Yogurt is a key component of South Asian cuisine. It's cooling, alkaline nature balances the rich, spicy food and the use of it is widespread from street snacks to the most refined spreads. In sweltering summers, lassi, a sweet or savory spiced yogurt drink, is the refreshment of choice and often, with a little turmeric, the home cure for stomache ailments. A common combination of yogurt is with fried food, particularly fritters. Dahi barah is a commonly had as a snack on the street or as a side dish at home. However, the recipe I would like to share today is Karhi; fritters in spiced yogurt gravy.
This is one of the few cooked dishes where yogurt is front and center. It is a delicious complete, one dish meal that is best savored simply with steamed, basmatic rice. As a child, my day was made if Karhi was on the menu. I still have frequent craving for this dish. It is visually appealing with the bright, mustardy yellow color (from the turmeric), the silky texture on my tongue and fingers is a joy, the spicy yet soothing taste takes me back to simpler times and happy, chattering dining tables of old.
Whip 2 cup of yogurt until smooth and creamy. Taste to see if the yogurt is on the sour side. If not, squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Also add 1/2 cup chickpea flour, 1 medium onion chopped, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/2 tsp. ground garlic, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Combine the ingredients by gradually adding water (about 1 cup) and keep mixing into a smooth paste.
Pour the mixture into a pan and cook covered on medium-low heat for about 2 hours. Keep stirring and adding water as desired. I usually end up adding about 2 cups more over the cooking period. The end gravy consistency should be loose, not too thick.
Separately, combine 1 cup chickpea flour with 3/4 cup water in a mixing bowl and whip thoroughly. To this add, 1 medium chopped raw onion, 2-3 sliced green chillies, 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of baking powder and salt. Mix again and let sit to settle for 1/2 hour or so. When the gravy is about ready, prepare the fritters. Scoop up a spoonful and drop into a wok of hot oil.
When golden brown, remove from the oil and place on an absorbent kitchen paper towel. Repeat till all the mixture is used up. Now, transfer the fritters to the yogurt gravy. Turn off heat and remove. For the tempering, add 2 tbsp. oil to a preheated pan. Throw in 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2 cloves garlic sliced, whole red chillies split in half and 5-6 curry leaves. Let the mixture sizzle and the garlic turn golden, then pour over the main dish and cover to smoke. Serve with white basmati rice.