Indian Flavor Every Day

Simple Recipes and Smart Techniques to Inspire: A Cookbook

About the Book

Introduce rich, complex Indian flavors to your everyday cooking with 80 easy recipes and ingenious guidance from Julia Child Best First Book Award winner Maya Kaimal.

In Indian Flavor Every Day, Indian cooking authority Maya Kaimal proves it’s possible to experience the joy of this cuisine with minimal time and just a handful of essential ingredients like spices, ghee, and dried chilies. She distills foundational flavor-building methods, like creating spice blends and sizzling whole seeds in oil to release their essence, and applies them to accessible, versatile ingredients any home cook has on hand.
These adaptable techniques open a world of possibility as you’ll not only whip up traditional dishes but also amp up the flavors of your favorite ingredients or meals whenever a craving strikes. Why not swirl some popped mustard seeds into a butternut squash soup or top ho-hum steamed broccoli with a crispy garlic-chili-cumin tarka? How about serving charred carrots with a gingery yogurt sauce next to your roasted chicken, or adding a pinch of garam masala to your cookie dough?
With many vegetarian, gluten-free, and wholesome, hearty offerings, Indian Flavor Every Day includes both simplified classic dishes and new twists. Recipes like Golden Noodles with Tarka Crunch, Roasted Asparagus with Tamarind and Crispy Shallots, and deeply flavorful Chicken Chettinad with Black Pepper Coconut Masala are designed to build your confidence and spark inspiration, so incredible new flavors can become an everyday pleasure.
Embrace the simple tips in this book, purchase a few ingredients for your pantry, and Maya Kaimal promises that Indian flavors can be woven into your meals with delicious ease.
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Praise for Indian Flavor Every Day

“Maya Kaimal loves to cook traditional Indian dishes with inventive twists, from smearing tandoori marinade on cauliflower steaks to adding garam masala in the pastry crust of a chocolate tart. The 240-page cookbook is filled with recipes that reflect her cooking style. Get a feel for tarka techniques and masala mixing to embark on your own adventures in the kitchen.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Every year we try to widen our skillset in the kitchen and there’s no more enjoyable way to keep our low-key resolution by diving head-first into a simple, yet obscure (to us) method. . . . This year we’re planning on exploring the warm pages of Maya Kaimal’s Indian Flavor Every Day to keep our kitchen curiosity alive.”—Tasting Table

“‘Every day’ might make you think these recipes are dumbed down. But the thing about Indian food is that it is made every day. Kaimal reminds readers that ‘Indian food’ is not a monolith, and that it is only complicated if you want it to be.”—Eater

“The assiduously sculpted recipes in Maya Kaimal’s Indian Flavor Every Day promise not only a kitchen filled with captivating aromas and delicious food, but a suite of transformative techniques to bolster a home cook’s roster of skills—for example, tarka, the process of sizzling whole spices in oil to amplify and distribute their flavors, resulting in a much bigger bang for your spice-rack buck.”—The Wall Street Journal

“For years, I have relied on Maya for insights into Indian cooking, and Indian Flavor Every Day captures so many of the foundational techniques that have made me a better cook. This book clearly distills the vast knowledge of so many Indian cooks into clear, actionable recipes to inspire cooking on any night of the week.”—Chris Morocco, Bon Appétit food director

“I’ve been cooking from Maya’s work for twenty years, and I’m thrilled to have a whole new batch of recipes that will inhabit my kitchen for the next twenty years!”—Amanda Hesser, founder of Food52

“Maya Kaimal needs no introduction; she isa household name all over America. Indian Flavor Every Day does . . . is an amazing compilation created from a lifetime of celebrating the beauty of one of the most ancient and diverse cuisines in the world.”—Maneet Chauhan, chef, restaurateur, and author of Chaat

“Simple yet not simplistic, Maya Kaimal’s latest book is great for anyone looking to add more South Asian flavors into their rotation. Maya concisely coaches you through the cuisine’s foundations and then makes them stick with flavorful keepers.”—Andrea Nguyen, author of Vietnamese Food Any Day and Ever-Green Vietnamese

“This brilliant and beautiful book breaks down Maya’s way of cooking Indian food into easy-to-understand nuggets of information that can be applied to almost every recipe.”—Susan Spungen, author of Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings

Indian Flavor Every Day is a modern-day classic. Maya Kaimal is a gifted teacher who empowers you to cook Indian food with confidence. The book is a brilliant collection of irresistible recipes with a wealth of kitchen tips that will elevate your cooking.”—Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge
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Indian Flavor Every Day

Indian Flavor in Our Lives

Indian food has always fascinated me, from watching my aunty in her South Indian kitchen as a girl to dreaming up new products for the company I founded nearly twenty years ago. Every day I’m either cooking it, eating it, reading or writing about it, or growing a business around it—often all of the above. So when I hear trend forecasters claim year after year that Indian will be the Next Big Cuisine, I just smile. Because even though I suspect it will never have one bust-out moment, Indian food is being seen—and not just in a tiny section of the supermarket or on take-out menus. Thanks to the legions of Indian food writers who are lending their perspectives to print and social media, and to the chefs who are getting bolder about sharing their regional and homestyle versions of Indian dishes, this vivid cuisine is now getting the love it deserves, in all its complex glory.

