some basic food-a-mentals, formulas and tidbits

(in alphabetical order)


(Devil’s dung, Ferula assafoetida)

asafoetidaThis yellowish powder with an extremely pungent smell is made from the dried latex of a type of fennel. Powdered versions like the one above often contain rice flour and turmeric powder added to it.

It is known for its digestive quality and is vastly used in Indian cooking. It is always used in a very small quantity (measured in pinches) and is added to hot oil to soothe its strong aroma. You can find it at any Indian food shop.



buttermilk (homemade)


1 cup yogurt (whole, reduced, low or non fat)  + 1 cup of water (if using low or non fat, increase the qty. of yogurt and decrease qty. of water to suit your taste)


cooking math

cooking math

In all my recipes, I do give the best possible measured equivalents for the ingredients I am using. Most of the times, my 1 cup is  a generous handful or a tablespoon is a palmful. I understand “Ratios and Proportions” better than the “Units of Measurements”. To me, its all about experimenting and having fun in the kitchen – it’s only a way to cook – unless of course when I’m baking or dealing with alcohol. But even then, there are times when I have gotten away 😉


“indian” chillies

indian chillies

These small, tapered red or green chillies are very, very hot! In the US they’re referred to as “Bird’s eye” chillies or also called Thai chillies and are Mexican in origin. They’re often used in Chinese and South-east Asian cooking.

Serrano chillies are a great alternative, if you can’t find these.


It is unrefined sugar that  tastes very similar to brown or raw sugar. It is an integral part of Maharashtrian cooking (a state from the western India) and is used in both sweet and savory dishes. You can easily find jaggery in any Indian food store.








Read more on Wikipedia.

kokum extract


Soak 4-5 kokum petals in cup of hot water for an hour. Give a quick whirl in the blender and run it through a sieve. Store in an airtight container in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

mayonnaise – homemade

Mayo is an emulsified sauce made with egg yolks, oil, mustard and acid (lemon juice or vinegar). To make a cup of mayo, I whisk in a bowl, 2 egg yolks, juice from half lemon, 2 tsp of mustard (any kind except honey mustard) scant 1 tsp salt. I then continue to whisk in canola oil (about 1 cup) with a slow stream until its completely incorporated and a thick emulsified sauce is formed.

perfectly boiled and peeled eggs

Place the eggs in a pot of water and cover with cool tap water. Add some salt to the water and bring it to boil. Lower the heat as soon as the water boils and simmer for exactly 5 mins. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and allow them to sit in the water for 5 mins (hard boiled – opaque pale yellow yolk) or 3 mins (soft boiled – innermost part of yolk semi- transperant).


Tap each end of the egg and roll the egg between your hand and the surface below. Peel under running water and allow the eggs to cool at room temperature.

This method won’t cause the outer part of the yolk to become grey in color. Also, adding salt to the water makes it easy to peel the eggs.

ratios and proportions


It’s all about the proportion when it comes to making that fluffy, grainybasmati rice or perfectly cooked daal. Here’s how to get successful results every time (Mind you, I didn’t get those kinda results all the time till I tried and tried and finally nailed it down!)


Basmati Rice – 1: 1½ proportion of rice: water (pressure cooked) or 1:2 of rice: water (microwave/stove top)

Toor Daal – 1: 3 proportion of daal: water

Other Daals (Masoor, Moong, Urad, etc.) – 1: 2 proportion of daal: water

roasted peanuts powder

I use the quick microwave for roasting peanuts. Spread about 2 handfuls of the raw peanuts with skin evenly on a glass baking dish (borosil or pyrex). Microwave high for exact 3 mins, stopping after every min and stirring the peanuts to make sure they are evenly roasted. The will become fragrant and golden brown on the outside.


To remove the browned skin, rub a small handful of cooled roasted peanuts at a time briskly between your palms, allowing the skins to fall from your hands onto a newspaper or paper towel lined surface. Its ok if a few specks of the skin remain on the nuts.

Grind the toasted peanuts to a coarse-fine powder. Store in an air tight jar.

roasting peppers


1. Gas Stove: This is the easiest method! If you have a gas stove, peppers can be roasted right on the stove top. Turn a burner to the highest setting and set your pepper directly on the flame. Use a pair of tongs to turn the pepper until the skin is completely blackened.
2. Broiler: If you don’t have a gas stove, you can also char the pepper under the broiler. Leave the peppers whole on a baking sheet and turn them every few minutes until the skin is blackened.
3. Oven-roasted: Preheat the oven to 500 deg F.
Place whole peppers on a sheet pan and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them twice during roasting process.


simple syrup

Simple Syrup = 1 : 1 proportion of sugar: water cooked over medium heat until it bubbles up and the sugar dissovles.


Chilled thoroughly before using.

thai pantry

With a well stocked pantry you can cook with confidence and make it quick too!

my thai pantry

Here’s some pantry stuff that comes handy for Thai cooking:

  • Fish sauce (Nam Pla)
  • Soy sauce
  • Coconut milk cans
  • Dried red chillies
  • Peanuts
  • Jasmine rice
  • Curry paste cans or jars (if using readymade)
  • Lemongrass (stored in the freezer)
  • Kaffir lime leaves (stored in the freezer)
  • Holy (Thai) basil (refrigerated fresh or stored in the freezer)
  • Shrimp paste (refrigerated)
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