Pongal: A relevant dish and festival

Around mid-January, people in South India celebrate Pongal, the harvest festival. Unlike Halloween or Christmas, Hindu holidays don’t fall on the same date each year. My mother consults an almanac to keep track of festivities. Since I can’t read that flimsy paperback, she just tells me about upcoming holidays. And because few of them touch my life in New England, I pay little attention. But Pongal is different. My ears automatically perk up at the mention of the word because it stands for both the […]

A ‘miracle tree’ that could feed sub-Saharan Africa

A ‘miracle tree’ that could feed sub-Saharan Africa

Recently, I saw a C&EN blog under the intriguing title: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary…. Moringa?  I wrote on the moringa a while ago for CSM. As a child growing up in India, I greeted the appearance of one particular vegetable on my plate with exaggerated distaste: tender seedpods from the moringa tree, locally known as “drumsticks.” Imagine my surprise when I heard a health worker from sub-Saharan Africa describe this backyard tree as a possible solution to malnutrition in tropical countries – he called it a “miracle […]

The charms of Indian beach food

Urban beaches the world over have their own peculiar charms. There is foot volleyball in Brazil’s Copacabana and surfing at Sydney’s Bondi beach, but beaches in Indian cities have one big draw – food. In my hometown of Chennai, fishermen set off in rudimentary catamarans from the Marina beach while early risers stroll on the sandy shores. But the place truly comes alive in the evenings as vendors cook up a storm. In the food stalls, the jalapeño popperlike malaga bhaji sizzles in huge iron […]

Yogurts of the world

Walking down the dairy section of the supermarket, a yogurt aficionado finds plenty to choose from. Among the multitude of flavored yogurts with varying percentages of fat, some have toppings, others have preserves at the bottom, still others can be sipped from a plastic bottle. Yet all this variety leaves old-world yogurt lovers wanting more. Read the rest of the story here. html. pdf.

Dosa delights

Last year, rice crepes from South India – yes, the humble dosa – got the nod from the foodies of New York when Thiru Kumar, the “Dosa Man,” was voted the purveyor of the best street food in their city. Soon after the Vendy Awards, which honor wayside chefs, were announced, I sent my mother in India an e-mail telling her of the dosa’s showing at the culinary crossroads. She was not elated. For most South Indian cooks, I suspect, this is a real sore […]

It's Delicious No Matter What You Call It

Recently, I caught a rerun of the famous Soup Nazi episode from the popular sitcom “Seinfeld.” When the characters discussed mulligatawny, a soup from India, I felt happy, the way you generally do when you hear about a good guy from your hometown making a name for himself in the wider world. With its prime-time, national-network TV appearance, this dish from South India had entered the American food lexicon, I felt. Read the entire story here. html. pdf.

A Spicebox & Cookbook Got Her Started

A Spicebox & Cookbook Got Her Started

When I set off to graduate school in the US, the Internet had not yet taken over the world. I actually spoke to people to gather information about life in America in general and my destination, New Orleans, in particular. So, I was delighted to find a woman whose son was an undergraduate at the university I was headed to. “My son had some problems initially with the food, but you should be fine. You are a girl, no?” she said to reassure me. Biting […]