Ever since I was young, food has been a huge connector between me and Indian culture. As a kid, I LOVED my mom’s cooking more than anything. She would make multiple curries and rice dishes with recipes I’d always hoped to replicate. My mom was born and raised in Malaysia so she would make lots of Malaysian food as well - check me out eating some mie goreng (fried noodles)!!!
When I was 11, my mom passed away. I had always wished I had asked her to share her recipes with me when I was younger. The food she cooked had Malaysian, Indian, and even Sri Lankan influences which in a way shared my mom’s story.
My family got by with the help of the best family friends we could have asked for. They took care of us, let us sleep over all the time, and cooked for us a lot. As I got older, I found myself connected to many different styles of Indian cooking.
Roughly once every year, my family would travel to India to visit the grandparents. My grandma would cook soooo much food and stuff my face -- but I never complained. My most favorite dish was her lemon rice. It was simple to make, but it was packed with so much flavor. Don’t be fooled by my face -- I was having the best time of my life.
I don’t know if I have super power abilities, but my taste to memory connection is THROUGH THE ROOF. When I taste Sri Lankan puttu (steamed coconut and rice) or eggplant curry, I am instantaneously reminded of eating dinner with my mom after a long day at elementary school. When I eat dosa or lemon rice, I remember sitting with my grandma and stuffing my face with her food before I had to return to the U.S. When I eat daal or rasam, I am reminded of eating lunch at Sumathi Aunty’s house after early release from school every Wednesday. Mercy Aunty’s sweet potato curry was the perfect mix of sweet and spicy, and the taste brings me back to having dinner and movie nights at her house. When I need my SPICY fix during Thanksgiving break, I go to Viji Aunty’s house for her vatha kuzhambu which I crave when I return back to Los Angeles for school.
With all this said, before I went to college, I made sure I asked my grandma and my OG aunties to give me the recipes of my favorite dishes. After surviving freshman year and the NASTAAY dining hall food, I moved into an apartment with my friends and began cooking Indian food. Although I was a little rusty to begin with, I started cooking up the recipes given to me by my family friends and relatives. (I was also successfully able to increase the spice tolerance of my roommates)
Every time I cook, I am reminded of eating home cooked Indian food as a kid. The feeling brings me back to my family, my upbringing, and my SPICY Indian culture. I decided to make 3 dishes - lemon rice, daal, and sweet potato curry - and show you my skills.
First I got all my ingredients out - some rice, daal, sweet potatoes, SPICES, chile, lemon, and cashews.
The daal, the easiest dish to make, was first up. Pretty much I just let the daal cook in boiling water with toasted cumin. Then I add some butter, chile powder, and turmeric. BADA BING BADA BAM -- done!
Next up is the sweet potato curry (s/o to Mercy Aunty). Pretty much I just had to cut up the sweet potatoes, fry it in a man and let it cook sloooowly. It also uses roasted cumin seeds, turmeric, and chilli power. But I add a lil garam masala too. DELISH!!
Last up is the lemon rice. Rice is my favorite thing in the world and the most wonderful thing about Indian food is that you can make rice in about 52321 different ways. I like lemon rice because it’s got a little TANG.
First you gotta fry up those cashews, chiles, and mustard seeds. Then you gotta throw in the rice with some turmeric. After squeezing a full lemon in the pan, you’ve got lemon rice!!
The final product.
Also this is me taking an awkward selfie with the food. I realize it looks way yummier in the portrait mode version but still DANK.
Food has helped me feel connected to my mom, my aunties, and my culture as a whole. With every recipe I have learned, I am reminded of the person I was and the memories I had experienced when I took my first bite.
As I get older, I want to be able to build on this list of recipes that I know. As I learn from new experiences, meet different people, and get exposed to different cultures, I want this to be reflected in my cooking. SO STAY TUNED -- I have more recipes coming your way.