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south beach diet phase 1

Idly manchurian / Masala idly with tons of veggies

Idly is the most common dish that comes to the breakfast table from every South Indian kitchen. So one can imagine the amount of fussy looks that the lady of the house has to face when that has been served. It’s not because of the taste but the fuss is more because of the repetitiveness of it. The only thing that will change are the chutneys that goes with it. Idlies are the steamed cooked dumplings made from rice-idly batter. It is one of the most healthiest and safest dish known on the earth. Infact, most Indian mothers would have started feeding their little one (from 6months) with plain idly and water. You can read on how to make the idly batter on my previous post “Idly”. Look for the recipe here.

Masala idly is a typical fast food. I have eaten them in Saravana Bhavan restaurant in Chennai and that’s one dish Iove to order every time we go there. It has all the ingredients that adds color, flavor and sweet-spice kick to it. I think that this dish was found by one desperate mother who was hoping to trick and feed her little one.

Some call it idly machurian or fried idly. I remember calling this as masala idly. Initially, the dishes like idly upma, masala idlies were made from the leftovers. But I deliberately prepare fresh ones and chill in the refrigerator before use. The soft idlies are coated with a rice flour batter and deep fried. They are then tossed with a delicious vegetable mixture.The beautiful red capsicum, cabbage, carrots and onions infuses a lovely touch of sweetness to the plate and the finely chopped veggies pop out like precious gems in a jewelery. You can also add peas, cauliflower or any veggie of your choice.

4-6 chilled idlies – chopped
1/4cup carrots – julienne sliced
1/2cup onions – chopped
1/4cup red and green capsicum – julienne sliced
1/4cup tomatoes – chopped
1/4cup cabbage – long thin strips
1tbs ginger/garlic paste
1 green chilly – slit
1/4cup coriander leaves – chopped
4teaspoon coriander powder
2teaspoon chilli powder
1tablespoon tomato ketchup
2tablespoon soya sauce
1-2 teaspoon garam masala
Oil for frying

For the batter
1/4cup rice flour
1/4cup all purpose flour/maida
1tbs corn flour
2-4 tablespoon water

Whisk together the ingredients listed under the “for the batter” section to a smooth paste. Coat the chopped idlies in the batter and deep fry them in hot oil (375’F).

In a cooking pan, heat little oil and add onions, ginger-garlic paste and green chilly. Sprinkle little salt to moisten the onions. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and sprinkle chilli powder and coriander powder. Let it cook till the raw smell disappears. Toss in all the veggies,soya sauce and drizzle little water for them to cook. Cover and cook for further 20 minutes on a medium flame.

Mix in the garam masala and coriander leaves. Add little water if needed to moisten the vegetable mix. Finally add the fried idlies and serve hot with onion/ cucumber raita.

Update on 04.16.2012

Brown rice idly manchurian /masala idly recipe
1. I made masala idly today for dinner with idlies made from brown rice batter and I also baked them instead of deep frying it.
2. Check out my post on how to make brown idlies here.
3. Cut them into squares or any shape as you like. Pre-heat the oven to 350F and cover the baking sheet with aluminium foil and neatly arrange the idlies slices and apply cooking spray (very little) or omit it. Using oil is purely optional, it turned out bit dry without oil (yes, only bit dry) but once you add them to the base curry, it absorbs the sauce and the dryness is not even felt while eating.
4. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes, plus more for a crunchy texture, about 2-3 minutes more.

Additional notes:
1. Since its made with brown rice and baked, they can be eaten in South beach diet phase 2 and 3.
2. Also ideal sample dish for women with gestational diabetes and for individuals who are pre-diabetic or diabetic.
3. While on a weightloss program, you can very much eat this but make the base curry lots of vegetables and add just 2 number of idlies to the curry. It’s yum, healthy and delicious.
4. The same dish can be made with my whole grain (quinoa-oats-ragi) idly recipe as well.

