Bhindi bhaaji was a staple weeknight dish for my Mom. It was always one of my favorite dishes because it was not very spicy and my Mom cooked it until it was slightly crispy and crunchy. I love bhindi bhaaji so much that I made sure it was served at my wedding reception!
As a note, "bhaaji" is a Marathi word for a dish consisting of a cooked vegetable. In Hindi it is known as a "sabzi"; in Gujarati it is known as a "shaak." There is a different word in every language, but it is the same thing!
When I think of classic Maharastrian food, I immediately think of fodni che varan (also known as tadka daal). Varan is essentially a lentil soup made of "toor daal," or yellow split pigeon peas.
Varan is very healthy and filling. Traditionally, varan was made in a pressure cooker. I don't own a pressure cooker, and as a working woman the slow cooker suits my lifestyle much better.
Fodni (known as chaunk, tadka, and vaghar in different languages) is a mixture of spices cooked in "ghee," or clarified butter. This method of cooking the spices in the ghee releases the essential oils from the spices and enhances their flavor. You do not have to add fodni to your varan if you do not want to, but it adds a lot of flavor!
My mom, mother-in-law, and all my female relatives in India keep a "masala dabba," or spice tin. Typically the tin is made of stainless steel and contains seven separate cups to keep various spices. Of course, you can keep more spices than that in your home; but this gives the cook easy access to the spices she uses most frequently. You can purchase your own masala dabba here and here and receive free shipping!
When I started this project, I asked my mom what seven spices I should keep in my masala dabba; of course, every cook has a different idea of what spices are the most necessary, but these seven are the most necessary to my mom (and by extension, to me):
My grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles all begin their days with a cup of hot masala chai. I am a coffee drinker on the weekdays; however, when the weekend comes around I start my mornings with masala chai as well.
I began drinking masala chai when I was in high school and had to stay up late into the night to study for school. My dad would often make me a cup of chai to help me stay awake.
I can't remember a time when my dad was not the first person awake and making chai in the mornings. Even now, when I go back home, my dad always makes a cup of chai for me when I wake up. If he has to leave for work and I'm still asleep, he will make it and leave it for me to drink later.
I figured there is no better way to start this blog than with masala chai, even if this is one Indian item I have been making for several years!
Exploring Indian cuisine and trying to learn the recipes of my family. I hope to help and inspire others along the way.