Meeta Arora of Piping Pot Curry (Transcript)

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Nicole S.:                      Welcome to BFF with the Chef. I'm your host Nicole Schwegman.

                                    Aloha friends and foodies, and welcome back. Today I'm getting the chance to interview Meeta Arora, the blogger behind Piping Pot Curry; a blog that is dedicated to showing you how to make simple and easy recipes.

                                    A former computer engineer, Meeta is now a full time blogger. Her blog primarily focuses on Indian food, but her love of global cuisine such as Italian, Thai, and Mexican, amongst others, also occasionally shows up in her repertoire.

                                    Meeta strongly believes that everyone has an inner chef and that we just need some inspiration to explore ingredients and create great food. Each week she shares step by step recipes that use her Instant Pot and other gadgets, like her air fryer.

                                    Hey Meeta, welcome to the show.

Meeta Arora:                Thanks for having me. So excited to be here.

Nicole S.:                      I am beyond excited to chat with you today. First off, I really like Indian food. And I'm sure everyone tells you that, but it's true. I love the flavors and the complexity. And I'm going to tell you that, however, before I came across your blog, Indian food has intimidated me. I want to make it. But I think it's always just seemed so much more difficult than I'm making it ... you know, than it probably is. So that's why I'm really excited to have you on. I'm sure other people feel that way, as well. And I can't wait to try some of the dishes on your blog.

Meeta Arora:                Absolutely. That will be great. I would love to hear how you like some of them.

Nicole S.:                      Oh, absolutely.

Meeta Arora:                Excited to chat here.

Nicole S.:                      So every ... you know ... I'm sure you know by now that I ask three questions at the beginning of this podcast. So you ready?

Meeta Arora:                Yes.

Nicole S.:                      All right. So tell me about the last meal that you cooked for yourself.

Meeta Arora:                So I cooked the meal for the whole family. I made Paneer Butter Masala. Which is kind of the vegetarian sister dish of Butter Chicken, the most popular Indian dish. So I made the Paneer Butter Masala along with Pot-in-Pot Basmati Rice. And while this was cooking in the Instant Pot I made paratha. Which is the Indian flatbread on the stove top.

                                    So I made all of this and it took me less than 30 minutes to make everything. And we have a scrumptious, wonderful dinner on the table. And this dish Paneer Butter Masala is something that my family really enjoys. It's such a creamy, flavorful dish.

                                    The way we make it is we start with onions, ginger, garlic. Add in tomatoes. Some whole spice of like cinnamon, cloves, cumin seeds. We add all of this. And it's kind of a dump and go recipe with the Instant Pot. Which is the best part. Isn't that a win-win for me when my daughter loves the food and I don't have to take much effort to make it. So that's what I made for dinner last night. Which is Paneer Butter Masala with the pot-in-pot rice, and the parathas.

Nicole S.:                      That sounds delicious. Oh my goodness. I'm going to ... wow. Okay. I want to ask you, real quick, I know we're going to get to the other two questions, but you said there was an Indian flatbread. Can you say the name of that again?

Meeta Arora:                It's called paratha. So there are two most popular flatbreads. Which we ... well, rather I should say three most popular. One is the roti, which is the most basic flatbread, more thinly rolled. And we top it up with ghee while eating.

                                    And paratha is a little thicker than the roti. And it's kind of fried with a little ghee while we're making it on the stove top. So we making it in a pan.

                                    And the third one, which everybody is more familiar with, is naan. The naan is actually something we don't make at home as frequently. Or rather, never make at home. Mostly eat it in the restaurants. What we make at home, the flatbread, is usually is the roti or paratha.

Nicole S.:                      I didn't know that. I feel ashamed that I only thought there was naan.

Meeta Arora:                No that is really the case for everybody. People think that, you know, naan is the most common thing you would make at home. But rather, it's actually left for the restaurants.

Nicole S.:                      Oh my goodness. Okay, we're going to have to get into that in a bit. All right. I'm going to ask you the next question. What's a meal that brings you back to your childhood?

