Over the centuries, The Banyan tree has taken on significance as a symbol of fertility, life and resurrection. It is a fitting symbol for ‘DesiStoriesAshaUSA’ which presents the stories of South Asians who have wandered far and wide from their ancestral homes, traversing new frontiers and setting down roots and networks in the US. Our goal is to connect and establish closer ties within the diasporas of the South Asian community and facilitate a dialogue with our readers, one story at a time. We will showcase stories of achievement and success and also resiliency and hope during the COVID pandemic.
Our story today showcases the culinary skills of Asha USA’s ‘Hum Group’ members.
Under the banner of AshaUSA, and in keeping with its mission of health and harmony, the ‘Hum Group’ program, supported generously by the Dr. Dash Foundation, was launched August 2014. It was ideated by residents of the local community, as an arena for seniors to socialize and form friendships, especially important for new seniors to the US, and parents visiting their adult children for a few months of the year. The first event was held at the home of AshaUSA’s founder Kamala Puram with only five members. Since then it has grown exponentially with over 82 global seniors on its roster, and in-person events typically host 30-40. During covid, and the hardships brought about by enforced isolation and loneliness, the ‘Hum Group’ zoom meetings were a beacon of light and connection. Through songs, poetry, games, celebration of festivals and birthdays, hope and resilience prevailed.
Hum as the collective ’US’ stands for ’H’=Hear Each Other, ’U’=Understand Each Other, ’M’= Mingle With Each Other.
The ‘Hum Group’ seniors are talented home chefs, and sampling their delicious ‘pot luck’ creations has become a highlight of the themed monthly gatherings and once a year picnic.
We hope you enjoy meeting our featured ‘Hum Group’ seniors and try out their favorite recipes detailed below.
Usha Katyal’s Sprouts Salad
Usha is one of the founding members of Hum Group. She moved to the US in 2001 from Ahmedabad, soon after the devastating earthquake in the Western State of Gujarat. Since 2004 she has lived in the Twin Cities area. Starting as a substitute Recreation Leader in 2004 in the Edina School system, she worked for 15 years, before the onset of Covid caused her to leave. She lives with her son and his family, and has another daughter in India. She is blessed with 5 grandchildren.
Sprouts Salad Recipe
Ingredients: 2 Cups of sprouted green mung; 1 cucumber; 1 Tomato; 1/3 cup red or white onion; 2 green spring onion; 1 carrot; 2 red radish; 1 celery stalk; 1/2 cup cabbage; 1/3 cup red/yellow bell pepper; 2-3 sprigs mint; 2/3 tbsp lemon juice; 1 tbsp chopped cilantro; 1 tsp each of chaat masala, coarse pepper and roasted ground cumin; salt to taste. Preparation: Put the sprouts in a bowl; add finely chopped vegetables to the sprouts; add lemon juice and all the spices and mix well (can add chopped green chilies or red chili powder for extra oomph!).
Asha Srivastava’s Naryal Ki Barfee (Coconut Sweet)
Asha and her husband Prem immigrated to the US in 1998 after Prem retired from government service in India. The incentive for coming to the US was the birth of their granddaughter. As a self taught artist, Asha creates arts and crafts in many mediums, including cooking, constantly innovating new methods. They have two daughters and three granddaughter’s and live in the Twin Cities area.
Coconut Barfi Recipe
Ingredients:70 gms sugar; 1/4 cup water; 2 tbsp milk; 75 gms coconut powder; 50 gms dried mawa powder; 1/2 tsp green elaichi powder; 2 drops rose essence; pistachio or almond flakes. Preparation: Put sugar and water in pan and bring to boil; add 2 tbsp milk; lower the heat and add coconut and mawa powder, mix well to form a dry clumpy mix; take off the heat and mix in elaichi powder and rose essence; grease a plate with butter or ghee and spread the mix in a square shape 1/4 inch thick; using a wet spatula smooth and pat down with a light touch; sprinkle pistachio/almond garnish, pressing in with a wet spatula; let it cool and rest; cut into diamond shapes with spatula/sharp knife.
Manju Markananda’s ’Whole Urad Daal’
Manju and her husband Raj settled in Minnesota after a global journey that began in India, and included stays in Bogota, Colombia, Merida, Venezuela and in the US, Iowa City and Aberdeen South Dakota. They have two accomplished daughters. They both enjoy retirement and are active within the thriving Indian community in the Twin Cities and enjoy diverse activities with their many friends.
