heat, add oil and sauté the minced garlic till fragrant. Add in the white part of the spring onions and sauté for a minute more. While the garlic & spring onions are cooking, in a bowl, mix in soy sauce, chili sauce, tomato sauce and vinegar in 2 C water and add it to the pan with garlic and spring onions.

4. Warm about 1/4 C of water and mix in cornstarch to form a smooth mixture. Add this mixture by the spoonful into the sauce mixture while stirring constantly. Let the mixture come up to a boil and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes till the desired consistency is achieved. Now the desirable consistency is the one where the sauce is not too thick nor is it too thin. Alter it according to what you like.

5. About 10 minutes before serving , add in the fried veggie balls to the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes and serve hot with fried rice or chowmein.

Notes to self:
1. Adding brown sugar to the sauce adds that smokiness and depth to the sauce and also contributes to the golden brown hue.
2. Soaking the balls in the sauce for too long could make them crumble.
3. Make sure to taste everything as you go, so that you catch the mistake while its still mendable.
4. Don't panic if the sauce is too watery or dense - everything is reparable!
5. Achieving the perfect sauce consistency depends a lot on the stove heat used and the consistency of the sauces. There's no need to worry if you don't achieve it right away. Playing with the cornstarch mixture and the water content solves it all. Just make sure to simmer the mixture so that cornstarch gets cooked.

One very essential variation in my preparation is that while ajinomoto was integral to our home prepared Indo-Chinese dishes..(when we weren't quite aware of the repercussions),I opted out of it with concern for my guests. But oh boy does it make the food taste 1000 times flavorful or what? No wonder it can be addictive. I might be damned to say this..but Indo Chinese food does NOT taste the same without MSG/ajinomoto.Sigh.

An important lesson learnt from my tryst with Indo-Chinese cooking at a mass scale, is that these dishes HAVE to be dished out right around the time when guests are ready to eat, else they definitely lose their essence. I could have really loved some help with the preparation, but I guess that's how lessons are learnt and I learnt my own. So next time you plan to dish out these recipes on a large scale, make sure you have plenty of preparation done in advance and of course, some help couldn't hurt either.

Submitting this post to:
"Walk through memory lane" by Kalyani and Gayatri.
 - Kalyani and Vardhini for "Kitchen Chronicles – Only Vegan : Event Announcement".
- "Warm foods to beat the rain" hosted by The Pumpkin farm and Srivalli.
- "Desi Vidheshi food fest" hosted by Kalyani
- "Walk through memory lane" hosted by Archana and Gayatri
 - "30 minute meals" hosted by Srivalli 

July 23, 2012

An Odia spin to the classic egg curry - Anda Alu Jhola/Anda Tarkari

How comforting is it to catch a glimpse of eggs gloriously adorning the-almost-empty refrigerator? Very comforting, isn’t it? I say it with much conviction since I believe that I might almost win (or be a very close competitor) for the “The most Experienced” award of such situations - a lot number of times. I might be damned to proclaim it as the most versatile of ingredients EVER but I am sure most of you will agree with me that indeed it is a savior in those critically desperate times.

Eggs are such adorable, "un"-intimidating delights that almost everyone is content savoring and more importantly, very fearless while cooking something wondrous. With its numerous avatars – be it the humble French toast for breakfast, frittata for lunch, nutritious boiled eggs as a snack or the fancy Pasta Carbonara for dinner, eggs are undoubtedly the most pliable of all ingredients I have ever worked with. I actually cannot sing eloquent enough of this dazzling star which is there to support you (as a binder for coating I must add) and of course to provide you with essential minerals and of course the protein for your dear pretty self. Informal, lip smacking and quick meals can be cooked just with eggs. So when in a fix to cook up something elegant, this gorgeous Indian dish with eggs and potatoes is something that pops straight into mind.

Out of all the various renditions of eggs, the one that stands out in memory the most is this simply prepared curry by who else but my Ma. To let you in on some details, with all the various religious restrictions there were only just very specific days of the week on which were allowed to eat/ cook non-vegetarian food back home. Out of all those days, Wednesday was one such day which we eagerly looked forward to as kids. So this “Anda alu jhola” dates back to those Wednesdays when we would rush back from school feeling awfully hungry with all anticipation of what awaits us and reach home to wafts of aroma of this egg curry sipping out through the front door. “Jhola” in Odia refers to a curry with a thinner consistency most usually eaten with rice. The rice soaks up the varied flavors of the jhola which is then coherently boosted with a bite of the seasoned egg. This egg and potato curry was the front runner on days when my darling little brother would insist on eating anything other than fish. My Ma would have hardly any will to resist and we would get to savor this dish. Need I say that he absolutely loves this preparation and yes lil bro, this post is for you.

