|be a foodie | September 2016
A journey to the land of spices:
Indian cuisine comes to the prairie
by Jill Whitcomb
Let's take a journey to an ancient land. A place where mangoes and guavas grow on trees. A place where parakeets and peacocks live in the wild, proudly displaying their colorful plumage. A country where marigolds are grown as crops.
Where is our journey taking us? To India.
The history of India can be traced back to 7000 BCE where Neolithic settlements have been found. Today, 1.2 billion people call India home, speaking over 20 languages, including English. In size, India is approximately 18 times larger than North Dakota, or twice the size of Alaska.
A country this geographically massive is bound to have a wide variety of cuisine. Angad Malhotra has lived in various places in India due to his father's career in the Indian Army; but his family has put down roots in the country's capital of New Delhi.
The Punjab region is located in northern India, and the cuisine reflects the crops grown in that part of the country. Punjab's status as an agricultural and farming hub of northern India that can be traced back to 3300 BCE. The area is known for the wheat, dairy and rice used in local cuisine, as well as poultry, goat and lamb.
There are many delicious foods found in New Delhi: "The popular foods here are paranthas, poori-aloo, makki roti and saag, dahi bhalla, kadi and rice. My favorite meal would be murgh makhani with naan. I love that," says Malhotra.
Paranthas: Unleavened flat bread made from whole wheat dough
Poori-aloo: Spicy tomato and potato curry served with flat bread
Makki roti and saag: Unleavened bread made with corn flour and served with cooked greens such as spinach or mustard greens
Dahi bhalla: Fried dough balls served with a sauce of plain yogurt. The finished dish can be topped with pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, coconut or chutney.
Murgh makhani with naan: Chicken in a mild curry sauce with flat bread.
"There are a lot of differences in food that is eaten in every city and state, as well. In southern India, they eat more Idli, sambhar and also fish. Whereas in the northern part, they prefer chicken, meat and chapatis," explains Malhotra.
Idli: A small cake made from rice and fermented black lentils. It is a traditional breakfast food served with a coconut chutney or an onion chutney.
Sambhar: A lentil-based vegetable stew
Chapatis: An unleavened flatbread made from wheat flour. It looks very similar to a tortilla or lefse.
Malhotra recently moved to New York City, and is attending City University to earn his Master's degree in Information Systems. Living in the Big Apple, does he feel homesick for the food back home? "Sometimes I do feel the urge to eat that typical Indian food. But being in New York City, I can have that kind of food due to the cultural diversity here."
What can we do in North Dakota if we crave Indian food, and the nearest Indian restaurant is hundreds of miles away? Easy! Just cook your own. It isn't as complicated as it sounds. Your local ethnic grocery store will be a good place to look for some of the ingredients. Your local grocery store may also surprise you with its variety.
Nimmakkaya Annam is a colorful and flavorful dish. It goes well with sliced mangoes, topped with a little grated coconut. A piece of garlic naan would round out your dinner. With the very first bite of this tasty meal, your taste buds will be transported to historic and exotic India. Happy eating!
Nimmakkaya Annam (South Indian Lemon Rice)
4 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 cup of unsalted roasted peanuts
Juice of 2 fresh lemons
2 red chili peppers
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
3-5 curry leaves
1 tsp turmeric
Heat oil and briefly cook mustard seeds on medium heat. Add chili peppers, ginger, cumin, curry leaves and peanuts. Cook about 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and add lemon juice, turmeric, salt, and rice. Mix well.
Jill Whitcomb is a North Dakota-based writer who is currently residing in Grand Forks. Jill has written for newspaper, magazine, and Prairie Public radio. Jill also writes a blog, SeekYourBliss.blogspot.com, which has garnered readers from 75 countries. Jill enjoys reading, vegetarian cooking, and a strong cup of British tea.