In The Kitchen With Dawn

After two consecutive hot and dry months, we gladly take precipitation in any form. The clouds opened up yesterday to shower us with rain and by the time I arrived at my friend Dawn's house in Boulder, the tiny hail bouncing off my car quickly turned into a snow shower.

Snow in May brings...
Snow in May, not unusual. And we like it!

There was no better day to fry some pakodas, soak them in steaming hot kadhi and warm our insides as we watched the snow come down steadily for a couple of hours. The snow did not stick — which is a good thing — as the parched ground, too, got its fix.

chopped ginger and serranos

My friend, Dawn, learned this kadhi from her husband, who in turn was trained by his mother. Her in-laws hail from a small village called Shergarh in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Homemade yogurt is key, as I found out from discerning tastebuds. But, store-bought yogurt like Wallaby comes pretty close to the homemade yogurt that is perfect for kadhi. There are at least two desi yogurt brands in the market now, Gopi and Desi Dahi, that work rather well, too.

straining yogurt for a smoother texture
straining for a smoother texture

Dawn strains her yogurt, giving her kadhi a consistent smooth texture. I also liked that she used whey to help push the yogurt through the strainer. In addition to yogurt, Dawn uses a half pint of cultured low-fat buttermilk. This adds a level of tartness that is often missing in store-bought yogurt. Or in winter, when no matter what you do, the yogurt will not become tart. This is Dawn's twist to the recipe. She noticed that some people use tart homemade yogurt while others used buttermilk; so she decided to combine the two!

Dawn has learned from the best and like most Indian homecooks, she cooks by look, feel and smell. She adds just enough besan to change the whiteness of yogurt into a pale manila color. She uses as much ginger as chopped serranos. Cooking is, indeed, an art as well as a science.

Grated zucchini for pakodas
fixings for the pakodas

While the kadhi was simmering on the stove-top, she quickly grated a zucchini for pakodas. You could use yellow squash, spinach, methi leaves or a combination of these in the pakodas.

Frying pakodas the Indian way
dropping pakoda batter into hot oil

Dawn drops her pakoda batter into hot oil the Indian way, by hand. You could aim for pakodas that are more rounded but the shape really does not matter. Out of habit, I made slightly bigger pakodas but the ones Dawn made were much smaller. This meant that there were leftover pakodas to snack on immediately. There are rewards for making kadhi with pakodas!

Zucchini pakodasdelightful zucchini pakodas

I could not wait to for the pakodas to absorb the spicy goodness of the kadhi. Like most Indian dishes, this kadhi is given a final garnish of chopped cilantro. The aromas in Dawn's carefully designed hi-tech kitchen were pretty amazing by this time.

The final garnish
cilantro-lovers delight

Now tell me, isn't this the prettiest looking kadhi you have ever seen?! It is Medha's favorite kadhi. More dear than the regular kadhi I make. Dawn does not always make pakodas to add to this kadhi. It depends on how much time she has on hand. Quite honestly, this kadhi is great by itself, too.

Such pretty looking kadhi!
pakode-wali kadhi

When I got home, I made Dawn's kadhi, following her exact steps and measures. It was close but not the same. There were a couple of things that made a difference: store-bought yogurt and the cook. I told Medha that Dawn made the kadhi and I only made the pakodas that were floating in it. She said it was pretty tasty but that it fell a little short of the usual kadhi. These were the discerning taste-buds that I referred to at the beginning of this post. I strongly believe that there is a lot to be said for the cook. That the magic lies in the hands of the person who touches the ingredients to build a dish with layered flavors and multiple textures.

Yes, indeed, Dawn remains the Queen of Kadhi!

My friend Dawn
Thanks, Dawn, for sharing the recipe for Medha's favorite kadhi

Pakode-wali kadhi

For the kadhi:
  • 3 cups yogurt with whey, strained (preferably homemade)
  • 1/2 pint cultured low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 tsp besan
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chile powder (optional)
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp black mustard seeds
  • pinch asafetida
  • 3/4 tsp methi seeds
  • 1 serrano chile, chopped
  • 2 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1-2 cup of water, as needed
  • chopped cilantro for garnish