Meen kozhambhu – Fish curry with salmon

Realizing how hungry I was, I headed home to fix an easy dinner. I went for what I had in the freezer: fresh salmon. I grabbed red shallots and garlic from the kitchen counter and left the salmon thaw in hot water. I thought about sitting at the dining table but decided to work standing in the spacious kitchen island. I sipped the masala chai. It was deep brown and wonderful. It smelled of cardamon, ginger and cloves, reminding me of monsoon in India. It was exactly what you want a great cup of tea to be. I was recharged by the last sip.
As I peeled the onions and garlic, I thought about the day ahead. Telephone ranged. It was my mom. After exchanging pleasantries, I was telling her about making a savory tamarind sauce and then baking the salmon with it. I planned to follow my grandmother’s meen kozhambhu recipe but I remembered a different recipe my MIL had for the same dish. She offered to make the base sauce. I went ahead with her family recipe.
We decided to make a thick sauce with tamarind pulp, tons of garlic and shallots.  The magical vadagam which my grandmother has sent found a spot in the recipe. MIL insisted that we add tons of curry leaves too. I was sure the combination of these ingredient will be a major success. She soaked yellow split peas (toor dhal) with peeled shallots for thirty minutes and ground them to a fine paste. Generous helping of tamarind pulp was added to this paste and mixed with hand. In the meanwhile, a large non-stick pan was heated with oil and she threw in vadagam, curry leaves, whole onions and chopped garlic. She quickly walked me through the steps.
The kitchen air was filled with the flavors of South India. Few spice powders were sprinkled and the tamarind mixture was poured in and the tangy base was left to cook by itself for an hour or so. All in all, such a decadent meal was getting ready. Once the sauce thickened to perfection, I spooned a good amount of it over the meaty salmon and baked it the same way as I did for this dish – salmon baked with mint-cilantro sauce. The fat salmon was encased in savory tamarind sauce and served with one of the healthiest side: roasted purple potatoes. Together it was a killer combination. You can serve it with brown/white rice too.
There is a similar recipe for fish curry (meen kozhambhu) I wrote for my good friend Kankana. Hop over to her beautiful blog for the recipe and her amazing blog with gorgeous pictures and fool-proof recipe will keep you busy for the next few hours. This is my second recipe for the Copper river salmon series. You can read more details about them in my previous post. Don’t miss to check out the recipe for salmon baked with mint- cilantro sauce
Breakfast should be the most filling meal for the day, that’s what health gurus say. For a change, we ate a pretty heavy dinner with chunks of thick salmon, potatoes and rice. And for dessert that night we had homemade pecan ice cream. The salmon dish was creamy, meaty, tangy and savory all at once. The rice were fluffy and simple. The purple potatoes was perfectly cooked, neither too mushy nor under-cooked, velvety and delicious on the tongue. Over all, a lip smacking meal to keep us full for the next few days 🙂
Source: Mother-in-law
Serves : 4-6

4 salmon fillet
For the tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vadagam
15 curry leaves
10 shallots – whole + 10 more for the puree
10 garlic – chopped into chunks
1 large tomato chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1-2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 cup tamarind pulp
2 tablespoon yellow split peas (toor dhal)
 4 cups water
Salt to taste
1. Soak the yellow split peas and shallots for 30 minutes. Drain and puree them. Mix it with the tamarind pulp and water. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large pan. Once they are hot, add vadagam and saute for a minute. Then add the curry leaves and let it crisp up. Throw in the shallots, garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Mix in the tomatoes and saute for 8-10 minutes.
4. Sprinkle turmeric, chilli and coriander powder and cook for another couple of minutes, until the raw smell disappears. Pour the the yellow split peas-shallots-tamarind water and cook covered for 30-45 minutes, until they begin to thicken. Add salt to taste. Switch off the flame and let it rest until ready to assemble.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. We are going to prepare packets with aluminum foil. So, remove a large sheet of the foil; large enough to wrap the salmon.
3. Place the salmon fillet skin side down. Smother the tamarind sauce over it. Be generous. I love it that way. You can add more or less depending on your taste. Wrap the foil in four directions to create a rectangular pocket. Seal them without any gap so that the steam will not escape.
4. Bake for 15 minutes and serve hot. I served mine with roasted purple potatoes and white rice.
Additional notes:
1. Salmon baked in tamarind sauce is an ideal lunch/dinner menu for those in South beach diet phase 1.
2. Also ideal for those who are diabetic/pre-diabetic and on a weight loss journey.
I received the salmon filet for free from the Copper River Salmon Association. I did not receive any monetary compensation for the review. My thoughts & opinions in this review are unbiased. 

