Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners

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Have you ever considered learning how to cook Indian food? Are you scared of seasoning or spice? When I met my friend Sujaya, who told me she made home-cooked meals, I was impressed, but I never thought I’d take her up on cooking lessons. However, after her meal-prep and cooking Instagram stories, I decided I needed to take her up on her offer. So, here we are, SFBAM!

Let’s do this. Our first lesson was how to cook dhal, i.e., spiced lentils.

Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners
Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners
Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners
Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners

The first thing that Sujaya showed me was how to temper spices. Tempering involves stir-frying spices in a pot (with oil) to add extra flavor before adding other ingredients. The second thing she showed me was her stacks (stacks on stacks!) of different ways of storing spices and ingredients. Her pantry and her kitchen counter are places that have separate areas for spice organization. These distinct areas created a site to account for seasoning in two different timelines of meal prep. When she pulled the main ingredients from the pantry, she chose spices. Likewise, when she was at the stove, she pulled spices. It was impressive. Everything that she used was within reach and categorized. I’m not a home chef by nature, but this seems like a good starting point for people who are learning how to cook or who are, cooking curious.

How to Make Dahl:

Ingredients

  • Mysore Lentils (red lentils) 1 cup
  • Tempering:
    • mustard seeds 1/2 teaspoon
    • cumin seeds 1/2 teaspoon
    • bengal gram 1/2 teaspoon
    • urad dal 1/2 teaspoon
    • hing 1/4 teaspoon
    • dried red chilies x2
    • curry leaves 1 sprig (fresh)
    • Two cloves of Garlic, crushed.
  • turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon
  • coriander 1/2 teaspoon
  • chili powder 1/2 teaspoon
  • salt to taste
Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners
Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners

Directions

First, rinse the cup of Mysore lentils till the water runs clear. Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to your pressure cooker and put it on a medium flame. When you see the oil begin to shimmer, add the crushed garlic, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, bengal gram, urad dal, dried red chilies and curry leaves. Once they have spluttered and stopped, add the hing. Next add the cup of washed and drained Mysore dal, adding two cups of water along with it. To this, add the turmeric, coriander powder, chili powder and salt. Stir, then place the lid on the pan and allow to cook for four whistles. Once the four whistles are done, turn off the stove and allow the pressure naturally to release. Once the pressure is released, open the pan and you can adjust the consistency of the dhal by either adding water to thin or turning on the stove to a simmer in order to thicken it.

That was it! Including prepping (taking pictures) ingredients, cooking and tasting, the whole experience was under 30minutes. Not only did she walk me through every step, but she also sent me home with my own set of Indian spices.

Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners
Cooking with Sujaya: Indian Cooking for Beginners

Follow SFBAM! Sujaya will be teaching me how to cook Indian food on Friday mornings. I’ll be posting pictures and taking you along for the ride.

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Olga Rosales Salinas is Managing Editor for San Francisco Bay Area Moms. As a freelance writer and journalist, her articles have been published nationally by palabra, National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Other bylines have appeared in Voices of Monterey Bay, Jumble & Flow and various others. Her debut collection of poetry and prose, La Llorona, was published by Birch Bench Press in August of 2021. In 2019 her philanthropy began with a non-profit benefiting first-generation and immigrant students, The Rosales Sisters' Scholarship. She has had spotlights in the following podcasts and radio stations; THINK/NPR with Krys Boyd, Los Sotelos Podcast, The Hive Poetry Collective @ksqd.org, Walk the Talk Podcast, "Making a Difference with Sheetal Ohri" on Bolly 92.3 FM, and Roll Over Easy @BFFdotFM Radio.

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