Each week, we’re asking different people to share some of their current favorites and obsessions. This week we feature picks from Chitra Agrawal. She is the co-owner of Brooklyn Delhi, where she produces handmade achaars using local ingredients. Chitra is working on her first cookbook on South Indian recipes from Bangalore for Ten Speed/Random House due out March 2016. In 2009, she created The ABCD’s of Cooking and since then has been blogging about, teaching and hosting dining events that feature Indian recipes with a slant on seasonal ingredients. Currently she is a co-chef for a vegetarian Indian-Chinese dinner series called Tangra with cookbook author Diana Kuan, and on February 22 she is launching Batchery, an artisan pop-up market featuring over 15 of the most innovative small batch food producers in the city. Keep in touch with Chitra on Twitter @abcdsofcooking.
1. Pardon My Hindi
Pardon My Hindi, created by artist Chiraag Bhakta in 2002, is where I get lost online. He produces beautiful prints and posts all sorts of vintage and quirky Indian memorabilia, art and photos. My personal fav is his #FridayDanceTime on Instagram where he puts up a video clip from obscure Bollywood classics with some of the best music you’ll ever hear. He has a related project called #WhitePeopleDoingYoga that will be part of an upcoming exhibition at the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco) and his Arch Motel Project photo series, depicting the history of South Asian families in the motel industry in America, will be part of the Smithsonian Beyond Bollywood exhibit. He is re-launching PardonMyHindi.com in the next couple of weeks so keep a lookout!
2. Move Over Dosa: Here Comes Akki Roti!
Before I enrage some dosa-loving fanatics and my beloved dosa spots (Thiru’s cart, Ganesh Temple Canteen to name a couple), I will admit I too love dosa with a passion, but akki roti is my jam! It’s a South Indian specialty that I grew up eating made from a rice flour dough with diced onions, green chilies and cilantro. The dough is cooked by flattening it against the sides of a wok, resulting in a cool bowl-shaped roti at the end. It’s usually served with ghee or yogurt and spicy hot chutney pudi. Sounds good right? And to top it off, it’s actually not that difficult to make at home. This is my mother’s recipe for it.
3. Subcontinental Drift
Subcontinental Drift was started in Washington, D.C. a few years back as a creative outlet and open mic forum for the South Asian community. There are now ‘SubDrift’ contingencies in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. I have been hooked on this event ever since attending my first Subdrift NYC at Two Moon Café in Brooklyn. The environment is totally relaxed and welcoming and always attracts a talented group, from amateurs who may just want to read a poem they wrote or sing a song to familiar names like comedian Hari Kondabolu and writer Bushra Rehman. I even took the mic at one SubDrift to officially launch Brooklyn Delhi and pass out hors d’oeuvres with my achaar to the crowd. To find out about a Subdrift happening near you, check Facebook.
4. SSP Asafoetida
Asafoetida or hing is an essential ingredient in Indian cooking for its pungency and health benefits, but unfortunately most of the hing available in US shops is cut with rice or wheat flour (beware gluten-free folks). SSP, a company based in Bangalore, sells the best quality hing around and is where my mother has bought our family’s for as long as I can remember. It’s also where I get my supply for making Brooklyn Delhi achaars. I’ve been in touch with the owner, Mr. Kumaran S. S. to convince them to start selling their pure hing in America, but until then look for compounded hing that you can grind yourself. Trust me, you won’t go back to that other stuff.
5. Meanest Indian
I’m in love with Meena Kadri’s portraits and images of India. I get glued to her flickr account on many an occasion.
6. Kati Roll Company
No matter how many new Indian spots sprout up in the West Village (I got your number Thelewala), I stay true to my old friend Kati Roll Company who was the first one on the block. I find comfort in its hole-in-the-wallness and retro Indian film posters and I just can’t say no to their achari paneer roll — it’s my weakness. I used to live close by, but now I find myself making excuses to stroll that god-awful and crowded block of MacDougal Street to get one and sometimes two paneer rolls (for the deal of course!).
7. Tea for Two
Tea for Two, shot by the good folks at Perennial Plate, is a short video about Piyasena and his wife Ariyawatha, a Sri Lankan couple who own and operate a small tea farm. The love between these two makes my heart full.