Doufu Baicai (tofu with wongbok)

200g hard tofu, cut in cubes
2 tsp cornflour
2 spring onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 dried red chillies, sliced
450g wong bok, shredded
2 tbls rice wine
1 tbls soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbls sesame oil

Dust tofu cubes with cornflour and shallow fry
until golden – set aside. Heat 2 tbls oil and fry
spring onion, garlic and chilli until fragrant.
Add wong bok – stir 1 minute. Add rice wine,
soy sauce, sugar and tofu – stir 2 minutes.
Add sesame oil and mix well – serve hot.

Inspired by meal in random eatery near bus station in Longsheng – Guangxi

Dal Maharani (mixed bean curry)

1/4 cup kidney beans
1/4 cup urad beans
1/4 cup chana dal
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 cm ginger, pounded
3 green chillies, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
coriander leaves

Soak beans together overnight, then drain
and boil in fresh water until tender.
Heat 2 tbls ghee and sizzle cumin and mustard seeds,
add ginger and chillies – saute 2 minutes.
Add onion – fry until golden. Add tomatoes, chilli powder,
turmeric and salt – cook 5 minutes.
Add beans with enough of their water to make a thick gravy
– cook 5 minutes. Add 2 tbls ghee and coriander leaves to serve.

Inspired by thali at Hotel Mansrovar, Almora – Uttarakhand

Mackerel Masala

350g mackerel chunks
80g fresh or frozen grated coconut
6 red chillies
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp tamarind, soaked in a little water
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic
4 pieces dried kokum
1 green chilli, slit
1 small onion, pureed

Marinate fish pieces in a sprinkle of salt.
Puree together coconut, chillies, turmeric,
tamarind, pepper, coriander and garlic with 1/2 cup water.
Heat 2 tbls coconut oil and fry green chilli and onion
until aromatic. Add coconut paste, 1/2 cup water and kokum.
Bring to simmer then add fish and simmer, covered,
5 to 10 minutes – avoid stirring.

Inspired by dish at Udipi Hotel, Panjim – Goa

Muttakoos Thoran (cabbage and coconut stir-fry)

3 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 dried red chillies, chopped
2 stalks curry leaves
2 onions, chopped
5 cm ginger, pounded
2 green chillies, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp pepper
450g cabbage, finely chopped
300g carrots, finely chopped
150g fresh or frozen grated coconut

Heat 4 tbls coconut oil and sizzle mustard seeds,
cumin seeds and dried chillies.
Add curry leaves, onions, ginger, green chillies,
turmeric pepper and salt – fry until soft.
Add cabbage and carrots – mix well then cover and
cook gently 5 minutes.
Add coconut and stir until well incorporated and dry.

Inspired by random thali restaurant, Kottayam – Kerala

Kaddu Dalcha (pumpkin dal)

1 cup toor dal, soaked in water
1 tej patta (bay leaf)
2 cardamom pods, bruised
2 cloves
3 cm cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried chillies, broken
2 stalks curry leaves
200g pumpkin, cubed 2cm
1 onion, chopped
1 cm ginger, pounded
2 cloves garlic, pounded
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tbls tamarind, soaked in water
1/2 tsp garam masala

Boil dal in fresh water to cover until pulpy.
Heat 2 tbls ghee and sizzle tej patta, cardamom,
cloves, cinnamon, cumin, mustard seeds, dried chillies
and curry leaves. Add pumpkin – fry.
Add onion, garlic and ginger – fry until golden.
Add turmeric and chilli powder – stir.
Add tamarind – boil then add dal – simmer 5 minutes.
Add garam masala.

Inspired by meal at Lakshmi Narayan Restaurant, Tirupati.

Char Tow Kway (stir-fried radish cake)

600g radish cake
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic, pounded
1 tbls fish sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tbls sambal oelek
3 spring onions, chopped
200g bean sprouts
coriander leaves

Cut radish cake into small chunks and
fry in 3 tbls oil until lightly browned and crisp.
Add garlic – fry until aromatic.
Add fish sauce, pepper and sambal oelek – stir.
Pour in eggs and allow to set slightly.
Add bean sprouts and spring onions – stir well.
Serve garnished with coriander.

Inspired by meal in Jonker Walk night market – Melaka

Sayur-sayuran (vegetable stir-fry)

1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 or 2 cups cauliflower, in florets
1 carrot, sliced
1 or 2 cups wong bok, chunky cut
100g snow peas
1 small red capsicum, chunky cut
100g baby corn, halved
2 tomatoes, chunky cut
300g shimeji mushrooms
3 tbls oyster sauce
2 tsp cornflour, blended with water

Heat 2 tbls coconut oil and saute garlic
and onion until fragrant.
Add vegetables in above order – stir-fry
until tender.
Add 1/3 cup water and oyster sauce – simmer.
Thicken with cornflour.

Inspired by dish at Akob Patin House – Kuantan

Peanut Podi

3 tbls sesame seeds
4 fresh red chillies
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
salt to taste

Dry roast then pound sesame seeds.
Heat 2 tsp oil and saute chillies and asafoetida
3 minutes. Process all ingredients together to
make a course, crumbly mixture.

Inspired by meals at Maharaja Hotel, Chennai

Spinach Poriyal

1 bunch spinach, finely chopped
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 onion, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1 cup fresh shredded coconut

Heat 2 tbls oil and sizzle mustard seeds
and curry leaves. Add onion – fry until soft.
Add salt and chilli – fry 1 minute.
Add spinach – stir until wilted.
Add coconut – stir until well combined.

Inspired by the ‘meals hall’ at New College House – Madurai

Fuul Medammes (Aleppo style)

1 cup dried fava beans, soaked in water
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tbls tahini
1/3 cup yoghurt
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 tomato, chopped
cumin powder OR paprika powder
2 tbls parsley, chopped
olive oil
pickled cucumbers
khoobz (flat bread)

Boil beans in fresh water to just cover until tender
– about 1 hour – add salt.
Meanwhile, combine garlic, tahini, yoghurt, lemon
juice and enough water to make a creamy sauce.
To serve, top each portion of hot beans with tahini
sauce, tomato, a sprinkle of cumin or paprika, parsley,
a generous splash of olive oil and sliced pickles.
Serve with khoobz.

Inspired by Hamed’s eatery on Sharia Zaki al-Arsuzi – Aleppo