Anda Alu Jhola

Seasoned and lightly sautéed boiled eggs simmer in a flavorful, thin broth along with sautéed cubed potatoes to add a quintessential Odia spin to the classic egg curry. Usually eaten with rice, this curry is quick to prepare and is a welcome change from heavy, thickened egg gravies.

3 nos. Eggs 
2 T + 1/2 tsp Oil 
1 1/2 inch Cinnamon stick or 1 Bay leaf (Sprinkle 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder later after the curry is done,if you do not have the cinnamon stick)
1 T ginger garlic paste
2 T onion paste 

For dry spice paste:
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp kashmiri chili powder (Optional)
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala 
1/2 tsp Amchur/ dry mango powder (Substitute with required amount of lemon juice in its absence)
1 C water 
1/2 tsp salt (Alter as per taste)
Chopped cilantro (Optional)


1. For perfectly boiled eggs:

The first and the most important step is the boiling the eggs. How often have you ended up with that greyish ring around the yolk or with an egg with runny yolk? So now with this easy process, you are guaranteed to end up with perfectly boiled eggs every time without fail.

Place raw eggs in a pan and fill it with room temperature water till it covers the eggs. Bring the pan to a boil and switch off the stove once the water starts boiling. Cover the pan with a lid for 14 minutes and then, soak the eggs in cold water for about 5 minutes. Peel it once cooled and you have perfectly hard boiled eggs ready to rock.

2. Season the peeled, boiled eggs and cubed potatoes separately with 1/8 tsp of salt, turmeric powder and chili powder.

3. Heat up 2 T oil in a pan over medium heat and toss in the cubed potatoes. Once slightly browned, take those out and then add in the seasoned eggs. Stir and shallow fry the eggs till very lightly browned for 1-2 minutes. Scoop out the eggs and keep aside.

4. In the same oil, toss in the cinnamon stick/bay leaf  and once fragrant, add in the ginger, garlic and onion paste. Stir consistently over medium heat for 1 minute. Then, stir in the dry ingredients for the spice paste in ½ C water and add it to the ginger-garlic-onion paste in the pan. Stir consistently so that the paste does not burn and wait for the mixture to boil. Once the oil floats on top and the masala doesn’t smell anymore of raw onion, you know the gravy is ready. Add in 1 C of water and let it boil.

5. Now slowly slide in the potatoes. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Right before taking off the heat, add in the halved 
sautéed eggs.Garnish with chopped cilantro, adjust for salt and serve hot with rice or bread.

While I savor this anda alu jhola, I cannot help but travel back in time when all of us would sit together to gobble up the rice soaked in this delectable light gravy. Nothing these days is quite as delightful than that surge of happiness we experienced as we ran back home on a rainy afternoon to this warm and homely preparation.

Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as I did:)
Have a great week friends!
P.s: I am sending this entry to
- Kalyani and Gayathri for "Walk through memory lane-July 2012"
-"JCO: Monsoon of India" hosted by Sayantani and Jagruti
 - "30 minute meals" hosted by Srivalli 
- "Simply Sides" hosted by Sumee.

July 9, 2012

The mighty Vada Pav & the dainty Alu Chop

Even though I haven't quite grown up eating this "burger", very often it makes me wonder as to when and how I grew to like it. Its often true that the enthusiasm of your loved ones rubs off on you, more so when you love to please them and I believe that's exactly what happened here. Mention Vada pav and its almost impossible to miss the look of longing and the irresistible urge in the eyes of Mumbai-ites or more broadly Maharashtrians. What better reason to prepare this delicacy than to satisfy the quench of those Vada Pav thirsty eyes?

This very popular, universally-loved street food needs no further introduction. The legend of Vada Pav goes back to mill workers in Mumbai....then known as Bombay. Supposedly, it originated as a quick to-go snack/ meal for people on the run. Slathered with exquisite chutneys, this flavorful burger worked as the perfect on-the-go meal. Quite similar to the burrito or even the original sandwich origin. Any soul who has savored it would know, that you don't really need to grow up eating it to crave for it.

I exactly wouldn't say that I was completely alien to this Indian version of the burger. The star of this dish-the Vada is eaten very frequently as a snack at home. Its lovingly referred to as "Alu chop" and of course any occasion was fit to either make it or order it from the closest sweets stall. Whoever has eaten the alu chop with "mudhi" or puffed rice, would remember the meld of flavors in the mouth when you bite into the crunchy puffed rice along with the savory and spicy fried potato balls. They make for a perfect snack to welcome any guest or to satisfy your urge for some fried spiced potatoes encased in chickpea flour. Pair it with marinated onions in lemon juice and chopped chilies and this snack wouldn't ever like to leave you.

