This story takes place when I was a schoolgirl in Bangalore, India. Like all other kids, I had a little tiffin box carrier that my mom would fill up every morning for my brother and I to take to school. And almost everyday, when we opened up our lunch boxes to see what we got that day, I was jealous of what my friends had (I don’t know why as my mom cooked great food). Except for when my mom packed grated carrot sandwiches. My mom had this steel sandwich maker that when folded together and heated in the flames of a gas stove, made the best toasted sandwiches. She’d put a bit of butter on the insides, place a slice of bread on one side, put a thick layer of the grated carrot palya (a term in Kannada, my mother tongue, that means a side of vegetables sautéed with oil, spices and herbs, like curried vegetables. Palyam in other South Indian languages) on it and place another slice of bread before toasting. Every bite of this sandwich started off with your teeth crunching into the crisp bread followed by the softer carrot, perfect complements in texture and taste.
Earlier this week, the fridge was almost empty and I was wondering what to eat for lunch. I had a couple of carrots left over from another meal and half an onion and the grated carrot sandwich came to mind. I didn’t have bread or that trusty toaster my mom had used. And then I discovered the grater was in the dishwasher. I was already starving so I settled for making carrot ‘palya’ to eat with some leftover chapathi (Indian flat bread).
It wasn’t quite as good as my mom’s grated carrot sandwich but hit the spot anyway. Here’s the recipe. And as usual for the recipes on this blog, it’s super easy to make. This recipe serves one.
- 2 medium carrots, peeled (if you like) and grated or quartered and sliced thinly
- 1/2 a small onion, diced
- 1 small green chili, diced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 5 curry leaves (highly recommend but skip if you don’t have them)
- roughly 1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice (go ahead and add more if you like)
- 5-10 stalks of cilantro, chopped (leave out the thick stems)
- roughly 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
Heat the oil in a small or medium skillet over medium high heat. This takes a few minutes. If the oil is hot enough, a mustard seed will sizzle.
Add the mustard seeds and sizzle them till they start popping and then add the curry leaves
Add the onion and green chili. Add a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally. Saute till the onion is translucent.
Add the carrot and stir. Cook till the carrot is done to your liking. I like to leave it a bit crunchy. You can cover the skillet to cook the carrot faster. Just check occasionally to see if you need a bit of water to prevent burning.
Squeeze the lime or lemon juice, stir in cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of salt as needed.
Serve on its own as a warm salad, with tortillas or Indian flatbread, or with rice and yoghurt.