Kadhi (pronounced cur-r-hee) , under no circumstance to be confused with generic "curry" is a vibrant yogurt-based curry served with rice.
Kadhi is a generous vegetarian main that even veggie skeptics can get down with (note its quick appearance in "Parts Unknown"'s Punjab episode where Bourdain happily wolfs it down it down in Simla).
Kadhi chawal's light but hearty blend of yogurt and rice makes the dish well-suited to subcontinent summers. A lunch staple in my home, I always ate it under the assumption that it wasn't a Punjabi dish. Turns out it is, along with being a Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthani, Gujarati and Sindhi dish, with each region having its own take. So think pan-North Indian. For the Sindhi version, check out Summaya (of My Tamarind Kitchen)'s recipe that uses eggs instead of pakoras.
The recipe below was submitted by my old classmate, Sohaib who grew up in Rawalpindi, and adapted with input from my mom.
Total Cooking Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes (on the longer end. If you are a kitchen ninja, you can get it done in an hour)
Pakoras (Fried fritters)
1 1/2 cup besan (gram flour) - available at all Indian/Pakistan specialty grocery stores
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chili powder (I used Kashmir red chilli powder for this recipe that is more forgiving than regular cayenne pepper)
1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
Pinch of baking soda
Roughly 2/3rd cup of water
One small red onion diced
3-4 thai green chilies finely chopped
4-6 tbsp of canola/vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup plain whole yogurt
4 tbsp of besan (gram flour)
Salt to taste
1 tsp of red chili powder
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
Roughly 5 cups of water
1 tsp of methi (fenugreek) seeds - available at Indian/Pakistani specialty stores
1 small white onion diced
1 tsp garlic paste
1 small tomato diced
1 - 2 tbsp of canola/vegetable oil
1 tsp of cumin seeds
3-4 dried red chillies (preferably the round ones)
4-5 fresh curry pata (curry leaves) - available at Indian/Pakistani specialty grocery stores.
Mix in besan (gram flour), chilli powder, salt, coriander seeds, and baking soda. Slowly add the water, gradually folding it in with the dry ingredients with a spoon. You don't want the batter to get too watery. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and green chillies. Mix them in with the batter. Check to see if the batter is thick enough to hold them. If it's too watery, add more flour.
Heat a non-stick wok. Add 4-6 tbsp of oil. Turn up heat to medium. Once the oil is heated up, take individual tablespoons of the batter and plop them inside the pan. Make sure you don't overcrowd the pan. Move the pakoras occasionally (and gently) to make sure they are not sticking. Flip when the side becomes golden brown.
Set aside pakoras on a paper towel. Don't worry about them not looking pretty.
In a blender, add the yogurt, besan (gram flour), red chili powder, turmeric powder and water. Blend till smooth.
Heat oil in a large, deep pan. Add the methi seeds. When they start popping, add the chopped onion and saute on medium heat till it's slightly brown. Add garlic paste, stir till the color of the onion deepens to medium brown. Add the diced tomato. Stir on high heat till the tomato breaks down.
My mom skips the second step. There is no right or wrong way. It will depend on your personal preference. Adding the onion and tomato adds another layer of flavor - a hint of sweetness to the kadhi. However, if you like your kadhi on the tarter side, you can omit this step.
Once the tomato breaks down and becomes paste-like, add in the kadhi yogurt batter. Once the kadhi comes to a boil, lower the heat and cover it with a tight lid. Let the kadhi simmer for roughly 45 minutes - 1 hour.
Add the pakoras to the kadhi, and let them simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
When the kadhi is about done, start getting the tadka ready.
Note: In the photo above, I have used bay leaves in lieu of curry pata. It's unfortunately not a good substitute but it helped give my tadka some heft (for the photographs).
Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add the cumin seeds first. Fry on high heat till the color darkens. Add the curry pata, give it a couple of quick stirs, and then add the chilies till they darken slightly.
Pour all of this goodness into the kadhi batter.
Serve with rice.