South Indian vs. North Indian/Punjabi cooking

#1 Feb 9th, 2015, 22:03
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#1
I have been cooking North Indian (mostly very Punjabi/Delhi) style food for years now and I am not bad at all. My Delhiite husband is my first guinea pig

Now I have been trying my luck with South Indian food, e.g. lemon rice, sambar, etc. and somehow I always burn the spices and/or it doesn't come out right. Usually way to sticky or bland and the spices are just plain terrible. I have tried so many recipes from different sources.

My question now - is there any major difference in approach that makes me mess up or do I just need more practice? It took me some time to realize “rules” like salt shouldn’t be added before tomatoes have been added, if any. Garam masala/amchoor usually at the very end, etc. Not all recipes are helpful to point this out Just makes me wonder which secrets I am missing out for South Indian food.
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#2 Feb 9th, 2015, 22:11
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#2
Great thread.

Add curry leaves, mustard seeds, and slit green chillies to hot oil. Let it all go mad spluttering. Pour into dahi. It makes a great raita.
#3 Feb 9th, 2015, 22:13
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It might help me make practical suggestions if I knew what dish you have messed up and how. Some general tips, however. Always cook on low heat. Stirring often helps mix the spices in the food evenly than stirring occasionally after leaving the dish for a few minutes on high heat. Start with slightly less salt than you expect to need. You can always add some more, later. Zero oil cooking is possible and is healthy, too, but if that does not suit you, then try using just enough oil to cover the spices.

I do not understand which South Indian recipe calls for Amchur or Garam Masala. I am sure you realize that there is more to "North Indian" cooking than Punjabi / Delhi cooking. By the same token, what exactly are you referring to when you say "South Indian" cooking? Good luck.
#4 Feb 9th, 2015, 22:23
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Sorry for making this confusing. What I meant was that I think I know many of the tricks (like when to add salt/amchoor/garam masala) in North Indian cooking but my South Indian cooking sucks my main issue is anything rice like lemon rice or tomato rice. That should be easy - I thought! - but somehow they just refuse to turn into something very edible

South Indian cooking would be like Tamil or Andhra food to me, if that helps.

The raita recipe sounds good, I will try that
#5 Feb 9th, 2015, 22:32
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My worthless two cents on rice, I have observed that Basmati seems to be not at all suited for south Indian rice recipes.
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#6 Feb 9th, 2015, 22:42
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Lemon rice is one of the few south Indian dishes I can cook.

This is the recipe I follow.

heat oil in a pan or any utensil you usually use to cook rice. Add in maybe a teaspoon of whole uncooked channa daal. A minute later add mustard seeds, curry leaves and slit green chillies and let everything splutter wildly for a minute. Then add in washed and cleaned rice- I usually use Basmati.

Keep stirring on a medium to high flame for a minute or so. Add double the quantity of water. Then add in some turmeric and lemon juice. When it comes to a boil turn the gas way low. Cover with a lid but leave a tiny gap to allow the steam to escape. It's done in about 15-17 minutes. One trick to get perfectly cooked rice is to remove it from the stove when it is still a bit wet and sloppy...just when it looks like it'll be done in no more than another 5 minutes, but isn't quite there yet. I usually take it off the gas, but leave the lid firmly on, letting it continue to cook in its own steam.
#7 Feb 9th, 2015, 23:09
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Originally Posted by jituyadav View Post My worthless two cents on rice, I have observed that Basmati seems to be not at all suited for south Indian rice recipes.
Interesting, what do you recommend instead of Basmati?
#8 Feb 9th, 2015, 23:10
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Originally Posted by BholeBaba View Post Lemon rice is one of the few south Indian dishes I can cook.

This is the recipe I follow.

heat oil in a pan or any utensil you usually use to cook rice. Add in maybe a teaspoon of whole uncooked channa daal. A minute later add mustard seeds, curry leaves and slit green chillies and let everything splutter wildly for a minute. Then add in washed and cleaned rice- I usually use Basmati.

