Making Indian rice noodles from scratch sounds, at first, like a daunting task. Actually they are easier to make than wheat pasta! Just a few special items are needed in your kitchen: a special press, a steamer, some muscle and some friends.


Homemade Indian rice noodles

Homemade Indian rice noodles



A special press is required to make Indian rice  noodles, whether it is rice, wheat or lentil flour based and it has many different names: sev sancha, sevai press, murukku press, noodle press, shavige press, and, perhaps, many other names. Many different varieties are available. From the original ones with a wooden plunger that is pressed through a brass tube, to the brass or stainless steel ones that use a crank to push the plunger and the modern steel ones with a trigger to push the plunger. I have seen photos of one model that rests on a stand that, I
think, would make the noodle pressing process easier. Most of the various presses come with several discs with different size holes that can be inserted into the tube to make different sizes and shapes of noodles or sev snacks. You cannot go wrong with any of these options.

Ingredients for Indian rice noodles and noodle press.

Ingredients for Indian rice noodles and noodle press.



I have a simple steel sev noodle mold with a crank. It is inexpensive and is readily available online. I looked at several local Indian grocery stores that carry basic kitchen equipment but could not find one. I quickly gave up and ordered one online from Om India Plaza at It arrived very quickly and the company was very helpful.


The second item that is needed is a steamer, electric or stovetop. I use an electric steamer with removable trays but any method, including a basket in a pan on the stove works just as well.



When making the noodle dough it must be kneaded after the rice flour and hot water have been stirred together. Let it cool a bit first so you can handle the dough easily. It takes a few minutes to get the right consistency of dough. It cannot be too soft or runny and it cannot too tough or hard. If it is very firm like Play Doh, it will not extrude through the press very easily so mix in a bit more hot water so it is flexible. If it is too soft, knead about a tablespoon of rice flour into the dough to make it firmer.


Dough and press for Indian rice noodles.

Dough and press for Indian rice noodles.


Spray the inside of the press with a bit of oil so the dough does not stick. Take care not to get oil on the outside of the tube as it will be very difficult to hold when you are turning the crank to extrude the noodles.


Indian rice noodles ready to be steamed.

Indian rice noodles ready to be steamed.


The most important part of making good rice noodles is to have some fun with it. I always make them when my kids are home to help mix and knead the dough. They love to squeeze the dough through the press and make creative piles of noodles. Once the noodles have been steamed, they tend to sample more noodles than they leave for serving at mealtime. I can’t complain because we have so much fun together.


Check out my recipes for Sevai and Idiyappam.


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This month I thought I would focus on two of my favorite recipes using rice noodles that are most popular in my household. They are very simple dishes but very tasty.


Technically Sevaka (Malayalam), or Sevai (Tamil), is considered a Tiffin, an afternoon snack that is served with tea and, of course, coconut chutney on the side. It can be served any time of the day but I prefer it for breakfast since it has a very mild flavor. It is also fantastic as a main item or as a side dish instead of rice for a simple meal of dal with rice. I serve it as often as I can because I feel as though I am making something special instead of plain rice.


Sevai or Sevaka is a popular rice noodle dish in South India.

Sevai or Sevaka is a popular rice noodle dish in South India.


Sevai are thin rice noodles that are pressed, steamed and then broken into bits before they are seasoned with urad dal, mustard seeds, dried red chilies and curry leaves that have been fried in a little bit of oil. The best part of making this dish is that there is two ways to make it:


  • Easy – Use store bought rice noodles that you simply boil. They can be found at any Indian grocery store and are very inexpensive.
  • Authentic – Make your own rice noodles from scratch using rice flour. Making the dough takes very little time but the process involves several steps. (This is a great weekend activity.)


The basic recipe for Sevai can be changed for variety by adding different ingredients, including: tomatoes, coconut, lemon juice, peanuts, cashews, green chiles and spices. Adding jaggery (or brown sugar), ghee or melted butter, coconut, cardamom and raisins, a simple but delicious dessert can be made with minimal effort.


