We talked about the importance and benefits of fermentation in our last class, but if you missed it or want a recap, here are the highlights!
Also, you can find the links to the dosa recipes here:
What is dosa?
Dosa is a savory crepe that is made from a batter of fermented rice and urad (black gram) dal. (Of note, idlis are steamed rice cakes made from the same batter). The fermentation process is key to the creation of a soft, fluffy batter which produces a delicious, crispy dosa. As we did some research into the details of the fermentation process of dosas, we found some fascinating information that we wanted to share.
What is fermentation?
The process of fermentation transforms food into other products using microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria. These microorganisms ferment the raw ingredients and produce byproducts which are very beneficial to the host.
For dosa fermentation, there are specific lactic acid bacteria that are present in small amounts in the raw ingredients (the rice and dal), and these are multiplied during the soaking process, then again during the resting process after grinding (see recipe for dosa).
Immune-boosting good bacteria
Several studies have isolated a variety of Lactobacillus strains from idli and dosa batter, and most studies isolated Leuconostoc mesenteroides as well. Studies have shown that these bacteria exert antimicrobial and antifungal properties, help to stabilize the environment of the digestive system, can help to better use cholesterol, and are immune boosting. Interestingly, the production of lactic acid from these bacteria inhibits the growth of common food pathogens such as B. cereus, S. aureus, and L. monocytogenes, as well as Salmonella, Shigella, and E.coli. Current research is focusing on further investigations of the beneficial effects of lactic acid bacteria.
Other nutritional benefits of fermentation
Other nutritionally important changes that occur during fermentation include an increase in B and C vitamins, and a decrease in phytate (the hard to digest component of legumes). Some studies have shown a nearly 50% decrease in phytates after fermentation of dosa batter. Additionally, methionine (an essential amino acid – meaning the body cannot produce it naturally and it must come from the diet) is significantly increased after fermentation of dosa batter and also improves the protein content of the final product.
Eating complete proteins
Together, rice and dal create a “complete protein”, meaning the combination contains all 20 of the essential amino acids that our body needs. Legumes contain the amino acid lysine which is lacking in rice, and rice is high in methionine and cysteine, which is lacking in legumes. It is amazing how our ancestors instinctively knew how to combine various foods to optimize the nutritional value!
Ayurveda and digestion
A quick final note about the importance of the digestive system in Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, Agni, the digestive fire, is both the literal and figurative center of your lifeforce. If your digestive health is strong and balanced, the rest of your body can thrive. If your digestive health is weak, you can accumulate toxins (ama) from improperly digested foods. Added fermented foods regularly to the diet is one way to nourish your gut and has been done for centuries. It is amazing to look at the science behind food, and learn how you can truly achieve optimum health through a well-balanced diet.
Ghosh D, Chattopadhyay P. Preparation of idli batter, its properties and nutritional improvement during fermentation. Journal of food science and technology. 2011;48(5):610-615. doi:10.1007/s13197-010-0148-4.
Agaliya PJ, Jeevaratnam K. Molecular characterization of lactobacilli isolated from fermented idli batter. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology. 2013;44(4):1199-1206.
Tamang JP, Shin D-H, Jung S-J, Chae S-W. Functional Properties of Microorganisms in Fermented Foods. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016;7:578. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00578.
National Research Council (US) Panel on the Applications of Biotechnology to Traditional Fermented Foods. Applications of Biotechnology to Fermented Foods: Report of an Ad Hoc Panel of the Board on Science and Technology for International Development. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1992. 5, Lactic Acid Fermentations.Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234703/
Rhee SJ, Lee J-E, Lee C-H. Importance of lactic acid bacteria in Asian fermented foods. Microbial Cell Factories. 2011;10(Suppl 1):S5. doi:10.1186/1475-2859-10-S1-S5.
Looking back at our first full year as a business has been so much fun! We reached many milestones, learned many lessons, and thoroughly enjoyed creating this project as a family. Most of all, we’ve really enjoyed interacting with all of you through our classes, markets, events, and online. We love seeing how you’ve recreated our family’s dishes, and what twists you’ve added. Please keep sharing with us!
