For the first time ever, my wife Chris and I are on a two-week tour of Southern India. We’re spending our time with twenty people, and a terrific guide, on an air-conditioned bus, blasting through a thousand miles of small towns and villages, visiting temples and shrines, markets and bazaars, and oh yes, eating sizzling and savory South Indian food.
My favorite dishes, so far, include masala dosa and Sambar for breakfast, with buffalo milk yogurt and fresh papaya, pineapple, and small red jungle bananas. A dosa is a thin rice flour crepe with a mildly spicy lentil potato filling, served with yummy coconut and tomato chutney. The Sambar is a medium-thick savory vegetable soup with a “wake-up and seize the day” hit of fresh black pepper, rightfully called the King of Spices as it truly opened the global spice trade from India to Europe in the 15th century. Indian black, green and white peppercorns are often used whole in Sambar and other saucy dishes and explode with taste and digestive secretion stimuli. The creamy homemade unsweetened yogurt is superior to any I have bought or made myself at home. Why? Because it comes from buffalo milk, which, to my surprise, is more widely used than cow milk and is far greater in nutrients, good fat content, and digestibility.
The next set of food favorites include the wonderful sauces that moisten and flavor vegetarian dishes (and some non-vegetarian). Southern India relies heavily on coconut oil and coconut milk for sauce bases.
We visited a culinary class held by someone who feels like a luminary sister from a past life, named Nimmy Variamparambil. Her fish dish, called Meenmolee, is prepared for special occasions and, for us, it would make any dinner party special.
Here is the recipe for 2 servings:
1/2 lb. fish
1 red onion diced
1 green chili finely chopped, seeds removed
1″ fresh chopped ginger
1 sprig curry leaf
4 split cardamom pods, seeds inside
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
1 tsp Himalayan salt
- Heat the oil and ghee. Add cinnamon, cloves, pepper, chopped ingredients, curry leaf, and sautee until soft, about 6 or 7 minutes.
- Move mixture to the side and place fish fillets in a single layer and sautee on each side. Add tomato slices on top.
- Combine onions, spices, fish and add the salt. Simmer 5 minutes.
- Turn down the heat and cover with coconut milk. Cover, simmer for 3 minutes and serve.
Alongside our main dish, we were also served a coconut butternut squash soup, garlic green beans, mild vegetable curry, grated cabbage slaw, rice, and a mango coconut cream dessert and green tea to close the meal.
Beauty, harmony, health and family-style love radiated from the table.
Though we live 6,000 miles away, Nimmy and I share a very similar desire to teach folks to eat well to be well and create peace within and around us.