Welcome to Indian-ish. This is a book about me, and about my mom, told through her one-of-a-kind recipes. It’s the best of both of us: my outlandish tales and lack of shame, plus her food.
Indian-ish was never supposed to be the title of this book. It was actually the placeholder title I put on the book proposal until I could think of something better. But I slowly started realizing that the word is actually the perfect encapsulation of my life and my relationship to my family.
First and foremost, Indian-ish describes my mom’s cooking — 60 percent traditional Indian, 40 percent Indian-plus-something else, mostly vegetarian — like a South Indian-meets-Spanish tomato rice topped with broiled cheddar cheese, sandwiches crusted with pan-fried curry leaves, and the like.
Dahi Toast (Spiced Yogurt Sandwich)
Out of all my mom’s greatest breakfast hits, dahi toast is easily the most the beloved in our family. This sandwich — a loose interpretation of a recipe from one of my dad’s friends — is totally unexpected (who would ever think to put yogurt between bread?!) and impossible not to like. Imagine a tangier, spicier grilled cheese sandwich. You get that satisfying oily bread crunch, but with onions, chiles, and (my favorite part) a crispy topping of black mustard seeds and curry leaves added into the mix. The glue that holds this recipe together is the tang of the sourdough bread — it’s the perfect foil to the rich, ricotta-like filling. We are a house divided when it comes to accompaniments for dahi toast — my mom and sister like cilantro chutney, while I prefer ketchup. My dad uses both: He swirls the chutney and ketchup together to create a kinda ugly-colored but admittedly delicious super-sauce.
Curry leaves photo from Adobe Stock
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the toasts
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
- 3 sprigs fresh curry leaves, stripped (24 to 30 leaves)
- 1 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (stems and leaves)
- 2 small Indian green chiles or serrano chiles, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of red chile powder
- 12 large slices white sourdough bread
- Ketchup, for serving (optional)
- Cilantro Chutney (see recipe below), for serving (optional)
Makes 6 sandwiches
Sourdough bread photo from Adobe Stock
- In a butter warmer or small pan over low heat, warm the oil. Once the oil is warm but not super hot, add the black mustard seeds and as soon as they begin to pop and dance around in the oil, which should be within seconds, remove the pan from the heat. Add the curry leaves, making sure they get fully coated in the oil (there may be more popping and splattering, and that’s okay!). The leaves should immediately crisp up in the residual heat. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, onion, cilantro, green chiles, salt, black pepper, and red chile powder. Spread the yogurt mixture over 6 slices of the bread and top with the remaining slices to make 6 sandwiches.
- In a large pan over medium heat, warm 1 teaspoon oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, reduce the heat to low and add as many sandwiches as will fit in the pan. Cook until the undersides are crisp and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip them, add another teaspoon of oil to the pan, and cook until the other side is crisp and slightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer the sandwiches to a platter and repeat to cook the remaining sandwiches.
- Divide the spiced oil mixture evenly over the top of the sandwiches. Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately with a side of ketchup and/or chutney, if desired.
Cilantro Chutney Recipe
Cilantro chutney is the king of chutneys. Why? Because it goes with any and all Indian food: samosas, dal, roti, any kind of chaat (the Indian genre of snacks) … you name it. During the photo shoot for this book, my mom churned out literal buckets of the stuff every single day because (1) it’s delicious, (2) it’s photogenic, and (3) we drizzle it on everything. I love this simple, OG recipe from my mom because it retains the pleasant grassiness from the cilantro and has a creeping, lingering heat (though you can nix the chiles if creeping heat is not your thing). There are also many ways to customize it — add mint for fresher notes, or nuts for richness. Use it as a salsa, a sauce for grilled chicken, or a topping for Roti Pizza.
Tip: My mom prefers organic cilantro for this recipe, which she’s convinced gives the chutney a more vibrant color and aroma.
Cilantro chutney photo from Adobe Stock
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, preferably organic, stems and leaves roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 small Indian green chile or serrano chile, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 lime), plus more if needed
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
Makes 1/2 cup (can be easily multiplied)
In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add a few drops of water to get it going. Taste and adjust the salt and/or lime juice, if needed. This chutney keeps, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 2 days.
Also from Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family:
Excerpted from Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family ) © 2019 by Priya Krishna with Ritu Krishna. Photography © 2019 by Mackenzie Kelley. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.