Indian cuisine is not just about Punjabi or Tamil food, or, for that matter, Malayali food. There are many dishes across the country that are waiting to be explored. For example, how different is the cuisine of Telangana, the country’s newest state, from Andhra Pradesh’s? Or, what’s the one Manipuri fish stew that you’ve got to have? Plus, to ensure that there’s also some familiar food on the table, we’ve got a foodie to look at Butter Chicken in a different way.
Hyderabad is not just about its biryanis. Even before Telangana came into its own in 2014, there was a lot left to be explored of the state’s and its capitals’ cuisines. Chef Chalapathi Rao, of Hyderabad-based restaurant Simply South, has tried and tested recipes from the region(and across all of south India) in his kitchen. Rao, who has over two decades of experience, says that one of the basic differences in the cuisines of Andhra and Telangana is how oil is used to make pickles.
“In Andhra, cold oil is used for making pickles, but in Telangana, the oil is boiled.” Telangana’s topography lends itself to more millet and roti-based dishes, with jowar and bajra preferred over wheat or any other flour. “This cuisine is supposed to make you sweat and regulates the BMR (basal metabolic rate).” Red chillies, tamarind (imli), asafoetida (hing) and puntikoora (gongura or sorrel leaves), which add heat and sourness to the cuisine, are the main ingredients used in Telangana’s cuisine.
Puntikura mamasam, or Puntikura mutton, is a favourite dish from the region, and is a perfect accompaniment to bajra or jowar rotis.
Learn how to make Puntikura Mamasam
Mutton – 500g
Oil – 6 tbsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsp
Green chillies – 8
Medium-sized onions – 2 chopped and 1 sliced
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Puntikura leaves – 5 bunches
* Clean and wash the mutton.
* To the mutton add ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and salt.
* Add a little oil and marinate the mutton and keep aside.
* Wash the puntikura leaves and keep separately.
* Heat a little oil in a thick-bottomed pan.
* Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown.
* Now, add the marinated mutton and keep cooking the mutton on a slow flame, adding little quantities of water as and when required till done.
* Heat a little oil in a seprate thick-bottomed pan.
* Add the sliced onions, slit green chillies and washed puntikura leaves, and cook till the leaves are cooked properly.
* Add a little water if required. Once the leaves are cooked, the oil will start oozing out of the leaves mixture. Make a paste of this mixture.
* Now, add the leaves mixture paste to the mutton and cook for some more time.
* Add a little water, if required; adjust seasoning and serve hot.
Manipuri food stands out in its use of fresh aromatic local herbs from kitchen gardens, fish and vegetables, says blogger Pushpita Singh. On her blog Ei Gi Chakhum, Singh lists recipes from across the North East, including her home state Tripura, as well as Assam, Manipur and the neighbouring state of West Bengal. “The staple diet of Manipuris is rice, along with fish, which is the most savoured non-vegetarian food. Most of the recipes use minimum amount of oil, or no oil at all. Fresh green chillies dominate most of the spicy delicacies rather than red pepper or chilli powder,” she says.
A popular recipe on her blog is that of a Manipuri fish stew called Nga Toithong or Nga Atoiba Thongba. Toithong or Atoiba Thongba translates to mashed fish stew. “Ideally the belly portion of a fish (or even fish steak, especially that of tilapia or of any fresh water fish) is selected to prepare this delicacy. The fish pieces are cubed into equal size pieces (about 1.5 inches) and then cooked with vegetables, spices and condiments. I have opted for lightly fried steaks and partially mashed some,” she writes.
