Dahi Baray

dahi-baray

We are smack in the middle of Ramadan, and dahi barays – I know, I know, grammatically incorrect – are one of our favorite iftaari dishes. They are basically fried dumplings made out of besan (chickpea/gram flour) in a thin yogurt sauce. You can also make them with lentils but Shan has made it clear he doesn’t like those, and although I haven’t tried them they sound too heavy whereas these puff up into light, fluffy clouds.

A few little tricks

  • After frying and draining, dunk the barays in water for about a minute then gently squeeze them out before transferring to the yogurt mixture. Some people skip this step but it makes sure they are nice and soft. From what I’ve gathered, the Pakistani food circuit is brutal; you don’t want people gossiping about your crunchy barays.
  • Also, thin the yogurt with almost more water than you are comfortable with – the barays will soak up quite a bit so you need to overcompensate so it doesn’t dry up.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough before you start dropping the batter. These are not hard to make, and they have come out perfectly for me every time except once. I had just gotten off an angry phone call and was storming around the kitchen, flailing and ranting while I threw this together, and distractedly dropped them too early in the still-heating oil. We ended up with sad little lumps in watery yogurt. And sad little lumps is what happens when I cook angry, so I have since resolved to take a few cleansing breathes and calm the eff down instead of messing up my food.
  • I usually just sprinkle these with chaat masala, but I’ve seen them drizzled with imli (tamarind) chutney too, which looks so pretty. I’m going to do that for our upcoming iftaar party, because presentation is everything.

Dahi Baray

Adapted from Dahi Baray by Chef Zakir

For the yogurt mixture

  • One heaping cup yogurt
  • 2 tsp (or to taste) red chili
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp chaat masala (more for garnish)
  • Salt to taste
  • tamarind chutney (optional)

For the barays

  • 1/2 cups besan
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Salt and red chili to taste (about a tsp of each)
  • Oil for frying (an inch in a pan is fine)

In a large bowl, whip yogurt together with red chili, sugar, chaat masala and salt. Add water to make a very thin sauce. If you aren’t trying to impress anyone you can serve from this bowl, or you can pour two thirds into a large shallow dish and set the rest aside to pour over at the end.

Combine besan, baking soda, salt and red chili, stirring well so there are no lumps. Add enough water to make a thick batter. Have a paper towel-lined plate and a large bowl of water ready.

Heat oil. Fry in batches by dropping spoons of batter into the oil – they should immediately puff up. They only take a minute or so on each side to fry, so once you finish dropping the first round of batter you can go back around and flip them (I use two spoons or a spoon and a fork to flip). Remove to the paper towel-lined plate for a minute or so, dunk in water for a minute, then gently squeeze them out and transfer to the yogurt mixture (either in the bowl or the shallow dish).

Continue frying in batches until all the batter is used up. To serve, pour the rest of the yogurt on top (if applicable), sprinkle with chaat masala and drizzle with tamarind chutney.

Punjabi Kadhi

kadhi

kadhi

These pakoras look a little sad – I was running out of besan so they didn’t get quite the batter they needed. Yummy nonetheless.

I was feeling very smug during our last trip to Pakistan as my husband told my mother-in-law that I had been cooking a lot of Pakistani food at home…much less smug after the very first thing she asked me was if I had made was kadhi. Which I had not.

Immediately upon our return I made an attempt to close the gaping hole in my repertoire. The concept of “yogurt stew” was unfamiliar, so more than usual with my homemade Pakistani food experiments I was chasing poor Shan around the house with spoonfuls, demanding “I think this tastes good, but is it authentic?”

Now I make it pretty frequently, and it’s come to taste just as comforting and homey as everyone claims it does. I tried a few different recipes (including my sister-in-law’s), but our household favorite and the one that I follow almost exactly is the Kadhi from Veg Recipes of India (a site I cook from fairly often – the recipe is very detailed with pics of each step).

A few things I learned or found helpful:

  1. This is Punjabi kadhi. Gujarati kadhi is thinner and I am not making that because no one will be impressed.
  2. From my vast internet research, there seem to be different variations, for example with tomatoes or other vegetables, or without pakoras or eaten as a soup without rice. However, hubs said the only way his family ever ate it was with the pakoras and rice.
  3. Curry leaves look like bay leaves but they are not. I had actually never used them before this, because although I had seen them in recipes I’d wanted to try, I didn’t know where to find them (my regular desi market only has dried spices). Then I trekked to an Indian grocer with a fresh produce section, where I found them with the refrigerated greens, veggies and herbs. Curry leaves have a distinct, lovely fragrance, and now I love using them.
  4. My sister-in-law instructs letting the kadhi simmer for at least 5 hours to make it sufficiently sour. I don’t often have 5 hours to babysit a simmering pot, so the sourness is much more easily achieved by leaving your yogurt out in the morning to sour a bit before you cook it in the evening (ideal) or cheating with a little amchoor powder (less ideal, but not beneath me). Then you only have to simmer 15 minutes.
  5. All the recipes I saw instruct you to mix the besan with a little water and make sure you get out all the lumps before you mix it with the yogurt. My original and ingenious technique is to instead sift the besan over the yogurt then whip it in with a whisk.
  6. This recipe calls for yogurt from a half liter of milk (which she elsewhere says is equal to a large bowl…?). So translation for us lazy grocery store yogurt procurers: 1.5 to 2 cups
  7. She also calls for 4 red onions for the pakoras, but I must have atomic onions because two was plenty.
  8. Kadhi tastes better the next day, so get ready for happy desk lunches.

Kadhi

Recipe from Veg Recipes of India with just couple adjustments

For the onion pakoras
2 cups besan
1 cup water
2 medium sized red onions, sliced
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp garam masala powder
a pinch of asafoetida

Mix besan in a bowl with carom seeds, red chili powder, garam masala powder and salt.
Add sliced onions to the bowl and pour a little water. Don’t add too much water as the onions will release water later.
Mix well and set aside for 0-30 minutes.

The onions will release enough water to make the batter liquidy. If the batter still feels dry, add some water to it. check the seasoning. Heat oil for deep or shallow frying. Fry on both sides until crisp and brown, drain and set aside.

For the kadhi
curd made from half a litre of milk (1.5 – 2 cups)
1 cup besan
4 cups water
2 tsp red chili powder
1 and half teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste

In a big bowl, whip the yogurt until it is smooth. Using a strainer or flour sift, sift besan over the yogurt and add turmeric, red chili, garam masala and salt. Whip until very smooth, make sure there are no lumps. Add water and mix well.

For the tempering
A couple tablespoons mustard oil
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped (optional – I skipped this time)
1 and half tbsp garlic ginger paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
2 small sprigs curry leaves
2 green chili
1 or 2 dry red chilies (optional, but recommended as are very pretty floating in the yellow kadhi)
3 tbsp mustard oil or ghee or any vegetable oil
a pinch or two of asafoetida
 

Heat mustard oil on high until smoking (to remove the raw taste). Cool a bit, then add cumin seeds and let them sizzle. Add garlic ginger paste and green chili, cook for a few minutes, then add curry leaves and dry red chilies.

To finish:
Poor the yogurt mixture over the tempering, bring to a boil then simmer for 8-10 minutes. Add the pakoras (that will fit, there will be more on the side) to the top of the kadhi, cover and close the pan so they can soak in for a few minutes.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice.