A while ago, my personal workout had become stale, and I just didn’t feel as enthusiastic about lifting a bunch of heavy weights in a gym anymore. It so happened that I met a group of yogis at a festival who told me about their daily asana practice. I went along with the flow and these days I make it a habit to rehearse yoga regularly.
Many of my yoga comrades are of Indian heritage and have social lifestyles with outings and gatherings in Indian-inspired restaurants, where I learned a lot about Indian cuisine, in addition to sitar music, Assam tea, and a number of deities (e.g. Lakshmi and Ganesha).
As for the Indian restaurants, I experienced amazingly simple but delicious street foods. I can’t get enough of dal—usually prepared from lentils, peas or any kind of bean, which I soak up with whole wheat roti. Also, Southern cuisine, often prepared with an unimaginable number of curry mixtures, gets my approval. Northern Indian cuisine, where Asian ingredients such as ginger and coconut have a strong showing, has appeal especially for the Western pallet.
A bit of a downer is that a heavy hand with the spices can sometimes bring dishes totally out of balance. In addition, Americanized Indian cuisine is often prepared with a free-flowing bottle of oil or a generous amount of ghee that makes the food sit like one of those deity’s statues in my stomach.
Dabbling with Spices
As a chef, it has been inspiring seeing the differences of Indian cuisine. Naturally, I have dabbled in Indian cooking and rediscovered spices and new combinations I had forgotten about or never even heard of. I like to apply them to vegetable recipes, which seems to be my forte. I like to think of such vegetable dishes as the centerpiece of my plate—move over steak!
(recipe makes four portions)
2 bunches carrots
1 onion, chopped into ¼” cubes
1 lemon, cut into 1/8”-thick slices
1 orange, juiced
1 cup water
2 pieces star anise or 1 teaspoon
1 pod cardamom
a pinch cayenne
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups canned chickpeas
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Cut tops off carrots and rinse with water.
- Combine carrots, onions, lemon, orange juice, star anise, cardamom, cayenne, salt, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, and apple cider vinegar in a pot. Cover pot with a lid and cook carrot mixture on low heat for 1 hour. Add chickpeas and cook for 30 minutes or until carrots are soft when pierced with a knife.
- Add parsley and olive oil.
Chef’s tip: Add half a cup of mango, cut into half-inch cubes just before serving. Further, a teaspoon of extra virgin coconut oil will make your carrot dish even more fragrant.