From remote tribal villages to frenzied capital cities, in India, food is life’s organizing principle. For our August/September 2014 special India issue, we traversed the massive subcontinent, dipping into restaurants, markets, and homes to discover dishes both classic and new. From chutneys to flatbreads to regional specialties like Goa’s pork vindaloo and Hyderabad’s unique biryani, here are all the recipes from issue #167.
Khoya, a rich curd made by reducing milk for several hours, forms the base for these syrup-soaked confections.
This sweet riff on the Indian yogurt drinks known as lassis comes from Lingaraj Lassi, a popular refreshment stand in Bhubaneshwar in the east Indian state of Odisha. Its honeyed taste and caramel hue come from the sugars in the milk, which caramelize as the milk reduces, deepening and intensifying it in color and flavor.
No Bengali meal is complete without maacher jhol, fish simmered in a tomato-based curry scented with mustard oil and the region’s distinctive mix of five spices: toasted fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard, and fennel seeds.
This fragrant sauce is great with dosas, the fermented lentil and rice crêpes common in south India. It’s dead simple to make, using just a few vibrant ingredients to deliver big flavor: Fresh curry leaves form the base, with sweetness from jaggery (an unrefined sugar), spice from ginger, and sourness from tamarind.
This basic raita is a cooling counterpoint to fiery foods, thanks to its foundation of full-fat yogurt, cucumber, and mint. Plum tomatoes add a hint of acid, Thai chiles heat, and cumin a slight earthiness.
Descended from Persian Zoroastrians—followers of the prophet Zoroaster who began emigrating to India around the eighth century—Parsis in India have their own distinct food. This Parsi fish dish, commonly featured at weddings, is adapted from a recipe in Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries (Workman, 2008). White-fleshed fish is bathed in a spiced coconut-tamarind sauce and steamed until tender in fragrant banana leaves.
In early spring, the first of the season’s unripe mangoes are eagerly anticipated in India. Green, unripe mangoes, with their tart flavor and rich pectins, are used to add tang to all sorts of dishes, from dals to desserts. Here, they are boiled until tender and blended with sweet jaggery, pungent black salt, asafoetida, and other spices in a thirst-quenching north Indian drink.
This richly spiced chicken dish is adapted from a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s classic Flavors of India (West 175 Publishing, 1995). According to Jaffrey, “What gives this a very special southern flavor is the use of fennel seeds, curry leaves, and, of course, the pulse (legume) urad dal. This is definitely a dish you will want to make very frequently.” We couldn’t agree more. Get the recipe for Chettinad Pepper Chicken »
Carved out of ten former districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangan officially became India’s 29th state in June 2014. For this eponymous dish from Telangana home cook Padma Reddy, the skin is removed from the chicken to allow the flavors of the marinade—coconut, lime, garlic, ginger, cardamom, mace and more—to penetrate. Get the recipe for Telangana-Style Curried Chicken Stew »
Throughout India, creamy, chilled lassis are the go-to beverage for cooling off during the warmer months. To make them, milk or water-thinned yogurt is blended with ingredients such as strawberries or ripe mangoes. In the South India city of Hyderabad, the most popular lassi is made with Rooh Afza, a rose-scented syrup made with botanicals and sugar.
Writer VK Sreelesh’s in-laws live in the south Indian state of Kerala, along the Malabar Coast, where people’s diets are heavily influenced by the area’s abundant supply of seafood. One of his favorite dishes is this fried bullseye fish, seasoned with turmeric and chile powder and fried in coconut oil. While small bullseye fish or sardines are traditionally used, salmon, shrimp, or snapper, as we’ve used here, also work.
Throughout India, creamy, chilled lassis are the go-to beverage for cooling off during the warmer months. To make them, milk or water-thinned yogurt is blended with ingredients such as Rooh Afza, a scarlet-colored syrup tasting of rose petals and pine, or—for this recipe—ripe mangoes, resulting in a refreshing drink that’s as thick as a milkshake.
Green mango and aromatic mint combine to delicious effect for this tart, refreshing Indian purée. Green Thai chiles lend a spicy note, while cumin and the garlic-like powder asafoetida give an earthy backbone to the condiment.
Unlike some other staple Indian breads, which are unleavened and crafted from durum wheat flour, or atta, fluffy naan is made with all-purpose flour and yeast. Traditionally, the dough is slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven and baked over wood fires, but many home cooks make it on the stovetop.
