An evergreen, soul food. Karhi combines crunchy pakora (fritter) with a vivid, velvety yogurt sauce and pops of flavor from the herbs and seeds to become one of the most appealing and interesting of dishes. To me, for some reason, this dish is sophisticated and uniquely female.
Traditionally, karhi is the main dish, eaten with fluffy basmati rice. I like to re-imagine it as an hors d’oeuvre, an appetizer with a dip, to highlight the deliciousness of the lentil fritter and the sauce separately and harmoniously.
- 1/2 cup split urad dal + 1/2 cup yellow moong dal*, soaked overnight or minimum 4 hours
- 2 tbsp. rice flour
- 1 tbsp. ginger, grated
- 4 thai green chilies, chopped
- handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
- salt to taste
- Oil, peanut or light olive oil, enough for deep frying
- Chives, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups yogurt
- 6 tbsp. chickpea flour
- 2 onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp. ginger, chopped
- 1 tbsp. garlic, chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
- 1/2 tsp. garam masala
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
- 3-4 dried red chilies, whole
- curry leaves, a sprig
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- In a blender, pulse the soaked dals till a smooth paste. Keep adding water to get the right consistency. Should not be runny.
- Add the onion, ginger, chilies, coriander, and salt. Fold in with a silicon spatula.
- Heat the oil is a wok till the surface is shimmering.
- With a large spoon, gently drop in the mixture till the wok is full.
- Move around with a mesh strainer till golden brown.
- Remove from heat.
- Whisk the yogurt till smooth and creamy. Add chickpea flour and water till well blended and without lumps.
- Transfer to a heavy dish, add the onion, ginger, garlic, fenugreek, turmeric, cayenne, salt and more water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for an hour to ensure all the ingredients are cooked through. Keep stirring and adding water as needed.
- Squeeze in the lemon juice to add brightness and use a blender (handheld is most convenient) to make a smooth sauce.
- Separately, heat the tempering oil and when hot, add the cumin, mustard seeds, and chilies till fragrant (15-20 seconds). Then add the curry leaves, these will sputter so be careful. Fry for another 10 seconds.
- Remove mixture and add to the sauce, cover to let smoke in the flavored oil for a few seconds and then mix well.
Serve the fritters separately with a drizzle of the sauce and a sprinkling of chives. A generous portion of the sauce on the side will never get ignored!