So one eventful Saturday afternoon while reminiscing about the various street foods made us so nostalgic that we delved into trying this out. Armed with some help from my Ma along with valuable inputs of friends who have grown up eating this delicacy, I set on to try my hand at this.

Vada Pav

An indulgent Maharashtrian street food, Vada Pav is our very own spin to the burger. Slathered generously with exquisite chutneys, the Pav or the bun serves as the perfect carrier for the flavorful crispy potato dumpling fried in a spiced chick pea flour batter.


Making the Alu Chop aka the Vada
For the filling:
5 Medium sized potatoes
1 T Oil
6-7 Curry leaves
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1/2 C Chopped Onions
1 1/4 T Ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1 T finely chopped Chilies (Optional)
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Sugar

For the batter:
1 C Chick pea flour / Besan
2 T Cornstarch powder (I substituted for rice flour since I was aiming for some crispiness. Use 3 T rice flour if available).
1 tsp Turmeric powder
Salt to taste (For those wondering,yes I do taste the batter to check for flavor ;)
1/2 C + 2T Water.
1/8th tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Sugar


1. Mix in all the ingredients for the batter and keep aside for 10-15 minutes. This gives the batter enough time to mix well and for the baking soda to work.
2. For the potato mixture: Boil the potatoes till just done and keep aside to cool. Mash the potatoes when cooled.
3. In the meantime, heat oil in a pan. Add in the mustard seeds, curry leaves and when the seeds start spluttering, add in the chopped onions. Once the chopped onions look translucent (1-2 minutes), pour in the ginger-garlic paste. Add in the turmeric powder, salt, chili powder, green chilies and sugar, all dissolved in 2 T of water.
Tip: Its very important to cook the paste thoroughly. One easy way to check, is to sniff and check if the raw smell disappears. Also, the oil starts floating, once the masala is done. Keep stirring the paste consistently and add in tiny amounts of water to avoid it from sticking to the pan.
4. Now add the masala mixture to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Keep aside for this mixture to cool properly before frying the vadas.
Tip: Using a cold potato mixture for the vadas ensures that the batter sticks to the potato filling and makes for cohesive vadas not the ones where the casing falls of the filling.
5. Heat up oil for frying. Make small rounds of the potato filling, dip it in the batter and fry it over medium heat. It takes about 30-45 seconds to fry one vada.

The Chutneys:
Khajoor Imli chutney: ~Sweet and slightly tangy, date chutney~
8-10 Pitted Dates.
1 C Water
1 1/2 tsp Tamarind extract
1 T Jaggery (Adjust as required)
1/2 tsp Dried Ginger powder (Sunthi)
1/2 tsp Cumin powder
A pinch of black salt
1/4 th tsp Chili powder (Optional)

Soak the tamarind separately in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes till both are soft. Squeeze out the tamarind pulp from the soaked tamarind.
In a pan over medium heat, add in the water and the chopped pitted dates. Cook till it boils gently and the dates look softer (~ 3-4 mins). Then add in the rest of the ingredients and adjust the sweetness with sugar/ jaggery according to your taste. Switch off the stove once the mixture looks glossy (~ 2 mins more after adding the rest of the ingredients).

Hari Chutney: ~Spicy and savory, cilantro chutney~
2 C Coriander/Cilantro leaves
1/2 C Dried Unsweetened Coconut
1/2 T Chopped Green Chilies
1/4 th tsp Sugar
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Lemon juice

Grind the cilantro leaves to a paste, along with the green chilies, coconut and little bit of water if required. Mix in sugar, salt, lemon juice and adjust according to taste. This chutney should not be very watery, so avoid using too much water.

Assembling the Vada Pav:
1. Slit the burger buns and slather one side with khajoor chutney and the other with hari chutney. Sprinkle garlic chutney (Store bought) on the hari chutney side of the bun.
2. Place the vada on the bun and savor it with a side of fried green chilies and extra garlic chutney.

Time saving tips: 
1. The chutneys can be prepared atleast 1-2 days in advance and stored in a air tight jar in the refrigerator. 
2. The stuffing for the vada/alu chop can be prepared a day in advance, that way you won't waste time allowing it to cool down before frying. Fry them fresh the day of the party and enjoy all the lovely company.

For the alu chop, the variations are innumerous, add in veggies like the beet,nuts like the peanuts and of course, you could opt out of the ginger garlic paste to make it fit for upwaas. To me this represents a great way to have a gala time with friends where each one assembles their own Vada Pav as per their taste and feels like a star when they bite into it and enter their own sweet little trip down memory lane.