In 2018, we hope to grow and stretch even more. We plan to start commercial distribution of our prepared meals, introduce new meals at our markets, continue with our classes, and grow our blog to include more health and nutrition information. Your support means so much to us, and please let us know what you’d like to see us do this year!
2017 Year in Review
- Hosted 14 classes, each featuring a different topic and menu
- Gave a talk about South Indian cuisine at Penn Museum for Hello, India
- Launched our prepared-foods line and MasalaMixes at Artisan Exchange
- Served as a vendor at Rehoboth Beach Veg Fest
- Participated in weekly farmers’ markets at Artisan Exchange and Kennett Square Market
- Hosted a Pop-Up dinner and a Pop-Up lunch
- Provided food for Women In Leadership of Greater Philadelphia Fundraiser
- Featured on FYI Philly
We are thankful for the opportunities to collaborate with the following organizations:
- Artisan Exchange
- Kennett Square Farmers Market
- Culinary Literacy Center at the Free Library of Philadelphia
- Women in Leadership of Greater Philadelphia
- First Unitarian Church of Wilmington
- Veg Rehoboth
- Anchor Life & Fitness
- Penn Museum
- FYI Philly
You’ve probably seen this “weed” growing in your garden. It has a pretty red stem, yellow flowers, and succulent- leaves. Its botanical name is Portulaca oleracea, but in Kannada, our native language, it is called Goni Soppu. This plant is so easy to grow (and can become invasive at times, which is why some consider it a weed), and has numerous health benefits. It contains the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids found in plants, and also contains very high amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as two betalain alkaloid pigments which are antioxidants. This plant is very commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases such as blood pressure. The leaves can be made into a poultice as a topical treatment for insect bites and sores. We love using food as medicine!
Purslane is high in oxalates, so eat with caution if you are prone to kidney stones, gout, or have kidney disease.
(Resources available if desired)
We like making a simple side dish with this, and the recipe is below. However, the leaves have a great peppery flavor, and are delicious raw or lightly sautéed and added to a salad.
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 cups of purslane chopped
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 Hungarian or Banana peppers (a mild pepper works best), thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup grated coconut or coconut flakes
Add mustard seeds once oil is hot. The seeds should pop and splutter
Then add the peppers and saute for a minute
Add purslane and saute for another minute
Add salt, lemon juice, and coconut
Saute until leaves and stem are soft
Enjoy by itself, with a whole grain, on toasted bread, or with chapati
I'm embarrassed to admit that until I met my husband 5 years ago, Memorial Day meant a 3 day break from work or school, sales, and the unofficial start of Summer. I always knew it was a day to remember those who have died while serving our country, but I didn't truly GET it. Then, I married a man in the Air Force, moved to a military base, and had the privilege of caring for both active duty service members and veterans. Just talking with a patient of mine last week who is a veteran reminded me that Memorial Day is one of the most painful days of the year for some. When I asked him how I can help, he said to simply remind him of all we have to be thankful for. As I've gotten to know many military families on a very personal level, I'm amazed at the gratitude for small things that seems to fuel them through many tough situations.
So, this Memorial Day, I'm going to take my patient's advice and be grateful for everyone and everything I do have. I am grateful to spend the day with loved ones. Grateful to cook together, sharing old memories and creating new. Grateful for some time off work to relax and replenish. Grateful for the luxury to even think of such things. If my luck (or circumstances, or karma, or whatever you may call it) was just a smidge different, I wouldn't be where I am today. But today, I am so grateful for where I am, and that gratitude will always be enough.
And, Masala Meals friends, we are so grateful for you and your support! Most of all, we are indebted to our fallen service members and their families for allowing us the freedom to pursue these dreams. Hope you all have a reflective Memorial Day!
Happy Ugadi! And exciting news (keep reading)!
Today marks the New Year according to the lunar calendar in Karnataka (the state in India from which our family originates). We celebrate the arrival of Spring, appreciate the vigor and vibrance of nature, and reflect upon the past year. Most families celebrate by eating special food, decorating the house with rangoli (see below from Hello, India! at Penn Museum), and spending time with family. This year, although we could not be together, we each made shavige payasa - vermicelli pudding. The dish only takes 15 minutes to make, but the sweet aroma of saffron and buttery taste brings back years of memories. It’s amazing how food can truly transport you to another time! If you want to try the recipe at home, you can find it at http://www.cookmasalameals.com/recipe-box/shavige-payasa.