Idiyappam (Malayalam) and Noolputtu (Tamil) is a side dish served instead of rice with a curry since it doesn’t have any seasonings or spices. Idiyappam are thin rice noodles that are pressed into Idli molds with grated coconut then steamed. They make a beautiful presentation when many of them are arranged on a plate when served.  They are often called string hoppers because they do, in fact, look like small piles of string. I love to serve them with Malabar Egg Curry or any spicy curry and coconut chutney.


Idiyappam or Noolputtu are popular rice noodles in south India.

Idiyappam or Noolputtu are popular rice noodles in south India.


Try these recipes soon! They are some of the first Indian dishes my children loved because they weren’t hot and the tiny noodles were fun to pick up and eat with their fingers. Enjoy!

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A few weeks ago I craved a dish that I had banned from my table while I was on a diet last year – Sevai. A very simple dish made with rice noodles, it is easy to make in very little time and disappears quickly. Since I was limiting my intake of rice- and wheat-based carbs, I tried to exclude recipes with these ingredients for the longest time. The result is that I am now craving this tasty dish. Guess what we are having for dinner tonight…


In thinking about noodles and Indian food I realized that they play a very important role in this diverse and mature cuisine. In fact they have been part of regional Indian cuisine for over two thousand years in some form or the other. Made with rice, wheat, lentils or cornstarch they are served as a very simple dish or part of something more elaborate, at any meal as a snack, a side dish or even a dessert. The best part of Indian noodles is they are as much fun to make as they are to eat.

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are found in many Indian snacks, or tiffins. A very simple dough is made with soaked rice that is then ground or rice flour that is roasted, and then mixed with water. A special press is used to make these noodles. Kachi’s mother had an antique brass one with a wooden handle that you would press to extrude the noodles. Mine is stainless steel and looks like a cookie press or a pepper mill with a crank on the top to lower the plunger. Inside the press is an interchangeable disk that gives the noodles different shapes.


Idiyappam or Noolputtu are popular rice noodles in south India.

Idiyappam or Noolputtu are popular rice noodles in south India.

Idiyappam (Malayalam) and Noolputtu (Tamil) are small piles of thin rice noodles that are steamed with a bit of grated coconut and served as a snack with Egg Curry and Coconut Chutney. In Kerala, these tasty morsels are considered to be similar to the Appam that looks like a rice pancake.


Sevaka (Malayalam) and Sevai (Tamil) are similar thin rice noodles that are pressed, steamed and then broken into bits before they are seasoned with mustard seeds, dried red chilies, urad dal and curry leaves that have been fried in a bit of oil. Some recipes call for the dough to be steamed before the noodles are extruded through the press. I cannot detect a difference in taste so I follow the recipe from my mother-in-law.


Wheat Noodles

Needle-thin noodles made from wheat are found across India in side dishes and desserts. In all of the research I have done, I haven’t found that people make these noodles at home but buy them ready-made. They are so delicate that they make any dish special.


Vermacelli noodles made from wheat are popular in Uppuma and Payasam.

Vermacelli noodles made from wheat are popular in Uppuma and Payasam.


Vermicelli Uppuma is one of the tastiest dishes in all of Indian cooking. The lightly browned noodles that have been fried in ghee then boiled are mixed with a tasty assortment of vegetables and seasoned with mustard seeds, urad dal, Bengal gram dal, cashew nuts and curry leaves. It is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or a weekend lunch.


Semiya (Vermicelli) Payasam is the most popular desert in South India with the delicate wheat noodles lightly fried in butter before adding them to the sweet payasam spiced with cardamom, raisins and nuts. It is served for the most important dinners including birthdays, anniversaries and other important events.