Kothuparotta with tortilla

Weather in California is cold and windy for the last two days. There’s drizzles every now and then. It’s cold and my hands turn pale, dry and chilly within minutes. And the last thing I want to do is to shop at my grocery store. Thinking about what to fix with the things at home is sometime challenging but at the same time interesting and exciting for me.
I opened my fridge and scanned for the things that were there – two stale carrots that I picked a week ago, one shiny red bell pepper – last one left from Costco, a box of ripe cherry tomatoes that I bought to fix a salad, few sprigs of curled cilantro, half a lemon and few dried curry leaves. There in the corner I found a huge egg carton which had just two eggs left. I turned around to check for onions on my kitchen counter. Gladly I found five large onions. “Wow, that’s not bad, I can make couple of things with these veggies” I reassured myself. “May be vermicilli or semolina upma or egg curry with lots of sauce or simple dal with roti” My brain kept answering me as I ran around the kitchen like a mad lab rat. Before I went ahead to close the door, I found a packet of tortilla nestled in the lowest rack. “Oh ya, a vendor at the Fancy food show gave me a packet of his whole wheat tortillas” I recollected.
With all these ingredients, there is one super yummy food that could be fixed. Tamil Nadu style Kothu parotta it is. The thoughts about spicy kothukari made me crave for it even more. A food when tasted would take me to my cherished childhood days, the days where life was less complicated and worry-free and those were the days I would run back from school to watch my mom cook this. I would peep through the window to get the smell of what she is fixing. I know it would taste perfect without ever having to munch a piece of that sauce slathered parotta. The smell of its steam would tell me that its been perfectly spiced and salted.  Such is this food filled with lovely aroma and comforts of my mother’s kitchen.
The dish by itself in simple, traditional and has tons of intricate flavors in it. She would make it with rotis or chapatis or even with deep dried pooris. Her recipe will evolve with the ingredients she gets on her hand. Today I am going to make it with Maria and Ricardo’s whole wheat tortillas and each one has 45 calories. I am going to use three for one serving and tons of veggies and one egg. That makes it a wholesome meal and it would be less than 350 calories when made with half a tablespoon of olive oil in each serving.
I read it from Maria and Ricardo’s tortilla packet on how to calculate the net effective carbs in your food. To get the net carb amount, you must deduct the grams of dietary fiber from the total carbohydrate grams. In this case, there is 10g of total carbohydrate in 1 tortilla and 7g dietary fiber so the net carb : 10g-7g = 3g
When served with minty raita and steamy cardamon tea, there is heaven on earth and there is nothing more comforting than this for the cold weather. I chopped, stirred and cooked. The food was ready and the bowl was full with torn tortillas and tons of veggies. The aroma of curry-leaves-perfumed-oil lingered around my head. I smelled it once. Then again. And for the final time I breath in all the goodness before I took the first bite. Warm tortilla was layered with eggs and exotic spices. The small chunks were further kissed by the juicy sauce of sweet carrots, bellpeppers and tomatoes. I served it to S when he arrived from work. He loved and couldn’t even find the replacement of chapatis with tortillas in the dish.Maria and Ricardo’s tortilla were soft and fresh. We loved its addition to our traditional South Indian dish. Total yum!!! My husband and I we re-named this dish as “Kothu-tortillas
Serves 2
Source: My mother’s recipe (with my alterations)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 medium size tomato – chopped
  • 1 bell pepper – chopped
  • 1 carrot – chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 tortillas (Maria and Ricardo’s fiber rich whole wheat tortillas) – cut into squares about 1 cm in size or something similar in size
  • 2 eggs
Cilantro and juice of 1 lemon for garnish
  1. Heat a large saucepan. Once the oil ripples, add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Throw in the curry leaves and let it crisp, about 60 seconds. Cook at medium flame. Don’t burn the condiments.
  2. Then add the onions and let it brown, about 6-8 minutes. Sprinkle the turmeric, chilli and coriander powder and saute for 2-3 minutes. If its too dry, add a tablespoon of water. This prevents the spices from burning. Add soy sauce and saute for 60 seconds.
  3. Now add the tomatoes and cook till they turn mushy, about 3-5 minutes. Finally add the carrots, peas and bell peppers and stir to combine. Add little more water and cook covered for 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye and stir every 5 minutes. Check for doness by tasting one piece.
  4. Sprinkle garam masala and mix well to combine. The vegetable mix must not be too runny or watery. We want it to be dry with little sauce in it.
  5. Add the tortilla and cook for 2 minutes until they are coated well with spices and veggies. Then break the eggs and stir to scramble. Cook without turning the dish into a pulp or mushy. Carefully fold the tortilla over the eggs and let it cook.
  6. Garnish with cilantro and squeeze lemon juice on top.
Source: Self

