Food Focus: Malai Kofta

Today we would like to focus on one of Jackson Diner’s favorite vegetarian dishes: the Malai Kofta. Deep fried potatoes in a thick, creamy sauce. Sounds too good to be healthy right? Malai Kofta is the perfect dish for wanting that “I’m eating junk food” feel and not feeling guilty because vegetables = healthy, right? Right.

Malai Kofta is the Indian version of meatballs, without the meat. The word “Kofta” derives from the Persian word “kūfta” ( کوفتن ) meaning meatball. The “malai” refers a South Asian term for “clotted cream”. This cream is created by indirectly heating up non-homogenized cow’s milk and letting it sit, which creates clots and layers of fat. These are removed upon a repeated process before using the cream. This dish was popularized during the Mughlai Empire, and considered part of the rich, flavorful Mughlai cuisine.

The kofta are made with potatoes, vegetables, and spices. The consistency of the potatoes and mixed ingredients are important, otherwise the ball won’t “stick together” for when it is deep fried. The sauce is usually a mixture of varying amounts of spices (coriander, cumin, paprika, tumeric), garlic, ginger, chili pepper(powder or crushed), paneer, cream, and crushed nuts. Some recipes add ghee as well. Covered in a rich, creamy sauce with varying levels of spice, we find these vege-balls are well worth the long preparation.

An excellent example of Malai Kofta from Maria’s Menu


Indian Food in America

For us Indian food lovers, the names and flavors of dishes such as Samosa Chat, Sag Paneer, Chicken Tikka and other Tandoor items have seeped into a state of common knowledge. However, it was not too long ago where Indian food was not as well known as it is today. As mentioned in our previous blog post, Jackson Diner was one of the first Indian restaurants established in our area Jackson Heights. That was only thirty or so years ago, which occurred as a blink of an eye for some and a long grueling trek for others.

What has Indian cuisine become today? Now there is an established area in New York City called Curry Hill dedicated to Indian restaurants. Jackson Diner itself started a second location near Union Square, giving our part of Indian culture and tradition. In only a span of a few decades, we have seen the rise of awareness and love for Indian cuisine.

In a recent article written by  Visi R. Tilak, the place of Indian food in the palate of Americans is noted from its previous obscure position to being celebrated and praised. While unfamiliar to many Americans, Indian food has an extensive range of flavors and creations to offer and inspire. In modern television cook shows you can see more Indian Chefs as a respected artisan  than before. Indian food is texture and ingredient driven, pushing the boundaries and combinations to create “harmonious flavor out of many ingredients”.

Indian cuisine has reached a point of recognition in America. From traditional ethnic dishes to the bold flavors of new Indian chefs, the taste and attraction that Indian food brings is undeniable.

A Taste of Lassi

Summer has finally arrived, bringing its hot, sweltering weather with it. During this time of season we all would just like to sit back and relax with a cool refreshing drink. While you are sitting down, enjoying your delicious Indian food, a perfect summer weather drink Jackson Diner offers is the classic Lassi.

What is Lassi?

Lassi is a yogurt drink that is made by blending together yogurt, water, and spices until frothy. It is good for fighting that summer heat and comes in a variety of plain, sweet, salted, spiced or with fruit such as the Mango Lassi. India being a culture associated with milk have considered this drink to be healthy, wholesome, and delicious. This probiotic thirst quencher has also been used in villages to prevent sickness by being taking multiple times a day.

Different parts of India specialize in the various forms of this drink:

Traditional Lassi: This is made with yogurt and spices, usually cumin. The yogurt is whisked with water and combined with the cumin to a delicious frothy state. For a more mild version lemon juice and mint can be added with the inclusion of less amount of salt.

Sweet Lassi: This form of lassi does not use spices and instead sweetens the yogurt mixture with sugar or rosewater. Fruit juices can also be used such as lemon or strawberry.

Mango Lassi: Mangos are fruit right? Why is it separate from “Sweet Lassi”? This is because Mango Lassi is a combination of yogurt, water and mango pulp. This rich, sweet drink has another version with all the ingredients blended with ice cream and served with pistachio seeds on top.

A delicious Mango Lassi from Jackson Diner

Lassi is a classic drink in Indian culture. Next time you enjoy your warm Indian food be sure to try this refreshing drink as well.