Prerna is a food photographer and the blogger behind Indian Simmer. She spent most of her childhood in a few small towns in central India, a time she fondly remembers for rotis straight off the clay oven and her mom’s cooking with produce plucked right from the farms. She earned her MBA in India and worked in the advertising industry for a few years. Then she met a guy, married him, and moved to the US. When Prerna’s not running after her daughter, you’ll find her cooking in the tiny kitchen of her small apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Three things made me this awesome cook that I am today,” she says, sarcastically, “circumstances, no help and hunger! Whatever I do in the kitchen today is because of the two moms in my life: my mom and my husband’s mom.” Prerna loves traveling and exploring new cuisines, then testing them in her kitchen before sharing them with the world. These days she’s having fun combining two of her biggest passions—food and photography—on Indian Simmer. Check out Indian Simmer on Facebook!
Indian cuisine is popular for its curries and spices, but very little credit is given to the wide varieties of beverages that the country has to offer. There’s hundreds of Indian drinks and beverages beyond a hot cup of masala chai or a chilled mango lassi. Some of them may be popular in a particular region, while others are a national superstar. (more…)
As kids, my siblings and I would wake up to the sound of my mom chanting mantras and the voice of a maulvi reciting azaan on the loudspeaker in the mosque not far from our house. The local gurudwara was a regular stop on the way to our Catholic school mostly because we would get some karah (a holy offering to God)—usually a warm pudding loaded with sweet puffed raisins. Get the picture?
Hindu family festivals like Diwali and Holi were (and are) of great importance. So were Ramadan and Eid because ansaris, our neighbors and family friends, waited for those days all year long. Irrespective if what religion it belonged to, festivals were a good excuse to meet people and celebrate the day. Food played a significant part in all such celebrations. In India, every festival has its own significance and special dishes associated with it. Here are some of the most popular and beloved festivals that Indians celebrate and the foods that are an important part of the festivities. (more…)
When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me how he missed those thick, piping-hot, fresh off the choolah (clay oven) millet roti (flatbread) that my grandma used to make every day. All the kids and my grandpa would sit in a row with their plates and she would carefully roast each roti, smother it with ghee and serve it with hot lentil soup and a side of salad. I have similar memories of hot, soft rotis from my childhood and I’m sure many others who grew up in an Indian family do, too.
Bread is an integral part of Indian cuisine. In most Indian households, bread is a part of most meals every day. Typically made from whole wheat flour, it contains complex carbohydrates, has a good amount of dietary fiber and is a wholesome component of any nutritious meal. Flatbreads are the most common form of bread in India but the flour and method of making various flatbreads differs greatly from region to region. (more…)
My earliest memories of chai take me back to childhood—specifically, those lazy Sunday afternoons when a cricket match was on and all the uncles from the neighborhood would meet at our house and crowd around the television while the aunties were busy in the kitchen sending out pots and pots of hot chai with glucose biscuits. Chai isn’t just a beverage; it’s also a way of cherishing the simple things in life, and a way to bring families together and celebrate the present.
Tea is one of the oldest and most common beverages consumed worldwide, and it’s popular in many countries and cultures. The term “chai” is derived from the Chinese word for tea, “cha.” There are dozens of similar articulations for tea used in many languages around the globe. Indian chai is sweetened black tea mixed with milk and various spices, which is known as masala chai. (more…)
In Part 1 of 6 Essential Indian Spices, I revealed the three spices that I could never live without. The list included turmeric (which is so much more than just a coloring agent in Indian food), the most popular Indian chili powders, and cumin seeds (used to create aroma). Here’s the next installment in the series—the final three spices that are a must in any Indian kitchen.
Smelling asafedita for the first time, it might be tough to imagine using this ingredient in cooking—in its raw state, it has a pungent, sulfurous smell. The odor is native the entire plant, including the stems, from which this spice is derived. Not very common in the Western world, it is a staple in Indian cooking (commonly used in tempering lentils or mixed with ground rice), and it gives a lovely flavor to dishes when cooked in oil. (more…)
It has been close to five years since I first stepped into the US—the land of opportunities!—a place that people from all over the world call home. Since my move here, I’ve met and become close to many such people and enjoyed the opportunities to learn about their cultures and cuisines. In return, I’ve also discovered new perspectives on Indian cuisine. What strikes me most is a common belief many people have about Indian cuisine—that it’s all about curry—garam masala, specifically. So would you be surprised to learn that garam masala doesn’t even make the list of my top six essential Indian spices?
I don’t deny the fact that garam masala is a very important part of Indian cuisine, but you can do so much without it—a statement I make on behalf of many seasoned Indian cooks. India is blessed to have fertile soil and a climate that is conducive to growing several crops and varied spices. For centuries, Indians tested, tasted and perfected their spices and blended them beautifully in our cuisine. Every spice boasts its own rich history and cultural significance. Indian spices offer much more than just flavor; each one has its own story as well as powerful, natural healing properties. When I think about the six essential Indian spices I couldn’t live without, here are the first three that come to mind. (more…)
I’m so excited to introduce you to Prerna Singh, the woman with the impeccable taste who’s responsible for one of our favorite food blogs of the last year: Indian Simmer. Prerna first caught our eye with her stunning food photos, but she captured our attention with her accessible, descriptive writing and her warm personality, which is impossible to resist. Seriously. Talking to Prerna, even for the first time, feels like chatting with an old chum.
Prerna’s specialty, which you might have guessed from her blog name, is Indian cuisine. Her motto (if I may paraphrase): Indian food isn’t intimidating. She breaks it down like nobody’s business. So if you love Indian cuisine, you’re in the right place. Prerna’s kicking off her column with a short series on Indian spices later this week. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it!
So please, join me in welcoming Prerna as Menuism’s newest expert, and enjoy getting to know her with a little Q&A.
Describe your personal food philosophy.
Food is a very important part of everyone’s life. It helps bring families and people together. There is so much of history, traditions and culture involved in the type of food one eats. There is a popular saying in India—aisa khaye anna, waisa hove man—which means that the food you eat tells a lot about the kind of person you are. So my food philosophy is very simple: know what you are eating and where it comes from. If you know where it was grown and what went into bringing it from the farm to your table, then you will be able to make a better decision about what’s right and what’s not for your family’s health, and your own. (more…)