For the pakodas:
  • 1 medium zucchini, unpeeled and grated
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 4-8 tbsp besan
  • Oil for frying pakodas
To make the kadhi
  1. Whisk besan into strained yogurt until all the lumps disappear. Add only as much besan as needed to change the color of the yogurt to a pale manila color.
  2. Add turmeric powder, red chile powder and salt to this yogurt mixture and whisk until mixed.
  3. Heat oil on medium-high in a medium pot and when it shimmers, add a pinch of hing. When that sizzles, add mustard seeds.
  4. When the mustard seeds pop, add methi seeds and turn down the heat immediately. If necessary, take the pot off the stove. Gently swirl the oil around, cooling the pot, so that the methi seeds do not burn. They should take on a toasty golden color.
  5. Add ginger and the chopped serrano to the oil.
  6. Put the pot back on the stove and add the whisked yogurt mixture.
  7. Add buttermilk to the mixing bowl that held the whisked yogurt and only then add to the pot. This is a very Indian way of doing things. It ensures that all spices are transferred to the cooking pot and there is next to no waste!
  8. Add as much water as you like to thin out the kadhi, keeping in mind that it will thicken as the besan cooks.
  9. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and bring this mixture to a boil.
  10. Set the timer for 15 minutes, turn to low and simmer until done.
  11. If you're not making pakodas, garnish with chopped cilantro serve this over hot steamed rice.
To make the pakodas
  1. Heat oil for frying.
  2. Mix all ingredients for pakodas in a medium bowl.
  3. Add 4 tbsp besan and mix into the vegetables.
  4. Depending on how juicy the zucchini is, add as much more besan as is required to make a batter that is thicker than pancake batter.
  5. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into the hot oil or do it the Indian way, by hand, and fry the pakodas until golden-brown in color.
  6. Drain on paper-towels.
Final assembly
  1. Add more water to the kadhi as required to bring it to a consistency that you like. It should not be too thick at this point. 
  2. Add about 14-15 small pakodas.
  3. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  4. Put the pot back on the stove and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and serve hot over steamed rice.

Pakode-wali kadhi

We are in love with this kadhi! The kadhi itself comes together very quickly and the pakodas are an added bonus.

Use a bigger fine mesh strainer to strain the yogurt quickly.
Substitute serrano with dried red chiles, for a slight change in flavor.
To change it around some more, add asafetida when the kadhi is simmering instead of adding it to the hot oil at the beginning.

Oh yeah! She's very happy!


Deepa said...

Firstly, I'm so amazed that a caucasian person can make better kadhi than an Indian. That is kinda cool and speaks for globalization! Secondly,I have been making pakoda kadhi for years and to this day I'm never too sure of how its going to turn out! It all depends on the tartness of the yoghurt, the gram flour,your mood,howlong you let it boil...etc. One thing Idoknow isthat it always tastes better the next day. :0)

Anonymous said...

It's super warm out here today but I can eat kadhi any time of the year :) sometime just as soup.
I don't make this kind of pakoda as the hubby prefers only besan pakoda with kadhi but i am gonna try this next for sure.

Namitha said...

I love it. Tasted it for the first time when we visited Koyna and Mahabaleswar,years back :) You might know that there is a Malayali version of this with coconut-cumin mixture instead of besan and pineapple or mango instead of pakodas in it. We call it pulissery. It tastes quite different though :) Love that pic of M in the air

Gaurav Agarwal said...

Great combination with Zuchinni pakoras....

One can also use ready made salted Boondi instead of Pakoras if needed.

Your friend Dawn has mastered the art of making Perfect Kadhi. Thanks for the recipe.

Barbara said...

This sounds delicious Manisha. I just checked my favourite Indian takeaway menu but sadly the don't have it on the menu.

Pelicano said...

That looks really nice! The kadhi is simpler than the Punjabi-ish monstrosity that I usually make, but her pakodas are giving me ideas- never thought of trying shredded zucchini (or loki when in season)! And fresh ginger... really nice. I had no clue that I could drop these mince-y pakore by hand either... hmmm.

Indian Food Rocks said...

Deepa, being able to make brilliant kadhi is not a function of race or ethnicity! Maybe you should try Dawn's recipe because it works each time! :-D

Sunshine, I know exactly what you mean! And that's because kadhi is comfort food!

Namitha, thank you! I love pulissery! I haven't had it with pineapple though. I need to make some soon!

Gaurav, thanks! It is perfect! And, thank you for mentioning that boondi can be used as a substitute for pakodas. But I must confess that I prefer boondi raita to boondi kadhi.

Barbara, it is! And unfortunately, you won't find it on most menus in Indian restaurants as it is considered "everyday fare."

Pel, it is the methi seeds that carry this kadhi. Take care not to burn them. Traditionally, most things dipped in batter are dropped by hand into hot oil. More control, less waste! ;-)

Priya said...

Until your recipe I did not think spices could be part of kadhi, it was always a coconut+cumin+green chilli paste at our house. That kadhi recipe has now become a regular with moong dal kichdi on cold, gloomy nights. And now I can't wait to try this one with ginger & methi :)

Soma said...

The z. pakoras! for next time. I do not like kadhi :( but make very often as A loves it. The methi is fantastic in kadhi and I love the color and the tiny pakoras.

Desisoccermom said...

Love kadhi pakora. I am not surprised Dawn masted this. It is such a comfort food, no matter the ethnicity :-). Besides, don't a lot of India bloggers make cookies, cakes and other baked good all the time, probably more than Caucasians and no one objects to them being better bakers(?), do they?

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Such a great click of Medha. Also, great recipe! Must- try, it looks like.

Also, Pel shouldn't be commenting on this post :P #ifyouknowwhatImean

Unknown said...

Enjoyed reading ur post

Anita said...

I love all kinds of kadhis: this type, the thicker Punjabi style, the Maharashrian, as well as the Gujju one! Kadhi, a lot like your regular kind, with Khichdi is what was for dinner last night!