Lentil Noodles

Sev are noodles made from chickpea flour, extruded through the press with the smallest holes into hot oil and deep-fried to become a crunchy treat. Many varieties are available with different spices and ingredients added to give them unique flavors. Varieties of sev with different seasonings are incorporated into many Indian snack foods like mixture and dal mooth. Sev noodles are also sprinkled on top of papadi as a garnish for chaat and other North Indian street food recipes. Word of warning: These are so delicious that they are addictive and can lead to weight gain. I confess that I love these snacks and eat them too often!


Simply changing the disk in the press from the one with tiny holes to one with wide slits or the one with a star shape creates entirely different noodles. South Indian snacks Murukkus and Pokavada are made with a combination of rice and one or more of the following lentil flours: green gram dal, urad dal and Bengal gram dal. Ribbon pokavada are small strips of fried dough seasoned with red chili powder and asafetida. They look just like FRITOS® Corn Chips except they are crunchier and taste far less salty or greasy. Many different recipes exist for Murukkus; mine are made by mixing rice with various lentils, grinding them and adding cumin seeds or asafetida for flavor.


Noodles made with lentil or dal flour are fried for popular Indian snacks.

Noodles made with lentil or dal flour are fried for popular Indian snacks.

Fried noodle snacks can be made at home as part of a weekend family activity, however, every Indian grocery store has a full aisle dedicated in Indian snack foods (just like the potato chip aisle at Wal-Mart) with many brands and varieties available. I find that even though I did not include any snack food on my grocery list, several bags of these snacks land in my cart each time I visit the store. The best ones in the world can be found at Grand Snacks in Chennai, India.


Cornstarch Noodles

The fourth variety of noodles is made from cornstarch that gives the noodles a transparent appearance. The method for making these noodles is different from the other processes in that the dough is heated during the preparation process and then pushed through the press into a cold-water bath. Since this type of noodle is used in Falooda, a popular drink in India, sugar is added. (Look for more information on Falooda in a post in a few weeks.) Sometimes arrowroot, a starch extracted from a rhizome and available in Indian grocery stores, is used instead of cornstarch to make these noodles.


Noodles made with cornstarch make delicate noodles for the Indian sweet, Falooda.

Noodles made with cornstarch make delicate noodles for the Indian sweet, Falooda.


In my next post, I will share my recipes for Sevai and Idyappam which are fantastic as main items for breakfast or late afternoon snack, or as a side dish instead of rice with any simple meal with dal. Enjoy!


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I get excited every year when pomegranates are in season. They possess a special aura that makes me buy as many of them as I can eat. My family loves them but refuses to do the messy work of removing the seeds. I find that is really easy and just requires a tiny bit of patience. There are several approaches from buying a special $10 pomegranate peeler (that is absolutely useless) to quartering it and hitting it with a wooden spoon (very effective and stress relieving) to removing the seeds under water (I’ve never tried this one). Whatever method you use, these seeds must be included in your diet.


Pomegranate Raita

Homemade Pomegranate Raita is sweet and tangy.


The seeds are very healthy since they are high in vitamins C and K and some important minerals. They became popular a few years ago when their fantastic antioxidant properties were identified, specifically the type that might slow the spread of cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease.

My husband was surprised, years ago, when I bought the first one after we were married. Since he grew up with them and ate them all the time it wasn’t a big deal to him. I ate my first one as a child and had the opportunity to eat them on occasion when they were in season. I always thought they were special which, apparently, they are.


In Indian cooking, they are used in four different ways:


  • The raw seeds (juice sacs) are used in light dishes like raita, green salads and fruit salads or as garnish to many meat and lentil dishes.
  • The juice from the flesh is removed by pushing the seeds and juice sacs through a press and then added to some curries for its sour-sweet flavor. Because of its high sugar content it is used in some sweets recipes and even reduced in volume to form sweet syrup.
  • Some varieties of pomegranate seeds are dried in the sun and are used in vegetable and lentil dishes in North India. These seeds still have a bit of the pulp on them so they bring a tangy, fruity flavor to a dish. These are sold in stores as snacks
  • The dried seeds are also roasted and ground into a powder. This is used in recipes as a souring agent like amchoor (dried green mango powder) or lemon juice. In areas where fresh lemons or limes are not available year round, pomegranate seed powder is a great substitute. It can be purchased in an Indian grocery store or made at home.

