As a little girl, I would cry whenever my mom made Indian food for dinner. And not just cry — I would sit at the table for hours and hours, sobbing with each bite my mother made me eat, refusing every step of the way. My poor parents. I sometimes wonder why they put up with me at the dinner table.
Nowadays, I am kind of obsessed with Indian food, and I try to make my own. I’m not nearly as talented as my mom was, or my aunt and grandma are, but I’m slowly understanding the ins and outs of Indian cooking. The most intimidating part of Indian cooking isn’t the actual cooking — it’s the lengthy list of ingredients that precedes each recipe, ingredients that are half in English and half in my family’s language, Gujarati. Many years ago, my aunt, Swatimasi, gave my mom a beautiful handmade cookbook with pressed flowers on the cover, and earthen colored pages. The recipes are beyond delicious, and as I scanned each page (after Swatimasi translated certain words for me), I realized, Indian food isn’t actually that difficult. It takes a little practice to get it right, but once you nail the basics down, it’s simple to just throw a meal together in a snap.
I recently was craving my favorite Indian vegetable dish which consists of spiced okra (bhinda nu shaak), but alas, I couldn’t find okra anywhere. I decided to keep the recipe the same, but substitute corn instead. There are vegetable dishes (also known as shaak or subzi/subji) that involve corn, but none of them are my favorite and tend to involve a lot of tomato. I wanted the base flavors of my bhinda, but with corn instead. I used my rice cooker to cook up some fluffy basmati rice, and made a nice big bowl of Gujarati Khadi (warm, tangy, spiced yogurt soup — recipe coming soon), and served everything up with a generous portion of nostalgia.
Corn nu Shaak
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (see notes):
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1-1/2 cup frozen yellow corn
1/4 tsp dhana jeera powder (ground cumin and ground coriander blend)
a pinch of asafoetida
A pinch of turmeric
A pinch of red chili powder or cayanne pepper powder, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
1/4 Tbsp lemon juice
- In a medium sauce pan with a lid, heat oil over medium heat. Test heat of oil by dropping one cumin seed in — if the oil begins to sputter, then it is ready. Add cumin and mustard seeds and saute for about a minute.
- Add corn, dhana jeera, and asafoetida, and stir well to coat corn evenly.
- Once the corn is no longer frozen in the pot, add turmeric, red chili powder and salt. Mix well and lower stove heat slightly. Cover for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through, stirring occasionally.
- Add lemon juice, and mix. Serve hot with chapathi, rice, daal, and/or kadhi.
Some of these ingredients may seem slightly foreign to you, but fear not! Every ingredient can be found in a specialty Indian or Asian grocer, and most can be found in Whole Foods, World Market, or a specialty spice store.
Dhana jeera can be purchased as a blend in Indian markets; however, you can always buy ground coriander and ground cumin separately, and mix your own blend.
If you haven’t cooked with asafoetida, here’s a warning: it smells insane and mostly unpleasant. But once cooked, it adds great flavor to a dish. A little goes a long way with this one!