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September 2011 eRecipes

Posted on 09/25/2011 at 06:24 PM by Madhu Gadia

September 2011
Savor Food

Dear Madhu,

Last week, weather dominated the East Coast. First, there was the earthquake (August 23rd) and then Hurricane Irene (August 26-28th). As much as I told myself—don’t worry; it’s just hoopla, I worried and watched TV with despair. Finally, I packed my bag and headed to my daughter’s place; if anything happens we would be together. Many people did the same with a feeling that as long as they were with family or friends, they could cope with anything. Overall we were pretty lucky, for the damage could’ve been so much worse. Some people I know, lost power for several days, which means no food, no water, no shower, and guess what—no computer and TV. The lives were at a standstill. The following Monday, our office was jammed with people who often work from home because the office had power, water, and a cafeteria with hot, fresh food. By Thursday things were back to normal. I hope that you and yours fared well through these natural disasters.

Eat What You Want, But in Moderation
Anytime there is bad weather and we are stuck at home, we reach for comfort foods. We seek these foods because they give us, as the name implies, comfort. But unfortunately for many of us, these soul-soothing foods are also laden with guilt. We worry about the calories, fat, carbohydrate, or sodium. The interesting thing is that we eat the food, but not with joy and pleasure. What a shame!  

In my experience as a nutrition counselor, I have seen that more and more people today are focused on the nutritional components of the meal rather than the flavor, taste, and enjoyment. You would think that as people become more nutrition conscious they would become healthier, but the fact is obesity is increasing and so is disordered eating. When I tell clients to “eat anything you want,” they freak out. They fear that if they don’t monitor themselves their weight will go up uncontrollably. With years of dieting, people have lost the body and mind connection with food. They don’t trust that they can stop when they are full or eat in moderation. They want clear and precise instructions: Eat this, don’t eat that.

Dietitians and other nutrition experts recognize this food fear and compulsion, and therefore have included this advice in the new food recommendations from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). See MyPlate, The new food guide icon, MyPlate, makes it easy for people to know what to eat and how to fill their plates. And among the details of the new USDA guidelines, the recommendations highlight, enjoy food but eat less and avoid oversized portions. To me, that translates into eat anything you want, but in moderation. Remember, we eat food, not calories or fat!

Street Foods of India
Once looked down upon, street foods have become quite a rave these days. Around the world, in India, China, and South America, street foods are part of the food culture. New York has had the famous Hot Dog stands forever. In the past, people have worried about the safety of these food stands and thus looked down upon them, but not anymore. Over the last few years, these delicious food kiosks are turning up in most major cities across the United States. In New York, you now find vendors selling world cuisines right on the foot path. On my last trip to New York, I saw several Curry Kiosks and even a Dosa (thin rice crêpes ) stand. That is great, but these stands are just a tip of the iceberg compared to the street vendors in India.

Street foods in India, most often consist of chaat. A chaat is a food class in itself, unique to India. Chaat literally means “to lick”! It’s a concoction of various foods smothered with sweet and sour chutneys and spice blends. It can be made with little crispy breads (pani-puri) or with potato patties (aloo-tikki). What makes a food chaat is not what it starts with, but what goes on the top. Chaat never fails to rev up one’s taste buds. Young or old, everyone loves chaat. Traditionally, it was primarily sold by street vendors in kiosks. Today it is available, as an appetizer, in all types of Indian restaurants, from fast food joints to fancy dining rooms. There is no substitute for chaat, and once you taste it, you’ll be hooked. 

September Recipes
After all this talk about chaat, I have picked three mouth watering dishes for you: Aloo-Tikki (Potato Patties), Chole (Blackened Spicy Chickpeas), and Pav-Bhaji (Veggie Sloppy Joe Sandwiches). Make them for yourself or invite your friends, turn your dining table into a street cart, and have a fun chaat party. When I make these dishes for my family, I either make aloo-tikki with chole or pav-bhaji. But for a party, I would probably make all three. Making chaat is labor intensive but well worth the effort. Most of the time is taken in making chutneys, cilantro chutney and tamarind chutney. These days you can find these chutneys in most Indian grocery stores, and they are pretty good, though I, of course make my own, because they are the best. Make the chutneys a few days in advance to help pace yourself, and hide them so you have them for your chaat extravaganza. Remember to enjoy, savor and taste your food.

Potato-Patty Snack (Aloo-Tikki Chaat)
Blackened Spicy Chickpeas (Chole)
Veggie Sloppy Joe Sandwiches (Pav-Bhaji)
Cilantro Chutney (Dhania Chutney)
Tamarind Chutney (Imli Chutney)

Happy and Healthy Cooking!
Madhu Gadia

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