When I was vegetarian one of my favourite dishes was ‘kadhi’. I would make it at least once a week and slurp on the soup till the bowl was licked clean. Kadhi is traditionally made of sour buttermilk and gramflour (besan) and I assumed that my ‘kadhi’ story had ended after becoming vegan. I tried substituting ‘coconut milk with lime’ instead but the taste suffered. So I just let it go. Not without pain.
I had almost forgotten the dish until that day when we were returning back from the trek to Sarpass.
Sarpass is one of the passes in the Parvati Valley of District Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. The YHAI conducts national trekking expeditions each year during April and May to various peaks in Kullu. I try and do a trek with them every year as a trip to the mountains, I discovered, is a window to heaven. Snow capped peaks, tall conifers, green meadows, furry dogs, wooly lambs and healthy cows, not to mention the clear water that tumbles down the streams, the smell of pine cones, the bees buzzing around them, the scent of wet earth and the round rosy cheeks of chubby mountain kids – It is all very rejuvenating.
This year I took the Sarpass route as Kum told me she would be going too. Kum is a very interesting person and happens to have trekked to many of the peaks in the mountain range of the Himalayas. Thanks to her experience we amateurs get to hear interesting stories and anecdotes of adventures I had dreamed of as a child. After a tired day of climbing up the best part would be settling into the tent. Our gang of ladies [both young and younger] would sing in unison late into the night lying huddled in our sleeping bags layered with ‘kambals’ [blankets]. The scene that I best remember from this time’s sojourn is snowing. For me it was the first time and that cold night I was transformed into a child for a few hours.
On our way down we stopped over at one of Kum’s friends’ house. The couple and their children showered love and warmth on six strangers, a sign of simple, hard working people. I haven’t experienced hospitality of this kind before and it is a memory I will cherish for years to come. We were served a local sourdough bread called bhatur. Did you know we make sourdough breads in India? It is not connected to bhatura except that both are made of fermented dough. The diverse cultures, cuisine and colours of India never cease to amaze me.
We stayed overnight, happy to sleep in a wooden house, wrapped in cozy ‘razais’ [cotton stuffed quilts], and left the next morning after a heavy and scrumptious breakfast of aloo parathas. We took a bus from to Manikaran and stopped for darshan [offering prayers] and lunch at Ram Mandir. The Ram Mandir and the Gurudwara at Manikaran offer free lunch, tea and dinner throughout the day. It is a ‘prasad’, an offering from the Divine. The meals are served in a communal hall. Runners are laid on the floor to seat the devotees. There is a washing area that provides cleaning powders where one can wash the plate, spoon and glass after having food. The thalis, spoons and glasses are arranged on one side of the hall. It is a beautiful experience to have food at such a peaceful place as this.
That day the menu was kali dal, rice, gatte ki kadhi and a simple subzi. Since gatte ki kadhi is not a vegan dish, I avoided it. It did not help much when Kum lapped up hers with alacrity, asked for more and told me in between slurps, “Harini, you are missing something. [slurrrr..p] This kadhi is really very good [slurrrrp]. I am going to have a third helping.” Some friend, isn’t she? Later, when we had moved out she said, “I don’t think there was any buttermilk in that kadhi. It tasted so good but was not sour.” Said it too early, don’t you think? I gave her a really hard look and she laughed saying, “You can always try it out at home. It is not as though ‘dahi’ makes such a lot of difference.”
I did! And I loved it, and I wondered why I hadn’t tried this earlier. The base is nothing but the Maharashtrian delicacy called ‘pitla’. I just made it much thinner and boiled it enough to get rid of any raw smell from the gramflour and to make sure it was cooked well. A twist of lemon towards the end ensures that there remains the slight sourness that is essential to a kadhi.
If you are a kadhi lover, and now vegan, do try this. If you aren’t, you still could try. It is always good to have variety on the menu. Isn’t it?
I weighed the ingredients in cups as well as grams this time as that gives a better idea to my visitors who are new to Indian food. Is that possible though? Indian food enjoys universal appeal.
This is a very easy and quickly put together dish. You have to try it to believe it. The steps appear cumbersome only when you haven’t tried it at all.
Dish: Vegan Gatte ki kadhi
Yield: 3 gluts
For the method to make the dumplings (Gatta) please see the step by step procedure here.
Ingredients for gravy:
Gramflour / Besan – 2 to 3 ladles, loosely packed [About 40g – 2 tbsps. extra, if needed to adjust consistency]
Water – 3 cups + 1 cup [135g = 1 cup]
Salt – to taste
Red chilli powder – to taste
Rai (Mustard seeds, small) – 1 tsp.
Ajwain (Carom seeds) – 1/2 tsp.
Jeera (Cumin seeds) – 1/2 tsp.
Garlic – 5 pods, chopped fine
Green chillies – 1 or 2, chopped fine
Ginger – 1″, chopped fine
Oil – 1 tbsp.
1/2 a lime, juiced
Dhania (Coriander leaves) to garnish
I roast bengal gram at home till aromatic and then get it ground. Using pre-roasted, ground gramflour ensures that there are no lumps in batter and also ensures that batter is evenly cooked through. If you are using shop-bought gramflour, roast in a heavy bottomed wok till just aromatic but not burnt. Cool and use in any recipe as desired.
Whisk gramflour with 1 cup water till smooth. Adjust salt and whisk again.
Mince chopped chillies, garlic and ginger together in a mortar. Heat oil and season with cumin seeds and ajwain. Add the minced mixture and fry till toasty.
Add 3 cups of water and bring it to boil. Add the gramflour mixture and keep stirring till evenly distributed.
Adjust salt and chilli powder as per taste.
Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes till the raw smell of flour is replaced with aromatic smell of cooked flour. It should be now of thin, pourable consistency.
If you do not stir at all, lumps might form. Lumps also indicate that the flour has not been roasted well.
Add the prepared dumplings (gatte) and boil for a minute.
Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes.
Squeeze juice from half a lime and stir. I love it without the sourness too. Garnish with dhania/coriander leaves and serve with rice or roti. Tastes lovely with khichdi and gluten free flatbreads as well.
If you like your kadhi sour, you can squeeze and stir half a lime after removing the dish from heat.
Another way to add sourness is to blanch one tomato, puree it and dilute it with a little water. Use this to cook the gramflour instead of only water.
You can add finely chopped onions too. Do that after toasting the garlic mixture, and proceed to the next step.
Next time I go rustic again with traditional and healthy, gluten-free, Maharashtrian flatbreads made of millet flour or ragi called ‘nachni chi bhakri‘.