Sunday, 8 April 2018

Pigeon Pea & Vegetable Stew (Thuvar Dal) & Baked Spicy Cottage Fries (Aloo Tuk)

Sindh is the birthplace of Indian culture and the society created by the natives living in that time and place was known as the Indus Valley Civilisation, especially in the places; Mohenjodaro & Harappa. These places are now situated in present day Pakistan. In 1947, during the war, the creation of an independent nation called Pakistan happened and Hindu natives of Sindh fled. This is why those people are still Indians and not Pakistanis.

Sindhi cooking has a lot of variety. You will see it incorporate a lot of dishes from Mughal times such as makhani gravies (silky sauce). However, a lot of it is also similar to Gujarati and South Indian cooking, which incorporate the use of spices such as mustard seeds and curry leaves. The dish that we’re going to explore today is Thuvar Dal Chawal, which is a lentil based stew made of pigeon peas and using other vegetables, served with steamed rice. We are also going to be preparing Aloo Tuk with that. Now, while conventional Aloo Tuk is twice-fried, this one is a lot healthier, since it will be baked.

So, let’s learn today about the oldest civilisation in the world and sample some of its great cuisine…

½ cup pigeon peas (toovar dal), soaked overnight
¼ cup each of your favourite peeled and sliced vegetables: carrot, potato, white pumpkin, long beans, drumstick etc.
¼ tsp turmeric powder (haldi: Hindi)
Salt to taste
2 green chillies
2-3 medium tomatoes
1-2 tsp tamarind pulp
1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

For Tempering:
1 ½ tbsp oil
¼ tsp mustard seeds (rai: Hindi; aur: Sindhi)
Pinch of asafoetida (hing: Hindi & Sindhi)
½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera: Hindi, jeero: Sindhi)
5 curry leaves (curry patta: Hindi & Sindhi)

Coriander leaves to garnish (dhaniye ke patte: Hindi; kotmir/dhaana: Sindhi)

1.      Heat pressure cooker with lukewarm water. Add your soaked toovar dal, vegetables, turmeric powder, salt, green chillies, tomato, tamarind pulp and sugar. 
2.  Mix it once or twice; then leave that to boil on medium high heat for about 5 or 6 whistles or until dal and vegetables are soft.
3. Prepare the tempering. Heat oil; add asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. 
4. Throw in curry leaves and wait till it crackles. 
5. Add ginger and cook till fragrant. 
6. Pour the tempering over the lentils and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.


2-3 medium potatoes, scrubbed well
Salt to taste
Little black salt to taste
1/4 tsp mango powder (amchur)
½ tsp ground cumin (jeera)
½ tsp red chilli powder
About 2-3 tbsp oil to coat the potatoes

1. Preheat your oven to about 200 deg C  (about 400 deg F or Gas Mark 6). If you have a fan oven, turn it to about 185 deg C (about 350 deg F or Gas Mark 4).
2. Slice your potatoes about ¼ inch thick.
3. Soak the potatoes for about 5-7 mins or at least until the water gets cloudy. This will help to remove excess starch from the potatoes and make it crispier.
4. Add salt and black salt. Remember, you can use either one of those or even both.
5. Add cumin powder, red chilli powder and mango powder. If you don’t have mango powder, ground cumin and/or black salt, you can use about less than ½ tsp of chaat masala. Add oil and coat the potatoes well.  
6. Grease the hot baking tray using a pastry brush. Place your potatoes on and bake for about 15 mins on one side. After 15 mins, remove the tray and flip the potatoes to cook on the other side. Keep repeating this process until you get crispy baked aloo tuk. This should take about 45 mins-1hour if not longer. Remember, everyone’s oven varies, so you will just have to keep an eye on them for best results.
7. Serve these aloo tuks warm with the tuvar dal.

The info on the left is for toovar dal (left of image) & info on the right is for baked aloo tuk
(right of image)

Monday, 2 April 2018

Remembering Baba Sawan Singh Ji (the Inspiration to this Blog)

Dearest Master

It's been exactly 170 years since you left us to merge with your Beloved. You have not only taught us how to live and all the spiritual teachings, but you have also been an inspiration to spread vegetarianism amongst others in this world.

This time, I will add more vegan recipes (less cruelty to animals & therefore reduction of karmic accountability)

We will always remember you.

