Ramps Rasam

This year Mother’s Day coincided with a sniffles bout (for me). Celebrating seasonal ramps, I cobbled this together to recreate the Southern Indian thin soup- rasam. It turned out as delicious and as cold-busting as the original. Enjoy!




  • 1 bunch ramps: thinly slice and separated the bottoms from the leaves
  • Sputtering base:
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • whole spices: 1 tsp whole mustard+2-3 stalks curry leaves+ 2 red chillies + 1/2 tsp whole black pepper (optional)
  • Ground spices: 1 tsp rasam powder (or sambar powder) + a dash of heeng
  • Flavorings: 1 tbsp tamarind paste (+ optional: 2 cubes of sugar)
  • Veggies: 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups water (or, more as per taste)
  • salt to taste
  • Garnish: coriander leaves


On medium heat, place the sputter base ingredients till mustard seeds begin to pop. Reduce heat to minimum and add ground spices (so that they dont burn). After a minute or so, add the bottoms of the ramps and let saute for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, turn up the heat to medium and cover and let soften in its own juice (3 mins or so). Add the flavorings and water and salt to taste. Cover. As it comes to a slow simmer, add the sliced tops of the ramp. Cover and turn off heat.

Serve hot, with garnish.


  1. The use of sambar powder in rasam may shock the purists. But, I have used this in a pinch, and, it has served me well.
  2. Feel free to add other veggies of your choice. Just remember that this is not meant to be a thick soup- so do retain its thin consistency.
  3. Instead of heeng– you could use 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced. Mix it in with the sliced ramp bottoms and follow the above steps.
  4. Lacinato Kale Rasam: Kale instead of ramps. Separate the stalks from the leafy parts. Chop the stalks very fine. Stack and roll the leaves, then chiffonade into thin slivers.

Fermented Rice: Pakhala Salad to Amazake Kheer

March 20 of every year celebrates Pakhala, an unpretentious, fermented rice staple from Eastern India. Fermentation is quite the rage and being home-bound during the pandemic I dove headlong into it– kefir, kombucha, yogurt and the likes. These need starters, so necessitate some discipline to get into a rhythmic cycle (to maintain the microbe/SCOBY robustness).

Pakhala and amazake need no such swaddling! Just mix cooked rice with water and let stand overnight to ferment. Brown rice was used for the main course and Japanese koji rice for the dessert. Absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

Pakhala: Mix plenty of water with leftover cooked rice and let ferment overnight (at approx 110 F). Shown here with side dishes- crushed peanut chutney, crushed flaxseed tortilla chips chutney and snow peas salad (see below).

Amazake: I recently discovered this through “Japanese Superfoods” by Yoshiko Takeuchi. Amazake uses koji rice which is preprocessed rice, i.e., steamed and already inoculated with the starter. Koji rice can be purchased– like any other variety of rice grain– from Japanese grocery stores (or over the internet). Then the fermentation process at home is identical to that of pakahla (at an even warmer temperature of approx 140 F). Amazake turns out to be surprisingly sweet. This is usually served as a drink, but here I serve it as a thin pudding or kheer (see below).


  1. Pakhala day in India coincides with Winter/Spring here– really not the hottest of times. Nevertheless. An electric fermenter that lets you control the temperature is a good doodad to add to your bag of toys.
  2. Pakhala can be served in two ways. The traditional way is to include some of the fermenting liquid with the rice grains and a little salt to taste and the side dishes, actually on the side.
    Or, as a Rice Salad. Drain the fermenting liquid and mix the side dishes with the rice. Top with diced red onions and serve immediately to retain the crispness of the three side dishes. I owe this salad version to my culturally diverse tasters!
    • Crushed peanut chutney: Coarsely crush 1 cup peanuts with 1 pod of garlic, 1 green chilli and salt to taste. Then mix in 2 tbsp of finely diced onion.
    • Crushed Flaxseed Tortilla Chips chutney: Coarsely crush 1 cup broken chips with salt to taste. Then mix in 2 tbsp of finely diced onion.
    • Snow peas salad: Dethread the snow peas. All this salad takes is some knife skill. Finely julienne. C’est tout.
  3. Amazake kheer: Mix 1/2 cup amazake (rice grains and liquid) with 1/2 cup milk (nut, soy or dairy) and a drop of vanilla (or a dash of cardamom), to tease your palate.
    Shown below are: koji rice, amazake and the amazake-kheer.

Shown below are pakhala and the side dishes:

Wrapped Chicken in Lemon Pickle Broth

This weekend morning was greeted with an intriguing and uplifting posting by a dear friend on Indigenous Food entering the restaurant scene in India. The steaming of leaves-wrapped food inspired me to put this together with this week’s CSA greens- broccoli leaves. The result was delicious!! The lemon pickle here is ala Moroccan Preserved Lemons– the soft lemon skin is part of the game (not just a flavor inducer). The broccoli leaves have more personality than spinach and the brightness of the pickled lemon in the light broth will blow you away. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Pressure cooker, steaming basket


  • 1 cup light lemon pickle (see Notes below for a quick homemade recipe)
  • 4 chicken thighs skinless, on the bone, wiped dry with paper towel
  • 8 large broccoli leaves (or collard), made pliable by wrapping in moist paper towel and microwaving for 1 minute
  • about 1 tsp turmeric (for color)
  • I large parchment sheet for en papillote steaming


Marinade the chicken and lemon pickle in a ziplock bag for 4-6 hours. Wrap each thigh with a piece of preserved lemon, a sprinkling of turmeric and salt, in a pair of leaves. Place the four wraps, seam side down, on parchment, sprinkle the leftover marinade and make a single pouch. Place the pouch in steaming basket and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.

Serve warm with knife and fork (for chicken, preserved lemon, broccoli leaves) and spoon (for the broth).

