06/24/13 10:41am

Punjabis know a thing or two about beating the heat. (Summer temperatures in that region of northern India typically hover above 100 F.) Doodh Coke and shardai are two refreshing, chilled drinks that Punjabis on both sides of the India-Pakistan border guzzle when temperatures soar.

Doodh Coke. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

In Punjabi (and Hindi/Urdu), “doodh” means milk, and doodh Coke is exactly that: milk mixed with Coca-Cola (or Thums Up cola, if you want a fully Indian experience).

In Lahore, where my father-in-law grew up (under the British Raj), this creamy drink with a sweet, fizzy edge is a popular way to break the Ramadan fast before the iftar meal. Lahoris have also invented several variations, in which Coke is replaced by 7-Up or Mountain Dew (yes, really). (more…)

06/03/13 1:32pm

radish1

Radishes, a cold-weather vegetable, are in season right now in New York City. That means many urban gardeners, CSA members, and farmers-market shoppers are contemplating what to do with piles of radish greens.

They’re too hard and fibrous to eat raw, but their firm stems and crisp leaves hold up well when sautéed lightly. I love their distinct, spicy, daikon-like flavor. It’s totally unique among greens I cook with—and really delicious.

In India cooked radish greens (mooli ke patton in Hindi) are a popular dish. Occasionally you can find them here in New York in Indian grocery stores, where they are sold separately from their rooty lower-halves.

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05/27/13 1:28pm

Here in New York City, Indian mangoes are still hard to find. Occasionally a few boxes of Alphonso or Kesar mangoes turn up, perhaps in an Indian grocery in Jackson Heights. But they’re usually mealy, flavorless, and overpriced.

Walk into a food market in India during mango season (April-June, roughly), and the sweet aroma of ripe mangoes will greet you at the door. You’ll find at least a dozen different varieties of mango in any market there—much like the apple section of an American grocery store, but so much better.

Neelam mangoes—small, buttery-smooth, fiber-free, and honey-sweet—are my favorite. But in New York, I’ve learned to enjoy Ataulfo mangoes from Mexico and Haiti. They’re easy to find here and, except for their annoyingly fibrous innards, are very similar to Indian Alphonso mangoes.

There are many different ways to eat a mango—some more polite than others. But if you prefer to skip the knives and spoons and down your mango with maximum efficiency (and minimal fuss), there’s only one way to go. I learned this mango-eating method while visiting relatives of my husband in a small village in North India, and it’s pure, Indian genius.

Step 1: Select a ripe mango that’s soft to the touch.

Step 1: Select a ripe mango, one that’s soft to the touch.

Step 2: Gently squeeze and prod your mango, turning its flesh into juicy mango pulp. Be careful not to break the skin (or you’ll be covered in sticky mango juice).

Step 2: Gently squeeze and prod your mango, turning its flesh into juicy mango pulp. Be careful not to break the skin (or you’ll be covered in sticky mango juice). (more…)