Kadhi (pronounced karr-hee) is a vibrant yogurt-based curry served with rice. It 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.
The recipe below was submitted by my old classmate, Sohaib who grew up in Rawalpindi, and adapted with input from my mom. It is a labor of love but well worth the effort. Enjoy.
- To get started on the pakoras, mix in 1 ½ cup besan (gram flour), ½ tsp red chilli powder, salt, coriander seeds, and baking soda. Slowly add roughly 2/3 cup 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.
- Fold the chopped red onion and green chilies 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 hot, take individual tablespoons of the batter and place inside the pan. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan. Move the pakoras occasionally to make sure they are not sticking. Flip when the side becomes golden brown. Drain on paper towel.
- For the kadhi batter, add the yogurt, 4 tbsp besan (gram flour), 1 tsp red chili powder, turmeric powder and 5 cups of water to a blender. Blend till smooth.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot. Add the methi seeds. When they start popping, add the chopped onion and fry on medium heat till slightly brown. Add garlic paste. Continue to stir till the onion is a medium brown. Add diced tomato if using. Increase heat and continue to stir till the tomato softens*.
- Once the tomato breaks down and becomes paste-like, add in the kadhi batter. Bring the kadhi to a boil, lower heat and cover with a tight lid. Let the kadhi simmer for roughly 45 minutes – 1 hour.
- Once ready, 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. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan. Add cumin seeds and fry on medium heat till the color darkens slightly. Add the curry pata, stir for a few seconds, and then add the chilies. Stir for a few seconds till they change color slightly. Remove from heat.
- Pour the tadka with the oil on top of the kadhi, and serve with rice.
*My mom skips this step. There is no right or wrong way. It will depend on your personal preference. Adding the onion and tomato adds a hint of sweetness to the kadhi. If you like your kadhi on the tarter side, you can omit this step.