Some recipes, you just don’t mess with: the rendang your grandmother has cooked the same way for 40 years, or your aunt’s laksa, which she insists must be served with a particular brand of prawn paste, or char kueh teow fried in anything but a big wok over high heat.
But for most cooks, adding personal touches and tweaks to dishes is usually a good habit to have. After all, what would cooking be without the adventure?
Hence the mashups we feature here. We wanted to do a fun project and since Deepavali is coming up, we thought about how to incorporate Indian flavours in a variety of foods.
While good intentions don’t always lead to good results, the dishes we’ve concocted are not so way-out to be unpalatable. In fact, some even taste good.
If you have ideas for other combinations, please leave a comment below.
CURRY & PANEER LOADED FRIES
We started with something easy: Loaded fries topped with dhal curry and paneer. This is a play on poutine, that comforting Canadian dish of French fries with gravy and cheese curds. Our fries came frozen from the shops (we baked them in the oven), and the dhal curry and paneer are homemade, but these two components can also be bought so you can put this dish together without a lot of effort.
Frozen French fries
Restaurant lentil (dhal) curry
Ready-made paneer, cut into small cubes
Cook the fries following the instructions on the package. Spread them on a large plate. Top with curry and cubes of paneer.
MURUKU COCONUT BROWNIES
These bars are based on pretzel brownies. They have a sweet and salty taste, which we thought could be replicated with muruku. The spiciness of the muruku would also add another layer of flavours to the brownies – after all, chocolate pairs well with chilli. Use your preferred brownie recipe or the following recipe made with cocoa powder.
100g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
175g caster sugar
75ml vegetable oil
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g desiccated coconut
Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease bottom and sides of an 18cm square pan.
In small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix together sugar, eggs and oil with electric mixer until slightly pale, about 2 minutes. Stir in cocoa and extract until blended, then the flour mixture just until combined, and finally the coconut.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Spread the top with pieces of broken muruku, pressing lightly into the batter.
Bake until a skewer inserted 5cm from the centre comes out almost clean, 25-30 minutes.
Cool brownies in pan, set on a wire rack. Cut the brownies into 16 bars. Muruku will soften after a few hours, so eat as soon as possible.
Hotteok is a pan-fried Korean sweet pancake that has a cinnamon-flavoured sugar and crushed peanut filling. It is commonly made with all-purpose flour, but there is a version that also includes glutinous rice flour and produces a chewy dough. For our hotteok, we enclose a whole boondi ladoo – those deep yellow ones – into the yeast-based dough.
160g all-purpose flour
½ tsp fine salt
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp instant dry yeast
100-120ml lukewarm milk
4 shop-bought ladoo
Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add enough milk so the mixture comes together and form into a smooth, tacky dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside until the dough doubles in size.
Knead the dough briefly and divide into four even portions. Form into balls.
Take one ladoo in your palm and gently press it to loosen it slightly. Oil your hands and flatten a ball of dough into a disk between your palms. Place a ladoo in the centre and pinch the edges of the dough around it to enclose completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Heat a large frying pan and add enough oil to thinly cover the base. Add the filled balls to the pan one or two at a time depending on the size of the pan. Oil the bottom of a metal spatula and press the balls to flatten them to about 8cm wide. When the bottom is brown and crisp, flip to cook the other side. Remove to a kitchen paper-lined plate and eat while still warm.
RASAM OMAPODI POPCORN
Look for popcorn recipes and you’ll find them in a variety of flavours. Flavouring it with chilli and other hot spices isn’t unusual. We used ready-made rasam powder and added other components that you find in a muruku mix.
1 stalk fresh curry leaves
4 dried chillies
2 tbsp cooking oil
4 cups popped corn kernels
100g butter, melted and kept warm
2-3 tbsp ready-made rasam powder
shop-bought fried green peas and peanuts
Strip the curry leaves from the stalk. Snip the dried chillies into small pieces. Heat the oil and fry the curry leaves and chillies until crisp, 1-2 minutes. Drain and spread on paper towels.
Place popped corn kernels in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm melted butter and toss the popcorn to coat well. Add the rasam powder and toss. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Corn dogs are deep-fried sausages enclosed in a cornmeal batter. All we’ve done is substituted cornmeal with gram flour, as in pakora batter.
120g bread flour, plus extra for dusting
90 besan (gram dhal) flour
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1-2 tsp garam masala
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
oil for deep frying
Combine flours, salt and pepper, baking powder, sugar and garam masala in a bowl. Whisk egg and enough milk into the dry ingredients for a thick batter. Place batter in a tall glass.
Insert skewers into the hotdogs. Dust in extra bread flour. Heat oil in a saucepan with high sides.
Holding each hotdog by the skewer, dip into the batter, coating it completely. Lower into the hot oil. Cook until batter is done and golden in colour. Drain and serve hot.