Feb 282011
 

The Hindu festival of Holi is probably considered the most fun holiday by kids and even adults in India. The actual day of celebration this year is March 19. The colorful, festive occasion celebrates the triumph of good over bad and the virtue of honesty is highlighted.

Holi occurs during a colorful time of the year when Spring is in bloom and a good harvest is expected. Color seems to be everywhere as different-colored powders are smeared on anyone by anyone. Even the animals are not spared as they take on different colors for the day in celebration.

Playfulness is brought out as all ages chase one another with color in powder or liquid form. It is made clear that if anyone tries to avoid getting color on themselves or their clothes by hiding, they will get even more color on them. Most give in to this reality and start the day wearing old white clothes that they expect to turn numerous colors by the end of the day.

In the evening, gifts and sweets are exchanged among friends and relatives.

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Pria Ingrum is of South Asian descent and blogs about her heritage and culture. She also owns a South Asian boutique. She welcomes any comments, suggestions, ideas, South Asian recipes and South Asian event news at priamba6@gmail.com.

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Source: Holi Organization, My South Asian Column

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Nov 182010
 

Diwali worship
The South Asian Festival of lights, “Diwali,” is celebrated at this time. It is one of the biggest celebrations in India and is seen as the beginning of the new calendar or financial year in some parts. Diwali is traditionally celebrated for five days with each day having a specific myth and belief.

Diwali is also a fun holiday for all ages. Houses are decorated with tiny lights inside and out. Children and adults enjoy presents, fireworks and great food, particularly delicious sweets.

An issue that South Asians growing up in the US grapple with is the coordination of holidays from their heritage and of their adopted country.

At this time, Thanksgiving is around the corner, just a week away, as is Diwali (I admit I don’t know the exact date). I know that Diwali is around Halloween, and formal celebrations normally take place sometime in November. I will look out for a Diwali event to take my family to. In the past, I have managed to make some sweets and some prayers with my family, who have sometimes looked at me with some awkwardness.

I am starting to determine what vegetarian Thanksgiving items I will make, and that my family will help me with. Once I have the recipes located, I will then go to the grocery store and hopefully get everything I need by this weekend, to avoid the last minute chaos at the stores.

I like to make pies from scratch, which my son enjoys helping with. When I was expecting my daughter two years ago, we used extra crust to decorate the pies with an “M” for “Maya” on them. It is gratifying to have her with us and be able to actually eat what we make this time.

This year, we are planning on a quiet celebration. We are not going on a trip and will celebrate at home just with our immediate family. My relaxing fantasy is that I am scrap-booking while my husband watches football, now with my son. Of course that leaves out my toddler, who will of course probably not allow such a relaxing occasion.

While trying to manage her, I hope I am able to find some peaceful moments, in-between the cooking, cleaning, and getting ready for the mother of all holidays here, Christmas. Not being able to call myself Christian, I still love the holiday and will probably shed some tears again while listening to Bing Crosby singing about a “White Christmas,” while very likely there are snowflakes falling here in Denver.

I’ve lately thought of Christmas as a beloved bully when going to stores in September and seeing Christmas items on one side, and Halloween on the other. I thought that poor Halloween didn’t even have a chance! Forget about Thanksgiving, which is sort of just the “intro” to Christmas.

Since I have a craft fair to prepare for in early December, Christmas will likely arrive earlier than normal in my home as well. I recall that last year, I ended up trying to get ready for Christmas after the show, which seemed like hardly any time to celebrate such a beautiful holiday.

As a South Asian, I don’t feel guilty for feeling emotional attachments to Western holidays. I know that this is a consequence of living here in the US. I’m certain that if I was living in India, I would feel the same for holidays there.

In general, it seems like a good idea to celebrate for any reason and to have any excuse to feel joyful, at peace and connect with our spirituality.

I wish everyone a very happy Diwali, Thanksgiving and any other occasion you choose to celebrate at this time.

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Jun 292010
 

I love to improvise and play around with Indian cooking. To me, spices are like paints for an artist. Therefore, cooking is more of an art rather than a science. I like to use what I think would taste good. I often replicate a method rather than using a specific recipe. Substitutions are a rule rather than exception in my kitchen. In this case, I made my version of potatoes and tofu, Indian style.

