Eating yogurt is, of course, no big deal. Flavoured or unflavoured, plain or fortified, made from full cream or skimmed milk—-the variety that industrially manufactured yogurt today comes in is simply mind boggling.
But cooking with yogurt? You cook with cheese and wine but yogurt??? The question would certainly stump most aficionados of Western or even Oriental schools of cooking.
But talk to anyone from any part of India, and you would instantly get a whole list of regional dishes that use yogurt as a matter of fact. Yogurt was after all the main ingredient (apart from tamarind and pomegranate seeds) that could add a little sour taste to Indian dishes. This was before tomatoes were brought to India by the Portuguese in the 16th century,
In Kashmir, savour the wazwan (a feast usually served on special occasions like weddings). And you’d find the pride of place accorded to Gushtabbas (pounded boneless meat balls cooked in yogurt). Other popular dishes include Yakhni or Dhania Kormas (both containing mutton pieces, with bones, cooked in yogurt, with different spices).
In western Indian states of Maharashtra or Gujarat, Kadhi (made from yogurt or butter milk with added potato, onions or vegetable fritters)is ubiquitous in all vegetarian platters. Punjabi vegetarians too like a slightly different version of this Kadhi. But they actually use copious amounts of yogurt in their popular drink Lassi (basically a yogurt shake).
The Punjabis (as well as the other North-Indian meat eaters) also like to marinate their chicken and mutton with yogurt. This is before they put it in their tandoors (earthen ovens) or barbeques, or even curries. Yogurt in these regions is also supposed to bring in good luck. This is apparent from their tradition of NOT leaving your house for any long journey or for an examination/interview without having at least a spoonful of yogurt with sugar.
The East, specially the Bengal region, is famous for cooking their fish in yogurt. Just check out their dishes of Dahi-Machhli (fish cooked in yogurt and garam masala) or Dahi-sarson (fish cooked in a yogurt-mustard sauce). Their yogurt dessert Mishti-doi or Bhapa-doi (steamed yogurt) is simply out-of-this-world.
The southern regions of India are so fond of yogurt that they usually end their meals, not with a dessert, but with curd-rice. Yogurt is also a very important ingredient of the coconut chutney that goes well with snacks like Idlis, Vadas and Dosas.
Have I missed some recipes, from India or from any other part of the world? Please do write in to let me know.
This mission is dedicated to all those friends, relatives and acquaintances who have sampled my mom’s cooking either at my home or at my work place from my lunch-box. I’m starting with Indian cooking, so that the fear of “cooking curries every day” (that my friends in University College London would so often comment on) is banished forever.
We will love to post recipes that are unpretentious and literally come from your Mom's kitchen. They must allow themselves to be rustled up at home, from scratch, from fresh ingredients, in 30 minutes or so, with minimum equipment and fuss. We welcome ideas and tips that prove beyond doubt that cooking at home is NOT drudgery but a very enjoyable activity that also improves your family's health and well-being in a very cost-effective manner.
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