Magazine article Sunset

Spice It Up: A Chef's Easy-to-Adapt Curry Recipes Unlock a World of Indian Cooking

Magazine article Sunset

Spice It Up: A Chef's Easy-to-Adapt Curry Recipes Unlock a World of Indian Cooking

Article excerpt

NO ONE DOES Indian food like Meeru Dhalwala. At the celebrated Vancouver, B.C., restaurants Vij's and Rangoli--which she co-owns with chef Vikram Vij--and at her new place, Shanik, in Seattle, Dhalwala is known for transforming Northwest ingredients with inventive spice combinations. "I never felt I had to follow the rules of Indian cooking," says Dhalwala, who was born in India but grew up in the United States. "That's my source of creativity."

For Dhalwala, being able to make a good curry is a key to healthy, improvisational cooking. "You can make anything--especially vegetables and legumes--taste delicious with just a few Indian spices," she says. At her Vancouver home, she explained the layers of flavor that go into a curry, and then spun it two ways. Dhalwala takes a freewheeling approach in the kitchen--and encourages home cooks to do the same. "I'm always smiling and yakking while I cook."


4 TO 6 / 1 HOUR

Indian dishes are often created in counterpoint to one another. Dhalwala adds a bit of brown sugar to this curry since she developed it to accompany a tart chickpea curry (opposite page). "I believe in the ultimate pleasure of a dish that is sweet, sour, salty, and bitter," she says.

1/4 cup ghee* or butter
1 lb. each stemmed mustard greens and kale (from about
3 lbs. whole bunches)
11/2 tbsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. minced garlic
11/2 to 2 tbsp. minced jalapeno chile
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 to 11/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1. In a large, heavy pot or wok with a lid, melt ghee
over medium heat. Meanwhile, chop greens roughly and
rinse. "You can use just one or a combination  of greens.
And ghee gives the greens richness,  but you can use any
cooking oil instead."

2. Sprinkle in cumin seeds, swirl pot to spread, and
let sizzle 30 seconds.

3. Stir in garlic and sizzle until pale golden, 10 to 20
seconds. Stir in chile and ginger; cook 30 seconds. "I brown
the garlic for a toasty flavor, then add  the moist ginger
and chile to stop the toasting before it gets too dark." Add
turmeric and salt and cook 1 minute. Stir in brown sugar.

4. Cook until sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Add half
of greens, increase heat to medium-high, and let wilt until
reduced enough to add other half. Using tongs, stir greens
well to coat with spice mixture.

5. Cook, uncovered, stirring until greens are almost tender,
6 to 8 minutes. Cover and cook 1 minute more. Remove from
heat and let sit, covered, 15 minutes. Serve with Tamarind
Chickpea Curry (opposite page) and steamed basmati rice if
you like.

* Find ghee (clarified butter) at Indian markets. Or; for
Dhalwala's recipe, see

VARIATIONS Instead of greens, try an equal amount of sliced
brussels sprouts, thinly sliced broccoli stems, or cooked

PER SERVING 274 Cal., 39% (108 Cal.) from fat; 6 g protein;
12 g fat (6.4 g sat.); 30 8 carbo (1. … 
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