Gujarati kadhi to soothe the heart of beasts

Gujarati Kadhi

Gujarati Kadhi

I must have had a stressful week at work because this is my second post about comfort food with rice.

It is probably foolhardy to attempt a definition, but ‘kadhi’ is a boiled liquid of yogurt and chickpea flour that is made in various ways all over India. It combines the sourness of yogurt with the body added by the chickpea flour, and some sweetness, usually. The result is so soothing that the aromas can bring the most hardened criminal rushing back home to his mother’s kitchen. While I’m not suggesting you use this for crime management anytime soon, it is certainly one of the simplest Indian recipes to put together for non-Indian cooks.

Now every region of India, even every micro-region, has its own version. But the salience of each of the few ingredients in this recipe is such that each cook’s kadhi will be a little different. The number of tablespoons of chickpea flour used makes a difference, as does the sourness of the yogurt you started with; also how much chili heat has been added or how much sugar.

I grew up eating lunch at Gujarati friends’ houses, so I have a special place in my heart for the Gujarati kadhi. It goes well with soft white rice or creamy khichdis. But we had it with Bhutanese black forbidden rice and green beans on the side.

This version is from Taste of Gujarat by Nita Mehta.

Paste of chili and ginger

Paste of chili and ginger

Blending yogurt, chickpea flour, turmeric, chili-ginger paste

Blending yogurt, chickpea flour, turmeric, chili-ginger paste

Whisking kadhi on stovetop

Whisking kadhi on stovetop

Kadhi ready to temper

Kadhi ready to temper

Tempering spices for kadhi

Tempering spices for kadhi

Cilantro

Cilantro

Kadhi done

Kadhi done

Kadhi over black rice

Kadhi over black rice

Gujarati Kadhi

Ingredients
  • 1 cup yogurt (sour is good)
  • 1 tablespoon chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 – 3 fresh green chilies, as per your heat tolerence
  • Half inch piece of ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 piece of Indian jaggery, or 1 teaspoon honey, or 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Some minced cilantro
  • Tempering:
    • 1 tablespoon ghee (substitute with oil)
    • 1 small piece cinnamon
    • 4 cloves
    • 5-6 curry leaves (if you don’t have this leave it out)
    • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
Method

Make a paste of the ginger and chili in a mortar and pestle. In a blender, put in the yogurt, the chickpea flour, turmeric, salt, the paste from above, and 1 cup water. Give it a whirl to combine. Put this soup in a pot and bring it to a boil. At this point you can add the sweetener. Let it simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Now the kadhi is more-or-less done, all that is left is the tempering. Turn it off and cover it. Heat the ghee in a small pan. When fully melted and shimmering, put in the cinnamon and cloves; when they sizzle the cumin seeds; when that sizzles the curry leaves. They will shrivel up quickly. Turn off the heat and pour the ghee into the kadhi. Also add the minced cilantro (this does not need cooking). Stir nicely and enjoy with rice.

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Thepla — spicy flat bread from Gujarat

One of my themes in food is simplicity. Not only because I’m lazy, but also because I like to have each ingredient be meaningful, and not be drowned in a cacophony of flavors.

Few recipes are purer and more basic than the roti recipe. Whole wheat flour mixed with water, kneaded, rolled out, and roasted. Just two ingredients, and yet there is an infinity of variations on that theme.

Add a few ingredients, and a whole new set of possibilities open up. I first tried theplas when I was nine, and a classmates mom made a whole stack to share at school. What I remember is the strong flavor of asafetida (the ‘fetid resin’, or, the ‘devil’s feces’), along with some heat. Just a few additions, and yet, this is an entirely different meal than the basic roti.

Step 1: The flour mixture for one serving.

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3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur’s premium whole wheat), half to one teaspoon asafetida, half a teaspoon turmeric, half a teaspoon or more red chili powder, a fistful of dry methi if you can’t acquire the fresh one, one quarter cup plain yogurt (I prefer Nancy’s plain whole milk yogurt, if not homemade), salt to taste. Knead into a taut dough.

Step 2: Roll out.

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Using sprinklings of all purpose flour as a non-stick device, roll them into five-inch rounds on the counter or wooden board. A ball of dough about two inches in diameter will produce a round that large. Try to get it as thin as you can.

Step 3: Roasting.

Get your griddle nice and hot on a medium-high flame. The roasting follows the standard pattern: first side, about 30 seconds, until the dough turns a shade darker and small air bubbles start to appear; flip it. Second side, another 30 seconds, until the air bubbles combine and form a few large ones; spread a few drops of oil on the thepla and flip it once again; 30 seconds more, spread another few drops of oil, and flip it once more for the last time. So we have had four flips, and each side has been cooked twice, once with and once without oil.

This series of pictures shows the progression.

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Next:

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Next:

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Next (and yes, I got it a little extra burnt):

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Stack up the prepared theplas on a platter. A good accompaniment is a sweet mango pickle; yogurt is a standard too.

Here is my Sunday morning meal: theplas, yogurt, and some sour mango pickle.

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