Ingredients1 cup non-fat yogurt
1 serrano pepper (without seeds) – chopped
20 mint leaves – chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine them all together and whisk to a smooth raita. Check for salt before serving.
Serve the kothu-tortilla with mint raita.
My tips:
1. Serve the dish right away. It doesn’t taste great after a while. When left for longer time, the tortillas might get soggy.
2. You could make the dish with roti, parathas, naans, pooris, chapati.
3. I tried doing it with toasted whole wheat bread (cubed). It tasted different but not bad. The bread chunks must be mixed with vegetable sauce right before serving. The bread tend to get soggy very easily. So my personal preference will not be bread in the future.
4. Kothu-tortilla is a healthier version of the traditional kothu-parotta dish. Hence my version is ideal for women with gestational diabetes or anyone with diabetes or cholestrol and for those in weight loss regimes. Also ideal for people in Phase 2 and 3 of South beach diet.

Why should we eat edamame?

Edamame is a popular snack in countries like Japan, China, Korea and Hawaii. All of us know the goodness about soy products – be it soy milk or tofu, we know that its so right for your body (ofcourse when eaten in moderation). Coming from a similar family is edamame.Soy is a wonder food. A half cup of edamame has good amount of fiber, proteins, vitamins and minerals in it. For vegetarians, eating it is one of the best way to pump up the iron levels. Edamame is nothing but immature soybeans in the pod. They are green in color and it is picked before the soy beans ripe.

Nutritional value (Source:Manufacturer’s packet)
1/2 cup of shelled edamame has 120 calories
  • 13 grams of carbohydrates
  • 11 grams of proteins
  • 9 grams of fiber
  • 2.5 grams of fat ( 1.5grams polysaturated fat and 0.5 gram monosaturated fat)

N, my good friend from middle school introduced me to edamame. It was during one of my visit to her house I tasted it for the first time. Since she is a health freak, her kitchen cabinets doesn’t carry any unhealthy greasy snacks, instead her guests are welcomed with baby carrots with organic maple syrup and cooked edamame with soy sauce as snacks. Thanks to her for letting me know about this bean.Trust me when I say this, edamame beans are so addictive and just with a dash of salt it tastes so good. It is definitely a yummy snack to serve your kids. It tastes like white kidney beans – nutty and creamy. My son loves edamame and every time he catches me munching few beans, he would take one in each hand and sit by the stairs to admire its shape, color and chew it with his bunny teeth and slide them into his tummy with the toothless gum at the back of his mouth. Then he would walk towards me for more. Soy products have isoflavones, they are phytoestrogen found in red clover tea as well and they protect your body against cancer, heart diseases and kidney problems. Isn’t a good thing to give to your little ones? Think about it.

I continued eating it during my pregnancy too. This nutritious bean is sure to nourish your growing fetus. Since I had gestational diabetes, cooked edamame was something I could trust on for mid day hungrypangs. Just take a bowl full, sit by the couch, peel the shell, watch TV and eat.  Edamame has equal amount of protein and carbohydrates. Remember it’s a snack so eat accordingly. My dietician suggested to eat edamame often as they help to reduce insulin resistance in people diagnosed with diabetes. The isoflavones in edamame reduces the bad cholesterol and increases the good cholesterol. Don’t you want that?

Where can you find them?

They are parboiled and quick-frozen to retain their freshness and natural flavour.  Hence they are sold cooked, you just have to thaw it or may be microwave it for couple of minutes on high before you eat. They are sold either shelled or with the pods. You can locate them in the freezer section of your supermarket. I shop edamame from Costco, Savemart, Safeway, Trader Joe, Whole foods.  I always have a bag or two in my freezer. You can use them in your cooking too. Add a handful to your dhaal/ pulao/ omelet / curry / chaat or make a hummus out of it, there are endless possibilities. Since I am lazy, I prefer to eat them as such. I don’t have the time to sit and shell it first and then make a dish out of it. Instead I eat them as such. They taste pretty good that way. If I am hungry around 7.00PM , a time that hangs between snack and dinner time, I eat a bowl of edamame and that way I can atleast avoid headaches/ tiredness due to hunger.

