Indian Thali with Sirisha Bhandaru
Learn to cook an Indian vegetarian thali-style meal using local summer produce with cooking instructor Sirisha Bhandaru. Sirisha has curated a healthy and delicious thali featuring home-cooked dishes including Khamang Kakdi, a refreshing cucumber salad; Vegetable Poriyal, a light and simple stir-fried vegetable; green mung bean curry; and basmati rice.
Thali is a platter of food with several components that come together in perfect harmony creating a nutritionally balanced and flavorful meal. Thalis can either be very elaborate and festive or super simple home-cooked meals. Typical components of a vegetarian thali include grains like rice or roti flatbreads, lentils, vegetable dishes, and yogurt.
Khamang Kakdi is a refreshing cucumber salad from the Western State of Maharashtra. It is light, nutty, and mildly spicy. Enjoy it as a small side salad along with your meal.
- Finely chop the cucumber and let it sit until you gather all the other ingredients.
- Coarsely crush roasted peanuts in a pestle, or chop them up.
- Squeeze the chopped cucumber lightly and add crushed peanuts, coconut, cilantro, green chili, and lime juice.
- Heat vegetable oil in a small pan, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the tempered oil to the cucumber mix.
- Just before serving, add salt and sugar and mix well.
Poriyal roughly translates to a quick dry stir-fried vegetable. It is made across all the South Indian states with a few small variations. Carrots, green beans, kohlrabi, cabbage, and beetroot can be prepared using this technique. I have started preparing asparagus using the same method as well. I prefer steaming veggies like green beans, carrots, beets, etc. and directly stir-frying other veggies like cabbage and asparagus. You could also do a combination of vegetables. For example carrots and green beans, cabbage and green peas.
- Shred cabbage finely and gather all the other ingredients together.
- In a pan, add oil. Once it heats up add Urad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chili, and curry leaves.
- Once this starts sizzling, add green chili and ginger and mix well.
- Add the shredded cabbage and mix well. Cover and cook for a few minutes, stirring in between.
- Add salt and cook uncovered until cabbage is cooked to your liking.
- Add shredded coconut, mix well, and stop cooking.
- Enjoy with steamed rice or rotis.
*You can follow the same procedure for asparagus - you might have to shorten the cooking time.
**If you want to use veggies like carrots, green beans, or kohlrabi, dice and steam them and then add them to the tempered oil, mix well, add salt and coconut.
Mung beans are widely used all over India and the recipes vary by region. I am sharing a very general recipe, not specific to any state. It is a light and delicious recipe, and this dal will go great with rice or rotis.
- Soak the mung beans overnight. The next morning, drain the water and add 3 times the amount of water in a pan along with the soaked mung beans. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn the heat to low, cover, and let the beans cook slowly. They should cook for 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a separate pan, add oil. When it gets hot, add cumin seeds. Once they sizzle, add ginger, garlic, and green chilies. Once they start cooking and the garlic loses its raw aroma, add onions and saute until golden brown.
- Add tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes soften.
- Add the spice powders (turmeric, coriander, chili powder, and garam masala) and mix well.
- Add the drained cooked mung beans to the tomatoes and mix well. Add salt to taste. Let this cook for a few minutes until the flavors mix well.
- Add the cream and cook for a few more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Add finely chopped cilantro and mix well.
*Coconut milk or coconut cream can be substituted for heavy cream.
**Add more Kashmiri chili powder to adjust the spice level to your taste.
Wash the rice thoroughly in water for a few rinses until it runs clear.
Soak the rice for 20 to 30 minutes (optional, but ensures that rice is soft and fluffy).
Drain the water. In a pan, add 1.5 cups water and the rice. Add salt and ghee if you like.
Let it come to a rolling boil, then simmer and cover for around 10 to 15 minutes until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Let it rest for 5 minutes.