With the benefits of turning vegetarian or following a plant-based diet being extolled so much in the news these days, it has never been easier to turn to good old Indian recipes passed on through the generations to adhere to healthy eating habits. Since the majority of Indians restrict eating ‘non-vegetarian’ food to either weekends only or on occasion, vegetarian dishes are the staple of an Indian meal, and are not side dishes. These recipes are so varied, and completely differ in methodology, flavor, and level of spiciness between the different regions of the vast country. It is truly difficult to imagine how many permutations and combinations could exist for even one vegetable! These dishes can be eaten on their own but are almost always accompanied by rice or various versions of bread, for example, roti or naan.
The recipes are typically passed on within families, mainly amongst the women, and hence, the repertoire of easy-to-make and extremely delicious cuisine using plant-based options is a legacy in every household. A typical Indian housewife will always begin planning the menu with at least two main dishes, one made with pulses or legumes, and the other with vegetables, and then perhaps, one poultry/meat/fish dish. So, there are almost always options for both kinds of diet.
I would like to share one such family heirloom with you which uses only five ingredients and is spicy, tangy and irresistible. My family hails originally from the Western Coast of India and we are a fish-loving people. This recipe is typically used for potatoes – I have substituted them with mushrooms – – but using shrimp or salmon is utterly delectable and lip-smacking. People from the coast are also typically rice-lovers but I served this with thin lentil crepes (dosas), as shown in the picture, and my family loved the switch!
So, here goes:
Ingredients: (all available in grocery stores or at your local Indian grocer)
- 2 large red onions, finely chopped
- I box (24 oz.) of baby bella mushrooms (if unavailable, white button ones will do too), chopped into quarter inch pieces,
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- I tsp red chilli powder, (if not available, you could substitute cayenne pepper)
- I tsp tamarind puree
- 3 tbsps. olive or canola oil
- Salt to taste
In a skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame and carefully add half the onions. Sauté till light brown, stirring intermittently – this should take about 4-5 mins. Add the turmeric and chilli powders and sauté on a very low flame for another 2-3 mins. Next, add the mushrooms, the remaining onions, tamarind puree, salt and mix very gently but thoroughly for a minute, raising the heat up to high, to bring it to a boil. Then, bring down the heat to a very low flame and simmer, covered, for 5-6 mins. Serve hot with rice or naan bread or dosas – – lentil crepes/pancakes – –as shown in the picture.
Dosas are extremely healthy vegan options for breakfast or any meal of the day, really, and very easy to make. But then, that’s a whole other recipe, that I am ready to share if requested! Until next time!
Renu Rao is a long-time River Town resident who finds cooking very therapeutic for the soul, and who believes that eating right is the pathway to wellness.