How to eat it?

Once it is cooked, remove the beans like you do for peanuts. Cut the ends and press the bean to pop out from the end, once there’s a small opening, peel them open and remove the beans and eat. You could also squeeze the beans directly from the pods into the mouth with your fingers.  Keep repeating the process until you are done 🙂


Serves 2


  • 1 cup edamame in pods
  • A dash of salt optional
  • 1 tablespoon water


  • Microwave


  1. Remove the beans from the packaging. Place in a bowl and microwave at high for 2-3 minutes.
  2.  Sprinkle salt and serve.

Additional notes:

  1. Edamame can be eaten as snack in all the three phases of South beach diet and also for those who are on a weightloss journey.
  2. It is an ideal snack for women with gestational diabetes and also for individuals who are prediabetic/ diabetic
  3. You can make a “sundal” (South Indian snack) with edamame – can be tempered with mustards seeds, dry red chilly, pinch of asafoetida and little coconut powder.

Update on 04.11.2012

We had an informative discussion in facebook today and I am tempted to update my post with a key information Sadhana Ginde, Indian editor for Bella shared with us. I would call her a walking encyclopedia, she can talk about anything under the sky and her views definitely opens up many thought provoking conversation among our FB friends. Thanks S for the lovely insights. So my dear readers please read through her views and let me know your thoughts as well.

Sadhana Ginde: “But I also must caution you here — as much as I love soybeans, tofu & soy milk. These are all products that cause a natural increase in the body’s estrogen. This is great for women & especially menopausal women! But soy is also used in many other products as a extra protein source such as garden burgers, cookies, snacks, cereals & many bars. That being said, too much soy = too much estrogen in kids of any age. But this is not good for little boys & little girls! Studies have shown in kids especially lactose intolerant kids who use a lot of soy in their diets — the boys have delayed onset of puberty & for girls — too early!  

So you may ask — what about people in Asia who have been eating large amounts of soy for centuries? It appears their bodies have evolved over time to process these large amounts of soy. Also, their soy products are all natural. The ones produced here in the US are “enhanced”.
So is it okay for your kids to eat edamame, have a glass of soy milk, eat tofu…. ? Yes, but not daily 3x! They are already getting a lot of soy in their diet through other foods, so no need to add more. You may not believe me & that’s ok! But I am a science researcher (cancer) and there are many available studies & data on the internet as well. Thanks for your time, but many people dont know this! Well this came into light about a decade ago because young 7-8 yrs girls had already started their “ladies days” 🙁 So just an FYI folks!)”

Pecan crusted cod

In every farmer’s market I have visited this summer, I stumble upon beautiful fish stalls. There are abundant choice of seafood on display: from sardines to squids to mussels to clams. As you walk past the stalls, you can smell the sea – salty , salty and more salty.  The ones I get here are from the San Francisco bay and they are definitely not stored in ice chunks for days together so it will be fresh, , hence flavorful and irresistibly delicious.  Who wouldn’t love to eat them often?
As the first thing on that Sunday morning I decided to cook cod with pecans and serve them with garbanzo based curry for lunch. I was looking for cod in the farmer’s market but by the time I went, everything was sold out and all that was left were mussels, clams and sardines. I picked a pound of mussels and sardines for dinner the following day. Even though there were no fresh cod to cook, I had some frozen fillets from Costco left at home. “I can use those” were the words that popped in my mind. I headed home straight, thawed them in hot water, prepared the pecan crust and baked – Voila, the fish was ready in less than half-hour. Easy and quick. And that’s the kind of food you need for Summer.
By the time, the fillets were baking, I prepared chickpeas in spinach sauce. It’s been a long time since I posted a South beach friendly dish. So here comes pecan crusted cod fillets.
Recipe source: South beach diet book
Serves 2
4 – Cod/ Tilapia or Trout fillets
1/4 cup – roasted pecans
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1 garlic clove
Salt to taste
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1.Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
2.In a food processor, pulse pecans, rosemary, garlic, and cayenne until finely chopped.
3.Place each fish, opened and flesh side up on the baking sheet.
4. Season flesh side of trout with salt and brush with egg white. Sprinkle nut mixture over egg white and press to adhere. 
5.Drizzle evenly with oil and bake until trout is opaque and tender inside, about 20 minutes.

