Weekend Project: Make the Refreshing Indian Salad Koshimbir
Chef Smita Deo shares a recipe from the coastal corners of India.
I like to think of koshimbir as a vegetarian ceviche. All juiced up, accidentally cured veggies lie in flavourful juices, and sometimes a cold pool of yogurt. They are raw, tender to bite, crunchy in some parts with additions of peanut powder, tempered lentils, chillies, and other condiments that go into its making.
For me, a koshimbir is a fresh, cold salad made with basic pantry ingredients, those that will be in my kitchen at all points of time. What a panzanella is to an Italian home, a koshimbir is to my home. Both are made with an intention to use up extra ingredients that may have been lying around for long. I eat a koshimbir with a bowl of khichdi, a lentil and rice-based porridge and poppadoms, a fried snack, crisped on an open flame.
The beauty of koshimbir lies in its versatility. It not only changes ingredients, depending on which part of the country you’re eating it in, it also changes pronunciation. From where I come from, in Maharashtra, it is called koshimbir. In the state of Gujarat, it’s called kachumber, in Karnataka it’s kosambari, and in Tamil Nadu it’s kosumalli—all regions either on the West or South-West coast of India.
“All of these mean the same thing—it’s a salad!” says Smita Deo, television chef and author of Karwar to Kolhapur via Mumbai. “It may or may not have yogurt, some are tempered and some are not, some have add-ons like peanut powder, pinch of roasted cumin powder. Each family, depending on which state they hail from, will pick their koshimbir ingredients.” Deo explains that when this raw salad has yogurt, it can also be called a “raita,” when the veggies are muddled, it is called “bharit.”
The great Indian spice infusion chhonk is sometimes used to liven up this salad, in a technique called tempering. My favorite, the Maharashtrian style of koshimbir, may or may not be tempered. In Karnataka, it is unfailingly tossed in a tempering. In Tamil Nad, it is cooked in the hot seasoning itself. The Gujarati one has no tempering and is eaten raw, with a dash of cumin powder and even chaat masala. The vegetables release their own water when mixed with salt and this water is seldom drained out—it’s even poured onto the food for maximum flavour.
To make your summer side, which can be eaten with anything from an Indian paratha, lemon rice, a pilaf, as a side at your dip and chip party, here’s what you need.
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- 1 cup yoghurt
- ½ onion
- 1 tomato
- 1 cucumber
- 4 Tablespoons carrot
- 2 Tablespoons roasted peanuts (crushed)
- 1 Tablespoon coriander leaves (finely chopped)
- 1 pinch roasted cumin powder, salt as per taste
- 1 pinch mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 pinch asafoetida
- 4-5 curry leaves
- ½ green chili (finely chopped)
1. Finely chop onion, tomato, and cucumber and keep it aside. Grate the carrot.
2. In a bowl, whisk yogurt and add all the veggies to it.
3. In a pan, prepare a tempering. Heat oil and add mustard seeds. Once it begins to crackle, add asafoetida, curry leaves, and green chillies. Allow it to cook for 30 seconds.
4. Pour this tempering on the bowl of yogurt and finish with coriander leaves.
5. Season with salt and roasted cumin powder and serve cold.