Keep stirring on a medium to high flame for a minute or so. Add double the quantity of water. Then add in some turmeric and lemon juice. When it comes to a boil turn the gas way low. Cover with a lid but leave a tiny gap to allow the steam to escape. It's done in about 15-17 minutes. One trick to get perfectly cooked rice is to remove it from the stove when it is still a bit wet and sloppy...just when it looks like it'll be done in no more than another 5 minutes, but isn't quite there yet. I usually take it off the gas, but leave the lid firmly on, letting it continue to cook in its own steam.
will try soon!
#9 Feb 10th, 2015, 00:48
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#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by sareer View Post Interesting, what do you recommend instead of Basmati?
Molakolukulu (AP), Ponni (TN), Sona Masuri (Kar) are few very good south indian rice varieties.
Seeraga Sambha is a regional variety used to cook biryani in south tamil nadu. Small and fine grains. Authentic biryani chains like Thalapakatti (original) and Venu take pride in saying they use only seeraga sambha.
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#10 Feb 12th, 2015, 17:43
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[QUOTE=BholeBaba;1860617]Lemon rice is one of the few south Indian dishes I can cook.

This is the recipe I follow...heat oil in a pan or any utensil you usually use to cook rice. Add in maybe a teaspoon of whole uncooked channa daal. A minute later add mustard seeds, curry leaves and slit green chillies and let everything splutter wildly for a minute. Then add in washed and cleaned rice- I usually use Basmati. ...QUOTE]

A similar method: Let the rice cook. I use Ponni boiled rice. With an electric cooker, I use slightly less than 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. Usually this measure helps the rice turn out crisp.

While the rice is cooking, heat 1 tbl spoon of oil. When it is warm add a pinch of hing powder. Then add half a teaspoon each of rai, jeera, a urad dal, chana dal, as many peanuts or cashew nuts as you prefer. Fry all of these on low heat. After a minute add 1/4 tsp of haldi powder. When these change color, add finely chopped green chili, curry leaves. (My own variation and optional: 1/4th tea sp finely cut fresh ginger).

Now add a table spoon of lemon juice and salt (to taste) to the cooked rice, mix thoroughly. The efficiency of this mixing can determine the taste of the final dish. Now add in the fried spices. Take some of the rice in a spoon and place it in the pan to swipe the remaining oil.

If the rice is not sour enough, add a little more juice. Be careful when adding salt, too much salt will ruin the dish. Too much lemon juice does not make it poison-like, too much salt can.

The spices to add and their amounts are optional. Try small quantities to start with. You can't then go wrong. If you want it more crunchy, add more urad dal and chana dal. This goes for other things, too. Enjoy and keep us posted, ask for help if needed.
Last edited by iseeking; Feb 13th, 2015 at 20:40..
#11 Feb 13th, 2015, 18:43
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#11
Quote:
Originally Posted by sareer View Post My question now - is there any major difference in approach that makes me mess up or do I just need more practice? It took me some time to realize “rules” like [...]
That's a very good question, and I often wonder about this too. Experienced cooks in India can take just the contents of a spice dabba and come up with very different styles.

My simple answer is that in South Indian is not based on sauces, but on quick frying of cumin/mustard/urad/chana followed by very light cooking of onions, etc. North Indian is more about making rich sauces? If tomatoes or tamarind is used, the time these are added seems to be very different?

I also would like to get a better feel for which oils work better for which regional cooking, I am sure it makes a difference but haven't done a full study. Can I get funding for a proper research project for this?
#12 Feb 13th, 2015, 19:59
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Originally Posted by Rasika View Post That's a very good question, and I often wonder about this too. Experienced cooks in India can take just the contents of a spice dabba and come up with very different styles...
lemon

Practice makes a woman perfect, men can try this, too:-)) Seriously, if you followed my tips on cooking on a slow flame, starting with limited amounts of spices, and such other hints, you can't go wrong. Balancing the spices is another trick. Many recipes suggest a certain measure of turmeric or mustard seed, but exact amounts that make a dish yummy can't be specified in weight or volume.

I suggest start with lemon rice, at first with one cup of raw rice. Salt and lemon juice are the two spices you can vary, even after the dish is done. You will learn and evolve your own formula for the winning recipe. I promise. Once you are done with this, let us know and I will give you other simple but yummy, interesting recipes. Deal?


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