Whole Urad Daal Recipe
Ingredients: 1 cup daal; 4 cups water; 1 tsp oil; 1/2 tsp salt; 2 tbsp ghee; 1 tbsp whole cumin; 2 bay leaves: 1 onion; 3 cloves garlic; 1 inch ginger; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tbsp ground coriander; 1 tomato (finely chop onion, tomato, garlic and ginger). Preparation: Soak daal for 4 hours in 4 cups of water; transfer the drained daal into a pressure cooker; add 4 cups of water and bay leaves and pressure cook for 6 whistles; in a large pan heat ghee and add cumin until it is aromatic; add onion, garlic and ginger until onions are soft; add turmeric and coriander and cook mixture for 1 minute; add tomato, salt and sauté until tomatoes are soft and mushy; add cooked daal and mix well; add 1 cup water to get required consistency; cover and simmer for 15 minutes; Garnish with cilantro.
Urmila Madhok’s Butterscotch Delight
Urmila Madhok moved to Minnesota after 36 years teaching math at Minot State University in Minot, ND. Urmila has two children, a son and a daughter and one grand daughter. She is a talented craftsperson and is fond of sewing, making all her own clothes. She also likes to cook and create her own recipes.
Butterscotch Delight Recipe
Ingredients: 1 stick butter; 1 cup flour; 1/3 cup chopped walnuts; 1 cup powdered sugar; 8 oz package cream cheese; 8 oz container cool whip; 3 oz package each of instant vanilla and instant butterscotch pudding; 1/4 cup toasted coconut; 3 cups milk. Preparation: Mix butter and flour with electric hand mixer; stir in walnuts; press into a 9×13 greased glass bowl; bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes; let it cool; mix powdered sugar and cream cheese with an electric hand mixer in a mixing bowl; add half the cool whip stirring well and spread evenly on cooled crust; mix vanilla and butterscotch puddings in a mixing bowl; gradually add milk to pudding using electric hand mixer until it thickens; spread on the second layer of cool whip evenly; finally spread the remaining half cool whip and sprinkle the toasted coconut on the cool whip; refrigerate overnight; serve after cutting into desired pieces.
Sarla Arora’s ’Dahi Baray
Sarla Arora recently aced her US citizenship test after moving to Minnesota 6-7 years ago. She lives with her only son and his family in the Twin Cities area. She is a valued member of her community and gives piano recitals twice a year. Sarla also composes beautiful poetry. She loves to knit and sew and her cooking skills are enjoyed by her twin teenage grandsons and at many parties hosted at home.
Dahi Baray Recipe
Ingredients: I cup each split moong daal beans and split Urad daal lentils without skin; 1/4 cup fenugreek seeds or methi dana; 3-4 cups of plain yogurt; roasted cumin, black peppercorn and red chili powders; salt, tamarind and date chutney and mint leaves for garnish per taste. Preparation: Soak lentils overnight for 10-12 hours separately; soak fenugreek seeds with one of the lentils; finely grind each lentil separately; mix ground lentils together and mix well till the mixture gets fluffy; test a small drop of mixture in cup of water: well whisked mixture will float to the top; heat oil in a pan and lightly fry the mixture in small balls; do not deep fry, balls should be yellow-light brown in color; add the fried balls to hot water (should not be boiling) and soak for 30 minutes; lightly squeeze the soaked balls and add to cold tap water; add yogurt to a bowl and whisk well; remove half of the whisked yogurt and set aside; add mint leaves to remaining yogurt; squeeze the soaked balls lightly and add to yogurt with mint leaves; garnish with red chili, peppercorn, roasted cumin powders and salt; add the remaining yogurt till the balls are covered; add tamarind and date chutney and serve cold (Extra balls can be frozen for later use).
Jayshree Desai’s ‘Pedhas’
Jayshree and Bihari Desai were married in 1974 and she arrived in Chicago to join Bihari in 1975, in the midst of a raging blizzard. It was an ‘exciting’ introduction to her life in the US. In 1987 after obtaining a second BS in Chemical Engineering, she retired from Xcel Energy after 22 years. She spends her time helping STEM school students and also mentors University of Minnesota engineering students and the Society of Women Engineers. She enjoys playing bridge, and visiting her kids families. She has a doctor son and a lawyer daughter and 4 grandchildren.
Ingredients: 1 small can of Sweetened condensed milk; 1.5 stick of unsalted butter; 100-150 ml milk; 1-2 cups instant dry milk carnation powder; cardamom powder; 2-3 tbsp sugar; saffron for taste and color; shelled or unshelled almonds; one butter coated pan. Preparation: Melt butter stick; add condensed milk can; mix well at low flame; add milk and sugar and keep mixing at low flame; add cardamom powder and saffron; add carnation powder and mix till it does not stick to the spoon; roll pedas and cool in butter coated pan; garnish with almonds.
