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
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
- 1 tsp. garam masala powder
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp. ginger, chopped
- 1 tbsp. garlic, chopped
- 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.
- Separately, make a chickpea flour and water slurry.
- Add this to the yogurt along with the turmeric, cayenne, garam masala, salt, black pepper. Mix and set aside.
- In a heavy pre-heated pan, add oil and then cumin and mustard seeds. Let it sizzle and add then add fenugreek and allow it to get slight color.
- Next add onions and let edges brown. Add ginger and garlic and finally, the red chillies and curry leaves, these will sputter. Cook for another 10-15 seconds.
- Once the ingredients have a deeper color (keeping the heat at medium will prevent burning), add the yogurt mix and add more water if needed.
- Bring to a boil, cover and turn down heat. Cook for 20-25 minutes.
- Squeeze in the lemon juice to add brightness.
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!