Appam with thengai paal – South Indian breakfast

Some food are light for the tummy
Some food are healthy in its own way
Some food are uber delicious
Appam is one such dish which fit all the above requirements.We pair it with coconut milk sweetened with jaggery and flavored with cardamom powder. Our breakfast today was appam with thengai paal.

APPAM (lacy crispy pancakes)

For the appam:

  • 1 cup raw rice
  • 1 cup boiled rice
  • 1/4 cup urad dhal
  • 1teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • A pinch of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cooked Indian rice
For the coconut milk:
  • Use store bought Thailand’s coconut milk or make fresh ones at home
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
Appam Thengai Paal
Appam Batter:


  1. Soak the raw rice, urad dhal and fenugreek seeds in water for 4-6 hrs.Drain the water and first grind the urad dhal and fenugree to a fine paste. Remove and keep aside.Then grind the soaked rice with required amount of water to a thick paste along with cooked rice.
  2. They should have a dosa-batter/pancake-batter like consistency. Mix in 1 tsp salt
  3. Let it ferment at room temperature overnight or leave it in the oven overnight.The next day add a pinch of baking soda and 1/2 tsp sugar.Steps to make appam:1. Heat a small appam kadai/non-stick kadai. Coat them with few drizzles of coconut oil the previois night itself. Spoon in 1 tbs of appam batter in the middle of the kadai and gently swirl the pan around to form a thin lacy layer over the sides. A thick layer will be formed at the centre. Drizzle drops of coconut oil along the sides.Cover with a lid and cook for about 2-3min. The edges will get released by itself along the sides. Remove and serve.

    For the coconut milk:

    1.Grind the coconut shaving to a fine paste. Using the hands, squeeze out the water and keep aside. If necessary add little more water and grind them in the blender again. Repeat the same by squeezing out the water. Add coconut palm sugar to taste and finally add the cardamom powder.Note:The sweetened coconut milk should not be too watery, so accordingly add the water when you grind them for the second time.

Pacha mangai pachadi – South Indian raw mango chutney

This dish is a simple sweet-tasting avatar of the beautiful tropical fruit – Mango. My little grey matter recollects tasting this delicacy only during festivals. Mangai pachadi was cooked especially on “Varshapirappu” (Tamil New Year’s day) and “Ganesh Chathurthi” (Lord Ganesh’s birthday). Though so simple in preparation, nobody in my household prepared this on days other than a festival. I wonder why? This is one of my most favorite dish which I relish with a bowl of rasam & rice. I don’t why my amma didn’t make it often?

The de-skinned raw green mangoes and couple of green chillies were chopped and cooked in the pressure cooker until they soften and then they were paired with hot bubbling jaggery syrup.Finally the thick mixture is tempered with mustard seeds and urad dhal. My mouth is watering just to think about this. Some add dried neem flower to impart a dash of bitterness to the pachadi. Since I couldn’t get a hand on those, I skipped its addition. 

The lovely sweetness from jaggery blends beautifully with the juicy mangoes and the mild heat from the green chillies gives a exotic kick every now and then. The tiny urad dhals gives a delicate crunch in every mouth. Nothing can be so simple yet exquisite in taste . Mango pachadi beams its beauty with its glossy yellow color and speckles of mustard & urad dhal around, which is a true delight to the eyes. I enjoyed it so much that I ate it like a dessert. A true earthly dish to remind you of India. Do try it!

I made this for the first time on my birthday which was months ago and repeated it so many times after that. I wanted to share my love for this dish with you all today. They are served a side dish for Indian rice and Sambhar, Rasam or Curd (Yogurt). They can also be used a spread for chapathi stuffed with paneer and Indian chat chutneys (Recipe here).

Source: Amma
Serves: 4

2 small raw mangoes
1 long green chilly – Slit
1 cup jaggery – grated
Salt – A pinch
Water 200ml

For the tempering
2 teaspoon oil
2 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoon urad dhal

1. Clean the mangoes and with a peeler remove the skin. Pat dry with a kitchen towel and using the same peeler, gently work around the flesh of the raw green mango or you can chop them into cubes as well. Do whichever is easier for you.

