In India, there is a Hindi saying that goes something like this: Lentils and beans are our spines, but vegetables make up our bodies. No matter what the occasion, we always have a few vegetable dishes, called sabzis, on the table. Here in America, I serve a lot of these dishes at my restaurant, and they’re usually the foundation of the meals I cook for friends at home. Because they’re so nourishing and warming, I think of them as Indian comfort food. They may be a little spicier or have one or two more exotic ingredients than the vegetable side dishes you’re used to, but they’re just as versatile and nutritious, and they’re loaded with flavor.
Seasoning with salt at the end of the cooking process may seem unconventional, but it actually works better in these stir-fries. Salt encourages vegetables to break down and release water, and that is not the goal in these dishes.
Slower and spicier than a Chinese stir-fry. I refer to sabzis as Indian stir-fries because, like Chinese stir-fries, they’re easy to prepare, with all of the vegetables cooked in one pan. But unlike Chinese stir-fries, which rely on flash cooking and added sauces and thickeners, Indian sabzis employ more spices and aromatics and a slower cooking method to develop deep flavor and tender texture.
You can learn the basic steps for creating an Indian stir-fry by making any of the recipes on these pages. Then you can improvise your own dishes with my lists of suggested spices and vegetables, and by following the general method below.