I have created recipes for Pomegranate Raita and Pomegranate Salad Dressing that are absolutely delicious. They are easy to make and bring a fresh new flavor to your table. Try them tonight!


I hope this post has given you some new ideas on how to incorporate pomegranate seeds into your cooking. They are a healthy and tasty addition to any recipe.



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Chaat masala is a spice mixture that is popular in North India. I used it years ago before I met my wonderful South Indian husband who had minimal exposure to it. My North Indian friends used it often to flavor simple garnishes and enhance a meal. The other day I though it would be a good idea to try something new and expand my spice blend repertoire.


The term “chaat masala” translates from Hindi to English as “licking spice.” It is most often used to energize the flavor of chaat, a popular dish made with chickpeas, yogurt, potatoes and tomatoes, sold by vendors on the streets of North India, hence its name. The key ingredients are amchoor powder (from dried green mangoes), Indian black salt (with its pungent flavor), red chile powder and cumin that, when ground together, create a salty and sour taste. Various spice combinations are added to each recipe for chaat masala to give it the signature flavor of the chef. Chaat masala is usually added to a dish just before it is served.

How do you make chaat masala?

Making chaat masala at home is one of the easiest things to do. Simply dry roast the spices, then grind everything together. My recipe for chaat masala has a few more ingredients but I think you will find it lives up to the name “licking spice.”


Ann’s Chaat Masala Recipe


1/4 cup coriander seeds

Chaat Masala is used in a variety of dishes for its tasty tang.

Chaat Masala is used in a variety of dishes for its tasty tang.

3 Tbs cumin seeds

1 Tbs ajwain seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

6-7 dried red chiles

1 1/2 Tbs dried mango powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp asafetida

1 1/2 Tbs black salt

1 tsp salt


1. One at a time, dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ajwain seeds and peppercorns in a skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, just until the aroma rises and they begin to brown. Let them cool.


2. Remove the stems from the dried red chiles and break them into pieces. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together. Grind to a fine powder in a spice grinder.


– Store in an airtight container.

– Indian black salt must be used to get the correct flavor.


How can I use chaat masala?

I like to sprinkle a bit of chaat masala on salads, marinated onions, raita, roasted meats and Tikka Chicken. With a bit of lime, it is a tasty accompaniment to fresh fruit. Also, it is heavenly on roasted peanuts and cashews. Believe it or not, I like it sprinkled on crackers and potato chips. People even add a pinch to buttermilk or sprinkle it on dosas, omelets and fried snacks. Since it is a simple spice mix to use, the uses are unlimited. Once you taste it you will find your own uses for it.

Where can I buy chaat masala?

You can buy chaat masala at any Indian grocery store. Making it at home yields a fresher spice mix. Using my recipe has a livelier and zippier taste with a more dynamic taste dimension. I prefer to make my own because I like to experiment with different spice combinations and it is an extremely easy mix to make. 


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As I was testing some of Kachi’s recipes the other day, I noticed one recipe called for 10 chopped shallots. At $4.99 a pound I was starting to expect it would be a very expensive lentil dish. Hmm. In my mind, I reduced the number to three shallots given the small amount of other ingredients included in the recipe. Before I could forget this “correction” I made a note in the recipe.

Large American shallots beside smaller Indian shallots.

Large American shallots beside smaller Indian shallots.


Just this morning I visited one of my local Indian grocery stores and noticed they had shallots for $2.99 per pound. I immediately grabbed a plastic bag to fill with these bargain bulbs. As I started to fill the bag, I realized that these shallots were much smaller than the ones I buy at the chain stores! If this is an indication of another variation in species between the U.S. and India, I was beginning to understand why Kachi’s recipe called for 10 shallots! These were about a quarter of the size of mine!