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Lemon Pickle: (Adapted from Archana Mundhe’s recipe). Pressure cook the following for 5 minutes under high pressure
    • (sour) 4 medium sized lemons, quartered and deseeded (as much as possible)
    • (sweet) 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tsp salt
    • (spices) 1/2 tsp chilli powder + 1 tsp cumin powder + 1 tsp coriander powder
  2. 1 cup is about half the above recipe. You can refrigerate the remainder in a mason jar.
  3. You could make the pickle a day in advance and marinade the chicken overnight. You can add more sugar, if you prefer. In fact, while the pickle is still warm, you can fold in additional sugar if that is to your taste.
  4. When blanched (microwaved) the leaves are a bright green, but with further steaming, it turns dull (not even with the acidity in the medium!!). Alas. But no compromise on taste- it tastes great!
    I did not remove the veins of the Broccoli leaves- it softens with the pressure cooking. But if using collard greens, you may want to remove the thick veins.

Pressure-steaming wrapped chicken:

Shishito Eggplant

Lightly blistered with a sprinkling of sea salt, Shishito has rapidly become a popular finger food. At this time of summer, the weekly CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) supply always has a generous bag of these Japanese peppers. Here I change the shishito playbook by using it with CSA Japanese eggplant, for an equally simple and delightful result. Enjoy!

Special tools:



  • 4-5 Japanese long eggplants, chopped into chunks, soaked in plenty of water
  • 8-10 shishito peppers, destemmed (use kitchen scissors)
  • 2-3 garlic pods, chopped very fine
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • salt to taste


Heat the oil with the finely chopped garlic. Drain and sdd the eggplants and salt. Mix well and then cover to let it cook in steam for 5-7 minutes, under medium heat. Mix in the shsishito and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. I use the Japanese chopping technique of chopping the eggplant into irregularly shaped chunks, by chopping at an angle.
  2. The kitchen scissors is very convenient for the peppers, to slit and remove the internal seeds.

An even easier microwave version: Mix all the ingredients well and place in a microwave-proof bowl and covered with moist kitchen paper towel. Nuke for 6 mins+3 mins (check and adjust appropriately).

Father’s Day: Sprouting Cauliflower Pulihora

A Sprouting Cauliflower showed up in the CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) bag this week for Father’s Day. With a quick internet scan I learn that it is also called Chinese Cauliflower in Asian markets, though its genesis is attributed to a Japanese breeder.

Don’t be distracted by its disheveled, shaggy looks. In fact it is a sweeter version of the regular old cauliflower. I take inspiration from my friend’s Mom who makes the best Andhra-style pulihora (tamarind rice) in town. I do a half-and-half. Curry leaf infused, mild rice –to elicit all the sweetness of the sprouting cauliflower– paired with hot, naughty pulihora. This will knock your socks off. Enjoy!

Special tools:

Processor; microwave.


  • In Processor: 1 Sprouting Cauliflower + 3-4 stalks of curry leaves
  • 1 tsp puliogare powder (or any other spice mix of your choice)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste


Pulse in the processor till coarsely riced. Cover with damp paper towel and microwave for 4-5 minutes, till al dente but not mushy. Mix in salt to taste. Divide into two equal portions. Heat oil in a pan and very lightly toast the spice powder and mix in one half of the riced cauliflower.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Ricing the cauliflower is also a good use of the stem portion of the head. If you can handle heat, then also pulse in half a green chilli.
  2. I use a store bought puliogare powder, perhaps to the horror of my friend’s Mom. It works out fine, although nothing beats a homemade mix.
  3. If too hot, serve with yogurt.

Chilled Mango Zoodles

Memorial Day and it’s the season of mangoes! Ripe yellow mangoes have many sweet renditions (kulfi, pie, lassi, …), but here is a savory one.

This is inspired from Kerala’s Mambhayzha-Moru-Kootan (mango-buttermilk-cooked) that a gourmand shared with me very recently. Back in the days, I remember his home always redolent with what I called South Indian deliciousness. His Mom was a terrific cook.

With summer upon us, I adopt a page from gazpacho– uncooked and chilled. The smoothness of sweet mango and sour yogurt contrasted with the texture of crunchy zucchini noodles will keep your palate engaged. Not to mention the aroma of curry leaves and delicate heat of tempered spices. Enjoy!


Blender, Spiralizer.


  • Cold soup: 1 cup yogurt + 1 large mango peeled, stoned + 1/2 can coconut milk (200 ml or 7 oz)
    + 2 large sprigs of curry leaves + 1 tsp cumin powder + 1 tbsp grated ginger + chilli powder and salt to taste
  • Zoodles: 1 zucchini, spiralized
  • Tempering: 2 tbsp EVOO + 1 sprig of curry leaves + 1 tsp whole mustard + 1/4 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds + 2 whole red chillies + 1/8 tsp heeng (asafoetida)


Blend the soup ingredients till smooth. Fold the zoodles in.

Heat the tempering oil in a little saucepan, add the rest of the tempering whole spices and let sputter for 10-15 seconds. Turn off heat and add the heeng and let sizzle in residual heat for 3-4 seconds. Pour the hot spiced oil over the soup. Serve chilled.

  1. Gazpacho or Laksa ? You decide. But this mango-coconut-yogurt soup will become your summer go-to.
  2. Unleash your kitchen toys on this one. I use a very powerful blender– so even though the mango was a little fibrous, it was no challenge. I also directly add in the curry leaves, but the result is still smooth.
    The spiralizer produces the zucchini noodles in minutes. Even zucchini haters (I used to be one) will love this.
  3. Tempering is optional. But If you like that inimitable Indian flavor, do temper.
  4. You may add toppings like avocado and microgreens to round it out even further.