At the same time that Indian food is moving into the mainstream conversation, Americans are cooking and eating in ways that are rapidly changing. The pandemic encouraged us all to cook at home more and stretch our skills, and we are naturally moving toward eating more plants and fewer animals—something Indians have been doing for millennia. In our new normal we need inspiration for dinner more than ever, and that’s where Indian food comes to the rescue!

In Indian Flavor Every Day, I aim to help you take pleasure in putting Indian flavors on your table in all kinds of ways, just as I’ve always done with my business, Maya Kaimal Foods, where my goal is to make delicious, quality Indian food both convenient and approachable. While time-saving solutions can be lifesavers, cooking from scratch—with all its aromas, pops, and sizzles—brings its own rewards, turning a daily ritual into an opportunity for discovery and delicious surprises. The recipes here reflect my personal ongoing quest to weave Indian flavors into my family’s Western mealtime routine. Why not swirl some popped mustard seeds into a butternut squash soup? How about serving charred carrots with a gingery yogurt sauce next to your roasted chicken, or add a pinch of garam masala to your cookie dough?

Indian food has a reputation for being intimidating. The key to doing all of this with confidence lies in understanding a few simple techniques that I lay out for you in these pages. Before you know it, you’ll be mixing up masalas (spice blends) and sautéing them with care to soften their raw edges. I’ll show you how toasting shredded coconut adds a new dimension to your cooking. I’ll give you foolproof tips for cooking flavorful dals. And you’ll love making one of the foundations of Indian flavor—tarka, where you sizzle whole spices in oil, opening up an entire universe of possibility for seasoning food with ease. Some recipes employ the tarka technique as a first step to give your cooking oil a lively boost, while others use it at the end as an exhilarating garnish. It’s a wonderful method, and I hope you’ll want to start using it all the time, like I do! As you purchase a few ingredients for your pantry and embrace the techniques in this book, I promise you will soon have a comfort level with Indian food you didn’t believe was possible.

Indian recipes are also known for requiring many ingredients and steps. To address the often intimidatingly long ingredient list, I did a few things: I limited the use of ingredients that aren’t essential to a good outcome, and I broke the ingredient list into segments with headings, like “Tarka” or “Sauce,” to show you at a glance how to build the dish. Furthermore, these headings clearly correspond to the steps in the method. I also identify the main “masala” for each dish that has a spice blend, because spices are the heart and soul of Indian food, and when you know how to use them, you understand why Indian food is a symphonic weave of notes and layers, creating its own unique taste. By highlighting the blends you will quickly know the dish’s flavor profile: will it be simple or complex, hot or gentle? Once you understand the role of the masala, and how the ingredient groupings work together to build flavor, the ingredient list will seem less daunting.

Unlike when I was growing up, most of the key ingredients in Indian cuisine, like coconut milk, coconut oil, ghee, basmati rice, cilantro, and fresh chilies, are now supermarket staples. There are a few specialized items you will not find at the grocery store, but I have kept them to a minimum. Fortunately, items such as fresh curry leaves, brown or black mustard seeds, tamarind, and chickpea flour are often carried by health food stores, while other things like chaat masala and urad dal will need to be purchased at an Indian market or online. See the Sources section on page 31 for a guide to what you can get where. And with the exception of fresh curry leaves and fresh green chilies, all the ingredients have long shelf lives, so once you have them in your pantry, you can easily pull together the dishes in this book.

The recipes in Indian Flavor Every Day are a mix of traditional dishes and twists on those traditions, because that’s my favorite way to cook. Some traditional recipes, like lamb kofta, pakoras, dal tarka, saag paneer, chicken Chettinad, and pork vindaloo, have withstood the test of time for good reason. And though they have been streamlined to remove the harder-to-obtain ingredients, the essence of these long-established favorites remains true, and when you make them, you will know immediately why they are so well loved.

The “twist” category of recipes begins with classic ideas that get used in my kitchen in new ways, like brushing a tandoori marinade on cauliflower steaks, or drizzling tamarind chutney on asparagus, or making a veggie burger out of bonda, a favorite Indian street snack. Since forever, cooks have been applying well-honed techniques to new ingredients, so now I’m sharing my favorites with you. And since it feels like we’re all on a neverending quest to make our vegetables interesting, many of the recipes here give you new ways to think about your produce, from cauliflower to green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or whatever looks good at your local farmers’ market. Each becomes something special when you apply the Indian touch. 

I am especially excited to share the dessert recipes here. They don’t resemble traditional Indian sweets, but instead are familiar American dessert forms with a hint of India. For example, I put garam masala in the pastry crust of a chocolate tart, brush ghee and chai spices on grilled pineapple, and enhance pots de crème with South Indian coffee. And the cookie recipes offer subtle and satisfying spice flavors to complement any Indian-accented meal.

About the Author

Maya Kaimal
Maya Kaimal is an award-winning cookbook author and the founder of Maya Kaimal Foods. Her first book, Curried Favors, won the Julia Child First Book Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha Stewart TV, Food Network, and the Discovery Channel, and has written features for Saveur, Food & Wine, and Gourmet. More by Maya Kaimal
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