Oil-free Lentil Curry and Lemon Chutney

I just spotted a jar of lentils in my cupboard the other day and realized that I haven’t made daal in ages. I remember early on in university I used to be all about lentils and brown rice. Especially back when I was new to vegan cooking, my mind immediately went to lentils as a cheap and delicious source of protein. There were lentil sloppy joes, lentil burgers, lentil meatloafs…but the healthiest, easiest, and by far my favorite to cook up in large batches was lentil curry.

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I was long overdue for some daal so to get things started last night, I soaked about four cups of dry lentils and let them sit until this morning. After breakfast today, I drained out the water, added in some more fresh water and set the lentils on the stove at low heat until it came to a slow boil.

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I drained out the water again to get out any remaining enzymes, and then poured in some more water before adding in the following ingredients:

  • half a Mayan sweet onion
  • three cloves of garlic
  • a knob of finely chopped up ginger
  • crushed chili peppers
  • salt
  • ajiwan seeds
  • two tablespoons of garam masala
  • two tablespoons of Madras curry powder
  • four tablespoons of massaman Thai curry paste (completely optional)

I then returned it to the stove to simmer for two hours, and then turned off the heat and let it sit for the rest of the afternoon.

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Just before I was ready to serve the curry for dinner, I added in a little more water (this may or may not be necessary depending on how much you added earlier on) and let it simmer for about fifteen minutes. I also adjusted the amount of salt and chili to my liking.

And, that’s all there is to it! I served this with some naan bread, Mayan sweet onions, coriander, and an assortment of chutneys, including this lemon chutney that I threw together yesterday.

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For this lemon chutney, all I did was chop up the rind of a Meyer lemon and put it in a jar together with salt, crushed chili peppers, diced up onion, and a bit of plum sauce because, well…I just so happened to have plum sauce lying around. An odd combination, perhaps, but it was a surprisingly refreshing addition to the lentil curry.

Cherry Blossoms and Indian Curry in Japan

Over the weekend I took advantage of my time off from my new job and rode the train out to the neighboring city of Mito. They had a special festival going on to celebrate the cherry blossom season. There were all sorts of tents set up with a variety of locally grown veggies, plus a bunch of food stands with incredible smelling treats. I bought a bundle of my favorite green onions, or negi as they’re called in Japanese. I use these as a topping for my natto (a traditional soy bean dish) each morning for breakfast.

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For lunch, after wandering through the streets peeking into all of the fun looking restaurants and cafes, I was lucky enough to stumble across an Indian restaurant. I always think that I should opt for more Japanese-style cuisine, but the Hindi script engraved onto the side of the restaurant wall caught my eye and I couldn’t help but go in!

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Their “light lunch” set was 660 yen and included one bowl of curry, salad, and your choice of either naan or yellow saffron rice. I went with the veggie curry (extra spice!) and naan. I spoke to one of the chefs after the meal and he told me that they were all from Calcutta, but that they adjusted their dishes to suit the Japanese taste. As is usually the case in Japan, the food was nothing like authentic Indian cuisine but it was delicious with its own Indian-Japanese fusion of flavours!

If you’ve never tried Indian cuisine in Japan, it’s definitely worth a go. It’s a completely different experience from the Indian restaurants back in Vancouver, or the ones that I went to during my visit to India. They incorporate local Japanese ingredients to create unique and intriguing dishes that are a lot of fun to try.

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Airplane Food on My Way to Japan!

I’m in Japan again! As soon as I got back home to Vancouver, things just fell into place very quickly and I found myself returning to Japan much sooner than expected. This time I’ll be working here so I’ll get to stay a lot longer. I will be busy with work every weekday, but on the weekends I plan to explore as much as I can of the neighboring cities and prefectures.

The flight over was very smooth and comfortable as always. I flew with ANA and it was pretty awesome how all the flight attendants were all dressed up for the season to match the cherry blossoms!

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The standard in-flight meal is a fish or meat main course, with a few side dishes including soba noodles. I pre-ordered an Indian veggie meal instead with two curries and basmati rice, chickpeas, a corn and cauliflower salad, and two fruit bowls. For plane food, I have to say it was pretty fantastic! The snack at the end of the flight was a tomato and cucumber sandwich with more fruit. Before I knew it, I was in Japan. I’m looking forward to all the months of excitement to come! It will be a big adjustment, but a memorable adventure for sure.
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Roadtrip to Aomori: Japanese Curry for Lunch

On our second day in Aomori we stopped in at a famiresu for lunch. In Japanese, famiresu is short for “family restaurant”. Family restaurants are very popular in Japan but funnily enough, even though the name comes from English, I’m pretty sure there isn’t any true equivalent of a famiresu in the English-speaking world.

Generally, “family restaurants” are casual diners that offer Western style dishes as well as a selection of Japanese foods. Their dessert menu is also pretty extensive, which I’m always happy about! The menu is always reasonably priced, and unlike our concept of a “diner” in North America, the food is actually pretty high quality and artistically plated, and the interior decor is quite nice.

At this famiresu, I ordered a vegetable curry. Totally impressed by the quality of the ingredients and the care that went into it, especially for the price. Well done Aomori! 😀

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Indian Cuisine in Japan…and the Biggest Naan Ever!

I’ve had Indian cuisine in Canada, Japan, and of course, India. Nothing could ever compare to the huge variety of foods and the stunning flavours of actual dishes cooked in India, but the curries in Japan are still delicious and a very neat experience.

I recently went to a nearby restaurant called “Ram”. It’s owned and run by Nepali people, but they serve Indo ryori, which translates to “Indian cuisine”.

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We opted for a dish of aloo palak (spinach curry with potatoes) and another order of tomato-based veggie curry. Each comes with an option of either naan or saffron rice so we asked for one of each.

Before our order came to the table, they brought over complementary poppadom and a bowl of chutney. I call it chutney, but it seemed to be  onions, garlic, and ginger in a red hot sauce that tasted a lot like the spice used in Korean cuisine. I guess they make the best of what they’ve got! Either way, it was still fantastic…we got three refills!

That’s actually what makes going to an Indian restaurant in Japan so interesting. Some of the ingredients that they use are imported directly from India, whereas others are fashioned out of locally available foods. The saffron rice was cooked with jeera, or cumin seeds, giving it a very authentic taste. But on the other hand, instead of using long grain rice, Indian restaurants here typically use domestic short grain rice, resulting in such an interesting fusion of textures and flavours.

The naan is also made with Japanese flour and very little oil so that it’s almost like dry toast on the outside, but fluffy inside, and with a mildly sweet flavour almost like a pancake! Not to mention, the naan in Japan is always huge.

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Aloo Ghobi Wraps with Four-bean Salad

I just cooked up a batch of aloo ghobi  (potato and cauliflower Indian curry) and made them into an awesome pita wrap for dinner.  I also added in chopped cilantro, homemade salsa, and a few jalapenos. For my veggies, I mixed in some four-bean salad with pickled slices of daikon (white radish) and carrot that I made the night before. This dish was definitely a crazy fusion of different food cultures, but somehow it all worked!

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Samosa Squares

I had a lot of potatoes in the house so I decided to cook them into a potato masala with peas and onions. That alone with some rice or chapati is one of my favourite meals, but for dinner I tried baking these really neat little oil-free samosa squares out of atta flour, which is the same kind of flour that I would have used to make the chapati. So, maybe they’re more like chapati squares, or potato paratha squares. I don’t know…what would you call them? Anyhow, with a little chutney on the side, they were fantastic!

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