Meeta Arora:                That is a great question. So I would say it is Rajma Chawal. So let me explain what that translates to. So that, Rajma translates to red kidney beans curry. Which is cooked in ... again, you will see a trend here. It was just cooked in a gravy, or a sauce, of onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, along with lots of warm spices. And chawal translates to rice.

                                    So do you see a familiarity here? You know, beans and rice is a common dish, a comfort food, not just in India. It is really popular in North Indian cuisine. Which is where my family is from. So Rajma Chawal, it's healthy. The rajma, or red kidney beans, are super healthy. They are protein rich. Enjoying these over ... typically we enjoyed it over white basmati rice. This takes me back to my childhood instantly.

                                    But now I learned that beans and rice is a popular comfort food in so many cuisines. In Louisiana cuisine, in Latin America, it was revealing to me that I, as I learned that beans and rice is such a comfort food pretty much all around the world.

Nicole S.:                      You know, I completely ... first of all, yes, I love beans and rice, too. My father's from Haiti. That is like a go-to staple in Haiti, is some type of peas and rice or beans and rice.

                                    But I remember I was talking in Season One with Ben Myhre of Ramshackle Pantry, you probably know him from Food Blogger Pro. We were talking in the very first episode that there are just these recipes that you can find all around the world and there's like a version of it, you know, they're using local ingredients, but it's kind of the same recipe. It's just with that regional flavor on it.

                                    We were talking about like there's tortilla in Mexico and then in Scandinavia area there was this thing called Lefse, which I basically saw it's a potato, you know, tortilla. And I would gather to say that maybe, you know, naan, while a lot thicker, is sort of that version of like a flatbread. And so your thoughts about beans and rice being kind of like all over the world is spot on, that there's recipes are really just versions of, you know, of the same thing, just with the local ingredients that are on hand. I think that's pretty amazing.

                                    Okay. Give me an ingredient you can't live without.

Meeta Arora:                Okay. So with me being from India and Indian food, we really cannot do anything without some basic spices. I know people get intimated when we talk about spices and you think it's so many of them out there. But I will say that there are five basic spices that I need when I'm doing my cooking. I could live without all the others. Just give me these five basic spices.

                                    And I have a post on my blog about that. And I share the top five. And I do share the others, but, you know, we can really make most of the Indian food with these five spices. Let's start with cumin seeds. They are easily found everywhere. Turmeric, so ground turmeric. Ground coriander. Red chili powder, and there are so many versions of red chili powder. It can be cayenne, paprika. You could use substitutes in there. And garam masala I would say is the fifth one.

Nicole S.:                      Wow. Okay. That's still a lot.

Meeta Arora:                I know, it does sound like a lot, but it's ... you know, once you have these five spices in your pantry, you can really make Indian Food. That's about it.

Nicole S.:                      That's the secret.

Meeta Arora:                Yeah. And you really don't have to think that, "Oh, it's so complex and there are hundreds of ingredients I would need." No. It's five basic spices. Other than that, what you would need for basic Indian cooking is onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, which you might already have in your kitchen.

Nicole S.:                      You know, I think that's good to say. Because that's kind of one of the reasons why I'm always so intimidated about making Indian food. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, going to take like a thousand spices to make this dish and I don't know if I have all those." And you know, my husband already accuses me of being like a spice queen. You know, there's the Spice Girls. But he calls me a spice queen because I haven't met a spice that I didn't want.

                                    But even with all the spices, I have an entire, no kidding, like an entire bottom shelf of my pantry is dedicated to spices. We even bought that thing called the Spicy Shelf. I don't know if you ever saw, it's like on late night TV, they're selling things like, "As Seen on TV." There's this thing called the Spicy Shelf.

Meeta Arora:                Oh, I haven't seen that. I should check it out.

Nicole S.:                      No. Oh my gosh. It's such a great organizer. It organizes all of your spices. He's like, "Even ... I've bought two of those for you and you're still running out of room for spices." I know. And I don't have them all. I want to collect them all. Like little baseball cards. I want to collect all the spices.

                                    But that's a great point. That it really only takes five to get started. That's something I didn't know and I will definitely link to that in the show notes.