Bharati Mehta’s ‘Mini Uttapam’
Bharati and Rajnikant moved to the US in 1975 to work in the medical profession, first in Massachusetts, then New York, and for 36 years in Minot, North Dakota. After retirement they moved to the Twin Cities area to be closer to their children. They are proud of their 3 children and 2 grandchildren, and keep active by volunteering for the non-profit group ‘Sewa’ and the Hindu Temple.
Mini Uttapam Recipe
Ingredients: 2 cups rice; 1 cup urad daal; 1/2 cup sooji; 1 tsp methi seeds; diced onion and tomatoes, salt, ginger and green chilies per taste. Preparation: Soak rice, daal and methi seeds separately for 12 hours; grind each separately; mix everything in big bowl with sooji (cream of wheat); ferment mixture for 8-12 hours; add salt, ginger, chilies and diced onion and tomatoes; use mini pancake pan to make uttapam by ladling mix into mold; serve with tamarind and coriander chutneys.
Kiran Manchanda’s ’Sabu Dana Vada’
Kiran is a retired post graduate chemistry teacher. She loves being a member of the Hum Parivar. She has a great passion for travel and wanders tirelessly between her daughter’s home in the Twin Cities and her son in San Francisco. She also has a strong passion for music and during Covid, she pursued singing. She is the proud grandmother of 4. She loves socializing and cooking.
Sabu Dana Vada Recipe
Ingredients: 1/2 cup sabu dana; 1 heaped cup medium sized cubed potatoes; 1/4 cup peanuts; 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves; 1/2 tsp cumin seeds; 2 green chilies; 1/3 tsp salt per taste; 11/2 tsp lemon juice. Preparation: Soak washed sabu dana overnight and check that they are not hard inside in the morning; crush soaked sabu dana; grind roasted peanuts; boil and peel and mash potatoes; mix crushed sabudana, potatoes, peanut powder, chopped green chilies, coriander, cumin, salt and lemon juice; make 10 to 12 balls, flatten them to make tikki/vada; heat oil in a kadai to medium flame; test one tikki in oil; if it breaks add 1 tsp flour and remake tikki after mixing well; fry tikki till golden brown and drain excess oil on paper towel; serve with green and red chutney.
Sudha Arora’s ’Barfi’
Sudha Arora started her married journey in the US in 1964. She spent most of her career in banking at Wells Fargo and US Bank. Sudha has one son and one daughter and 6 grandchildren She lives independently in a sun filled home in New Brighton, MN and her days are filled with family including her sisters who live in the area. She is a talented cook who quilts, and has won many competitions for her place mats and embroidered towels. (Though not a full fledged member of the Hum Group, Sudha keeps in close contact with many members).
Ingredients: 1 15oz container of Ricotta cheese; 1/2 stick butter; 1 packet slivered skinned almonds ground to crumbs; 11/4 cup carnation dry milk. Preparation: Melt butter in microwave; mix all ingredients in bowl with melted butter; cook for 21/2 minutes in microwave; mix; cook for another 21/2 minutes; mix; cook for another 21/2 minutes in microwave; (total microwave time 71/2 minutes); spread mix on buttered cookie sheet; after 10 minutes cut to desired size and shape.
Rifka Kaka’s Black Masoor Pulau and Yogurt Curry
Rifka moved permanently to the US in 2004, though she was a frequent visitor since 1981. The Hum Meet’s are a highlight for her and she enjoys the many friends she has made in the ‘Hum Group’. She lives in the Twin Cities area with her daughter, your author, who loves being with her – to say nothing of the amazing cooking, and also has a son in Chicago. She is also the proud grandmother of two loving grandsons who visit her often. She loves to do jigsaw puzzles and read and watch movies and FaceTime with her sisters and extended family in India.
Black Masoor Pulau and Yogurt Curry Recipe
Ingredients: Black Masoor Pulau: 11/4 cup black masoor daal; 1 big chopped tomato and onion; 2 green chilis; 2 garlic pods; 4 cloves; 1 inch stick cinnamon; 4 curry leaves; salt per taste; 11/4 cup rice. Yogurt Curry: 1 cup plain yogurt; 2tbsp ground channa dal(besan); 1/4 tsp each fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds; 1/2 tsp mixed coriander/cumin powder; 4 curry leaves; 1 chopped tomato and 1/2 small onion; 2 green chilies; 1/2 tsp red chili powder; salt per taste.