Adjust oil and spices according to the amount of potatoes and tofu you are cooking, along with your preference. I used about a tablespoon of oil and 1/2 tsp of each spice for about 5 medium potatoes and 1/2 a lb of tofu.

Ingredients

* cumin
* oil
* potato
* tofu
* onion
* curry leaves
* ginger/garlic paste
* turmeric
* coriander powder
* mango powder (amchur)
* coconut
* mixed vegetables
* yogurt (optional)

Directions

Sauteeing diced potatoes with onion

Saute diced potato and tofu in oil, add spices and coconut.

With the addition of tofu and coconut

Add water and let potato cook. Add mixed vegetables (fresh or frozen). Add about a 1/2 cup of yogurt for a creamy taste and top with cilantro.

Potato and Tofu Curry with Coconut

Serve with naan. Great as a wrap filling as well.

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The Lessons of Ganesha

 Authenticity, South Asian culture  Comments Off on The Lessons of Ganesha
Jun 192010
 

“It Felt Love. How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its being. Otherwise, we all remain too frightened. –Hafiz

In Hindu mythology, Ganesha, Lord of Overcoming Obstacles, is the god with the elephant head and human-like body. He is the son of Shiva and Parvati. Ganesha is wise and jovial, often impulsive and sometimes careless, but always filling the world around him with laughter and joy. He loves to dance, eat sweets and he rides a tiny mouse, Mushika. Problems and obstacles disappear when he is near. Often depicted with four or more arms he carries a combination of these tools:

* a goad–a type of handheld spur used by elephant drivers that symbolizes good judgment that leads to good action.
* a noose to snare obstacles and sweep them out of the path of people”
* a sweet dumpling or modaka that is a symbol of joy
* an assortment of weapons: swords, bows and axes
* a broken tusk which represents sacrifice
* different fruits such as mangoes and pomegranates that represent abundance and prosperity.

Traditionally people ask for Ganesha’s blessing before a journey, a new job or venture. Known as the master of dance, Ganesha’s gesture of blessing, the abhaya mudra, means “Be not afraid.” In one story where Ganesha is called for help, he meets a demon that is about to take over the world. Ganesha tells the demon, “You are taking up far too much space on this mountain.” Then he swallows the demon, bringing the world back to balance and harmony.

Our own demons and obstacles can have the same impact on our lives. When we are focused on our problems and feeling closed down, there is not space for feelings of joy, appreciation and gratitude for the good things in our lives.

Sharon Salzberg writes in her book Loving-kindness, “The difference between misery and happiness depends on what we do with our attention.”

As in Ganesha’s world, our problems and obstacles can be overcome as we direct our attention to aspects in our lives that bring us joy and inspiration and to the practices that connect us to our own ability to love ourselves and others. It comes down to our ability to focus inward, listen and put our intentions into action. This takes discipline, courage and the desire to move towards what keeps our hearts and minds open.”

I have thought about the image of Ganesha when I felt there were issues to overcome. Visualizing him or looking at a symbol of him allowed me to harness the ability to overcome. Perhaps he is a symbol you can incorporate in your life as well.

Source: Eastern Sun Yoga

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Traditional alloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower)

 Indian Cooking, Recipes, South Asian culture  Comments Off on Traditional alloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower)
Jun 132010
 

Alloo Gobi, Potatoes and cauliflower

Alloo Gobi

I had two heads of cauliflower to use up from my organic produce delivery and a lot of red potatoes. So the first thing I thought of for the two ingredients was alloo gobi. Sometimes, I add tofu, but this time I didn’t, since I was also making masoor dal, which would suffice for protein.

“This North Indian dish, supplemented with stuffed Parathas and Sour Lime Pickle, is put into small, brass “tiffin-carriers” and taken as lunch by thousands of school children and office workers. Rolled in the same parathas, it may be taken on picnics or long car journeys.
(serves 6)

2 lbs cauliflower (1 smallish head)
2 medium-sized boiling potatoes (about ¾ pound)
6 tblsps vegetable oil
¼ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 to 2 whole dried hot red peppers
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 to 1 ¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garam masala

Discard leaves and coarse stem of cauliflower. Break head into 2-inch long flowerets. Now cut each floweret lengthwise into very slim flowerets, with the heads never wider than ½ inch. Soak in cold water for half an hour.

