Indian Daily Food

The Basic Indian Food

Suppose you are an Indian in the year 1960. You get up at 0600 am, and have breakfast at 0900, before walking 4kms to your workplace. You carry lunch with you, which you eat at 0100pm. You walk back home around 0630 and eat dinner at 0800, and go to sleep at 1000pm.

For most of the Indians, this was a routine for many many years. Till Pizzas and Burgers invaded us.

Supper as a word was unheard of. Evening tea existed only for the rich (and how many were rich….nearly none). Tea itself was non-existent. Snacks were available, mostly fritters, or similar; but again not a daily affair. BECAUSE cooking was done on burning coals, and the fire used to take a long time to start, and to put out. So, it was used only twice a day.

No wonder all the walk, physical labor and simple food kept people healthy. Cholesterol as a word was not in the dictionary. Everyone used to eat tonnes of saturated fat, and trans-fats……… still!

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So what was this breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Roti, with Sabzi and daal in breakfast, Roti, sabzi and daal at noon, and Roti, Sabzi and daal in the evening. I presume all these words are from Persian language, which percolated in the North Indian lingo with the armies invading India.

Roti is flat wheat bread (described in yesterday’s blog), Subzi literally means ‘the greens’ in Persian or Arabic, therefore cooked vegetables. Boiled Potatoes with gravy was a favorite Sabzi, though it is not a green by definition. And daal is anything that is the seed of a bean; split in half. For hundreds of years, Indians have torn a small portion of Roti by hand, used it like a spoon to pick some vegetable, or daal, and dunked it in the mouth. Three or four Rotis or Chapaatis (synonyms) with 100 gms each of “cooked watery daal” and Sabzi was enough for a guy.

Some of my blogs show examples of what we know as sabzi or dry vegetables. I will do a detailed blog on a zero-oil daal soon.

You will love to read it and then cook it, and eat it. The basic Indian stuff, generic term for food is “daal-roti” in India.

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Indian Bread Again

Roti….chapaati 101,

The basics

Presumably, the dough making is not a rocket science, but rolling chapati and cooking first on a griddle and then on a flame is/maybe. Hence photographs. Some cooks add flours of other grains in wheat flour. Some cooks prefer a stiffer dough, my preference is for a softer dough, which gives softness to the bread. Some cooks insist that the dough should rest a while, at least 30 minutes, I prefer it not to rest at all, and love the dough that way. Again North Indians prefer to have coarse flour.

My rolling pin has ball bearings and makes it easy, and fun thing to roll. I do not wash it, only scrub with the back of a knife for any sticking dry dough. Always wash my hands CLEAN before touching flour or dough. No rings in the finger is a good policy. Alternately I do not touch flour or dough by hand. Use a spoon. Even for making small balls, I use a spoon, take a small portion and start rolling, untouched by hand till then.

Feel motivated to try your hand? GA (go ahead, old telex lingo)

Dough ready to be rolled
Dough ready to be rolled
Rolling Zero
Rolling Zero
Rolling 2
Rolling 2
Rolling1
Rolling1
Removing from Marble plate to the griddle
Removing from Marble plate to the griddle
On the HOT Griddle
On the HOT Griddle
Ready to Flip
Ready to Flip
Flipped/Cooking on the other side
Flipped/Cooking on the other side
Cooking directly on the flame
Cooking directly on the flame
Cooking on the flame
Cooking on the flame

Indian Bread

Roti….chapaati 101,

The basics

To understand how to prepare Indian Bread or Roti, or chapaati, (it is nearly same, but each home has a little different version). It is circular by convention, and flat and thin. It is made of whole wheat flour, a little coarse in North, and fine in other states, some use all purpose flour. Coarse flour absorbs more water and cooks slowly, less contact area on the griddle, simple physics. A Gujaraati bride’s skill is tested by the thin-ness of her chapaati! Ghee applied on one side should appear on the other by permeation.

Three steps (“Small step for you, but long steps for mankind”, said Neil Armstrong)!

1. The dough….Never think you can’t do, because you can. Take whole wheat flour, and water, and a thick large spoon or a similar object (for mixing and maneuvering), which you can manage. A large Pan with elevated sides will help. Add flour and add water, very playfully, and enjoy mixing the two with your spoon or whatever you chose. You may end up with a slurry, but don’t you worry. You may end up with the flour getting all over you, it is edible and washable stuff!

If too thick, add a little more water, if slurry like, add flour. In India a USD buys you 4 lbs of best flour, you can surely play with it and if you can’t get a plastic clay consistency by end of the day, discard it, feed to the cow, wash your hands and be happy again. We will try another day.

I am sure you will get it, because Robert Bruce got it, oh, that is another story.

2. Preparing the thin round form…..The rolling pin and a slab are your instruments. Take a part of your clay and roll it with the pin anywhichway, till it is flat and thin. Keep on adding dry flour on top and bottom, more like the Sumo wrestlers’ ritual. Try it, you will love it. Roll it thin, and more thin. If it looks like Australia, it is OK, if it looks like a football, American or Indian, you get a B+.

We want to cook it and eat it, not keep it in Smithsonian, you got the point.

3. Cooking on the concave griddle (tawaa)…….Lift the flat, circular (or whatever) thin soft piece of art, and with a flourish, transfer to a hot griddle. Not cold, and not burning hot, mildly hot, so that Roti takes a while getting cooked, it will change color, it will tell you when to flip it with a tong (chimta) to cook on the other side.

3A. Cooking on the flame, or hot plate……..This part is as easy or as difficult as you make it. Indian mothers insist that if their d-in law can not manage to have an all puffed up Roti….it is time for harakiri (mother in law or d-i-l, I don’t want to know). Do not let it deflate your ego one bit if you can not get it. Smithsonian is NOT waiting for your flying saucer!

Again, my advise is not to allow anyone to advise you, you can improve your own game by playing. Here there are no opponents, If you are able to eat it, it is a good roti. Send me your photos, I mean your Roti’s photos, I will send you mine. Meanwhile look at the tools of the trade.

To mix flour and water
To mix flour and water
Water jug
Water jug
Rolling pin and the marble base
Rolling pin and the marble base
Tong (chimtaa) tuning fork style
Tong (chimtaa) tuning fork style
Concave Griddle
Concave Griddle