When my husband returned home from work, he confirmed that shallots in India are much smaller than ours. This spurred me to conduct a not-so-scientific experiment.

Indian Shallot and American Shallot Comparison

American Shallot Indian Shallot
Weight 2 1/2 ounces 1/2 ounce
Chopped 1/2 cup 1-2 tablespoons
Flavor mild flavor stronger flavor

Based on what I learned in my experiment, any differences in color and texture between the two types, when both raw and cooked, were indistinguishable. The difference in taste and smell was small enough to make me indifferent between the two options. Since they are so similar, I make my selection based on the amount of shallot I need to use. If a recipe only needs a tablespoon, I use the Indian shallot so there will be no waste or left over pieces. When a recipe calls for a lot of shallot I use the American ones to reduce the amount of time I have to spend peeling the little ones.


In conclusion, if a recipe calls for 10 chopped shallots, think through the recipe and decide if the author intended American or Indian shallots to be used and make an adjustment in the recipe, if needed. Both are delicious and should be used as you wish.


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Dried lentils and beans provide the protein core to Indian cooking. Due to their low price, ready availability and convenience, Indian cooks have created thousands of recipes over the years that use lentils and beans in some form. Sometimes they are the main ingredients, other times they are simply added for contrast or to enhance the gravy.


Assorted dry lentils

Assorted dry lentils


My family didn’t use dried lentils when I grew up so I had to learn, through trial and error, to cook and love them as an adult. To save you the time of doing your own research, I have prepared this guide to cooking dried lentils and beans.

General Lentil Cooking Guide

1. Pick out any debris or stones from the dry lentils. Measure the amount of lentils you need. Place them in a colander and rinse them in cool water for a few minutes.


2. Pour two or three times as much water as lentils into a saucepan and add the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer until done. Add more water if needed. The lentils are done when they are tender but not mushy. Drain remaining water.


Cooking Tips

  • As a general rule, lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking but beans do.
  • Do not add any salt when you start cooking the lentils, as it will make them tough. Add it during the last minutes of cooking to add flavor.
  • Skim any scum that appears during cooking.
  • Simmer lentils; do not boil them as they can fall apart and the water may evaporate too quickly.
  • Ensure the lentils are always covered with water during the cooking process.
  • Pre-soaking is not required to cook lentils. It is just an easy way to reduce cooking time.
  • To determine if lentils are fully cooked, squeeze it between your fingers. If it mashes easily, it is done.
  • 1 pound dry lentils = 2½ – 3 cups dry lentils
  • 1 cup dry lentils = 3 cups cooked lentils
  • To make an easy lentil dish, cook some chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a little oil with your favorite spices. Add your cooked lentils and then cook everything together for a few minutes so the flavors blend.
  • Cooked lentils freeze well, so cook an extra batch to save time later.
  • Dry lentils can be stored for many months in an airtight container in your pantry. Six months seems to be the guideline but I do have some that are over a year old that I will continue to use until they are gone. It takes longer to cook older beans.

Characteristics of Lentils and Beans

To help you determine which lentils or beans to use as you create new recipes, I have prepared the following table so you can see some of the characteristics and cooking times each lentil and bean commonly used in Indian cooking.

Type Characteristics Uses Presoak Cook Time
Brown Lentils

-mild earthy flavor


-available everywhere

-retain shape well

Soups, salads, side and main dishes No 30-45 minutes
Green Lentils / du Puy Lentils / French Lentils

-firm texture, peppery flavor

-retain shape well

-more expensive than others

-less availability in stores

Soups, salads, side and main dishes, pair well with fish, game & meat No 30-45 mintes
Red Lentils (Masoor)

-sweet and nutty flavor

-break up while cooking

Soups, purees and recipes where soft texture is desired No 15-25 minutes
Yellow Lentils