As today is an auspicious day to start a new venture, we have an exciting announcement. Our business is officially 1 year old (hooray!). We have had a BLAST this past year, and this project has grown faster than expected. To kickoff year 2, we have joined the team at Artisan Exchange in West Chester, PA, and will be manufacturing and distributing our MasalaMixes and prepared dishes! We are so excited to join other food entrepreneurs and grow our business. Check out their weekly market on Saturdays from 10-2 for delicious, homemade food with flavors from all over the world. Come say hi when you stop by! We are working on the website to get the store functional, but in the meantime, send us a message if you’d like to purchase our MasalaMixes (which are now officially available).
Our mission stays the same - we hope to inspire you to cook healthful, flavorful, and plant-based meals at home. Our hope is that MasalaMixes makes this easy. We are incredibly thankful for your support, enthusiasm, and curiosity and look forward to cooking with you!
Thank you to everyone who joined us on Sunday for the Excited for Eggplant class! We had a lot of fun cooking with you all, learning more about heart-healthy foods, introducing our Palya MasalaMix, and enjoying a delicious meal. We are so thrilled to hear that a few of you have already recreated the dishes. Please keep sharing your kitchen adventures with us!
At a time when headlines, news feeds, and rallies are reminding us of how different we are, I am trying to find what brings us together and makes us similar to one another. I have worked in a job that has allowed me to travel around this beautiful world we inhabit together, and nothing has shown me the kindness, graciousness, and warmth of the human spirit like food.
I will always remember the kindness of my friend Tufan, an exchange student from Turkey. Tufan and I worked in the same lab while we were conducting research for our theses. Our experiments would often carry on into the late night and very early morning. We would take turns bringing caffeinated drinks in for each other - I would bring a thermos of chai, he would bring pots of Turkish tea. We became brothers over our tea breaks, talking about our families, our future dreams, and our anticipation for graduation. I even bought my own Turkish teapots, and am fondly reminded of him each time I use them.
When we cook and eat together, even if we do not speak the same language, we are mutually deciding to share a wonderful experience. The flavors, spices, and food traditions from around the world are amazing ways to enrich one’s life. Personally, many of my fondest memories involve a meal of some sort. Universally across cultures, the meal is the backbone of a holiday. When we reflect back to years past, we often remember family members by their signature dishes.
If you are feeling anxious about what you are seeing in the news, what your friends are tweeting and posting, then do yourself a favor: Turn off the TV, put away the phone, and grab someone with whom to share a meal. As the Irish proverb says, “ Laughter is the brightest place where food is.”
Happy Makar Sankranti! Today marks an important festival for our family and in India - the festival of the Sun. On January 14th, the Sun begins its transition into the Capricorn zodiac signifying the arrival of warmer and longer days, and the end of farming season. This harvest festival is also referred to as Pongal, which literally means “to boil over”. Freshly harvested rice and daal are cooked together in an earthen pot until they boil over - this is an auspicious sign for the family.
In Karnataka, the birthplace of our family, Ellu-Bella is also prepared. Ellu-Bella is like a trail mix made of roasted white sesame seeds, split chickpeas, and peanuts mixed with dried coconut flakes and pieces of jaggery. Children visit friends and neighbors to exchange Ellu-Bella and share good wishes. Since the festival is celebrated in mid-winter, the food is especially high in protein and warming flavors. The oils found in the nuts also provide much needed moisture to the body.
Makar Sankranti is also a celebration both of movement (of the planet) and stillness (of the Sun). We strive for a balance of movement and stillness within ourselves while we embrace the New Year. The steady presence of the Sun is a reminder to appreciate the steadiness and light of the consciousness and balance within each of us.
We wish you a Happy Sankranti, and hope you enjoy our recipes for Pongal made with Steel-Cut Oats, and Dal Payasa (check out our Recipe Gallery)!