Saturday, 8 March 2014

Indian Curry in São Paulo

Aside from Japanese food, good Asian cuisine is sorely lacking in this country. We have 2-3 good Chinese restaurants in Liberdade, one Korean restaurant in Vila Mariana and also our favourite favourite Samosa & Co. *They have a Dosa festival this Sunday night, 9 March

For most of my life I've lived in cities that have everything. Even though I'm Chinese I never had to learn to make fried rice or spring rolls.. until Sao Paulo, I had access to all my favourite foods literally within a one block radius. I have to say, London's selection of sushi though is appalling - maybe it's improved since the 4 years I've been away so São Paulo wins on the Japanese food.

Since living in São Paulo I have learnt to make all my favourite dishes, some of them even dishes I was forced to eat as a child and never even ate in New York or London, but suddenly have the desire because I can't get it here. Last night I made Indian food from scratch. Here's my adapted recipe from Mamta for Butter Dal if you need a break from brazilian beans. You can find Indian rice in most supermarkets, or I just use Raris 7 Grain.


  • 500g lentils
  • 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds (erva doce)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (or I use cumin / cominho)
Ingredients for tarka / tempering
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (or powder)
  • 3 fresh chillies
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, finally chopped 
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp Garam Masala (I bought mine in but you can buy from speciality supermarkets or from Bombay Spice in Sao paulo)
  • 1 cup of thick yoghurt (for me only the greek yoghurt from Delicari does the job!)
  • Chopped coriander leaves

1. Wash and soak the lentils for 1-2 hours, or even in the morning before you cook that night.
2. Put the lentils and cover with double amoung of water, ground fennel and turmeric into a pressure cooker (every Brazilian household has one!) and cook under full pressure for 20-30 minutes (depends on how long you have coked your dal for. Let cool and add salt to taste.
3. While the lentils are cooking you can prepare the tarka. Heat oil in a wok, add cumin seeds and it will start to splutter.
4. Add the chilli, ginger and garlic and fry for 30 seconds.
5. Add onions and fry until light brown. Add chopped tomatoes, chilli powder and garam masala and stir fry until you see the oil on top.
6. Add it to the cooked lentils and simmer for another 5 minutes

For serving add the yoghurt, and garnish with coriander leaves


  1. Hi,

    I am an Indian who just moved to Sao Paulo; really liked your recipe, thanks for sharing!
    Could you please tell where you buy the lentils from? I tried Pao de Acucar, but their collection is very limited (2-3 types of lentils).

    Many thanks,

  2. Hi Mandy, welcome to Sao Paulo!
    I like to buy my lentils from the fresh fruit & veg market - my favourite is the Vila Madalena one on Saturday mornings. You can find them selling dried goods in the stands selling onions and garlic. Other places to check out are Mercado Municipal and CEASA on Saturday and Sundays (close to Parque Vila Lobos).