UPDATE: This is my entry for The Daily Tiffin's Show me your Lunchbox
The other night I got a phone call from my in-laws about my F-in-law's trip to the US from Madras this weekend. He planned to stop in Detroit en route to California to drop off some stuff with us. I did get the instructions from my M-in-law to take some food for him as he would be just getting off an 18 hr flight, and having to go on another 5 hr journey, needless to say even if she hadn't said this I would have done it. But the funny part is our dear VKV Mama, who is staying with my in-laws in India requested me to make sure I put whatever I made for Appa on the blog so they could see too. Well, this posed quite a challenge for me, and I hope I have risen up to it!
In making my own version of the classic Indian tiffan dabba I decided to take a queue from Jen's beautiful Vegan Lunchboxes, and try a bento box style. Being Indian, I have a tonne of tupperware lying around so I used a nice flat rectangular box as the base and filled it up with a few smaller boxes, and juice containers. My m-in-law had recommended I make rotis, but I decided that something hot in a thermos might be good after such a long trip. The bento boxes really remind me of how they serve the food to you on the airplanes, so I guess the theme was quite apropos. I wasn't sure what Appa would feel like eating so I decided to make a little bit of a few different items and then he could choose from them.
Appa's Tiffan Dabba
vatral kuzhambu sadham with more keerai, yogurt rice with mango pickle, carrot and pomegranate salad, roti and methi potato curry, orange and cranberry juice
Vatral Kuzhambu Powder
Equal quantities of toor daal, urad daal, channa daal, and a few whole black peppercorns (I recommend 1 tbsp of each for a 1 quart pot)
1. Roast all the ingredients except the last, and then grind them.
1 tsp mustard seeds, 2 tsp toor daal, 1 tsp urad daal, 1 tsp channa daal, 1 tbsp dried wonderberries (manathakkali), 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, a pinch of asafetida, a few curry leaves, 1 cup tamarind juice (make using 2"ball of tamarind), 1 cup water (guideline), 2 tbsp of the vatral kuzhambu powder, 2 tsp red chili powder, salt
1. Splutter the mustard seeds in sesame oil, add the toor daal, urad daal, fenugreek seeds, asafetida and curry leaves. Roast till they are golden brown.
2. Add the wonderberries, vatral kuzhambu powder, and red chili powder, and mix.
3. Add the tamarind juice, and water.
4. Boil this until it becomes a nice concentrated liquid, and add salt.
Now, I have been told that the vatral kuzhambu podi should be matched with an equal quantity of red chili powder. That was too hot for me, you can adjust to your taste. I like mine to have quite a bit of the vatral kuzhambu podi taste as well. Taste it, smell it, the more you make it the better you will get. This is really just a guideline. I guess it's supposed to be quite hot as people usually mix the sadham with a lot of ghee, but I'm not a fan of using a lot of ghee.
* As I learned from my culinary training at the Sundaram School of Cooking, the classic combo for vatral kuzhambu is more keerai, which is just your standard keerai recipe (spinach with mustard seeds, channa daal, dried red chillies), with the addition of moremilagai! Chillis that have been soaked in buttermilk and salt and dried in the sun, and then deep fried till they are black. Yum, seriously. The recipes are from my dear M-in-law, and we dried the moremilagai's together when she was visiting me this past summer. A friend of ours had wonderberries growing in their garden so we picked them also and dried them in the sun after soaking them in buttermilk and salt, it was very cool.
Methi Potato Curry
2-3 small potatoes diced and boiled, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 small green chillies chopped, 1-2 tbsp dried methi, 1 handful of frozen or fresh peas
1. Roast the cumin seeds in oil, and add the turmeric, and green chillies.
2. Add the peas and cook for a few min.
3. Add the potatoes, salt, and methi and mix well.
The Verdict: Appa ate the vetral kuzhmabu first. By the time we sat down it wasn't as hot as I had hoped, but he said it was still warm. At first he started out saying he wasn't sure he could eat all of it, and then after eating and saying it was 'so good' he finished all of it. (score!) Appa ate some of the yogurt rice, drank the orange cranberry juice and then he got full. He didn't want roti's because he had already eaten the ones Amma packed for him from India. Shankar then finished the remaining yogurt rice and 2 roti's, and I ate the last roti. The salad came back home.