A friend who fasts one day a week was contemplating the other day about her dinner options - restricted as she was by the rules of her fast. She said she was bored out of her mind eating aloo-tamatar every time that she fasted. And somehow, in trying to brainstorm onion and garlic free choices for dinner with her, the topic of Kadhi came up. I suggested it; and she looked shocked. Apparently, she's never made this North Indian staple without the quintessential onion. And as far as I can think, in my home, we've never used onion in Kadhi. Yes, you could add onion pakoras in it, if making Punjabi Kadhi. But it isn't required, and tastes just as awesome. In fact, the Rajasthani version of Kadhi, known as the Khatta Kadhi in my home, is a lighter, more liquidy dish than the Punjabi Kadhi so popular in Delhi. It is also my go to dish on the days that my fridge is glaringly empty of all vegetables - including potatoes and onions!! A very simple, 2 ingredient dish (you basically need yogurt and a few Tbsp of besan to make this), this is a hands down winner in my choices for onion-less meals. And I really recommend this friend of mine to try it some time....
Sour curds/ Buttermilk 2 cups*
Besan/ gram flour 2Tbsp
Green chillies 2-3
Grated ginger/ ginger paste from 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
Salt 1Tbsp (adjust to taste)
Red pepper powder 1/2Tbsp
Haldi/turmeric 1/2 tsp
Dhania/coriander powder 1tsp
Water 1 cup
For tadka/ tempering:**
Methi dana/ fenugreek seeds
Ajwain/ carom seeds
Sarson/ mustard seeds
Jeera/ cumin seeds
Saunf/ fennel seeds
Oil 2 Tbsp
** Mix approximately equal amounts of all seeds so youy have about 1Tbsp of the mixture to temper with.
*My secret ingredient: Taatri (तातरी)1-2 crystals (optional)
After all this preparation, cooking this Kadhi is basically a 2-ingredient; 2-step process!!
- Mix all the ingredients for kadhi together and whisk it using a blender, hand-held whisk, or a plain old-fashioned mathani (मथनी).
- Heat 2 Tbsp cooking oil in a heavy bottomed pan (I use a kadai), and splutter the seeds in it. Now pour you Kadhi mixture in. Allow to come to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 20-25 min.
- Add the taatri (if using) in the last 5 minutes of simmering. Serve hot!!
My two cents: My naani's favorite quote for Kadhi was: its called kadhi because you've to allow it to simmer (kadhna) for a long time! This is how Kadhi was made in her home, and in my mom's home. In Rajasthan, they traditionally served it with Khichri; but I love it with plain old white rice.
As I mentioned, the popular version in Delhi is the Punjabi Kadhi where you allow the sauce to thicken to almost a custard like consistency and also add pakoras. My favorite version is to add a 1/2 cup of fresh or mixed frozen veggies (peas, carrots, beans) when cooking this. Another variation is to add the besan boondi to it in the last few minutes.
Kadhi is supposed to have a tangy, sour taste from old curd or buttermilk. To get this, you can leave your yogurt out at room temperature overnight. Often times, especially in colder weather, it is hard to get the buttermilk to sour. Which is where my secret ingredient comes in handy! I am not sure what taatri is called in English; but it is easily available in Indian stores across USA. It comes as little irregularly shaped crustals, and 1-2 small crystals are enough to impart that tartness. A good substitute could be citric acid...I'd use not more than a pinch of this. And like I said earlier, it tastes awesome with rice!