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.

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Irresistible Indian Cuisine in Japan

If you could only have one type of cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I’ve been asked this a bunch of times, and my answer often depends on where I am at the time. If I’m traveling in South Asia, I tend to seek out Japanese foods. When I’m in Japan, I crave Indian spices. And, when at home in Vancouver my diet tends to gravitate towards the Mediterranean side of things. I’m not sure why…maybe I just enjoy the challenge of hunting for obscure ingredients!

So, how about you? What would you go with?

The other day, I went to another Indian restaurant. Every time I go for Indian food in Japan, I tell myself that I won’t go again. Don’t get me wrong, the food is usually quite good, but I always think that I should make the most of my time here and experience Japanese cuisine to the fullest. And yet…I always find myself wandering into every Indian and Napalese restaurant that I see. There’s something that’s just so irresistible about the aroma of roasting spices, especially after relying for so long on soy sauce and miso as my main seasonings.

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veggie curry
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daal
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huge, fluffy naan
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mango juice

I tried out the vegetable curry, daal, naan, and mango juice. The daal was unlike any I’ve had before. I’m used it being a soupy dish made with brown lentils, but this daal was very thick and made with big split yellow peas. The mango juice was so syrupy, almost more like mango nectar than juice. All in all, it was an incredibly filling and generous meal.

Like most Indian restaurants in Japan, they offered unlimited free refills of fresh naan, but the servings were so massive that I was more than satisfied with just one!

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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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Travelling Japan: Harajuku and Indian Spices

On one of my trips out to Tokyo, I spent the day exploring Shin-Ōkubo and Harajuku. I walked around the area outside Harajuku station, experiencing both the hectic streets lined with all kinds of novelty shops, as well as the serenity of a couple of nearby shrines. At the shrines, I was lucky enough to stumble across a few traditional style weddings.

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Walking down the street just outside the Shin-Ōkubo train station, I noticed sacks of Thai and basmati rice sitting by a storefront. The whole trip, this was the first time that I had come across a shop with long grain rice. Looking around me, I realized that I had happened to wander into a small pocket of Indian, Middle Eastern, and Nepali shops and restaurants, selling pretty much everything I had been looking for. They had cardamom, fennel, chickpeas, lentils, tahini…so happy! I love Japanese food, but I was thrilled to be able to make some daal, chana, aloo ghobi, and even a bit of hummus! I also stopped for lunch at the Nepali restaurant. A little on the pricey side of what I am used to, but still, it was probably the most authentic South Asian cuisine I have had in Japan so far.

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spices

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Travelling Japan: Cooking Indian Food in Japan

I love Japanese food. I could eat it every day. But, the same goes for Indian food, and especially since my trip to India last year it has become a staple part of my diet. After arriving in Japan it became a bit of a mission to search for some of the Indian spices that I am used to using. Finding some of the more common things like madras curry powder and cumin proved to be quite easy. Walking through the streets outside the Ueno train station, I also discovered fresh cilantro at a small grocery stand. It was far overpriced (about $2.50 for one bundle), but hey…I found some!

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Made Indian curry for dinner tonight. I gave some to my uncle and aunt. I was not sure what to expect, but surprisingly they liked it! My aunt also went grocery shopping and brought over some goodies for me tonight — mushrooms, natto, leafy greens, miso, and most importantly, grapes. If you have never tried Japanese grapes, you’re missing out! They are out of this world.

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veg haul

Chariot Festival of India (plus, veggie info and feast!)

This weekend in Vancouver, I headed out for the local Hare Krishna celebration, the 41st annual Chariot Festival of India (or, ratha yatra).

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To my understanding, this tradition has been practiced in India for thousands of years, and has come to be celebrated in countries around the world since the popularization of the Hare Krishna movement in the 1960’s. In India, it’s practiced on an enormous scale, with a number of impressive, colourful chariots being pulled by masses of people to its final destination at a nearby temple. Here in Vancouver, the chariot was pulled a few kilometres along the ocean to rest at Stanley Park, where there was loads of information not only on the religion itself, but on vegetarianism/veganism. And of course, no Hare Krishna event would be complete without the free veggie feast!

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Vegetarian Airplane Meals (pretty great!)

As promised, I’m going to start posting some photos from my recent trip to India. This was my first ever visit to the country, and I spent a couple of months there travelling around some of the northern areas. I was really happy to find that being vegetarian is absolutely not a problem in India – it’s pretty much the norm, and I never saw a single restaurant, cafeteria, or food stand that didn’t have vegetarian options. Being vegan, however, was a was a whole different ball game. There are dairy products in a lot of the curry dishes, most of their sweets, and unless you give very careful directions,  you can pretty much guarantee that your tea or coffee will be served up with lots of milk and sugar…But as long as you keep an eye out for those things, you’re good to go!

The airplane ride over there took about 30 hours, with layovers between Vancouver/Toronto/Paris/Delhi. The flights to Paris and Delhi were with Air France, and while they did not offer a vegan meal, their “Hindu Vegetarian” option was some of the best airplane food I’ve had yet! Most of it came with a stick of cheese, a block of butter, or a cup of yogurt off to the side, but I easily did without, as the main dish tended to be a generous enough portion.

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