Peel the potatoes. Cut them into dice, about ½ x ½ x 1/3 inch. Soak in bowl of cold water for half an hour.

Drain cauliflower and potatoes and dry them in a dish towel. Heat oil in a large 12 – to – 14- inch skillet over high heat. When the oil is smoking, scatter in the fenugreek seeds, the fennel seeds, the cumin seeds, and the red peppers. Stir once and quickly add the cauliflower and the potatoes. Stir again and turn the heat to medium. Sprinkle the turmeric, coriander, salt, and pepper over the vegetables and sauté them for about 8 to 10 minutes. Now add ¼ cup water and cover immediately. Turn heat to very low and steam vegetables gently about 7 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle the garam masala over the vegetables, stir once, and serve.”

optional: I like to squeeze about 1/2 a lemon to it at the end.

Source: Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking cookbook

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Masoor dal

 Indian Cooking, Recipes, South Asian culture  Comments Off on Masoor dal
Jun 132010
 

easy dal

Masoor Dal

Masoor dal (red lentils/Egyptian lentils) cooks easily and is tasty. It can also be substituted by mung dal. This is an easy recipe that is sure to please. Although oil or ghee can be used, the ghee adds a richer flavor.

* 1 cup masoor dal
* 1 quarter-sized slice of fresh ginger
* 3/4 tsp salt
* 2 tblsps vegetable oil or ghee
* a pinch of ground asafetida
* 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
* 2 whole, hot dried red peppers

Pick over the dal and wash in several changes of water. Drain, then add 4 cups of water and bring to boil. Skim away surface residue. Add ginger and turmeric. Turn the heat to low and cover so that the lid is a little ajar.

Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until dal is no longer grainy. It can be mashed for a smoother consistency and to quicken the cooking time. Stir, add salt, and keep covered.

Heat the oil or ghee in a small skillet or pot over a medium flame. When hot, put in the asafoetida followed by the cumin and red peppers. Turn the peppers so all sides turn dark and crisp. Pour the mixture into the dal. Cover and allow the dal to absorb the flavors for at least a minute prior to serving. It can be garnished with lemon juice and cilantro.

Source: Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking cookbook

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May 202010
 

PRAAG is Denver’s first South Asian rock band. The band was formed two years ago in Denver with music enthusiasts around the city with South Asian origin. Drummer Rashid states “we are the first ever South Asian Rock Band in Colorado and our songs encompass several South Asian languages in addition to English, such as Hindi, Urdu, Bangla as well as Thai and Laotian. Our aim is to bring the sentiments of Asian roots and blend them with the rhythm and melody of rock style of music.

We are currently working on our original music project which we will bring to the stage soon. An original album is also in the works. We also cover popular songs from artists and bands from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Laos who have gained international fame. For now we want to take PRAAG out to the diverse ethnic population as well as the local Coloradans with live shows around Denver and surrounding cities.”

PRAAG’s current line up is as follows:
SANDEEP KULKARNI – Lead Vocals
TANVIR ISLAM – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
ANG SINGHARATH – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
MASHFIQUE IQBAL – Bass Guitar/Vocals
RASHID ALAM – Drums

The group recently presented a show April 25 at the Auraria Campus for free. The next event is on June 19th at South Middle School, 12310 East Parkway Drive, Aurora, CO 80011. It’s part of a cultural event that starts at 2 p.m. and PRAAG starts at 4:00 p.m. They will be performing as part of a larger cultural event organized by the West Bengal community of Denver called MILONI.

Check out this innovative and unique band! For more information, email the group at praagband@gmail.com. They can also be found on Facebook and MySpace as “PRAAG.” An official band website is also in the works.

Sources: Yelp, Rashid Alam

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May 122010
 


Recently, I worked out to “Masala Bhangra” on Fit TV. The Indian folk dance work-out routine was created by Sarina Jain, combining Bhangra and Bollywood moves. It is a good cardiovascular work-out, allowing one to lose weight easily while having fun. Sarina is considered to be the “Jane Fonda of India.”

It’s great to see an integration of traditional Indian dance with the Western culture. Indian dances are fun and I enjoyed doing plenty of folk dances for my community while growing up. It’s nice that there is a work-out like Masala Bhangra to still get a taste of that love, along with the familiar, up-beat music.

Source: Masala Bhangra Workout

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