In Lucknow, India, the hakims—local practitioners of Yunani medicine, derived from ancient Greece and focused on balancing the humors in the body—concoct cooling drinks to beat the heat. Called by the Persian name sharbat, the iced drinks often contain sweet and tart fruits and pungent and fiery spices. This refreshing cooler gets a carbonated lift from seltzer and a pleasantly saline tang from black salt and dried mango powder.
The foundation for this common Indian flatbread is the same dough that is used for chapati—atta, or durum wheat flour, mixed with water. The key difference, which creates the paratha’s signature layers, is rolling and folding the dough in a triangle. The chewy flatbread is then dry-cooked in a skillet until puffy and golden.
Smoky red Kashmiri chile powder and rich ghee are the foundations of the sauce for tender lamb shanks in this classic dish served as part of the Kashmiri feast called wazwaan. Cooked for weddings and other auspicious occasions, the wazwaan is comprised of 36 dishes, the majority of them lamb. The wazas, or cooks, who prepare the meal come from long lines of chefs schooled in the art. Get the recipe for Kashmiri Chile-Braised Lamb (Rogan Josh) »
Cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey describes sambar as “a split-pea stew which is varied daily with the addition of, say, caramelized shallots or tomatoes or okra or aubergine (eggplant) poached in tamarind juice.” What we discovered in our test kitchen is that any combination of vegetables, such as yams, zucchini, or eggplant, can be added to this aromatic south Indian stew, which is often served with dosas.
Throughout India, creamy, chilled lassis are the go-to beverage for cooling off during the warmer months. To make them, milk or water-thinned yogurt is blended with ingredients such as ripe mangoes or, as in this recipe, rose water and strawberries. Get the recipe for Strawberry Lassi »
In the Indian city of Hyderabad, this dish is traditionally made using goat, but lamb makes an excellent substitute; including the bones adds an unmatched depth of flavor. While peeled muskmelon and watermelon seeds are usually used to thicken the dish, we’ve substituted pumpkin seeds in our version.
Cookbook author Madhur Jaffery describes these spidery-looking cabbage-and-peanut fritters as looking like little Medusa heads, “with the strands of shredded cabbage providing a crunchy, unruly halo.” A popular item in the mess halls of the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, they can be served as part of a meal or as a crunchy snack.
Cumin and salt add pungent flavor to this twist on a gin gimlet from chef Manish Mehrotra of New Delhi restaurant Indian Accent, located in The Manor boutique hotel in New Delhi’s tony Friends Colony neighborhood.
This creamy dish from Toronto-based Indian cookbook author Smita Chandra makes a phenomenal spread, with oven-baked naan bread on the side. It’s made with the fresh Indian cheese called paneer, peas, and whole peeled tomatoes, along with plenty of tangy fresh fenugreek greens, and it’s spiced lavishly with turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and more. If you can’t find fenugreek greens, kale, Swiss chard, or another green can be substituted.
Beef shanks or brisket may be substituted for short ribs in this version of a long-cooked Muslim Indian beef stew, a luscious dish traditionally cooked with trotters, which thicken the sauce. The recipe is adapted from Charmaine O’Brien’s Recipes from an Urban Village: A Cookbook from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti (The Hope Project, 2003), a book highlighting the cooking of an ancient Delhi enclave.
Dishes from the south Indian state of Kerala, along the Malabar Coast, are heavily influenced by the area’s abundant supply of seafood. In this Anglo-Indian recipe from cookbook author and cooking instructor Smita Chandra, mussels gathered from local waters are cooked with tomatoes in a richly spiced coconut broth.
There are countless varieties of this ubiquitous Indian snack mix, made with varying combinations of nuts, fruit, spices, and other ingredients. Cookbook author Smita Chandra’s version of the addictive nibble is the best we’ve had, with four kinds of nuts (cashew, peanut, almond, pistachio), plus sweet raisins, nutty coconut, and poha, dried flattened rice flakes.
At the Indian table, a variety of yogurt-based raitas mollify the tongue-searing effect of chiles. This version, made fruity and sweet with the addition of coconut and banana, is adapted from Foods of the World: The Cooking of India (Time Life, 1969). Get the recipe for Yogurt with Banana and Grated Coconut »