Rajasthani Buttermilk Curry

Rajasthani Buttermilk Curry Recipe

I tried out a Rajasthani buttermilk curry recipe for lunch today. It came from Mangoes & Curry Leaves - one Indian subcontinent, seven countries, two hundred recipes, forty essays and countless photographs. I'm kicking myself for not reviewing this sooner - what a stunning piece of work. This inch-thick volume (part cookbook, part cultural study) is aptly subtitled,Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent. Authors Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid document the the richness and diversity of countries like Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka through a culinary lens.

Be forewarned, this is the kind of book that encourages one to quit their job, cash in their miles for a one-way plane ticket, max out the credit cards, and set off to see the world with their own eyes. If you really want to be pushed over the edge, remind yourself of their other award-winning books.

There is a fantastic essay on learning to build clay hearth (chula) with a Rajasthani woman I read before falling asleep last night - the perfect way to welcome colorful and fantastic dreams. Many more like it follow. On the recipe front, the headnotes are educational and enlightening. The food is photographed so beautifully you can't help but want to try your own hand. The good news is that many of the many of the recipes are very manageable for the home cook.

I make curries all the time, but haven't tried a buttermilk-based one. Today was the day. Also, it looked like it would come together in a flash - so I wasn't out much time if I didn't like it. I had all the ingredients on hand (just a few), and made this fragrant, yellow curry in under five minutes - including prep, while I was on the phone. No joke. The buttermilk and black mustard gave it a tangy, fresh, and lively flavor. Very tangy in a good way - but if you are a "no" on tang, this curry isn't for you. It is the sort of thing that begs to have a flatbread dunked into it, or ladled over rice. Beautifully delicious and different with flecks of scallion, black mustard seeds, and green chiles.

Other recipes I'm excited to try: Chile-hot Bhutanese Cheese Curry, Bangla Dal with a Hit of Lime, Dal with Coconut Milk alongside a Fresh Bean Sprout Salad, Tamarind-Mint Tea, and Nepali Polenta with Himalayan Grilled Tomato Sauce.

I suppose the upside to being late to the M&C party is that I some of you might already have the book, and you can point me to some of your favorite recipes.

Rajasthani Buttermilk Curry Recipe

Condensed author's notes: This is one of the family of buttermilk curries found in the northwestern parts of India, places where dairy products such as yogurt and buttermilk play a large role in the kitchen.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (hs note: I used clarified butter)
1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 large or 2 medium scallions, trimmed, sliced lengthwise in half and then crosswise into 1-inch lengths
1 green cayenne chile, minced (hs note: the serrano I had on hand was a reasonable substitute)
1/4 water, if using yogurt

1 cup plain (full-or-reduced fat) yogurt OR 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2/3 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (hs note: also known as cilantro)

Heat oil in a wok (or karhai) or medium heavy pot over medium-high heat. When it is hot, toss in the mustard seeds. When most of them have popped, add the cumin and turmeric and stir. Lower the heat to medium, add the scallions and chile, and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until softened. If using yogurt, stir in the water. Reduce the heat to low, pour in the yogurt or butter milk, and stir until warmed through; do not allow to boil. Stir in the salt.

Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the coriander. Serve hot.

Serves 2 to 3.

from Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid - reprinted with permission

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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This would make a lovely savoury ice cream.

shuna fish lydon

Yay! If I were a master of Indian dishes I would be so happy - so flavourful and healthy (for the most part) - maybe this book is the answer to learning to cook Indian food?


Wow, how beautifully written. You know, you could probably do some travel/food writing and have it comp'ed. Just sayin'. Your words just drew me in to try a recipe I would have normally glossed over. I just bought another cookbook you recommended also. This is one of my favorite sites ever. Thanks Heidi!


Heidi rules on!
The eating world has never been a problem anywhere and in India it has worked a sort of separateness. So when labourers eat no onlooker ever quires why or what is so lowsome but so honest. Yea, Indian food is one trip if you got a cook or two, preparing and serving, the savoury is esteem of service and being served. We got two making one or two meals a day, depending who wants to ear, I am out of kilter if more than once a day, however, with a television on the food makes sense as the newscape rolls on. Thanks Heidi Swanson for your own enterprises in food venturisms. I feel like saying, if I had it all, that is, "come eat with me!", but do not eat mee....

Kailash Agnihotri

The BF is Nepalese and if you have Nepalese Momo (Dumplings) in there, you should try it. Its my fav Nepalese food. I love Indian food but unfortunately I cant take too much spicy food. I am going to try this recipe though.


Thank you Heidi for bringing attention to Naomi & Jeffrey. I have their "Seduction of Rice" and "Flatbreads & Flavours" -- I think they're fabulous.


another alford/duguid fan here. have you seen their book HomeBaking? "met" them first through Julia Child's Baking with Julia. their books are awesome.


Wonderful post - I'm running out right now to buy the book!

As usual a mouthwatering description - thanks for sharing.


Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid have a website. http://www.hotsoursaltysweet.com/index.html


Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid have a website. http://www.hotsoursaltysweet.com/index.html


please send some non vegeterian dishes, simple ones please.. and mail them to my contacts also: wsushavijay@yahoo.com and u_sarathy@yahoo.com


Wonderful. Wonderful

It is truly one of the most beautifully written and photographed books I have seen in years. Six months ago I decided to to teach myself how to prepare Indian dishes. Off to Books a MIllion, there it was. I couldn't put it down. I have made several dishes from the book. There is a chick pea fritter with tamarind sauce that is out of this world. Aren't books cool.It is totally amazing how wonderful the food is.