2. Pressure cook the mangoes and green chillie with 1/4 water for 3-4 whistles. Remove excess water. Mash them to a fine paste and cool it.

3. In the mean time, heat about 100 ml water in a cooking pan and throw in the jaggery and salt when the water is boiling hot. Maintain the heat at medium high. Let the jaggery dissolve and as they turn in to a thick syrup, which will happen in 15-20 minutes, add the mashed paste and give it a complete mix. Allow the mixture to thicken for 2-3 minutes and remove from flame.

4. In a small pan, heat the oil. Once heated, let the mustards splutter and add the urad dhal and cook for 2 minutes. Add this to the mango paste and serve hot.

Pop-Up Events

Spices and Aroma Pop-Up Meals / Supperclub is about cooking delicious food with Californian, Indian Inspirations & Beyond. We host our pop-up meals at a secret locations in San Francisco and South Bay Area / Silicon Valley. Please follow our meals in our facebook page . You can find our sample menus here.

Starting in 2017, we will be hosting Madras-83: Food Festival Series and Indian High Tea event on a regular basis.
Madras 83 Meal Combo
In Madras 83 food festival series, we will be serving a 3-course meal comprising of dishes that are so close to my heart and that will remind me of my grandmother’s (achi’s) kitchen.We will be hand picking dishes that are popular from different regions of Southern India. I will be cooking them with organic, local & seasonal ingredients. It is a great pleasure to share the cuisine I grew up with and let you all know that there is more Indian food than just naan, samosa, butter chicken & saag paneer.
Indian High Tea
In the Indian High Tea meal, we will be serving our favorite 6 tea time Indian snacks (sweet & savory dishes) along with seasonal fruits, loads of masala chai and a refreshing fruit drink. Will you be coming for our chai conversation?

We hope to share the stories & flavors of my home state Tamil Nadu through this series. Spices and Aroma serves South Indian and Modern Indian meals with local, organic and seasonal California produce. We support local farmers and promote sustainable living. You can find sample menus here.

Our upcoming meals:


  1. 19May2017: Indian Meal with Wine Pairing (Big Dig Vineyards, Milpitas)


  1. Private Meals


  1. Summer Break – No Meals


  1. 27Aug2017: Madras 83 – Chai and Conversations


  1. 17Sep2017: Madras 83 – Chai and Conversations

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Jeeraga Rasam : South Indian Soup with cumin seeds

Cold winter nights, crisp chills are making me crave for warm foods. The weather in California is getting colder as each day is passing by. Clad in red sweater and green scarf, I feel so Christmas-y within. The office is decorated with Christmas props and a pretty tree perched on top of the table is screaming holiday season to me.

Christmas fever is in full swing here. Roads are dark by 5.00 PM, there is mist in my car window, malls are glittering with Christmas lights and my city looks so picture perfect.  Christmas Wonderland at Great America amusement park is ready for public. Farmer’s market is filled with caramel popcorns, balloons, Christmas carols and apple cider. There are potlucks and parties to attend and no mood for workouts or work. Oh God! Yes it is there. Christmasy vibe in the air.

We had our annual Christmas potluck throw down yesterday. Everyone at work were asked to bring in their favorite dish. Dahi Papadi Chaat was my dish and I won the “Best Savory Dish” award. There was food everywhere. I began to pile my plate turkey roast, chicken lasagna, Singapore noodles, Chinese rice cakes, Chicken Salad and so on. Having munched every morsel, I scanned my way to the desserts. There we talked about recipes while munching the reindeer cookies, coconut cream pies, rum soaked fruit cakes and brownies.

It was very cold day yesterday. I came home freezing from the ice cold breeze. As I parked the car, I craved for hot cardamom tea. I rummaged my pantry for the Sri Lankan teapack, my achi (grandmom) gifted me after her trip to Sri Lanka last year. Steamy tea loaded with ginger and cardamom was ready in no minute. I changed to PJs and wrapped my feet with the new holiday slipper gifted by secret Santa at work. The cinnamon candles I picked from Ross were lighted and I switched on the Christmas light tucked around my bookshelf. The cinnamon smelling air, glowing light, holiday cookies and steamy tea. I felt so Christmasy again.

