When someone says Indian food, the first thing you think of is probably a good curry!
While curries are a big and important part of this diverse and flavourful cuisine, there is a lot more to it than that. As a 13-year-old (and as most tweens do), I turned up my nose at the food served for lunch. It was the infamous Indian summer and I questioned why we had to eat so much spicy food. It was already so hot outside! Never one to give up, my school teacher mother explained how spicy food causes us to sweat, which the body’s way to cool off. I later learnt that spices also have anti-microbial and anti-parasitic properties that help prevent food from spoiling quickly in a hot climate.
With that in mind, here are some spicy (and not necessarily hot) Indian curry recipes for you to help beat the Hong Kong heat.
Superfoods are all the rage and for good reason. As kids, we ate jackfruits both ripe and raw but I had no idea about their amazing nutritional benefits – immune booster, protein source, antioxidant, fibre, the list goes on. Fortunately, it is easy to find in Hong Kong and, good news for vegans, it tastes so close to meat that a well-made jackfruit curry will never let you miss mutton or lamb.
500g raw jackfruit (cut into 2 inch strips)
3 medium onions (chopped)
2 green chillies (adjust to taste)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 small bay leaves
½ inch cinnamon stick
2 large whole cardamom pods
4 small whole cardamom pods
1 whole flower star anise
1 tbsp garam masala powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1½ tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
chopped coriander to garnish
3 tbsp oil
- Start by cleaning and chopping jackfruit. Watch this useful video for a step by step guide.
- Pressure cook or boil the chopped pieces with one cup of water and half a teaspoon of salt until they are 70% cooked. Drain and keep aside. Save the water for making the curry later on.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed wok and stir fry the jackfruit. Set aside.
- In the same pan add the remaining oil. Once hot, add the cumin seeds. When the seeds start to splutter, add the remaining whole spices and roast for a minute stirring continuously on medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and ginger-garlic paste and stir for another five minutes until the onions are brown.
- Add the powdered masalas (do not add salt at this point – adding salt before the powdered masalas are well cooked prevents even cooking and release of flavour). Cook on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Sprinkle some water if the mixture gets dry and starts to stick to the sides.
- Add the fried jackfruit and salt. Cook on medium heat for another 5-7 minutes until the spices evenly coat the vegetables.
- Add half a cup of water saved from boiling (or more for a thinner gravy), mix well and cover. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes or until done.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with a side of rice or chapatis.
Isn’t it amazing how nature’s produce is in sync with the body’s needs each season? Summer produce is all about vegetables high in water to keep the body hydrated while winter veggies are slightly warming with lower water content, and through the autumn there is a gentle transition between the two. The angled luffa is the perfect, hydrating, summer veggie!
Tempered with garlic, (a special five-spice mix) and a good dose of onions and green chilli, it makes for a great quick, light and nutritious meal. The slight sweetness makes it a favourite with kids too! Last but not least, theare packed with protein, making it a complete meal.
2 cups angled luffa, peeled and cubed
2 medium onions, sliced super fine
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup black chickpeas (soaked overnight)
2 dried red chillies (optional)
1 tsp panch phoron
½ tsp turmeric powder
1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
1½ tbsp oil
- Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and add panchforan. Once the seeds start to splutter, add garlic and sauté for a minute on medium heat until fragrant.
- Add the sliced onions and sauté until translucent, then add the chickpeas, turmeric powder and salt. Sauté for another minute.
- Add the cubed angled luffa, mix well and put the pressure cooker lid on (no need to add water as the luffa will release a great amount of water anyway as it cooks). Increase the flame to high.
- Once the pressure sets in (marked by a whistling sound from the cooker), reduce the flame to medium and let it cook for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and wait for all the steam to release completely before opening the lid.
- Turn the heat back on and cook on medium-high, stirring intermittently until most of the water evaporates and you are left with a semi-solid consistency.
- Using a pressure cooker reduces cooking time. A thick bottomed wok can also be used instead, but you may then need to increase the cooking time.
I am always looking for ways to mix the best of two worlds while creating recipes. This Indian/Middle Eastern recipe became a keeper in one such experimentation. It’s a simple and dry preparation, and makes for a good side dish.
400g okra (bhindi)
1½ cups finely chopped tomato (approximately 2 large or 3 small tomatoes)
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsp toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp Zaatar spice (split into 2 tbsp and 1 tbsp portions)
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tsp chopped coriander
1 green chilli, sliced (optional)
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- Wash and air dry the okra 30 minutes before preparing. Once dried, chop off the pointed top and the hard bottom. Then slice vertically into two and further slice each piece into half or to the desired size.
- Toast the white sesame seeds in a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Stir constantly until light brown, transfer to a dish and aside.
- In the same skillet heat the oil and add minced garlic. Sauté for a few seconds then add the toasted sesame and mix well. Keeping the flame on medium, add tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste. Cook with occasional stirring until the tomatoes are soft and mushy.
- Add garam masala, turmeric and green chilli and mix well. Cook on a medium for a minute then add 2 tablespoons zaatar and mix well.
- Add sliced okra and mix with spices gently. Avoid stirring it too much and whenever you do, try shaking the pan instead of using a spatula.
- Keep the heat at medium until the okra is 70 per cent cooked. Then add salt, mix well and increase to medium-high. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring intermittently.
- Turn off the heat, garnish with the reserved zaatar, peanuts and coriander and serve hot with chapatis.