Have a great time entertaining buddies!
P.s: I am sending this recipe to :
- "Kid's Delight: Evening Snacks & Tiffin" hosted by Vardhini and Srivalli.
- "JCO: Monsoon of India" hosted by Sayantani and Jagruti
Kalyani and Priya for "Sandwiches".
- "Walk through memory lane" by Kalyani and Gayatri.
 - Kalyani and Vardhini for "Kitchen Chronicles – Only Vegan : Event Announcement".
- "Warm foods to beat the rain" hosted by The Pumpkin farm and Srivalli.
 - "30 minute meals" hosted by Srivalli 

July 5, 2012

Fresh,Sweet & Sour - Raw Mango & Mint Chutney ~Amba Pudina Khatta~

Summer and mangoes have been synonymous ever since I could think of. The sweltering heat of the summer months seems much more bearable when relished with some juicy, sweet, luscious mangoes. Come summer and we would have cartons of mangoes smelling absolutely divine in our store room. The luxury of waking up to the smell of mangoes for breakfast was something we didn’t quite have to look forward to too much. It happened ever so often. The taste and aroma of Indian “Baigana Palei” mangoes is unbeatable but I don’t really mind much. Mangoes in any form, size and shape are welcome anytime. I remember eating them as desserts, snacks and of course sometimes as the main course. I am sure most of you would remember devouring raw mangoes with salt, rock salt and chilli powder. Aah! The simple delights of childhood abandon..which I try to emulate ever so often. I am sure that by now you can really tell that mangoes are my most favorite of all fruits. I have always been partial with it and I guess I always will be.

Raw mangoes are known to lower the body temperature and are used as a natural way to protect our body from the heat. Apart from being rich in Vitamin C, raw mangoes are packed with B-vitamins that provide with all the more reason to relish this natural gift. At the beginning of the summer months, when Bapa would get raw mangoes, my Ma always made this simple recipe for us kids to savor. This dish is a perfect accompaniment to any meal and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to about 2-3 days. It uses very little oil (great for calorie counters) and is great for finicky kids that require variety in their meal.

Amba Pudina Khatta

This traditional Odia sweet 'n' sour raw mango and mint chutney pairs the tanginess of a raw mango with the freshness of mint and a hint of traditional cumin and red chilli spice mix.”Khatta” is the generic Odia term loosely used for a sweet and sour accompaniment made with various fruits. It works great with several meals, as a side dish, a topping on a sandwich or even just as a dipping.Its also great as a palate cleanser too.


1 Medium sized raw or semi-raw mango cut into long pieces.
1 ½ T Sugar (Adjust the amount based on the sourness of the mango)
⅛th tsp Salt
1 tsp Oil (Any neutral flavored oil, I use Canola oil)
1 tsp Cumin seeds
½ C Water
½ tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Cumin & red chili powder/ Jeera lanka gunda (Optional)
10-11 nos. Mint leaves


1.   Cut the mango into thin 1/2 inch strips, and marinate it with salt and sugar. Keep aside for 10-15 minutes till the mango starts softening.
    Tip: Marinating the mango allows it to soften & quickens the cooking process.
2.   In a pan, pour in oil and add in cumin seeds. Stir till it’s fragrant. Then add in the water along with turmeric powder and jeera lanka gunda. When this mixture starts boiling, add in the mangoes. Cover and simmer the mango mixture for about 20-25 minutes till the mangoes form a jelly like consistency.Stir in between to avoid it from charring.
3.   Chop the mint leaves and add in after taking the mango mixture off the stove. Cover for a minute and serve hot or cold.

Quick cooking with pressure cooker:
When using a pressure cooker, the cooking time reduces to about 10 minutes. Prepare the mango mixture following steps 1 and 2 in the pressure cooker pan, add in 1 C of water and wait for 2 whistles. Check the consistency, the mangoes should be soft. Let it simmer for some more time till you achieve the desired consistency.

Note on Jeera Lanka Gunda/ Cumin and Red chili powder: This is a very traditional Odia simple spice mix made with equal amounts of dried red chillies and roasted cumin seeds powdered together.

A great way to use up raw mangoes in this quick and appealing recipe. As a kid, I used to love it on slices of bread as my favorite snack. Give it a try..who knows it might become your favorite too ;)

Hope you folks are having a great summer.
P.s: I am sending this recipe to :
 - Kalyani and Vardhini for "Kitchen Chronicles – Only Vegan : Event Announcement".
- Kalyani and Gayathri for "Walk through memory lane-July 2012"
- "Let's cook with fruits" hosted by Nayna
- "Pickles and chutneys" @ Ammaji's recipes