The new hipster kitchen tricks that Indian cooks already knew, part 2

 Following last week’s introduction to cool cooking, Indian-style, a fair few hipster kitchens might have got a lot hotter. From spice-tinged tipples to funky fruit and veg, I revealed how savvy South Asian gourmets may have paved the way for quite a few of the trends today’s ironically-attired, body art-beladen, achingly-hip kids claim to have created; quite probably from little more than thin air, a fat trust fund, and a lump of nutrient-exuding charcoal.

But some bandwagons set off long, long ago… and from rather further afield than East London…

Seeds & self-sufficiency

In trendy boroughs, allotment waiting lists are longer than a male hipster aspires his beard to grow. You can’t live a truly Good Life unless you’re growing your own – but there’s no need to stick to salad and boring Brit veg. Indian and Bangladeshi supermarkets sell seeds of all sorts, from broad flat ‘uri’ beans and gorgeous gourds to okra and lovely leaves like lal shak (red amaranth), all at pocket money prices that mean it’s not the end of the world if your green fingers can’t get them to grow once sown.

Superfood snacks

Surely you are aware that chia seeds are currently chi-chi; especially when they don those slippery coats in response to a good soaking. You’ll see similar seeds in sweet South Asian drink-cum-dessert, falooda; in India, those ‘tulsi’/ ‘tukmaria’/’sabji’ sweet basil seeds are thought to be wholly cooling for the system. Protein ball devotees, meanwhile, should swap their snacks for nutritious, delicious dry-fruits-and-nut-packed laddoos – just be sure to go easy on the ghee-laden, sugary celebratory sort.

Hot stuff

For an aspiring hipster, the pain of a surface-of-the-sun temperature chilli should come second to the pain of clocking someone with the same so-called ‘unique’ retro fashion find… and if tops it, you’re obviously not quite ice cool enough. Hot sauces are hot and that’s a fact – but it’s fiction that one needs to opt for overpriced American imports. Indian supermarkets offer some HASHTAG AMAZEBALLS examples – bonus points for the fact your friends won’t have come across any of them.

Fabulous fermentation

Kanchipuram idli South Indian Alfred Prasad Alice Griffiths

What do kvass, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir have in common? Apart from all beginning with ‘k’ and being considerably trendier-than-thou, they’re all fermented foodstuffs – thought to possess almost endless bodily benefits. In the subcontinent, fermented fare is found all over and at every time of day – whether you gee yourself up with a morning spoonful of ghee; snack on soft, spongy idlis, end a meal with a long lassi; or, indeed, consume any of the innumerable Indian fermented foods discussed here.

Dirty delicacies

Naanza chilli cheese pizza naan Abdul Yaseen Darbaar by Abdul London Indian restaurant woodfired tandoor

Naanza at Darbaar

Pulled-pork laden mac’n’cheese strewn with peanut-butter-stuffed jalapenos? Deep-fried bacon’n’Nutella bites? Is that the best you can do? Dive into the icy depths of an Indian supermarket freezer to discover some real dirty delights: chilli French fries, keema pizzas, and paneer poppers with chutney, to name a few. And proprietary potted noodles have nothing on a bowl of butter-lashed, masala-flavoured Maggi – ultra-comforting convenience food held hallowed by many an Indian household.

Feeling truly dirty? Click here to read about more crazy ‘curry’-flavoured foods of all kinds.

Getting in a pickle

Achar Pachranga Indian mix pickle

Forget farmers’ markets full of speccy, techie types vending pickles and preserves in gingham-draped jars, their hand-hewn labels lovingly affixed with lengths of hessian. For, for truly creative condiments, you need look no further than an Indian supermarket shelf. From sweet to salty, sour to super-savoury, many feature fruits and vegetables you won’t have heard of, let along tasted. Achar Pachranga (pictured above) is a stylishly-packaged classic.

To read my personal pick of the Indian pickles you should pick up, click here.

The season(ings) they are a-changing

Angus Denoon Jhalmuri chaat streetfood Express stall top

You might sprinkle sumac onto anything that needs a lemon-y lift and be sufficiently savvy to know berbere’s an Ethiopian spice blend, not a disease, but can you happily chatter about chaat masala, jiralu, or panch phoron? Aside from these marvellous mixtures, Indian spice stores yield strange spices such as smoky black cardamom, Sichuan pepper-like timur, and dagad phool – an earthy lichen. You’ll also see hip Himalayan pink salt and sulphurous kala namak sold by the sackful; often costing mere pence for whole pounds.

Hot tips for hip swaps

Excellent Indian alternatives to en vogue ingredients…

Swap popcorn for phool makana (puffed lotus seeds)

Swap wheatgrass shots for chywanaprash

Swap kale for lal shak (red amaranth)

Swap chickpeas for kala chana (black chickpeas)

Swap agave nectar for jaggery

Swap coconut oil-laced rice cakes for pazham pori (coconut oil-fried plantains)

Swap green olives for crisp-fried neem leaves and karela crisps

Swap growing British fruit & veg for sowing seeds from the subcontinent

Swap chia seeds for tukmaria (sweet basil seeds)

Swap protein balls for dry fruit, nut, and seed laddoos

Swap Sriracha for Maggi masala chilli sauce

Swap kefir for chaas

Swap mac’n’cheese balls for paneer poppers

Swap Branston pickle for Achar pachranga

Swap sumac for chaat masala

The moral of this trend-led tale?

For all your essential hipster kit, your local Indian supermarket can sort you out. And has been doing so for more than the last five minutes that all those items have been en vogue and consequently in-basket. See last week’s post for even more ways in which South Asian cooks and foodies are already so hip it hurts.

  • To read The New Hipster Kitchen Tricks That Indian Cooks Already Knew, Part 1, click here
  • To read my ultimate guide to Indian vegetables, click here
  • To read about how coconut oil is used in South Asia, click here
  • To read more about the many gems you can find in Indian supermarkets, click here
  • To read about my Indian pickle picks, click here
  • To read about how bitter foods are relished in Indian diets, click here
  • To read about India’s fermented foods, click here
  • To read about Indian cocktails and soft drinks, click here

5 responses to “The new hipster kitchen tricks that Indian cooks already knew, part 2

  1. Such a fun post! I love many of the ingredients you’ve highlighted, and I can’t wait to tell my kids and grandkids that I might have a little “hipster” in me! What’s next, skinny pants? lol!


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