After all the greasy and sugar food, all I wanted was a glass of cumin scented soup called rasam in my mother tongue. It was a simple menu at the dinner table – rice with rasam and carrot stir fry. I drank the rasam and called it a day.

Today’s post is the recipe for rasam made with cumin seeds.  My mom makes close to 13 different rasams. On some days I make pineapple or onion or tomato rasam while on other days, it will be lentil or garlic or mint rasam. Since I needed something to soothe my heavily greasy tummy, I made rasam with cumin seeds. It’s called Jeeraga Rasam. For this recipe, we use roasted and powdered toor dhal instead of regular mashed ones. It is one of the quickest rasam to make as we don’t have to spend the time pre-cooking the lentils. You can quickly soak the tamarind pulp in hot water for 10 minutes and if you have your “jeera rasam powder” (recipe below) in hand, this rasam takes less than 20 minutes to cook.


Source: My mother

Serves: 4-6


For the jeera rasam powder:

  • ¼ cup cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup toor dhal (split yellow peas)
  • ½ cup coriander seeds
  • 4-6 dry red chillies

For the rasam 

  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon asafetida
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 medium size tomato, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup above made spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 lemon size tamarind soaked in 1 cup hot water or 2 tablespoon tamarind puree
  • 1 cup water + more water if using tamarind puree
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish


  1. Squeeze the juice of the tamarind pulp with hands, drain and set aside.

Jeera Rasam powder:

  1. Dry roast the ingredients separately for 2-4 minutes, until they get mildly toasted. Remove, cool and grind them together to a coarse powder. Store in airtight container.

For the rasam:

  1. Heat ghee or oil. Once hot enough, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add the cumin seeds, dry red chilies and asafetida. Saute for a minute or so.
  2. Throw in the curry leaves and ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, jeera rasam powder, turmeric, chili and cumin powder. Saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tamarind water or seedless tamarind puree. Bring it to a mild boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and add salt to taste.

Aviyal – South Indian side made with vegetables and coconut

As promised here is the recipe for delicious Aviyal. It is the easiest dish to fix even on a busy day. Yesterday, I saw my fridge with 2 carrots, 1 raw banana, few beans, 1 brinjal, 1 potato, 1/4 packet frozen peas. Those vegetables individually can’t made into a curry, but using them all together can help me cook a decent amount of aviyal for dinner. I fixed them in less than 20 minutes. S relished it and after finishing our dinner, we refilled our plates with just aviyal and licked our way through the fingers 🙂 Incredibly yummy!

Every vegetable (except peas :-)) has a uniform lengthwise shape which is 1″ in size and that’s one thing which my mom insists every time I cook this dish. The addition of flavorful coconut mixture infuses a lovely flavor to the entire dish perfectly and the use of whipped yogurt makes them more creamy. The key ingredients, curry leaves and coconut oil adds a wonderful aroma and earthly flavor to the dish. So never even think of making aviyal without having those stuffs in your kitchen shelf. Trust me, they are so simple to make. Do give it a try!

2 carrots – 1″ lengthwise
1 potato – 1″ lengthwise
10-12 beans – 1″ lengthwise
1 raw banana – 1″ lengthwise
1 brinjal – 1″ lengthwise
1/4 cup peas – frozen/fresh
2 tbs coconut – dessicated/fresh
2 tsp cummin seeds
3-4 green chillies
1 cup yogurt/buttermilk
2 tbs coconut oil
10-12 curry leaves

Cook all the vegetables (except frozen peas) in a pressure cooker for 1 whistle. Set them aside.

Grind the coconut, cummin seeds and green chillies to a fine paste. Set aside.

Heat oil in a cooking pan. Once they get heated up, add the curry leaves and cooked vegetables. Cook for a minute.

Add the coconut paste and give it a complete mix. Add salt to taste and cook till the raw smell of the coconut disappears. It takes about 5-6 minutes. Always cook in medium low and be careful not to mash the vegetable while sauteing.

Finally add the yogurt/ buttermilk and mix thoroughly. Check for salt and drizzle little coconut oil on top. If you find them very thick, you can add very little hot water to dilute the thickness.

Serve it with adai (recipe here) and can also be served with rice and sambar.