Puja Mehta’s Indian Meal Kit

Simplifying Home-cooked Indian Cuisine


Tallitha Reese, photos by Jason Stuempges

Indian Meal Kit is the perfect introduction to cooking Indian cuisine for people looking to try something new, and for established lovers of Indian food, it serves as a convenient resource.

Described as “Indian food made simple” by owner Puja Mehta, Indian Meal Kits contain all the ingredients needed to make a healthy and delicious vegetarian meal for two to four people, including vegetables, spices, and cooking directions.

Mehta started Indian Meal Kit in 2016, after teaching some Indian cooking classes at the People’s Food Co-op in La Crosse. “People kept asking me where they could get ingredients,” says Mehta, “so I ended up putting together collections of spices for people to take home with them.”

Drawing inspiration from popular meal prep delivery companies such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, Mehta realized there was no option for something similar based around Indian cuisine. So with the help of family and the encouragement of friends, she started one. Now, Indian Meal Kits are available at Woodman’s and Festival in Onalaska, People’s Food Co-op in La Crosse, and at the company’s website, www.IndianMealKit.com.

Mehta, who grew up moving around India as a result of her father’s work, feels lucky to have gotten the chance to see the different regions of her native country and try the different foods. Now she incorporates that experience into her business. “In Indian restaurants, you mostly see foods from northern India, but there are so many other regions that have their own unique foods as well,” she says.

While the responses to Indian Meal Kits have been generally positive, a common misconception is that Indian food is very spicy. “Indian food doesn’t have to be spicy,” Mehta says. “It’s just like any other cooking–you control how spicy you want it to be.”

Indian Meal Kit also offers kits for chutneys, Indian desserts and beverages, including chai tea. Mehta will be discussing the history of chai as one of two guest presenters at the Franciscan Spirituality Center’s Tea & Hospitality event on January 27, 2018.

MORE

www.indianmealkit.com

GO

Tea & Hospitality

Jan. 27, 2018, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Franciscan Spirituality Center 920 Market St., La Crosse

Tickets $45 at http://www.fscenter.org/event.php?id=3558

Info: Click here

See Recipe Below:

Photo: Contributed.
Photo: Contributed.

Lemon Coconut Rice Recipe

By Puja Mehta

Lemon rice is one of the most common South Indian rice dishes. This is a delicious way to turn plain rice into an exotic dish, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to any meal. It is usually eaten by itself or with pickles and yogurt.

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

1 cup basmati rice

3 cups water

1 tablespoon ghee (Indian clarified butter) or butter

1 tablespoon Bengal gram dal (see notes)

1/8 teaspoon asafetida (optional) (see notes)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 whole red chilies, dried or fresh

1/4 cup peanuts or cashews

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

6 to 7 curry leaves (optional)

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1/2 cup fresh or dry coconut

1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)

1 to 2 teaspoons red chili (cayenne) powder (optional, if you like it spicy)

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

In a large bowl or fine mesh strainer, rinse the rice 3 times to remove excess starch. Add 3 cups of water to rice and set bowl aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the ghee over medium heat, then add the Bengal gram dal, asafetida, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, red chilies, nuts, turmeric, curry leaves and ginger. Fry for 4 minutes, or until the Bengal gram dal and nuts are golden brown and the raw smell of the dal is gone.

Add the rice and water to the saucepan and stir occasionally over medium-high heat until it starts boiling, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add coconut, brown sugar and chili powder (if using) and mix well. Slowly add lemon juice and stir two to three times.

Partially cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the rice for 3 more minutes.

Turn off the heat. Enjoy with plain yogurt or your favorite curry.

Notes:

Bengal Gram Dal is a split yellow lentil and is related to chickpeas/garbanzo beans. You can find this at Woodman’s in Onalaska and People’s Food Co-op in La Crosse.

Asafetida is a pungent spice made from the sap of a root vegetable in the carrot family. It is frequently used in Indian vegetarian cuisine. Its strong aroma dissipates when cooked, but it leaves behind a unique and deep flavor. It is still used in traditional medicine as a digestive aid and general prevention against disease. This spice will be available on Puja’s website, www.indianmealkit.com, in January 2018.

Tallitha Reese  author

Tallitha Reese is a freelance writer based in Cashton. She owns Words By Reese, a content creation and management business that you can learn more about at www.wordsbyreese.com.