                                    Okay. So let's get started. So how does a computer engineer become a food blogger? Take us on this journey to where you're doing your computer engineer thing, you're a mom, and then you're like, "You know what I want to do? I want to start a blog." Which I maintain that, look, if you're out there and you want to start a food blog, you should definitely start a food blog. But just be aware, like, it's a lot of work. But you know, especially if you want it to be good. But take me on this journey. Because computer engineering does not sound easy.

Meeta Arora:                Well, it's actually a lot of fun. So I did computer engineering and I've also done a master's after that in management science. And I was working as a product manager at one of the high tech companies here in the Bay Area. It's wonderful. It's a wonderful life, frankly. It was a wonderful company. I totally enjoyed working there.

                                    There was something that I wanted to do on the side. You know, a passion thing or passion project. And whenever I was thinking about what do I do on the side along with that, all that came to mind was food.

                                    You know, I grew up eating such good home-cooked food every day. My mom was a wonderful cook. So I did learn cooking when I came to the U.S. And I started enjoying it doing it. It became my unwinding time after work. Yes I do have a young daughter. It does take some time. But, you know, after they're three years old you do get ... they get better.

                                    When I was thinking what else do I do on the side, it was clear that food was the way to go. But then I did not know much about blogging at that time. But I met some friends who were into blogging, which inspired me to start a blog. I thought, "Okay, I can always start it. I'll see how it goes. I'll see how much time I can give to it. Maybe do a little bit on the weekend and see how it goes." And I just click some pictures when I make dinner in the evening. So that's how I started.

Nicole S.:                      Okay. That's awesome. I have a confession. So look, I can only name off the top of my hand, maybe three Indian dishes that I know and that I order when I go out to eat Indian food. Which is sadly not as often as I'd like. Especially out here in Hawaii.

                                    I sort of feel like when I order Chicken Tikka Masala it's like the equivalent of ordering Pad Thai for me. You know ... so I'll tell you a story. You know, for years I've been ... I was like, "I love Thai food. Thai food's amazing." I discovered Thai food in Guam when I was stationed there. And loved it. Was ... you know, introduced my husband to Thai food. We both loved it.

                                    And then one day I tried this Thai restaurant. It was a Northern Thai restaurant. And it was like ... I felt like I had been lied to. There's this whole new palate of flavors. It was just a completely different type of food than what I have in like 99% of Thai restaurants. And I just realized there's this whole world of Thai food that I was missing out on. Because most of it was kind of like made for the American palate. And I was like, "What? Where?" And finding a place that makes Northern Thai food is so hard in the States. I can think of maybe like a few off the top of my head that might be able to do it. And so to me, I was like, "Oh, there's this whole set of flavors that I'm missing out on."

                                    And so I feel like that's probably the same with Indian food. Like I'm probably eating the versions of the food that are most Americanized. Because, you know, I don't know any better. But I want to break out of my comfort zone and be challenged taste-wise.

                                    So what are some of the dishes on your blog that can help get me there? Like what are those dishes that can help me start to begin to expand outside of like Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, and I think ... maybe it's only two. Those are the two that come to mind. There's one more that I've had.

Meeta Arora:                That is so true, actually. So it's absolutely true that when people talk in the U.S. now, or I'm sure in other countries as well, about Indian food, all we hear is Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, naan, and maybe a couple of other things. But actually, in India, we would never cook butter chicken at home. What we cook at home is very simple chicken curry. Which does not have any cream.

                                    So once I was talking to a colleague while I was working. She was like, "Oh, you cannot eat Indian food every day because it's so heavy. It's so creamy. You can't have so much fat every day." And I was like, "You know, that's the difference." I mean my mom never really bought cream from the store ever for cooking Indian food. Because we would, you know, just make the home cooked meals without any cream or butter in them most of the time.

                                    It's not as heavy as we get in the restaurant. The restaurants are totally customized to just suit the American palate or other countries as well.

                                    So if you want to experience real home-cooked Indian food, let me think ...

Nicole S.:                      I should come to your house? I'm just [crosstalk 00:16:16].

Meeta Arora:                Absolutely. Yes. You are absolutely welcome to come to my house.

Nicole S.:                      That's how I really experience home-cooked Indian food. I'm just going to come to your house. Sorry. No. [inaudible 00:16:29] are ingredients that ... Tell me those recipes that I can start myself before I just, you know, invite myself over to your place.