Love the idea of zucchini in the pakodas! Recently I ate one with spinach pakoras and it was very good.

Poorna Banerjee said...

I totally understand about the "curry Pakora" concept. Its a fantastic combination, and comes together in a flash. And as comforting as Rajma Chawal or Brownies. :D

Shri said...

Thad Kadhi plate is perfect; strangely it works for a wet spring day or a hot summer day too!

Bong Mom said...

Loved the pictures, had a very warm cozy feel to it. And I love Kadhi just like Medha but I have no dawn here, neither Dusk to make me a kadhi just like that. The buttermilk is what I don't add, good tip.
Thanks Dawn and Manisha for this treat

baker in disguise said...

What brilliant photographs!! what a coincidence.. pakode wali kadhi is whats made for dinner today!!!

Indian Food Rocks said...

Priya, coconut+cumin+green chiles = heaven! Try this one, you will like it, too!

Soma, methi makes a huge difference! I like that the pakodas are small. They can only soak up that much kadhi and it doesn't become pakodas in thick goop. I don't like my kadhi to be really thick. In that case, I might as well make pithla!

DSM, I think she may have been marveling rather than objecting, which doesn't change how inappropriate it is!

Nandu, but you see Pel doesn't make his own kadhi. Go on! Ask him.

Follow foodie, thank you! BTW, you can put your URL in your profile and make it available there. It's much better than including it in a comment because, apart from violating comment etiquette, it remains plain text. Not of much use.If you want folks to click through to your profile, leave comments that add value to the conversation and avoid SMS-language (at least on my blog!)

Anita, it took me a while to warm up to North Indian kadhis as they were much thicker but now I love all types of kadhis. Any squash or greens make a great addition to the pakodas, I agree!

Poorna, yes, comfort food!

Shri, it's all weather food!

BM, I thought that buttermilk is a great idea, too! Let me know if you try it!

baker, you, too?! Great minds, I say! You, me and Anita!

Shilpa said...

I want to make this today. Looks so good.

Archana said...

there was no tadka to this kadhi? Im a maharashtrian married to a punjabi and Ive seen my MIL make the pakode wali kadhi (a recipe Ive adopted since) and there is an awesome jeera/mustard/red whole chillies tadka to it that I think takes the kadhi to the next level.
I like the buttermilk idea - I have some sitting in my fridge that needs to be used and today's the day it'll find its cause!
Medha's jump is scary high......

Indian Food Rocks said...

Shilpa, let me know if you do!

Archana, this kadhi has a khamang phodni of hing, mustard seeds, methi seeds, green chiles and chopped ginger. Your phodni sounds very good, too. It's the methi that makes all the difference to this kadhi. Medha launched herself off a tallish rock but, you know, camera angle also helps a little bit! ;-D

Manasi said...

It's real nice to see a non-desi making *awesome* kadhi.

I love kadhi ( Marathi / Gujarati/ Punjabi or mor kuzhambu- I classify it under TamBhram kadhi) and it is pure comfort food.

Of late, I follow Anita's trick, do not add salt to the pakodas, keeps me from munching on them. If I do, there are very few left for the kadhi, hehe ;)

Alpa said...

That's a beautiful shot of kadhi. I love that Dawn added grated zucchini to the pakora! It's so easy to get in a rut and think you have to do a dish the same way you always have. Really refreshing take on it!

In my mom's kadhi, we generally add garlic or garlic scapes, fennel seeds, and dried red chilies to the tadka. But it may just be a Gujarati thing. It just amazes me how many variations there are to any dish and each of them will taste so unique!

notyet100 said...

It's been so long since in had this,,,curry looks delicious,,

Mandira said...

I have this kadhi bookmarked. will be trying it this weekend.

Indian Food Rocks said...

Manasi, that's a neat trick but wouldn't you have to make the kadhi a little salty to balance the lack of salt in the pakodas? Maybe I should ask Anita that! Other than that, we like the pakodas so I make sure we make enough for the kadhi and some just for us! ;-D

Alpa, I think there as many variations to kadhi as there are communities in India! I like the idea of adding garlic scapes. There is a Mahrashtrian version that uses garlic and red chiles to the tadka. For me now, I add a combination of spices and aromatics based on my mood and what I have on hand!

whenwillyoube100, yes it is! Thanks!

Mandira, I hope you liked it!

Anonymous said...

I am new to Indian cooking and ingredients. Mostly due to a desire to help my husband with diabetes management. I have not yet become familiar with hing. I have a market with Indian ingredients I can check. Is it in with spices? Is it a powder. Etc? Thank you for sharing these recipes.

Indian Food Rocks said...

Yes, hing is usually stocked with spices. You can find hing in "rock" (solid) form or in powder form. Most Indian grocery stores have the latter. It may or may not have added wheat flour or wheat germ to make it "flow." If you have Savory Spice Shop near you, you should be able to find it there, too. Our local shop in Boulder has it mixed with fenugreek powder, which changes its flavor profile somewhat but still works well for Indian food. I hope this helps!