Punjabi Kadhi Yum

Kadhi is a very popular and a staple dish of India.  Different parts of India have their own version.  Sindhi kadhi has veggies in it; people from the state of Haryana put green chickpeas in theirs; South Indians also put veggies in theirs including squash, carrots, peas and potatoes; Rajasthani and Gujarati kadhi is usually a little on the thinner side while the Gujaratis also add okra in theirs on occasion and the Punjabi’s add pakoras to their version of kadhi.
I’m a Gujarati and so I’ve been raised on the thinner version of kadhi.  Even then, there is no one version.  Kadhi is usually yellow in color from the turmeric added to it but Gujaratis make a version without the turmeric in it and more sour yogurt is used – this type of kadhi is usually served at weddings.  Growing up it was one of my favorites and I would always ask my mom to make wedding kadhi when I was going home for the weekend.  I still call it that.  Yeah…. I know.

Just thinking of the word kadhi makes me reminisce home, comfort, and curling up with a warm bowl, eating it as a soup.  So when I married my Punjabi husband and was introduced to their version of Punjabi kadhi, my idea of kadhi came to a halt.  It was different from what I grew up with alright, being much thicker with more stuff in it than I was used to.  I think the biggest surprise, let’s say, that I had when having Punjabi kadhi was the pakoras that are put in it.

My idea of a pakora is eating it on a rainy day with a cup of chai in hand.  Needless to say, this one took a little getting used to.  But, I’ve come around I suppose.  And as usual, I’ve put my twist on it.
There was a lot of experimenting the type of pakoras I wanted to use and the spices.  I remember one of the first times I made this, one of my best friends from college, Ashi, had come over with her family.  She’s Punjabi too so I was hoping to use her as a taste tester.  I’m so glad I did because she helped me figure out which spice would work and that adding a little more will only enhance the flavor.
As for the pakoras, they are typically made from onion and potatoes but I wanted to give a “healthy” spin to something I’m frying (oxymoron, I know) so I decided to use spinach instead of potatoes.  And let me tell you, they taste sooooooo much better!
My biggest change to this traditional recipe:  I finish off cooking the pakoras in the oven.  This makes them crispy and won’t “melt” them in the kadhi.  When I first started making this dish, my pakoras would disintegrate into the kadhi because they were too soft.  I found that toasting them in the oven helps keep their shape and they do soften up when added to the kadhi so you don’t taste the crunch but I love the toasted red color it adds.
From my kitchen to yours, I hope you enjoy!

For the Kadhi:
1 c Besan (chickpea/gram flour)
2 c yogurt
1 med onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1″ ginger knob, grated
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
1 tsp cumin seeds (jheera)
3 dried red chilis, split in half
1 tsp turmeric
3-4 curry leaves
1 tsp cayenne pepper (Kashmiri Deggi Mirch)
1 ½ tsp coriander powder (dhania powder/ dhana jheeru)
1 ½ tsp cumin powder (jheera powder)
2 Tbsp Kasoori Methi
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt to taste

For the Pakoras:
1 lg yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 c spinach, roughly chopped
¾ c chickpea flour
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp salt
oil for frying

For the Kadhi:
In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk yogurt to a smooth consistency.  Add in the gram flour and continue whisking until all lumps are smoothed out.  Transfer to a deep pot, add in 4 cups of water, salt and turmeric.  Mix and simmer on low-medium heat.
In a pan, heat oil and add cumin seeds, dried red chili, fenugreek seeds.  Once the fenugreek seeds are light red in color, add in curry leaves and let cook for 30 seconds.  Add in the onions and sauté until they are golden brown.  About 5-6 minutes.  Add in the garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute.  Add in the cayenne pepper, coriander powder, cumin powder and mix well.  Let it cook for 2-3 minutes to so the spices bloom.
Add the onions to the kadhi and mix well.  Cook on low-medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  The kadhi will thicken as it cooks.  Add more water if it is too thick.  When it’s done, turn off stove and add in kasoori methi and stir.

For the Pakoras:
Add the onions and spices in a bowl and mix well.  Let it rest for about 20-25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Add in the spinach and gram flour and mix.  The water released from the onions will help bind the batter together.  It should be a little on the thicker/dry side but if it is too much, add water 1 tablespoon at a time.
Using a spoon, drop medium sized pakoras in hot oil to fry.  Pull them out when they are just under done and lay them on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
Transfer to a baking dish and bake for 5-7 minutes to make them crispy.

Add the pakoras to the kadhi and serve with steamed rice.