Indian Appetizers Guests Will Gleefully Gobble

Chefs, Cooking, Recipes, Restaurants, Videos By Oct 01, 2014

Serve these to guests and they’ll gobble them down with gusto.

Snacking is a part of everyday life in India.  I was delighted to find a wide variety of delectable chaats (savory street-style snacks) at ADYA restaurant at the Anaheim Packing House. ADYA’s chef-owner, Shachi Mehra, has a talent for combining tradition with innovation.

Her avocado raita is one example – one very delicious example.

Typically the condiment is made with plain yogurt, herbs, chilies and spices; often cucumbers are also included in the ingredient list. But in Mehra’s kitchen, a cucumber-free version is whirled with generous amounts of ripe avocados, making it creamy smooth and irresistibly rich.


Move over guacamole, her raita topping is a contender.


Here’s a short video that shows how easy this dish is to prepare … really!

THANKS to CURT NORRIS for photos and videos.

One way she uses her raita is atop masala papad, a salad-like concoction that is served on crisp poppadums; imagine an Indian version of tortilla chips topped with a mouth-watering vegetable concoction and garnished with tangy guac.


Shachi used watermelon radishes. You can use other radish varieties.

Poppadums are the foundation of the dish; they become blistered and cracker-crisp when flame toasted. Also referred to as papads, at first glance the plain ones look something like fried-and-wavy flour tortillas. They are made of lentils and can be used like brittle tortilla chips for dipping or spreading.


Mehra joined me in my home kitchen to show how to prepare these dishes. Of course she made it look easy, joking that in India a perfectly toasted poppadum, one without any scorch marks, is a sign that a woman is ready for marriage. She said that they can also be toasted in the oven or microwave, two options that require much less skill.

Best Gizmos: To whirl the raita, you can use a food processor or a high-speed blender. To remove avocado flesh from the skin, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Keep a small electric coffee grinder to use specifically for grinding spices. It is best to use a mandolin slicing device when cutting the radishes for the salad because it cuts such thin slices.

Avocado Raita
Yield: about 5 cups
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, divided use
3 cups plain Greek-style yogurt, nonfat is OK, divided use
Salt to taste
4 ripe avocados, seeded, scooped from the skin
1/4 to 1 green chili, unseeded, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1. On medium heat, toast cumin seeds until one shade darker and fragrant, shaking handle to redistribute seeds from time to time. Place on plate to cool. Grind in spice grinder or place in zipper-style plastic bag and pound with mallet or bottom of a saucepan until ground. Use 1/4 teaspoon in this recipe and 1/2 teaspoon in the Masala Papad (recipe follows); leftover toasted cumin can be refrigerated airtight and used in a variety of dishes.
2. Puree 1 cup yogurt, salt and avocadoes in food processor or high-speed blender. Add remaining yogurt and puree until smooth and totally blended. Transfer to bowl and using a whisk, stir in chili, cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon toasted ground cumin and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Masala Papad
Yield: 4 servings
2 ears fresh corn, roasted until caramelized, kernels removed from cob
1 small watermelon radish or red radish, trimmed, cut into very thin slices, mandolin sliced preferred
1 small skin-on cucumber, Persian or English (hothouse) preferred, diced
1 teaspoon minced unseeded Serrano chili (use less if a less spicy version is preferred)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chaat masala
1/2 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 toasted poppadums (plain, or with black pepper), see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: Uncooked poppadums and chaat masala are sold at Indian Sweets and Spices Market in Tustin. If you are using a gas stove, set the flame at medium-high. Holding 1 poppadum with a pair of tongs, flip it back and forth over the open flame until bumps start to appear on the surface and the poppadum turns light brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remember to shift the tongs in order to toast the part initially covered by them. Repeat with the remaining poppadums. Set them aside to cool. (Note that I find it easier on my stove to use tongs in both hands and hold the poppadum about 1 inch from the flame, turning frequently). OR, if you prefer, broil them in the oven. Place rack as close as possible to heating element, and preheat the broiler to high. Toast the poppadums until bumps appear on the surface and they turn light brown, 1 to 2 minutes. There is no need to turn them. Set them aside to cool. Microwaving poppadums on high power for 30 seconds to 1 minute is also an option. The poppadums will turn crisp and brittle as they cool. You can store them (cooled) in airtight plastic zipper style bags at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (but I bet they will be gone long before that).
1. Toss all ingredients except the poppadums in bowl; taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Place poppadums in single layer on platter or four individual plates. Top with corn mixture and serve; pass avocado raita for topping. Guests can break the poppadums into pieces and eat them using  their hands.
Source: Shachi Mehra, ADYA restaurant, Anaheim Packing House, Anaheim



… Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …


Pickled turnips are a great way to showcase the tasty root.

Serve them alongside pate, or include them on a cheese board.

Quick Turnip Pickles
Makes about 1 quart
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced
1 fresh thyme sprig
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar or for milder version – seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound small turnips, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into wedges
Cook’s notes: I like to add a couple of cooked beets along with a little of their juice to stain the turnips pink.
1. Combine the garlic, herbs and spices, salt, water, vinegar, and olive oil in large saucepan. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Add turnips and stir. Bring to a boil on high heat; lower heat and simmer gently for 8 minutes (turnips should still be firm). Cool the pickles in the brine, then refrigerate overnight (airtight) before serving. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.


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