(Made with kala chana – dark chick peas)

Preparation time: 24 hours

Cooking time: ~ 1.5 hours (depending on how long the chana takes to boil)

You need: 1 cup kala chana (black chick peas); 1 tbsp coconut; 1 red chili; 2-4 curry leaves; 1 tsp salt; 1 tbsp lemon juice; 1 tsp mustard seeds; baking soda; a pinch of hing (asafetida)

How to: Soak the chana in lots of warm water, with ½ tsp baking soda (soda bicarb) for 24 hours. Drain and wash.

Boil the chana with salt. It should be cooked, but still slightly hard, not mushy.


Heat 1 tbsp oil and add mustard seeds, hing, red chilies, curry leaves. Let them splutter. Add the chana and cook for few minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and coconut and mix well.

Serve warm.


Thair Vadai

(Deep fried lentil patties in spiced yogurt).

Preparation time: ~30 minutes + 6 hours

Cooking time: ~40 minutes

You need: 2 cups urad dal; 5 cups yogurt; 2 green chilies; 1 cup shredded coconut (fresh is preferable, but not necessary); cilantro; salt to taste; lots of oil for deep frying

How to: Soak the dal in lots of water for at least six hours. Drain, rinse, and grind in a food processor. Do not add water. If it is difficult to grind, add a tablespoon or so of water. It should have the consistency of peanut butter – grind it as smoothly as possible. Drop a little batter in a bowl of water – it should float.

Grind the coconut, yogurt, salt, and green chilies together and refrigerate in a large flat pan you can serve the thair vadai in.

Heat oil for frying. Mix half the batter with salt. Keep a bowl of cold water handy. Wet your hands thoroughly. Take a small amount of batter in your hand (about the size of a lime). Pat flat and drop into the oil. Turn over once to ensure even cooking. Fry until golden brown. Place a paper towel on a plate and drain the vadais on that. Repeat for other half of batter. The batter may be frozen, but I’m not sure for how long it will keep. If you want to make the vadais up ahead, store them refrigerated in a Ziploc bag.

Heat some water (to as hot as you can bear to put your hand in). Put the vadais into the water. Take out, squeeze the water out, and place in the yogurt. The yogurt should cover the vadais fully. Garnish with cilantro.

Kosmari (South Indian cucumber salad)

Preparation time: 20 minutes + 2 hours refrigeration

Cooking time: 1 minute

You need: 1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped very, very small; 1/3 cup moong dal; 1 tbsp chopped cilantro; 1 green chili, minced; 1 tbsp lemon juice; ½ tsp mustard seeds; a pinch of hing (asafetida); 1 tbsp shredded coconut; salt to taste

How to: Wash and drain the moong dal. Mix dal, cucumber, and salt. Cover and refrigerate for two hours before serving. (This won’t keep for more than a few hours).

Heat some oil and add the mustard seeds. When they start sputtering add the green chili and the hing. Mix well with the cucumber. Add the lemon juice, coconut, and cilantro and mix well.

Tomato Rasam

You need: 4-5 large tomatoes, rasam podi, 1/2 tsp haldi (tumeric), salt to taste. For tempering (tadka): 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson/kadagu), 3-4 curry leaves (kadipatta/karuvapilai), 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera/jeeragam), 1 tsp ghee.

How to: Chop the tomatoes and boil them in 4-5 cups water until soft. Mash them well. Add salt, turmeric, and 1 heaped tsp rasam podi, mix well, and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Heat the ghee in a small pan. Add all the tempering spices and let them sputter. Pour into the rasam and stir well. Eat with rice and dal.

Ammamma’s Pachai Rasam Podi

My grandmother was a truly incredible cook. She’s been gone nearly ten years, but my mother (finally!) gave me her rasam podi recipe yesterday. It’s “pachai” (green/fresh) because it’s not roasted before grinding. It makes about 4-5 tsps.

You need: 1 heaped tbsp of dhania dana (coriander seeds/kothamali verai), 3-4 dried red chilies (vatha molaga), 1 tsp peppercorns (molagu), 1.5 tsp arhar dal.

How to: Grind it all together into a fine powder. Add 1-1.5 tsp to 4-5 cups rasam.