-mild flavor

-become mushy when cooked

Soups, purees, sauces No 15-20 minutes
Orange Lentils -become mushy when cooked Soups, purees, sauces No 15-20 minutes
Black Lentils -mild flavor Side and main dishes No 20-30 minutes
Black Beans

-sweet with a slight mushroom flavor

-soft, delicate texture

Side and main dishes, used as a meat substitute Yes 45-60 minutes
Garbanzo Beans / Chickpeas

-mild, hearty, nut flavor

-good for strong spices

Soups, salads, pasta, main dishes Yes

45-60 minutes

2 hours, if not soaked

Mung Beans / Green Gram -mild, delicate, slightly sweet Soups, salads, side and main dishes No 45-60 minutes
Red Beans

-subtly sweet

-hold shape when cooked

Soups, salads, side and main dishes Yes 60-90 minutes

I hope this information helps you include more healthy lentils and beans in your diet as well as save some money.


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Lentils are one of the most important ingredients in Indian cooking for their health benefits and low cost. In fact, India is the world’s largest consumer of lentils in the world. This may be due to the fact that at least one dish containing lentil is served at every meal and the high percentage of vegetarians who live there. It is a good thing that India is also the world’s largest producer of these tiny gems.


Lentils in India

Lentil dishes are eaten all across India daily and appear on the menu as either a side dish or a main course. Having loved lentils for many years, I was stunned to learn that they are even served with breakfast! In South India, lentils are can simply be eaten with rice, and often eaten with chapati (a round wheat bread like a tortilla). After long days at work when my husband is too tired to cook anything that requires more than two steps, I have noticed that he seems to enjoy a simple dal and chapatti meal. Afterward, he seems calmer than when he arrived at home. I suspect that Indians consider lentils, in any form, to be comfort food.


Assorted dry lentils

Assorted dry lentils


Lentils are incorporated into every menu group in Indian cuisine. Some of the most popular recipes with lentils are:

Since the variety of options for this important source of protein in a highly vegetarians nation, it should not be a surprise to learn that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of recipe options available for lentils.


Characteristics of Lentils

Many varieties of lentils are available to keep the menu varied; each one is as different in its characteristics: color, size, texture and cooking speed. Lentils come in different colors from green, to red, to black and even orange. They vary in size as well. For example, French green lentils are tiny while chickpeas are rather large. Different varieties of red lentils vary in size. The small red beans are used in many Indian recipes including Chokapu Payar while the large ones are found in dishes such as in American chili. The small red beans take a long time to cook while the orange lentils are speedy. From firm and meaty chickpeas to smooth and creamy orange lentils, each has its own unique texture and purpose in Indian cuisine.


Forms of Lentils

Lentils are available whole (with the skin), whole without the skin, or split.  The term dal is used as the name of many lentil dishes as well as the term for lentils that have been skinned and split. Lentils ground to a powder are used instead of flour instead of wheat. Besan (North India) or kadala podi (Kerala) is ground Bengal gram dal and is used in the batter coating for Bondas and Bjajia as well as a binding ingredient to hold various cutlets together. Many sprouted lentils are available in stores for the health conscious individual.



The best way to store lentils is to keep them in airtight containers. They will keep for many, many months until they are used.


Check out my Lentils page for more information on the different varieties of lentils in Indian cuisine.


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I grew up in a household in which spices in jars were carefully measured and added to the pot or mixing bowl. After a few cooking classes and years of practice, I put away the spoons and started using the palm of my hand for measuring amounts and my nose and tongue for confirming if I had added the correct amount.


As I started cooking Indian food, I learned that spicing food is more complicated than that. It is actually a sophisticated process of knowing everything about your spices before using them. Some red Madras chile powders are hotter than others causing me to adjust the amount I add without causing too much pain to my mouth. Some spices have been in my pantry for longer periods of time and have lost some flavor, which means I need to use more spice.


