Friday, April 1, 2011

Kobi nu kachumber

One thing I have been experimenting with lately is Asian salads.  I have a number of cookbooks which feature many such salads, including Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian and Hema Parekh's The Asian Vegan Kitchen.  It's from the latter that this dish originates.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to find this recipe or any of its near cousins online, but I'll post this anyway as a plug for Ms. Parekh's book, which I absolutely love, except for the unfortunately tiny font used for the ingredient lists.  But that's a quibble.  If you can get a copy of this book, you can make this dish exactly as prescribed.  If you're an experimenter, you can wing it and no doubt you'll succeed very well!

A kachumber is a chopped vegetable salad, and if you search for recipes, you'll find many delicious-sounding ones online.  In many Indian salads, what we would call dressing is called "tempering" because (I'm guessing) it's cooked and poured warm onto the salad as you'd add a tarka to a dal.

This lovely salad features red and white cabbage and hot green chili as the vegetable base.  Shred this fine--I use the shredding blade of a food processor, put in a chunk of cabbage and don't press down, just let the weight of the lid and gravity create the finest possible shreds.  As you probably know, raw shredded cabbage will keep for several days in a container, so I would make the whole recipe, but keep the vegetables and the tempering separate until just before I was ready to eat.  This way, it's easy and painless to have salad for lunch at work, for instance. 

Cabbage!  Such a prosaic name for such a gorgeous and tasty vegetable.  To make the tempering, place a little vegetable oil in a very very small pan.  I have a tiny cast iron frying pan, about 3 inches in diameter, that I bought just to make tarkas in, and this is perfect.  When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds:

As soon as the seeds start to sputter, you add some tumeric, asafetida, cayenne, and curry leaves and fry for just a few seconds more:

Drizzle this mixture over the salad, then add crushed peanuts, coriander, and a little lemon juice.  Salad heaven!  As with so many dishes in which it is featured, in my opinion the curry leaves just make this dish.  However, it's certainly very tasty without, and most of the recipes online don't include it as an ingredient.


  1. très frais et très C0L0REE !!!!!!!!!!!!miammm

  2. This sounds so fresh and crunchy — yet warm and comforting from the cooked dressing. Not to mention it provides the perfect excuse to obtain yet another cool kitchen necessity — a tiny cast iron pan. Sigh.

  3. Thanks, poucinette! I don't know much about nutrition, but you can't go wrong with a rainbow palette in my opinion :-)

    And yes, Andrea, every cook should have one of those tiny frying pans. They are so cute and so very useful. Nobody believes it but they are. For roasting a teaspoon of sesame seeds, for tarka, for these little dressings, for making annatto oil...