Meeta Arora:                So let me see. I'm going to divide it up a little bit. I'll say one chicken dish and I'll say vegetarian dishes. So the chicken dish is ... I have this recipe on the blog called Mom's Chicken Curry. Which is actual simple, chicken curry. The most basic chicken curry we make in Indian homes. So this is the North Indian style of making the chicken curry. Because that's where my family is from. So that's the one I would suggest for chicken.

                                    And for vegetarian, I will suggest Aloo Gobi. Which is cauliflower and potato stir fry. Very simple, you just add in some onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cauliflower florets, along with potatoes. And stir fry it until it's cooked. And top it up with wonderful cilantro. And obviously you're making spices which I did not mention before.

                                    And the third dish would be a lentil. A lentil or bean. So that is something that we always include in our meal. Especially for the vegetarians. Lentils are beans which gives them the protein. So my favorite one there would be Chana Masala. It's again one of the North Indian dishes. It's very popular.

                                    So for vegetarians, if you're going to a restaurant, Chana Masala would be a dish that you order. It's, again, we don't add any cream to it. But it's very basic made with chickpeas, lots of wonderful spices. We also add some whole spices while making Chana Masala. Which gives them very aromatic flavor to it. And always top any of these things with fresh cilantro.

Nicole S.:                      That sounds so good. And, you know, I like that you pointed out, like, "No we're not making all these creamy, heavy dishes at home." I think the equivalent would be is if we went ... I'm trying to think like if I went to India and there's like ... and you have to tell me this. Are there restaurants in India that do American food? Like American restaurants?

Meeta Arora:                Oh yeah. Absolutely. There's every cuisine there now. When I was growing up there were less of them. Like we wouldn't get pasta so easily in all of the restaurants. But now it's everywhere. We would get all the varieties of any cuisine that you can think of in India, as well.

Nicole S.:                      Yeah, it would be like the equivalent of eating fried chicken every day. Yeah, you can't ... like butter chicken is like the equivalent of fried chicken. Like nobody ... okay, maybe some people do and shouldn't. I believe you have the right to feed your body in the way that you choose, but don't eat fried chicken every day, y'all. It's not good for you all the time. Even I'm a realist. But that's what the equivalent of it is, is you eating fried chicken every day. You just wouldn't do it. That's like a food that you would eat at a restaurant or a special occasion food that you would make for like a picnic or something. But it's not an every day food. So completely understand. I love that you cleared that up.

                                    Okay, I want to talk ... You said earlier, you know, you started adapting your recipes for Instant Pot. Okay, so I joined a Facebook group. And I think you're part of that group. That solely gives out Indian food recipes, like everybody's like putting up ... there's like a Facebook for Instant Pot and then there's like a Facebook group for Indian food recipes on Instant Pot.

                                    Okay, what makes the Instant Pot so special for Indian food? Because I'm like, the fact there's an entire Facebook group and a bunch of bloggers who are making Indian food and doing it in an Instant Pot ... why is this contraption so special and so great for Indian food? I mean you would think you would see all types of food, but it seems like Indian food bloggers have really embraced the Instant Pot. And in fact, I think I saw a New York Times article, which I'll link to in the show notes, about why ... or at least talking about how the Instant Pot is very popular amongst the Indian food bloggers and Indian-Americans. Why is this contraption so great for Indian food, specifically?

Meeta Arora:                Great. So you're absolutely right. There are actually two really popular Indian Instant Pot groups on Facebook. One is Instant Pot for Indian Cooking, which is the most popular. And there is a reason why Indians have embraced the Instant Pot so well. Because pressure cooking is not new to Indians. For as long as I can remember, my mom, my grandmom, everybody had more than one pressure cooker in their kitchen. Actually, when I came to the U.S., I do have three stove top pressure cookers still in my kitchen. I don't use them anymore after I got the Instant Pot, but I do have three different sized stove top pressure cookers.

                                    So pressure cooking is completely not new to Indians. In fact, what happened with the Instant Pot coming out there, is that pressure cooking has become much more safer. It has become much more easier with the Instant Pot.

