From daal to vindaloo, try these comforting stews made using locally available ingredients that are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients to boost immunity and aid recovery
The best kind of food are those that are locally cooked, connected to one’s childhood, and is a staple across homes in the country. While stew is not exactly an Indian invention coming from the French word “estuve” and then making a landfall at English shores, we have our own versions which are equivalent to stews. But it is not only the Caucasian who have been making stews for centuries other countries like Japan, Vietnam and most of Africa have been making stews for several thousand years.
For Indians, stew loosely translates to comfort food and most of the time, stews are extremely simple to make with just a few ingredients and condiments. Stews are different from soups, being thicker, and containing more solid ingredients. They are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fibres, and antioxidants. Here are some cult classics from our shared palates:
Daal chawal is always for the win when it comes to fighting off common ailments or when you just crave something comforting when you don’t feel too well. The simplest daal features either cumin seeds or nigella seeds tempered in hot oil with well-done fried onions, and if you fancy some heat, a few chillies directly into the oil. Add the boiled daal, salt, and water and give it a good stir; wait for it to boil. Voila! Your bowl of comfort is ready!
2. Naatu Kozhi Rasam
Rasam on its own, the classic version with just spices, is delicious and great for a hot day or cooler afternoons. But there’s a version of this dish with chicken. This dish features chicken bones with more bone than meat on it, pressure cooked to make chicken stock with the water flavoured with haldi and salt. The rasam powder features fennel seeds, black peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and dried red chillies. Naatu Kozhi Rasam translates to local chicken rasam and anything with chicken in it, especially soupy tends to be ideal for people down with flu and cold. The best part is that it is easy to digest also boosts immunity. The usual tempering used in rasam with the powder and chicken stock is truly mouth-watering and eye-watering, which will open up nasal passages for sure
Popular along the Konkan coast, especially Goa, this spicy stew features marinated pork; beef, mutton, chicken or vegan substitutes like tofu can also be used. It was the Portuguese who brought this dish with them around the 15th century which the coastal states love even today. The dish is vinegary with a liberal use of Kashmiri chilli powder, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. The meat cooks in the rich gravy for at least an hour or two infusing it with the delectable flavours of the base spices. The spice can be a great pain reliever and it also contains vitamins and minerals to boost your immunity and war of the flu.
Similar to daal but a different preparations style, Sambar is a quintessential South Indian staple for a lot of dishes. It’s difficult to pin point what exactly makes it so delicious. You have the tangy tamarind soupy base with daal and soft vegetables simmered in it. The oddest part about this daal is how it was created. It was an accident that happened in the royal kitchen of Thanjavur, apparently cooked by the Maratha ruler’s son who was craving daal when the head chef was away. Paired with steamed rice, though invented by a flesh and blood south Indian person, it is still popular as a southern dish.
In North India, where Mughal influences are more pronounced, korma is a delicious stew that can help one recover from a cough or cold. Korma is a staple in many households, commonly containing chicken or lamb. The vegetarian version is also popular. Saffron, yogurt, and spices like coriander, ginger, cumin, chillies and turmeric give korma its wonderful flavour. Records state that korma was first created in the 1500s by Mughal Emperor Akbar. He combined Persian and Indian cuisine techniques to develop new dishes at his royal court. It is believed the name korma comes from a Rajput tribe.
Kadhi is a light dish that will appeal to recovering taste buds. Made with yogurt or buttermilk as a base, kadhi is thickened with gram flour to create a soothing soup-like consistency. The probiotics in the dairy ingredients make kadhi an excellent food for immunity. Yogurt and buttermilk are packed with "good" bacteria that support a healthy gut microbiome. A balanced gut microbiome is key for strong immunity. The lactic acid bacteria found in fermented dairy foods like those used in kadhi help promote digestive health and crowd out potential pathogens. At the same time, protein-rich gram flour provides fuel for the immune system. Popular styles include Punjabi kadhi, known for its thick texture, and versions from Gujarat, Rajasthan with additional spices.
These stews are the ultimate comfort foods. Whether it's daal, rasam, vindaloo or korma, these dishes are extremely easy to make, highly nutritious and will help one feel better when under the weather. Using locally sourced ingredients, they are also an integral part of our culinary traditions across regions.