Artesia, California’s Pioneer Blvd, also known as Little India, is a haven for Indian foods, fabrics and culture. My friend Judith, who I go to for all things Indian (she lived there, knows TONS about the food) first told me about the place a few years ago, and I finally planned an outing with some foodie girlfriends. First stop was Triupathu Bhimas, as advised by Judith, where the dosas were to die for, and bigger than my head, as you can see here:
After lunch, we strolled Pioneer Blvd, a few blocks full of spice shops and many clothing stores, most of which stock fabric for sarees. Bolts of lovely silks abound, with gorgeous jewel-like colors everywhere.
The highlight of the trip for me was, of course, the grocery store, Pioneer Cash and Carry. When you walk in the door, you are immediately in the spice aisle, and the experience is intoxicating. I had to stop and just breathe it in. Then I moved on to complete my mission, which was to find fresh curry (aka kari) leaves. I first heard of curry leaf from our friend Champa, who along with her husband Sesh, have been expanding our knowledge of Indian foods. As I am searching for them, in my mind’s eye I see Champa, her eyes closing as she says reverentially “I must have curry leaf to cook my food”.
Curry leaves procured, it was time to move through the aisles and buy some goodies: coriander chutney, Puliogare Mix (love this stuff), fresh naan, and my snack indulgence:
I am not a potato chip/salty snack eater. My choice of snacks usually consists of something sweet or a leftover veggie. But these crunchy goodies knock me out – they hit every taste note: sweet, salt, fat, with a bit of a citrus tang.
With heavy bags over our shoulders (Flip n Tumbles, of course!), we walk back to the car. On the drive home, I am lost in thoughts of those shimmery bolts of fabric, the smells of Bhimas and the spice stores. It is getting close to dinner time when I arrive home, and I can’t muster any enthusiasm for any food other than something Indian. So, with limited knowledge but a treasure trove of ingredients, I set about making Aloo Gobi, a potato and cauliflower dish. There are as many variations on this dish as there are cooks, which means you can expand on the basic dish with the addition of carrots, tomatoes, peas, or anything you think will work.
Aloo Gobi (or Aloo Gobhi)
This Aloo Gobi is not hot, as in spicy-hot, and I decided to keep it that way. The coriander chutney is quite hot, and I planned on serving it with the Aloo Gobi.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
10 curry leaves, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno or other hot, fresh chile pepper
1 cup water, divided use
½ cup chopped tomato
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
1/3 cup diced carrot (1/4-inch dice)
5 cups cauliflower florets (1.25 to 1.5 pounds will yield 5 cups)
1 teaspoon garam masala (may substitute curry powder)
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup chopped cilantro
1. Place oil in a large heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seed. When seed turns white and begins to pop, add cumin, curry leaves and garlic. Stir for one minute.
2. Add onion and chile pepper, lower heat to medium, and cook until onion is golden and tender, about 8 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes and ½ cup water and cook 5 minutes.
4. Add potatoes and carrots and cook until potato is soft, 8-10 minutes.
5. Add cauliflower, garam masala and the remaining ½ cup water. Stir, turn heat to medium-low, and cover pan. Simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Stir in peas and cilantro (retain a bit for garnish) and cook just until peas are heated through. Serve with cooked basmati rice or naan.
Great Coriander Chutney:
Music in the kitchen – David Darling, Children
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