                                    Some of the things from the Instant Pot that I really love is one, we've been converting all of our recipes to become one pot with using the Instant Pot. So there's less of cleaning to do. It's more hands off. You can set the timer and you can walk away. Do whatever you need to do. Do your chores in the morning or whatever you're doing. And come back and the food is ready. You don't have to ... you know, with the old stove top pressure cookers, we had to count the whistles. My mom would say, "Oh, tell me when three whistles are done." And the rajma, the beans, would be ready by then. You don't have to do that anymore. We set a timer, 30 minutes, and it will stop by itself. And we can just come back to fully-cooked meal after that.

                                    It's such a wonderful thing that, you know, Instant Pot has made it so much easier so that ... which is the reason why it's so popular.

Nicole S.:                      Wow. I had no ... That is such a great insight. I had no idea about that. So my mom, for years, she was afraid of a pressure cooker because she had a really bad accident with one. She opened it before it was done, or it timed to open and it like exploded all over here. And she was like, I'm ... that's the old version, like you're talking about. And she's like, "That's it, I'm never using a pressure cooker."

                                    In fact, I had to really convince her that ... she had bought a pressure cooker, a Wolfgang Puck one, and she's like, "I'm not, I'm too afraid to use it." And I had to prove to her, like, "No mom, it's safe. There's more safety to it." I know there's going to be someone who's like, "I heard this thing where this woman got burnt up by her Instant" ... look, nothing is 100% safe, but this is like so much more safer than the old method. And so my mom actually started using her pressure cooker again, because I was able to show her, "Yeah, no, it's fine. It's got a lot of safety built into it, so you're fine." And I had never experienced that, so I was like 100% on board, like give me an Instant Pot right now.

                                    But I love that there's that cultural aspect of, "Yeah, no we've been using pressure cookers for years and now this makes life so much easier." And that makes sense why it's so popular amongst Indian people, because it's just a huge time saver for you. What an amazing insight. See you only learn this stuff when you talk to somebody. That's why you should talk to people outside of your circle. So you can learn new things. So you just really gave me some great insight that I never understood before.

                                    Tell me, what is your thing with air fryers? Because now you've talked about Instant Pot and I saw that you also on your blog you talk about the air fryer. Now I just recently got an air fryer myself. And I love that thing. But tell me about what the air fryer does for you.

Meeta Arora:                Sure. So air fryer ... so Indian food, a lot of appetizers and also some of the ... actually cooking, while cooking some vegetables, we sometimes fry them.

                                    So if you want to make those fried things a little healthier, I go to the air fryer for the ... even just, you know, everybody loves french fries. Even we have them. So that is one thing that if you want to make it a little healthier, I know it doesn't taste perfectly as the real fried one, but it's a good compromise. So I use the air fryer for these basic things. So air frying some fries sometimes, I just want to have a quick side dish with the meal and I can cook some sweet potatoes very quickly in there.

                                    One of the favorite Indian vegetables that we enjoy is okra. So, you know, quickly, spice it up a little bit, and throw it in the air fryer while the other things are cooking. That will be ready as a great veggie side dish. So my husband is a vegetarian. So I always think of vegetarian options in the meal along with if we're having a meat along with that. I always have to think of vegetarian options.

                                    So another thing about air fryer, most people think that it's great if you eat meat if you're eating chicken or fish every day, then it's great to have an air fryer. But I actually think it's great for veggies as well. A lot of recipes I have shared for air fryer are actually vegetarian dishes that we cook on the stove top. And I have converted them to the air fryer.

Nicole S.:                      Oh wow. I mean I knew ... I've done some french fries in there and I've done mostly meats in the air fryer. But the fried okra one, I hadn't heard about. And girl, that is a southern recipe here in the States. You know. If you've been to the south, you know we love okra there, too.

Meeta Arora:                Yeah.

Nicole S.:                      There it is again-

Meeta Arora:                Another thing [crosstalk 00:27:01], right?

Nicole S.:                      Yeah, exactly. And there it goes again that, you know, cross cultural recipes that you see across cultures. But that is really kind of the same thing.

                                    What's your most popular recipe on the blog and why do you think it is?