Radha Soami

With everlasting love from all your children

2nd April 2018

Monday, 5 March 2018

Cottage Cheese In Silky Sauce (Paneer Butter Masala)

Paneer butter masala is the most requested dish in Indian restaurants. It is actually a vegetarian version of butter chicken, which originated from Northern India. I will share more about that some other time...
I have had a lot of people request this dish from me. What’s special about this one is that it has no onion or garlic at all. However, I do hope I have not misled you with that, because actually it tastes better without onion and garlic- I know because I have tried it in restaurants.

There is nothing better than the creamy overtones of a good paneer butter masala with naan, so here's the link:
For paneer
500 ml full cream milk
Less than 30 ml vinegar
1-2 tsp butter or oil
Pinch of turmeric powder
Pinch of red chilli powder
Salt to taste

For gravy
2-3 tbsp oil
2 large tomatoes (do not peel), cut into quarters
12 pcs cashew nuts
½ inch ginger (peeled), cut into thin juliennes
2 green chillies, deseeded and cut into thin juliennes
-          Julienne is just a fancy way of saying “shred”
1/2 -1 small stick cinnamon
Pinch of mace
4-6 pcs green cardamom
2 cloves
3 peppercorns
2 tsp butter
Salt to taste
½ tsp sugar (or just to balance salty & spicy with sweet)
½ tsp red chilli powder
1-2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) (I normally like to roast this a little beforehand)
1/4 tsp garam masala powder
1-2 tbsp cream
2 tbsp coriander leaves for garnish


For paneer
1.      Prepare your paneer first. You can follow my palak paneer recipe for paneer; have attached that as well, otherwise you can use frozen paneer.

2.      When paneer is completely ready for use, cut into cubes. Heat oil or butter in a pan, add paneer cubes, salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder. Grill till just about done.

For Gravy

1.      Heat oil and add tomatoes, cashew nuts, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns. You may add a tiny bit of salt to help the tomatoes cook faster. Cook till tomatoes are soft.

2.      In a blender, add the tomato and cashew mixture and blend with a little water till smooth.

3.      Strain your mixture into a separate container.

4.      Heat some butter into a pan, add ginger and green chilli. Saute well.

5.      Add tomato mixture and cook for a while. 

6.      Add salt, red chilli powder and sugar.

7.      Crush the fenugreek leaves into your gravy and mix.   Cook for 2 more mins.  

8.      Before serving, add paneer, garam masala and cream; and garnish with coriander leaves.

9.      Serve hot with roti or naan.



Sunday, 28 January 2018

Vegetarian Nyonya Laksa (Noodle Soup with Coconut Milk and Other Spices)

Laksa is a popular dish, unique to Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, each one having its own distinct varieties and flavours. The one I am going to do in this one is based on the Nyonya Laksa, also known as Laksa Lemak (lemak meaning 'fat'). Don't worry if it's a bit sinful, because the good news is that you don't have to have this on a long term basis. If you want to do this long term, then you need to substitute the coconut milk with soy milk or almond milk, which is a bit lighter, but still very tasty. Nyonya laksa was born out of the Peranakan culture, a mix of Chinese and Malay cultures. All their food is flavourful and made mostly out of Malaysian spices and things like coconut. This one will be the first of the many vegetarian Peranakan recipes on this site and on Lunch Box Surprise.
(alternatively, you may buy your own vegetarian Laksa Paste from a supermarket or any vegetarian store- example of a vegetarian laksa paste is Nyor Nyar Assam Laksa Paste)

2 fresh red chillies
2 dried red chillies
3 cloves garlic
¼ inch galangal
3 shallots
½ stalk lemongrass
½ tsp vegetarian sambal belacan (chilli “shrimp” paste)
Salt to taste
½ tsp (or to taste) palm sugar
1-2 tbsp oil (or enough to emulsify)- alternatively, you can use water to blend, but it takes away flavours

70g Chinese black mushrooms
70g shimeji mushrooms
Mushroom seasoning to taste
1-2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
Salt and white pepper to taste
Few laksa leaves
200-250 ml water

80 ml coconut milk
2 tbsp oil
¼ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Few curry leaves
50g bean sprouts (tauge)
50g water spinach (kangkong) or mustard leaves (sawi)
12 pcs or so tofu puffs (tau kwa)
50g boiled rice noodles
50g yellow noodles
2-3 calamansi limes

For Homemade Laksa Paste:
1)      Blend all ingredients together into a fine paste. Keep aside.

