There are certain cuisines that I think of as “going out” foods. I’m comfortable making a heavy rotation of Mexican, Japanese and Italian dishes in my own kitchen, in part thanks to easy access to authentic ingredients in my local supermarket. But Indian food has always felt a little daunting, given the limitation of both my skill set and pantry. Most days, it seems easier to just enjoy it done right from one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants.
That’s why I couldn’t have been more grateful for Maya Kaimal’s gorgeous and reassuring new cookbook, “Indian Flavor Every Day.” The entrepreneur and recipe developer describes herself as “dedicated to making Indian food that’s accessible to Americans, but true to her roots,” and that’s exactly what she delivers in “Indian Flavor Every Day.”
One of the most revelatory aspects of the book is how it leans on items you probably already use all the time. Yes, Kaimal offers tips and techniques for incorporating ingredients that are less well known to Americans into your cooking, as well as creating your own aromatic spice blends and marinades. But the first great pleasure of the book is that you can easily pick it up and make something delicious today without even going shopping.
Got turmeric, ginger, chili peppers and cilantro rattling around your kitchen? Got some skinny dried pasta? Those simple elements form the backbone of her simple, spicy — and intensely comforting — golden noodles. This South Indian speciality is “technically a breakfast dish,” she writes in “Indian Flavor Every Day,” “but when I eat it, I see dinner potential!”
Me too. As Kamail suggests, you could easily add a protein to make this a more substantial main course, but I served it with a simple green salad for dinner recently and it was plenty hearty.
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Kamail’s recipe uses fresh curry leaves, which she described during a recent Salon Talks conversation as “amazing.”
“They just add this herbal incredible aroma to the food when you drop them in hot oil,” she said, “but they’re a little tricky to find, so I made sure that every recipe tasted fine without them.” If you can get your hands on them, by all means go for it, but don’t fret if you can’t. The curry leaves free golden noodles I made still made for a comforting, absolutely addictive meal that came together quickly and was devoured even faster. The best part? I had enough left over for breakfast.
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Inspired by “Indian Flavor Every Day” by Maya Kaimal
Southern Indian golden noodles
- 1/2 pound of angel hair or other thin pasta
- 4 tablespoons of neutral vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon of brown or black mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon of dried red chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons of white ural dal or red lentils (masoor dal)
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper (Use less if like things less spicy)
- 1 1/2 half inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (or other tender herbs if you hate cilantro)
- Optional: 12 – 15 curry leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, and set a sheet pan near the stove. Break the pasta into smaller pieces. Add the pasta to the skillet to toast, stirring the noodles and shaking the pan, until the pasta is golden. As it toasts, move the pasta to the sheet pan to cool. Don’t skip this step; you don’t want it to burn.
Cook the pasta until just done. Drain, reserving one cup of the starchy water. Drizzle with a tablespoon of oil and toss to keep from getting sticky.
While the pasta is cooking, make the tarka. In the same skillet you toasted the noodles, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds and heat them until they start to pop.
Add the chili flakes and curry leaves if you have them, then the dal. Cook for about 1 minute, until the dal starts to change color. Add the onions, pepper and ginger and cook, stirring regularly, until the onion starts to soften and brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and cook about 1 minute more.
Lower the heat on the pan. Add the drained pasta to the pan and stir everything together until everything is blended and the noodles are warmed. Add a few tablespoons of the starchy pasta water to loosen the mixture.
Remove from the heat into a serving platter or bowl. To finish, squeeze some lemon on top, and scatter cilantro over everything, unless you hate cilantro. Enjoy immediately.
If you want to lean in to the breakfast vibe here, some fried eggs on the side would be incredible.
on our favorite Indian dishes
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