Meeta Arora:                So there are actually two which are equally popular. The first one is the one I already mentioned before which is Mom's Chicken Curry. So this one is really special for me because I made it when my mom was visiting me last year. And I converted it to the Instant Pot. This chicken curry's nowhere close to the Butter Chicken you eat in restaurants. It's no cream, very simple, homemade chicken curry.

                                    When my mom was here, I was telling her, "You know, I can never get the exact taste of the chicken curry that you make, what am I doing wrong? I'm using all the right ingredients. So what am I doing wrong?" And there was a tip from her that saute, saute, saute. So when I sauteed the onions, if you think you're done saute them for one more minute. And then add the tomatoes and then saute for another four to five minutes. That was her tip. And then when you add the chicken, saute it before you pressure cook it. Because that adds in the flavor and the flavor from the onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, all the aromatic spices that actually get into the ... kind of locks into the chicken before you do the pressure cooking. So that was her tip. And no wonder that is my most popular recipe. It has like over 90 positive reviews. And it's wonderful. I'm so excited for that one.

                                    And the other dish which is really popular is a Mumbai street food favorite called Pav Bhaji. And this is a veggie ... this is kind of a mashed veggie curry. And it's eaten ... the mashed veggie curry which you cook it in butter. This is one dish you're going to move and cook it in butter completely. And then after it's cooked you mash all the veggies. And you top it with onions, lots of lemon juice, cilantro. And you eat it with pav, which is dinner roll. Which is the equivalent of dinner rolls here. These are unsweetened dinner rolls. And even the dinner rolls, the pav, you can slather them in butter and you enjoy them, you dip the dinner rolls in the bhaji and you enjoy it.

                                    This is the other one, which was actually a more extensive, more complex recipe. But when I made it in the Instant Pot, I converted it to be a one part recipe. And I think that's what has made it a popular one that you can now ... Now this street food which was inaccessible, a weekend special dish which took longer to cook, you can now make it in less than 30 minutes in one pot, and enjoy it even on a week night.

Nicole S.:                      Those sound both really, really good. And healthy. Okay. Here's the big question, we touched on it earlier. Walk me through the difference between roti, naan, and you mentioned your third bread that you have. I want you to say it again. Because I don't want to mess it up. And then walk me through from easiest to hardest to make.

Meeta Arora:                So the three are roti, paratha, naan. Actually I did not mention on more before which is called poori, which is the fried Indian flatbread. It's more like a puffed, fried puffed bread.

                                    So the hardest to make is actually naan here. Because it needs more special ... it takes longer to make the dough. You have to keep it so that it leavens. Which takes some time. And also there's special equipment which is best to make it. It's a tandoor in which you make the naan typically. Which people don't have in their homes most of the time.  You can make it on the stove top, which are more [inaudible 00:31:09]. We are trying to make it on the stove top we can do it. But originally it's made in a tandoor.

Nicole S.:                      I see. Okay, that's why it's like, "We're just going to leave that in the restaurant."

Meeta Arora:                Exactly. I mean there are so many recipes out there trying to mimic making it on the stove top, which we can for daily purposes. It's okay to do that. You always want to customize and enjoy the food at home. But the easiest-

Nicole S.:                      It would be like trying to make your own sourdough bread every day. Is that what you'd say? Like it's-

Meeta Arora:                Yeah. Absolutely.

Nicole S.:                      You can do it, but it takes forever.

Meeta Arora:                Yeah. It's kind of, you know, you can customize to make it. But it's ... I don't ...

Nicole S.:                      You just buy your sourdough.

Meeta Arora:                I typically just buy a naan frozen at Trader Joe's.

Nicole S.:                      Okay, all right.

Meeta Arora:                And I use that if you want to do that.

Nicole S.:                      Yeah, if you're buying naan frozen, where are you buying it from?

Meeta Arora:                I buy it at Trader Joe's or at Indian grocery stores. Actually it's available so easily now everywhere. It's even at Costco. It's not the frozen one, the other one ... on the shelf. Refrigerated shelf at Costco. Or I like the frozen one, frozen garlic naan at Trader Joe's.

