10/14/13 2:00pm

Punjabi chana daal over Italian cavatappi pasta. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

I first learned to cook during the year I studied in England. University students there typically fend for themselves in dorm kitchens, rather than relying on meal plans.

With little free time and even less money, most of us took to dumping readymade soups or canned beans over toast or pasta. If we were feeling fancy (or starved for protein), we crowned these starchy, carby meals with a fried egg.

That experience left me with an abiding kernel of culinary wisdom: Any light dish can be transformed into a stomach-filling meal simply by adding pasta.

Enter my Punjabi mother-in-law, who re-educated me in the kitchen and taught me Indian home cooking. Thanks to her, I can whip up a full meal from my usual pantry staples (i.e., lentils, rice, spices, garlic, and ginger) and a few stray vegetables (e.g., onion, tomato, potato, carrot). If only she’d been there, in England, to save me from British student food (and my own culinary incompetence). (more…)

06/03/13 1:32pm

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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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03/21/13 12:20pm
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Jaal muri, a Bangaldeshi chaat makes for a great late-night snack.

PLEASE NOTE ZABB ELEE IS CLOSED

What are you your favorite late-night eateries in Jackson Heights?-Harry H.

It depends what kind of eats you’re craving. If it’s street food the taco vendors right outside the 74 Roosevelt terminal on Roosevelt Avenue are pretty good. Not far from them are two carts specializing in momo, or Tibetan beef dumplings. For a truly unique street food experience hit up Baul Daada Jal Muri shop on 73 St. near 37 Ave. Despite the name it’s not a shop, it’s streetside Bangladeshi chaat operation run by one Baul Daada. Three bucks gets you an order of his specialty, jal muri, or spicy puffed rice. It’s a sensory overload of a snack consisting of puffed rice, kala chana (black chickpeas) chopped tomatoes, cilantro, green chili paste, red onions, crunchy dried soybeans, cilantro, spicy fried noodles, and squirts and shakes from the various and sundry bottles, including some sinus-clearing mustard oil. (more…)

01/08/13 9:20am
India's answer to flapjacks.

India’s answer to flapjacks, hold the bacon.

It’s breakfast time, but those golden brown disks above aren’t pancakes. They’re dosa, specifically set dosa ($4.50) as served at Flushing’s Ganesh Temple Canteen. Typically the South Indian rice and black lentil flour creation doesn’t take the form of a pancake. It’s usually a comically huge crepe that resembles a megaphone, often stuffed with potatoes and other veggies.

Upon spotting this odd pancake looking version of dosa on the canteen’s vast dosa menu, I immediately ordered it. Set dosa are so named because they come in a set. The trio of South Indian griddle cakes comes out of the kitchen crowned with a pat of butter, just like a short stack. It’s pure dosa though, possessed of the sour tanginess of its lighter, larger cousins.

I had it for lunch, but it would make for a fine breakfast. A strong cup of Madras coffee and the accompanying vegetable sambar, a spicy soup, and the slightly less spicy coconut chutney will awaken  both palate and mind. There’s no chance of having bacon or breakfast sausage with these pancakes at the all veggie canteen though. Afterwards pay your respects to Ganesh and his pals at the temple upstairs.

Ganesh Temple Canteen, 45-57 Bowne St., New York City, NY 11355