It was a love of food that prompted 14 year old Aditya Bhagat to leave his small West Indian village for the city of Delhi to study cooking. His food journey eventually led him to England where he crossed paths with Jana, the woman who would become his wife, and finally to the Czech Republic four years ago. The two spent a year in Brno before making their way to Prague and setting up home.
Adi loves local Czech favorites like schnitzle, potato salad and pernik but he misses the street food and foods from home, like the rice, two veg and lentil lunches he enjoyed as a child and the fresh spices his mother used to use. In India, many traditional foods are cooked over an open fire which also greatly alters their flavor, and although he has not been able to match the tastes from home exactly, through trial and error he has managed to recreate some of the familiar flavors from home by using similar types of local ingredients.
Historically, Indian spices and herbs were a highly sought after trade commodities and one of the biggest problems for Adi is that there are no proper fresh Indian spices and even fresh and affordable coriander is sometimes hard to find. There are also some kitchen tools like the large flat pans for cooking Indian bread, deep mixing bowls and the limiting size of some apartment kitchens that have had to be adjusted for. However, the basics are easy: onions are always on their shopping list as well as basmati rice and lentils which provide protein for many meatless meals. (Of course when Adi isn’t cooking he likes popular Vinohrady Indian restaurant The Pind!)
For the last year Adi and his wife have been bringing the taste of India to people through his food blog, www.myindiankitchen.eu, (in Czech at www.mojeindickakuchyne.cz), which features Indian food and dishes he has created himself.
The meal he is sharing with Expats.cz is called Toor Dal (a.k.a Arhar Dal, Tuvar Dal or yellow split peas).
Prep time: approx. 15 mins | Cooking time: approx. 20 mins
250 g toor dal
Pinch salt, to taste
Pinch plus ½ tsp turmeric
Drizzle plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion
3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp hing (or asafoetida, a pungent spice derived from the ferula plant)
2 tsp ginger and garlic paste
1 ½ tsp coriander powder
200 g chopped tomatoes or puree
½ tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
Boil the toor dal (lentils) with salt, a pinch of turmeric powder and a drizzle of vegetable oil until soft and fully cooked.
Chop the onion and fresh coriander leaves and set in seperate bowls to the side.
Heat the remaining oil in a deep frying pan until hot then add the cumin seeds, bay leaves and hing. Add the chopped onion and fry on medium flame for 4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic paste. Cook for 2-3 more minutes and then add the coriander and the remaining turmeric.
Allow to cook for a few seconds then add the chopped tomatoes and chilli powder (according to taste). Cover with a lid and cook for 8-10 minutes. When tomatoes are cooked remove the lid and cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to release their oils. Add the boiled dal, chopped coriander and salt to taste. Cook together over a low flame for 3-4 minutes. The dish will be the consistency of soup.
Serve hot over rice or with naan.
India is an area of old trade routes and vast empires with a cultural history spanning more that 4,500 years. Well known for its love of food and spices, it’s food is as diverse and unique as the country itself and has become one of the most universally popular cuisines. More than just nutrition it is a clear reflection of the culture, art and knowledge of India and Adi, with his soft smile and his beautiful wife at his side, makes discovering these tastes easy.
To find the local Indian products used in this recipe, Adi suggests:
130 00 Praha-Žižkov
+420 222 713 522
+420 608 960 942
Saloma – e-shop
(For speciality food and equipment)
Where do you shop (or dine) for an authentic taste of India?