3 Desi Cooking Recipes Made Simple for the South Asian Supermom

by Anita J. Kharbhanda

Are you a supermom looking to save time and energy in the cooking department? Then we’ve got a few recipes listed below that make desi cooking simpler!

Moms are able to multi-manage bath time, bedtime, laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, working, working out, kids’ activities, brushing teeth…and the countless other tasks that keep our day full (the toilet paper is out again?).  If you’re wishing you could save some time somewhere, keep reading!

Since you were busy doing one of the eight million responsibilities listed above last night, you might have heated up chicken nuggets or made mac and cheese out of a box, and maybe you can’t afford to cook a desi meal every night of the week. But once in a while, you wish you could make the butter chicken, sambar and dosa or lamb curry your mom (or dad) would always make. How in the world did our mothers and grandmothers manage to do it all make it look so darn easy? While I don’t think I will ever achieve their level of efficiency, I have found some common ‘hacks’.

Queue, the Internet.

Below are a few recipes your kids are sure to love and all come with shortcuts to reduce the time and energy desi cooking requires. Keep in mind I am Punjabi, so these are traditional Punjabi dishes.

1. Saag:

Do you remember the mouth-watering saag that would take half a day to make? This recipe from MyHeartBeets lets you make it out of fresh ingredients in about 30 minutes.

In my opinion, this saag recipe is better that the ‘original’ saag (eek, don’t tell mom), because there is less ghee and, of course, you save oodles of time. Also, your kids are still getting their nutrition from the mustard greens and spinach. There is no broccoli in this version, like some of the traditional versions, but it tastes the same.

[Read Related: 3 Easy Recipes for Naan-Stop Cooking ]

2. Butter Chicken:

Sanjeev Kapoor is a famous chef in India, and this dish will not disappoint the kids. I modify this recipe from SanjeevKapoor’s website by only using the ground garam masala because I don’t want the kids coming across a piece of cinnamon mid-bite.

3. Brown Dhal

Okay, to be honest, I do not know the desi term for this dhal, but we called it ‘brown dhal’ growing up because it was either yellow dhal or brown dhal.  On another note, this is not from a recipe book, but from my mother and mother-in-law. I estimate a lot of time for making this dhal because I am becoming aunty status on this dish and don’t need measuring cups (boo-yah)! That said, I am attempting to exactly quantify the amounts you need. his recipe works for the

FYI, this recipe works best with the pressure cooker I own. However, the timings I use might not work best for other cookers, especially the ones from India.


1. Three onions, green chili, and tomato in the form of ice cubes

(This is a recipe in itself because you can use these for all subjis too. Blend three large onions, 5-6 tomatoes, and 6 green peppers. Poor them into ice cube trays and freeze. Once they are frozen, transfer them to large Zip Lock bags and pull a few out from the freezer every time you cook. Now, that’s a simple life hack!)

2. Three teaspoons ginger/garlic paste

3. One teaspoon of ground garam masala

4. One teaspoon of ground turmeric

5. One teaspoon of ground coriander

6. Two teaspoons of salt

7. Two tablespoons of oil (vegetable or olive oil)

8. Half a cup whole moong dhal

9. Half a cup channa dhal

10. Half a cup split black and white urad dhal

11. Half a cup split brown masoor dhal

12. Water enough to fill up half of your cooker

[Read Related: 9 Sweet ‘Not your Mama’s’ Holi Recipes ]

How to Cook:

Pour the oil into the cooker, and turn on the stove. Add the ice cubes and ginger garlic paste. Stir until combined and melted (Punjabi tadka, balle balle!). Then add all other ingredients (including water), stir, and close the cooker lid. Keep the dhal cooking on high heat until the steam starts coming out of the cooker. Lower the heat on your cooker in between medium and low (depending on the heating power of your stove), and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the cooker from the stove, and run under sink water until you see the lid has loosened. Remove the cooker from the running water, open the lid, and voila! Enjoy with roti, paratha, rice, or naan.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how these dishes turned out and how they made desi cooking easy for you so please comment below, mommies and daddies.

Anita KAnita Kharbhanda is a mother, wife, reader, writer, singer, and runner. She loves the laughter of children, strong characters, and sweet foods. She wears her family and culture like badges of honor.



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