So many people who eat "Indian " have never really tasted the real thing. That red blanket of sauce in which all ingredients swim is not it. That is restaurant Indian. Usually followed by the word makhani or Jal Frezi or Moghlai , it is literally, a cover up for the basic inadequacy of the main ingredient...be it chicken or lamb, cauliflower or potato. Old perhaps, out of date, leftovers, anything in need of masking, a nom de plume, an alias. The accompaniments to the entree make it a right old masquerade. Just be careful the food isn't dressed to kill. . If not you, at least your appetite.
Strangely enough there are people who develop a taste for this oily ,thick mush. I think its is more a taste for "something else"..a change from the usual , however horrid.
There are very few restaurants, even here in India, where you can actually taste the main ingredient..like a simple vegetable or a mutton curry which is not slathered with a sauce full of spices . Plus plenty of chillies to disguise the fact that the pain one feels is in the slaughter of the taste buds or the distress of the soon-to-be-affected digestive system.
I love eating out...seated at the tables of my friends. I know I am going to taste something different, something good. Since all of us seem to come from different parts of the country, someones daily fare is going to be another ones gastronomic delight. I also prefer to serve the regular food we eat. No extra oil or ghee. Not too much mirchi. A little tarka / seasoning and voila - its heaven to those who aren't familiar with the tastes we were brought up with. I recall one outstanding alu kadhi / potato yogurt curry with puri made in Delhi by a friend from Haryana, a tomato vegetable from another pal from Bengal, an out of this world kheema kebab from a dear Kashmiri friend and so it goes. Unforgettable tastes, unforgettable meals . Many dishes are now firmly part of our home cuisine too. There is a world of food to look forward to if you can convince the average hospitable and generous Indian you'd like to join them for their lunch rather than be invited out for dinner.
If you had dropped by this is what you might have eaten today; like my moong dal recipe, it is easy to make and good to eat.
Chowli Alu Sabzi
250 gms. of young and tender chowli
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 potato cut into small cubes (optional)
A pinch of rai /mustard seed
1/2 green chilli minced (optional)
1 tsp ground garlic
A pinch of haldi /turmeric
Salt to taste.
Pick out the thin chowli beans and slice them into 1/2 inch pieces. Take the peas out of the larger pods and add them to the chopped beans. Heat the oil. Saute the potatoes till half done .Now fry the mustard seed and the green chilli. Add the garlic paste and fry well till light brown. Do not let the garlic burn or the vegetable will taste bitter. Now add the chowli , the turmeric and salt, and a sprinkle of water. Stir well. Cover tightly with a lid and let it cook for 10 minutes on a low fire. Add a spoon of water if required during cooking. Stir well. Serve.
The point to any successful home cooked vegetable is that it should have a single spice flavour, not a hundred to dampen and drown it. I hate the habit of adding ginger and garlic to everything. Sometimes you need just one of the two.The use of commercially made pastes have led to this 'ginger+garlic' trend. The ready made paste has no recognisable taste anyhow. Adding fresh herbs last, as a seasoning, can change the flavour of the whole.Try cooking with A spice and A herb , or just one of the two. Ot two of one i.e. two spices, or two herbs. You might end up with 8 different flavours. And I'm sure every interpretation will be more than edible.
Chowli / vigna sinensis ( I think that is the botanical name...there is some dispute about the taxonomy) an edible podded pea, are related to other vigna plants like the cowpea or black eyed peas which have become part of southern American food, after being introduced there from the Old world in the 18th century. Native to India , it is grown commercially here.They are not as long as the chinese, yard long or asparagus beans, though I suspect they are all relatives . The chowli bean in about 6 inches long, round and straight.
It is an especially useful plant for the small farmer, in both India and Africa, as it can be used throughout its life cycle, as is done with other grain legume crops in the tropics. Its leaves can be used from the start and it makes a high protein vegetable. The seeds can be eaten as well as used for sprouting. The beans may be plucked before maturity and also used as a vegetable.When cropping and thinning ,the leaves and seedlings can be eaten.The pods can be allowed to grow till maturity, dried and kept as a lentil, forming a long lasting source of food. I find it surprising that so much energy and money is being invested in horticulture , on the research and propogation of plants which need far more pesticides and fertilisers, when old plants ,which are so valuable in alleviating malnutrition and hunger are being ignored, to the detriment of the agricultural community and the rural population at large.