I started culinary school with a course on classic French technique. It was led by a chef instructor who had worked for several renowned restaurants in Paris. A few weeks into the semester, Chicago banned the sale of foie gras. It became a topic of discussion, with the chef advocating for its reversal. Force feeding animals seemed inhumane to me. Nonetheless, I held back my opinion, taking cues from students who clearly felt it foolhardy to break rank.
In the weeks that followed, we made sauces and soups that were invariably doused with dairy. I had never reached for so much cream and butter in my life. At home, I flavored my meals with a cocktail of spices that left me light on my feet. I found the dishes that we made in class numbingly filling, and worried that I might settle in for a nap after a marathon of tastings.
Towards the end of the course, the chef gathered us all around for another demonstration. When he reached for the cream, I found myself blurting out, “Chef, why don’t you just use some cumin?”
Humored by my outburst, he smiled, and muttered under his breath, “She wants me to use cumin.”
Then he poured in the cream.
This spice filled vegan dish makes for a great meal on its own. If you’re sensitive to crunchy things, omit the channa dhal or wait a day before digging into it. By that time the channa dhal will soften.
1 cup uncooked parboiled rice
2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon urad dhal
1 teaspoon channa dhal
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1 dried red chili
10 curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Place the rice in a pot. Cover it with four cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is soft. Drain the rice in a colander.
Place the oil is a skillet over medium-low heat. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds.
Add the cumin, urad dhal, channa dhal, asafoetida, red chili, and curry leaves. Cook until the urad dhal turns golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the ginger, turmeric, and salt. Cook until the ginger softens, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the rice.
Sprinkle in the lemon juice and stir to combine.
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