Nicole S.:                      Y'all heard it here first, she is an Indian food blogger and she is buying her naan from Trader Joe's. So you would ... Brenda Sickles from Become Betty is right now just screaming in her car excited that an authentic Indian food blogger is like, "Yeah, I buy my naan from Trader Joe's." She's screaming right now.

Meeta Arora:                And this is the person who makes her roti fresh every day. Okay, so I do make roti every day, because I want to give freshly home cooked roti for my daughter. So we make the dough from scratch from whole wheat flour. We make the dough. And we roll the rotis and we cook them on a pan on the stove top. So I make that every day, pretty much. But not the naan.

Nicole S.:                      Yeah, she's buying her naan, she's making her roti, folks.

                                    Okay, and then there was the third one that you had mentioned right in the beginning. Say that again?

Meeta Arora:                That's paratha. paratha is very close to a roti. A little thicker, just a little ... we add a little more ghee while cooking it on the pan.

Nicole S.:                      Okay.

Meeta Arora:                That's about it. It's not much different than the roti. A little bit slight difference. Sometimes the parathas can be stuffed. So we stuff them with ... we grate cauliflower and stuff it while making, while rolling the dough.

Nicole S.:                      Oh wow.

Meeta Arora:                So we stuff it in and that's called a gobi paratha or cauliflower paratha. We can stuff in potatoes, mashed potatoes, in it. We can stuff it ... stuff what else? Paneer in it, grated paneer in it. So you can stuff things. The paratha, when it's stuffed, it's a little more complicated. But roti is a simple version. You can have a plain parathas.

Nicole S.:                      Sounds delicious, oh my goodness. Okay. And are those two recipes up on your blog, too? Right?

Meeta Arora:                I haven't shared the roti and paratha recipes yet.

Nicole S.:                      What?

Meeta Arora:                I need to get on that.

Nicole S.:                      You need to get on that. How [crosstalk 00:34:18]. I don't trust anyone else's recipe. You've got to put that up before the new year.

Meeta Arora:                Sure.

Nicole S.:                      By the time this comes out, you have to have those recipes up.

Meeta Arora:                Okay, that's a promise.

Nicole S.:                      All right. You better email me those recipes so I can start making those. I'm like what? Like you're listing all this bread. People are like they are going to be screaming in their cars if they can't find it. Okay.

Meeta Arora:                I'm [crosstalk 00:34:45] that for ... absolutely for the listeners.

Nicole S.:                      Right now they're like, "Oh, we want to go make that." And then they're like, "Well, oh man." Okay. So I want to start cooking Indian food tonight. I want to make something on your blog. Give me a recipe that I can try that won't be too intimidating.

Meeta Arora:                I would say start with the Aloo Gobi, which is the potato and cauliflower stir fry. It's really simple to make. Very basic ingredients. The basic spices that I talked about before. And you need ... You can make it in the Instant Pot, you can also make it in a pan on the stove top and it's totally fine.

                                    It's super easy. You start with some basic cumin seeds, add in some ginger, garlic, some tomato, some onions, saute it, add some tomatoes, add the cauliflower and potatoes, some spices, and let it cook for just 10 minutes while the cauliflower and potatoes get softer and cooked. And that's about it. You top it with cilantro and enjoy it with naan or even with ... as a side along with your meat or rice. That's a basic recipe that you can cook even tonight.

Nicole S.:                      That sounds awesome. I should try that tonight. Okay. All right. What is the one tip that you can give to a home cook out there that's listening that wants to ... they want to make Indian food, they're kind of nervous, like what's that one tip that you can give them so that they can make something?

Meeta Arora:                I’m thinking through this part because you heard me saying over and over again that it's five basic spices that you need. It's typically the dishes start with using cumin seeds, onion, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. And then we make the sauce out of that. So it's nothing too complex. It's super simple. I know it does sound like so many things, but once you have those basics down, Indian cooking is really not complex at all. You have the basics down, even if a recipe lists 10 different spices, you know you can work around with just using the five basic spices that I mentioned. And still get a wonderful, aromatic dish on your table very easily.

                                    And let me add here. The Instant Pot actually makes it really easy to cook all of these dishes in one pot. So you don't ... and it has really made Indian food accessible all around the world. So I'm so excited about that. And I hope this broadcast helps with that as well.