How to make Nga Toithong, or Nga Atoiba Thongba
Medium-sized Catla fish steaks with the skin intact (or any other freshwater fish steak, you can take tilapia steak too) – 5-6
Medium-size red onions, chopped or sliced in a half-moon shape – 2
Shelled green peas – 1/2 cup
Medium-sized ripe tomatoes, sliced – 2
Medium-sized potatoes, cut into wedges – 2
Ginger paste, freshly ground – 1 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tbsp
Coriander powder – 1/2 tbsp
Asafoetida (hing) – 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder – 2 tsp (1 tsp for marinating)
Fenugreek (methi) seeds – 1 tsp
Slit green chillies – 4-5 (you can add green chillies to taste)
Salt – to taste
Mustard or vegetable oil – For frying the steaks and cooking
Coriander/Cilantro – 1 small bunch, Chopped
* Rub 1 tsp of turmeric powder and salt to the fish steaks and keep aside. `
* Heat oil in a pan on medium fire and shallow-fry the fish pieces till they turn light brown.
* Remove and keep them on a plate with a kitchen towel to soak the excess oil.
* Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok. Throw in the onion slices, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and tomatoes, and fry on medium heat till the tomatoes and the onion slices are soft.
* Now, add in the shelled peas, potatoes, ground ginger paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, salt and green chillies. Stir well. Cook for 1-2 mins.
* Add-in the fried fish steak or pieces to the vegetables and 1.5 cups of water; stir in slowly. You can even cube the steaks and add them raw just before adding water. Then, let them cook and disintegrate by themselves for the original Nga Toithong, or Nga Atoiba Thongba. If you follow this then avoid stirring the curry in between, after adding the fish cubes.
* Bring it to a boil. Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes.
* Now uncover and cook for another 5 minutes as you partially mash some of the cooked fish pieces with the back of a ladle.
* Turn off the gas and garnish with chopped coriander/cilantro leaves. Serve hot with plain white rice.
Note: You can add in 1-2 bay leaves, along with the spices and few chopped maroi napaakpi, or hooker chive roots, with the vegetables, if available, for an authentic taste. I couldn’t include hooker chives since they are locally unavailable in Vadodara.
Anchit Patni, the 26-year-old director of Delhi’s Cress Bistro, has a keen sense of what his generation might want on the menu. So, it’s no surprise that he roots for the Peanut Butter Chicken as one of his favourites at the year-old restaurant.
Make his Peanut Butter Chicken at home
Chicken, cut into tikka size – 250g
Tomato gravy – 200g
Mascarpone cheese – 50g
Hazelnut butter – 40g
Crunchy peanut butter – 40g
Cream – 100g
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/3 tsp
saffron water – A few drops
Chicken stock – 50ml
For the gravy
Cashewnuts – 300g
Khoya – 150g
Water – 1/2 litre
Cream – 300g
Butter – 100g
Tomato purée – 250g
Oil – 200ml
Ginger-garlic paste – 2-3 tsp (70g)
Cardamom pods – 2-3
Cloves – 2-3
Cinnamon sticks – 2-3
Salt – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1/3 tsp
Crunchy peanut butter – 1/2 tbsp
For the gravy
* Fry the cashewnuts to a light golden brown colour, remove and drain off the excess oil.
* Grind the cashewnuts and khoya to a fine paste with water. Remove and reserve.
* Strain the tomato purée.
* Heat oil in a pot and add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Add the ginger-garlic paste dissolved in a little water. Add salt and red chillies.
* Add the tomato purée. Cook till the oil bubbles out.
* Add the khoya paste and cashewnut paste, along with the cream and butter.
* Cook on a slow fire, stirring continuously till the gravy has cooked and thickened, the oil bubbles out and the gravy leaves the sides of the pot. Remove from fire.
* Allow to cool and pour into the storage container.
Making the dish
* Grill the chicken in a tandoor or an OTG until it is half done.
* In a fry pan, cook the chicken with stock on simmer
* Add gravy,salt, red chilli powder and garam masala powder.
* Cook on simmer, till the chicken is cooked and tender.
* Finish with cream, mascarpone cheese, saffron and hazelnut butter.
* Remove into the serving dish, garnish with chopped coriander, ginger juliennes, grated khoya, a swirl of cream and crunchy peanut butter. * Serve hot.