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.

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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Travelling Japan: Japanese Indian Restaurants

When I travel, I have a bit of a fascination with experiencing other countries’ interpretations of foreign cuisine. Living in Vancouver, with sushi restaurants on ever corner, what does Japanese food really taste like in Japan? How is this different from other cultures’ take on the same dishes?

When I was in India it became a bit of a hobby to seek out not only Indian food but also Japanese food in order to see to what extent it had become infused with elements of the local cuisine. In Japan, I likewise stopped at a number of Indian restaurants, finding a huge range from highly altered dishes, to the impressively authentic.

On my second visit to the national library in Tokyo, I made a detour to a shrine and stopped for lunch at an Indian restaurant that I happened to walk past. All over Japan, the naan had this distinct shape that I have never encountered before, and it was always made with Japanese flour, giving it a sweeter taste. The lunch set also came with veggie curry, rice, and salad.

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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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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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Vegan Chapati Tacos

I’ve been craving tacos over the last month and half, ever since I since I found myself stuck on a bus with the guy next to me talking about the lunch he just had at Chipotle for the whole ride. So, I took matters into my own hands and finally got around to making my own at home from scratch. 😀

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Instead of making actual tortilla shells, which I believe would involve wheat flour and cornmeal, I still had a lot of atta flour lying around so I decided to make Indian chapati bread. It works just as well and adds a neat flavour. For the chapati, I put a few cups of atta flour in a bowl with a pinch of salt, just a few drops of oil, and enough water to knead it into a very firm dough. Then I just roll them out and cook them very briefly in a cast iron pan at high heat, then move them to a metal rack over a second element at high heat, which allows the chapati to puff up into this big ball (ideally!).

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For the filling, I used a mixture of beans that I’d prepared by soaking the night before, plus these huge, incredibly delicious onions and orange tomatoes that I got at a local farm. I also had been sprouting some fenugreek seeds for a few days, so I added those in, along with some jalapenos.

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