For Mushroom Laksa Broth:
1)      Heat water and add mushrooms.
2)      Bring this to a boil.
3)      Add veg oyster sauce, laksa leaves, mushroom seasoning, salt and a tiny bit of white pepper
4)      Cover and let it cook on slow flame for 1 hour.
5)      Strain the entire liquid only and use that for laksa. Keep that aside.

For Main Preparation:
1.       Heat oil and curry leaves.
2.       Add laksa paste. Fry till fragrant and oil separates on top.
3.       Add broth and bring to a boil. Then, simmer on slow flame for about 5-10 mins.
4.       Prepare your noodles if not cooked. Otherwise, just blanch for a while in hot water until little bit soft.
5.       Add coconut milk, curry powder and turmeric powder. Let it simmer again for about 5 mins.
6.       Add sprouts, spinach and tofu puffs. Again, let this simmer for 5 mins.
7.       In a serving bowl, spoon in noodles and soup. Garnish with calamansi limes

Calories (kcal) 448
Total Fat (g)14.3
Cholesterol (mg)0
Sodium (mg)68
Total Carbohydrates (g) 7.6
Dietary Fibre (g)1.3
Sugar (g) 0.8
Protein (g) 3.2
Vit D (%)4
Calcium (%) 40
Iron (%)10
Potassium (%)2


Thursday, 18 January 2018

Lunch Box Surprise: Eggplant Parmigiana (Parmesan)

Eggplant parmigiana, also known as melanzane or eggplant parmesan, originated in the countryside of Italy (Campagnia, Sicily & Parma), famous for its parmesan cheese. It’s real comfort food, but this recipe is also relatively healthier as it is air-fried. You can also bake it or shallow fry it. Vegetarian parmesan cheese is available in many brands, but I recommend Sargentos for toppings or Alba parmesan cheese powder, which is really delicious.

Be creative and try this dish anytime you like. This is best served with green salad, and if you are a wine lover, red wine goes best, e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc. But since I don’t drink, I personally replace the wine with Ribena or cranberry juice! J

Here's the link:

Ingredients- note: this is just an estimate, as it depends on the qty of eggplant slices you use. I used 12.


12 slices eggplant, unpeeled (make sure it is sliced to ½ inch thick)

Batter as per nasi lemak recipe- I will send you a copy of that as well

½ cup breadcrumbs (or more)

Salt and crushed black pepper to taste

Pinch of dried Italian herbs

2 tsp (or more) parmesan cheese powder (containing non animal rennet)

About ¼ cup (or so) pizza sauce- I just used store bought

About 12 slices (180g) fresh buffalo milk mozzarella (brand I used is Zotarella; you can use Galbani’s- buffalo mozzarella is usually 100% vegetarian)

1-2 tbsp olive oil to drizzle

2-3 tbsp your choice of cooking oil (I use rice bran, as it has a higher flash point and is healthy)

5-6 leaves of fresh basil



1.      Preheat oven to 200 deg C (400 deg F or Gas Mark 5). For fan ovens, you should keep it at 180 deg C or equivalent.

2.      Prepare batter as per nasi lemak recipe I have sent to you. Keep aside.

3.      Prepare seasoned breadcrumbs. In a small plate, add breadcrumbs and to that, add your salt, pepper, Italian herbs and parmesan powder.

4.      Coat your eggplant in batter and then breadcrumbs.

5.      Freeze eggplants for about ½ hour or longer to hold shape

6.      Set air-fryer to 180 deg C, for about 15-20 mins. Drizzle eggplant with cooking oil and close. About halfway, shake the pan down as per instructions in the manual. Air-fry again till golden brown.

7.      Spoon a little sauce in the centre and top with a slice of mozzarella. Top with more breadcrumbs

8.       Drizzle olive oil on top.

9.      Bake in preheated oven for about 5 mins.

10.  Remove from oven and serve the way you like.




1)      Soak eggplant when not in use

2)      Baked version- bake at 200 deg C (400 deg F or Gas Mark 5). Fan oven- 180 deg C (or equivalent). You can even grill or shallow fry, otherwise normal fry. It's entirely up to you!