Preparation: Black Masoor Pulau: Soak Masoor in water for 2 hours; Boil till soft; Save masoor water and 2 tbsp boiled masoor for yogurt curry base; sauté garlic, curry leaves, cardamom, cloves, cumin till light brown; add chopped onions until light crispy brown; add tomatoes, green chilies and salt till well mixed; add boiled masoor to mix and cook for 10-15 minutes; cook rice in separate pan; add cooked masoor layer between two layers of cooked rice and do a final steam. Yogurt Curry: In a pan add masoor water and remaining boiled masoor to yogurt and besan/channa daal and mix to create a soft paste; in a separate pan sauté onion, garlic, cumin; methi and curry leaves; add red chili powder and coriander/cumin powder and turmeric and sauté for 1 minute; add tomatoes and salt and yogurt mix (with extra water if needed for consistency) and cook till oil separates and floats to the top.
Nirmal Bhardwaj’s ’Namak Paare’
Nirmal and Suresh Bhardwaj moved to the US in 1970 and 1974 respectively, and journeyed across the US before settling in Minneapolis in 2016 to be closer to their son and his family. Nirmal spent 17 years in a banking career and volunteered to teach Hindi at a community college in Ohio. They have 2 sons and 4 grandchildren and enjoy the beauty of Minnesota’s Cedar Lake from their beautiful home.
Namak Paare Recipe
Ingredients: 5 cups all purpose flour; 2 tsp salt; 11/2 tsp ajwain(carom seeds); 3/4 cup plus more for deep frying; water to make dough. Preparation: Mix flour, salt and ajwain well in a large bowl; add oil and mix well; add water slowly to make a dough; dough should be little harder than chapati dough; cover the dough and let rest for 1/2 hr; make balls and roll like chapati; cut rolled dough in diamond shapes; deep fry till golden brown.
Santosh Jhanjee’s Feast Of Delights
Santosh Jhanjee is an erudite published poet of evocative Hindi poems of meaningful beauty. Santosh came to the US in 1985 with her husband and two teenage sons and $20 in her pocket. Today she lives an independent life on her own terms, surrounded by many friends and a loving family that includes 2 doctor sons, 4 grandchildren and sisters. As an accomplished cook, her feast of delights features 3 of her favorite recipes: Mathri, Halwa and Daal Paratha.
Ingredients: 3 cups all purpose flour; 2 cups atta; 1 cup rice flour; 1 cup oil; pinch of baking soda; 2 tsp each ajwain and coarse black ground pepper; 1 tsp each cumin seeds and salt; water for dough. Preparation: Mix all the dry ingredients well; add oil and mix well; add water slowly to make dough (should be harder than poori dough); make small 1/2 inch thick flattened balls with a rolling pin; pierce few holes in dough to prevent puffing while deep frying in medium heat till golden brown; enjoy with pickle and chutney.
Ingredients: 1 stick unsalted butter; 1/2 cup cream of wheat; 1/4 cup each coarse ground chickpea flour and ground cracked wheat; 1 cup sugar; 5 cups water; chopped nuts of choice; 1/2 tsp cardamom; 1 tbsp dried milk. Preparation: Melt butter in pan; add cream of wheat, chickpea flour, cracked wheat and brown the mix in butter; using 2nd pan melt sugar and cardamom in water; also add water to dry ingredients and stir the mix till it thickens without sticking to the pan; turn off gas; add dried milk and mix in well; garnish with choice of nuts and cardamom.
Daal Paratha Recipe For Leftovers
Ingredients: Left over daal or vegetables; ( following ingredients quantities based on leftovers) chopped spinach, mint, green chilies, ajwain, jeera, red chili flakes, oil, salt per taste, butter for garnish. Preparation: Mix all the ingredients together and make into a soft, pliable dough; water may not be required as cooked leftovers may have water; add water if needed; add 1 tbsp of oil; divide the dough into equal parts and roll into a ball; flatten the ball and roll into desired shape i.e. square, round; on medium to hot griddle cook evenly on both sides; garnish with butter and serve with pickle and raita.
AshaUSA and the ‘Hum Group’ sincerely hope that you have enjoyed our food blog today and will make the dishes featured in the story. If you wish to join the ‘Hum Group’, please contact ‘Hum Group’ Lead Rakhi Bhatia-Arora at 1 (763) 202-3286 and/or Sayali Amarapurkar at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
AshaUSA’s mission is to provide culturally specific programs to the South Asian community to foster health and harmony in their lives. Please visit our website ‘ashausa.org’ for more information on our programs, volunteer opportunities and resources.
Please follow our blog ’DesiStoriesAshaUSA’ by entering your email at the ’follow’ prompt at the bottom of the page. You will be among the first to be notified when a new story is published.