Happy Cooking.


The recipe and the book sound lovely. I just picked up one of your recommendations - Falling Cloudberries - when i went back home....this looks like another "must have." Thank you!


I love these two authors -- I started with their Book HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET and have cooked loads from that. Then I got their rice book -- and now on to this one you have just reviewed, which I got for Christmas this year. I will have a piece on their work in an upcoming entry at my own lob, http://cookingwithideas.typepad.com/cooking_with_ideas/


I had to buy this book as soon as I saw the words "Sri Lanka" on the cover. Make the Andhra Spiced Eggplant and double the batch. The Cumin-Flecked Skillet Breads are also yummy (with the eggplant!). By the way, the recent Cooking Light has a recipe for a Sri Lankan curry. Interesting, huh?


Great recipe, Heidi!!

Just one question, when do I add the green chile and scallions? I didn't see it in the recipe instructions.


Beautiful blog and gorgeous recipe! Just one question: I live in the Netherlands and buttermilk is not readily available. Any ideas on what it may be replaced with?


Note to KissyMonkey:
I have made several versions of this dish (but not yet the one from M&C). I use thinned yogurt instead of buttermilk (in India for some reason they are often the same?). Anyhow, yogurt needs something to stablize it like besan (chickpea flour) to keep it from curdling. Otherwise I agree with Heidi that this is a tasty and simple curry for eating over rice. I will have to try the version in M&C!


Sounds like a fantastic book. I've seen it at the store, but haven't taken the time to flip through it yet. I'll definitely have to make a point to peruse it in the very near future!


I love J&N's books; they have the perfect gig--being paid to travel and eat.

This one is on my wishlist, as I'm a curry/Indian-type food fanatic from way back.


i just made the cucumber raita and lamb kebabs for mother's day and it was a huge hit! my first from the book even though i got it back in december - can't wait to try out some more!


i actually just made and ate this, with a few modifications, and it was, if you can believe it, better in person than the pictures/writing


Another exceptional photograph! I'll have to try the recipe some time, too.

*goes back to lurking*

ken sloan

heya H, that is indeed a good one. altho' buttermilk in india is slightly more sour than whats available in the states. its the sharp piquancy that gives buttermilk based dishes it's appeal.

the way i make it..the southern way:

(buttermilk + salt + turmeric) + (ground to a fine paste: coconut+cumin+green chillies) + (oil + mustard seeds + urad dhal) + fresh curry leaves.

while this is fine on it's own, one can also add vegetables like white pumpkin cubes, ladiesfinger etc. you know..the soft, "watery" veggies. because buttermilk shouldnt be boiled(it will curdle), the vegetables are cooked through seperately. and they need to soak for a while in the buttermilk stew so they take in the flavours of the buttermilk, coconut, green chillies etc.

we mix this with rice, but its also nice as a soup.


Yum, the picture is quite mouth-watering itself. Well, I suppose it goes really well with this bread called, 'Phulka'. I'd suggest you try it along with 'Kheema-Naan' (My favorite). Well, a meal of steamed rice, the above mentioned Butter-milk curry, fried chillies (Kadai Mirch) would tickle the taste-buds. Warning: Its going to be very spice hot.


The Mountain Dal and Cauliflower Dum are also delicious recipes in this cookbook.
For those of us just getting into cooking Indian foods, the photographs and stories have been extremely motivating as compared to text-only, large Indian cookbooks that often sit unused on bookshelves.


Just noticed that there are two recipes from this cookbook that you can download - they've a bumper number of free recipes as they are off on an extended trip!



I made this the other night for my husband who's from India. He said it's very authentic except that it needs red chile powder (which I added) and curry leaves (which I didn't have on hand). He told me that this is summertime food and that its authentic Hindi name is Kadi. It's usually served with rice, not paranthas or naan.

D. Jain

I love your site Heidi! Always fabulous recipes and photos, even if I don't always try them out.

I have a question about the chile in this recipe. Do you mince/chop fine/dice it? Or do you just fry it whole?


Nicole Lee

An interesting recipe to try out right now... especially in this hot summer.


Thanks for demystifying curry. I haven't tried making it myself because I always imagined that it was one of those things that required hours of simmering on a stove top. I love the simplicity of your recipe.


This dish is called kadhi and in India we tend to add onion dumplings (pakoras to it) and have it with phuklas (chappati) or rice... but it is supposed to be made v hot bocs most food from rajasthan is low in ingrediants but high on spice! probably bcos of the desert environment.


This is one of my favorite cookbooks, along with Hot Sour Salty Sweet. My favorite recipe in this book so far is Beets with Tropical Flavors, from Sri Lanka. Super easy, and the most delicious treatment of beets I've ever come across. My husband dislikes beets, but he loves this recipe (I make it with golden beets to tone down the earthiness a tiny bit for him).

Lisa B

Hi all,

I am a Rajasthani, and boy! am I glad that Kadhi (thats the original name of this dish) featured on this forum.

I am very much into cooking. Wish to share some more of Rajsthani cuisine with you guys.


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