3)      Vegan version- use Daiya mozzarella cheese and your choice of vegan parmesan or you can use seasoned breadcrumbs only and make it a “cheezy crispy eggplant”

4)      Gluten free- use gluten free flour & breadcrumbs of your choice



Sunday, 7 January 2018

Lunch Box Surprise: Thai Mango Salad

Thailand is very special for its exotic salads. From papaya to pomelo, there is a burst of flavour with every bite. Thai salads are very distinct due to the ingredients used and each ingredient is used to create a balance between flavours. So many vegetarians like to try these salads when they go out, but a lot of the time, Thai food itself contains fish sauce and shrimp paste. This salad is not only completely vegetarian, but vegan as well.

If you wish, you may substitute the chilli garlic sauce with fresh chilli & garlic, and then add palm sugar. This is the way of making the dressing using fresh ingredients instead of bottled sauces. You may also wish to use no garlic and therefore, substitute by increasing the amount of vegetarian oyster sauce and/or soy sauce used. There are many different ways of getting creative with a Thai salad. This one is a basic mango salad that I created, using ripe mango instead of unripe. I love a sweet mango in my salad... :-P

Here's the link:


1 cup carrots, peeled and grated
1/4-1/2 cup bean sprouts
1 small cucumber, grated (squeeze out excess moisture if you like)
1 small (1/4 cup) tomatoes,chopped
1/2 unripe mango (you can use ripe mango if you like-sweetness)
3 slices red cabbage or Napa cabbage

1-2 tbsp chilli garlic sauce
Less than 1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (or soy sauce)
1 tbsp sweet Thai chilli sauce
Juice of 1/2 calamansi lime (or 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)
1 tbsp or so sesame oil

1/4 cup peanuts, roasted and ground coarsely
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted
1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped

1. In a bowl, mix chilli garlic sauce and oyster sauce. Add lemon juice, palm sugar and water. Blend together well till everything comes together. Add sesame oil if you wish.

2. Add all the salad ingredients, except cabbage. Toss well.

3. Arrange cabbage slices on a plate and scoop salad into the cabbage. Top generously with peanuts and sesame seeds, and garnish with coriander leaves and spring onions. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Lunch Box Surprise-Buttery Yellow Lentils with Rice (Dal Chawal)

Dal chawal is a household staple in the Indian subcontinent, and especially when talking about vegetarians. For those who may not know, dal is 'lentil' and chawal is 'rice'. The type of lentil used varies from region to region, and it depends on what is available. For example, if you go across to Punjab & Kashmir, you will get the blacker lentils such as kidney bean (rajma) and split black or green urad dal. In the Western parts, it will most likely be moong or chana.

But, when referring to dal chawal in itself, it will be any kind that is yellow in colour, but most probably pigeon peas (toovar dal or arhar ki dal) or moong dal. This time, we will use moong dal. This recipe is a traditional Sindhi recipe, which kids love, but even older people swear by. Dal chawal is listed as a favourite food amongst many including famous actor, Amitabh Bachchan.

So, here's the recipe...

For Pressure Cooking
Less than 1/2 cup split mung beans (yellow moong dal: Hindi), soaked overnight
2 tbsp split Bengal gram (chana dal/chane ki dal: Hindi), soaked overnight
2-3 cups water for boiling
2 green chillies, slit and deseeded
1/2" ginger, chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi: Hindi)
1-2 small tomatoes, blanched and pureed
Salt to taste
1 tsp clarified butter (desi ghee: Hindi)

For Tempering & Garnish
About less than 2 tbsp clarified butter (desi ghee: Hindi)
Pinch of asafoetida (hing: Hindi)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera: Hindi)
5 curry leaves
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (lal mirch powder: Hindi)
1/4 tsp mango powder (amchur: Hindi)
1-2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped

For Serving
Cooked basmati rice infused with clarified butter and cumin (or just plain will do)
French fries topped with chaat masala or sandwich masala (available at local Indian supermarkets)

1. In a pressure cooker, add all ingredients and enough water to boil till soft and slightly mushy or creamy. Wait for ? whistles or ? mins

2. Add red chilli powder, and cook for another 5 more mins.

3. For tempering, heat ghee and add asafoetida and cumin. Wait till cumin seeds crackle.

4. Add curry leaves, and garlic. Cook till garlic gets fragrant and pour over lentils. Sprinkle mango powder and coriander leaves, and serve with basmati rice and French fries.