Using spices in Indian cuisine is even more complicated than that. Sometimes they have to be roasted before use and other times they are not. I have read in many books that one must dry fry or dry roast spices before using them. Some say that this step improves the taste of the spices. This is an oversimplification of the entire issue.


The reason spices are roasted is to draw out their unique flavors – a chemical reaction (yes, this is about high school chemistry) occurs and the flavors change and some of the scent of the raw spices evaporates (the aroma you can smell). When different spices are roasted together, the chemicals from the different spices react together and a whole new bouquet of aromas develop.


In many Indian recipes, spices are added right to the pot without pre-roasting them. The recipe most likely was developed with the flavors of the raw spices (ground or whole) as they are.


Indian spices are roasted before use to enhance their flavor.

Indian spices are roasted before use to enhance their flavor.

Roasted Spices in Indian Cooking

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the spice or spices to the skillet and roast them, for about 1 to 3 minutes. Move the spices around in the pan continuously so they don’t burn. When you can smell the aroma and their color darkens, remove the pan from the heat.


If the spices smell burnt, they are. Toss them, as burnt spices will ruin any recipe. Don’t worry, this was your practice round. You can always start over.


Once toasted, immediately pour the spices out of the pan on to a plate to stop them from cooking further. Let the toasted spices cool, and then grind them.


They can be stored, tightly covered for a few weeks without losing much of their flavor. With fresh spices, you will notice a big difference in flavor, and you may discover that you don’t need as much spice, making it worth the extra cost and trouble.


If you are roasting several spices together, add the larger spices first, followed by the smaller spices with any ground spices last.


To grind the spices, just use an old coffee grinder. Don’t use it for coffee in the future, as your coffee will have the aroma of the last masala (spice mixture) you ground. 



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My husband’s cousin, Geetha, recently visited us in Texas during her recent trip from Calicut, Kerala. She is such a delightful and kind person that we hit it off right away. If she had stayed with us longer, I’m certain that we would have had a lot of fun at our nearby stores and restaurants. Our husbands would have walked away from us while shaking their heads in dismay while the bills piled up. She reminds me of another of my husband’s cousins, Padmini, with whom I have spent delightful hours shopping at outlet malls and sampling chocolate chip cookies at open houses.


Fresh basil used in Chicken with Basil Curry.

Fresh basil that I used in my Chicken with Basil Curry.


One evening Geetha commented on a vase of fresh basil stems that I was using as casual decoration on my kitchen counter. She recognized it instantly and proceeded to share her knowledge of the plant. She informed me that it is originally native to India and has grown there for thousands of years. The most sacred herb in India, it is used in religious ceremonies as well as in Indian cooking. In the U.S. we are familiar with several of the more than 100 different varieties of this fragrant herb, including sweet basil used in pesto and sauces, but the uses in India are much more fascinating. Basil is available in three varieties in India:


  • Rama tulsi, the most common sweet basil, is found in many recipes across Europe and the U.S. with its oval leaves, green stems and white flowers.
  • Krishna tulsi is a different variety of basil that has purple flowers, veins and stems. It plays an important role in Hinduism and is used during poojas (prayers) to Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation. Devout followers grow these plants at home. This herb is often called holy basil since it is thought to have grown at the site of Jesus’s cross. It also has many medicinal uses from treating the common cold to reducing pain and blood pressure.
  • Wild tulsi is a large plant with gray-green leaves and a strong flavor.


Basil is a key part of Ayurvedic medicine and is used to fight stress, promote purity, cleanse the body of toxins and aid metabolism. It is high in antioxidants.


Indian cooking incorporates basil in many ways. Several different recipes for tea are available for curative as well as for a decaffeinated treat. It is used to make chutney and dishes such as Tulsi chicken. Since the flavor of the basil is so delicate, it must be added during the last step to preserve its flavor. Basil seeds are used in flavoring a unique Indian treat, falooda ice cream, as they become gelatinous when soaked in water.


Last week, I published my Chicken with Basil Curry recipe that I am certain you and your family will love!


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