Nicole S.:                      I'm certain it's going to. I bet there are people ... it's helped me. It's increased my confidence. I will tell you that before I had a chat with you, I liked looking at the recipes on your blog. It didn't ... you know, there's something ... It was like the signal and the noise, right. I didn't really kind of parse out that, "Yeah, she's using kind of the same five basic spices, she's using kind of the same ingredients over and over, it's just slightly different main parts of it like beans or chicken or cauliflower." And even as I'm hearing you talk, I hear kind of the same vegetables over and over. Like the same basic names, too.

                                    And it's kind of like you've demystified Indian food for me. Now I understand the Instant Pot connection. Now I understand where those flavor profiles I really like. Now I understand why I'm just always eating butter chicken in a restaurant, because it's like the equivalent of eating fried chicken. So I really ... you've really increased my confidence. And I am going to make recipes on your blog. Because now I'm confident that I can go out and do it. So thank you.

Meeta Arora:                I'm so glad it helped. And it's great to share all of this fun stuff and chatting with you here [inaudible 00:39:08].

Nicole S.:                      Okay. So where can people find you on the internet?

Meeta Arora:                So they can ... everybody ... You can find me at And on all of the social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter. Again, you can find me at pipingpotcurry is my handle in all of those [inaudible 00:39:36].

Nicole S.:                      Awesome. Well Meeta, you have been so amazing to talk to today. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on the podcast.

Meeta Arora:                Thank you for inviting me. It's super fun to be here.

Nicole S.:                      All right. And we look forward to go out, try an Indian food restaurant tonight from Meeta's blog. Let her know in the comments if you do. Let us both know. And we'll see you out there. All right. Take care, Meeta. Bye.

Meeta Arora:                Bye.

Nicole S.:                      Meeta Arora, Piping Pot Curry was such a delightful guest. I'm going to go ahead and call it and say that thus far this season, she has been the person who has really expanded my culinary knowledge. I was clueless before about Indian food. And I had no idea how to really go about making it. Other than just buying the pre-made curry sauces that I found on Costco. I suppose I could have gone online and gotten a recipe, but I guess I think I felt intimidated by trying to make Indian food. I know I like it very much. But I felt like it was really complicated. And after talking with Meeta, I feel so much more confident about going out to make some of the delicious homemade Indian food dishes that she has put on her blog, right here in my own home. And I'm really excited to try it out.

                                    And not only that, I think she really solved the mystery for me of why Indian food bloggers love the Instant Pot. It just ... that's kind of one of the reasons why I love talking to food bloggers, is because they teach you something every week. That every week I talk to somebody I learn something new. And that was just such an eye-opening thing that I didn't know before.

                                    So yeah, I'm really excited to try some Indian food recipes here at home for myself. So you can see what I'm attempting to make. Look at my Instagram in this coming week. And you can see me try to make some of the yummy dishes that Meeta encouraged me to try. Like her Mom's Chicken Curry, which just sounds divine. And I'm definitely going to try that, as well as some of the tasty vegetarian dishes that she details on her blog. I just think I'm going to have a lot of fun with those.

                                    So, you know what, if you might have noticed, the interviews are getting a little longer. And that's just because I am so interested in learning from these incredibly talented people. And so I wanted to ask you what questions do you want me to ask some of the food bloggers that I get to interview? And is there a blogger out there that you want to hear from? Shoot me a DM on Instagram if you follow me. And if you don't, you should. So that way I can see your DM. That's where I, you know, showcase a lot of the recipes that I try from the food bloggers. And that's usually where I'm at. And so I want to hear from you.

                                    Finally, if you like the show, please tell someone about it and get them to subscribe. And I hope that you're subscribing as well. You can point people to my website,, or my Instagram, which is bffwiththechef, that's my handle. And there's a link to the podcast right in the bio. Or you can just both join the Facebook group which is BFF with the Chef Friends. I'd love to see you in any of those places, you don't need to go to all those places. I just want to hear from you. And want to hear what you're thinking and what you'd like to hear next on the podcast.

                                    So until next time, this is BFF with the Chef wishing you a great week and hoping you've been inspired to go and make something delicious. Goodbye.