Review of Viji Varadarajan’s book, A Healthy Taste of Indian Culture: Cooking with Yoghurt
Americans are used to seeing and tasting sweet blends of yogurts with fruits and sweet flavorings.
Indians, and South Indians particularly don’t omit all sweets from yogurt, but we can get to taste a different side of yogurt with the yogurt dishes of Viji Varadarajan’s book, A Healthy Taste of Indian Culture: Cooking with Yoghurt- the spicy and savory side of yogurt. (Gourmand book award, image, right, click on it to see a bigger size.)
Ever tried salty or spicy yogurt mixtures? Maybe the closest Americans would get to this, without trying Indian food is through the Greek dish tzatziki- yogurt with cucumbers and dill. In fact there is a slight variation of this in the cookbook- Tamil South Indian Tzatziki better known in Tamil as Vellarikkai Thayir Pachadi. Like Tzatziki, this dish has cucumbers, salt and yogurt. Adding of oil, mustard seeds, coriander leaves, green chilies and coconut then turn this into a South Indian cool delight.
Those who know Indian cuisine also know that yogurt has a different consistency in Indian dishes than American. Viji also shows us in the introduction how to make homemade yogurt that has a thinner, and sometimes curdled appearance as compared to the American gelatin inspired blocks of yogurt.
Another interesting yogurt side dish may appeal to the Mexican in you. I like to call it Indian cooling salsa. Like salsa, but find it too spicy but just can’t stop yourself? Want a salsa that is both spicy and cooling at the same time? Try making the Thakkaali Thayir Pachadi, this yogurt tomato puree infused with mustard seeds popped in oil, salt and curry leaves is a unique substitution for salsa and without jalapenos or chilies!
In addition to a wider variety of these yogurt side dishes, there are main dishes to be eaten with rice like Mor Kozhumbu- a spicy vegetable stew with yogurt mixed in. Also highlighted is a regional specialty Paruppu Urundai Mor Kuzhumbu. I made this dish long back with the use of a recipe from a blog. That being said, Viji’s methods are much more straight forward, simple and less time consuming with very tasty results. This is a tasty dish of a spiced yogurt soup with lentil dumplings. It’s simply tempting.
And, of course no south Indian meal, Tamil Brahamin three-course meal is complete without a plate of curd rice, or thayyir sadham- which she has displayed with the addition of pomegranate seeds, irresistible in my book!
Beyond regular meal time foods, there are a few varieties of rava idli (steamed sour cakes), good tea time snacks or breakfast items, and sweet dishes like mor kali or sourdough steamed cakes and thayir badusha, which reminds me of the North Indian gulab jaman (and can maybe taste more so with the substitution of rose water). I have yet to try to sweets, but in good time, all will fall into place!
Thank you to Viji Varadarajan for creating this one-of-a-kind yogurt lover’s cookbook!
See Viji's profile, along with links to her website, Facebook fanpage, links to her other books and acquaint yourself with her friend and editor, Padmini Natarajan.
Jennifer Kumar is a cross-cultural teacher, trainer and lifestyle adjustment mentor helping people adjust to American and global lifestyles through a variety of methods, including Indian cooking classes. She was educated in India as a social worker and in America as a life coach. Feel free to see her website - Authentic Journeys - Lifestyle and Cultural Transition Services.
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