Author: Saffron Fix Team

A Foodie Goes to India


Admiring the Taj Mahal at sunrise

Admiring the Taj Mahal at sunrise

I can safely say I’ve been a foodie my whole life. I’ve also been an avid traveler since I moved to Paris after college to teach English at a culinary school. Eating is basically my favorite way of experiencing other cultures — so throughout my twenties, I delighted in munching my way across France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy.

Preparing for my first trip to India, though, I realized how thoroughly unprepared I was to experience the country through her cuisine. I knew it would involve many unfamiliar ingredients, novel spices, and unusual combinations. It helped that my fiancé is Indian — and it also helped that he is a great cook. He gently introduced me to food beyond the standard fare of tikka masalas and the samosas that one typically finds in Indian restaurants tailored to American tastes.

Drinking fresh coconut water at the market in Mumbai

Drinking fresh coconut water at the market in Mumbai

A few weeks before we left, he confiscated my utensils and made me practice eating rice using only my hands — like many Indians do at home. I learned to press food between my thumb and fingers and lift it in a scooping motion in the general direction of my mouth. By the time we had to leave for India, I had sort of gotten the hang of it. At first I found the whole process cumbersome and messy. Weren’t forks invented to circumvent all this? But then I started to realize how pleasurable it was not just to taste and smell food, but to feel it. My fiancé, a neuroscientist, told me that this is called multisensory integration.

Arriving in India, our first stop was my fiancé’s family home in Mumbai. There we were treated to a parade of home-cooked Maharashtrian specialties. There were potato patties smothered in lentil stew, topped with sweet and spicy chutneys. There were stuffed baby eggplants floating in curry sauce. There was flatbread filled with fenugreek leaves. I learned that the food of my fiancé’s childhood is a mixture of cooking styles inherited from his father’s family, his mother’s family, and the neighbors in their building with whom they swapped recipes. This is how many Indian families develop a unique blend of techniques and traditions that are specific to their household.

The ornate doors of the Global Vipassana Pagoda in Mumbai

The ornate doors of the Global Vipassana Pagoda in Mumbai

One evening I watched my fiancé’s mother deftly flipping the handmade rotis she had just rolled out over the open flame of the gas burner, a process which cooked them to the perfect texture of soft-yet-crispy. I glanced out the window of the apartment’s kitchen window. Across the courtyard, I saw a vertical row of kitchen windows, all filled with women and families busily preparing dinner. Each one stacked atop the other, cooking their own unique take on Indian dishes.

After Mumbai, our next stop was Vrindavan, the birthplace of the deity Krishna, and city of divine love. We stayed at an ashram that had its own fruit, vegetable, and herb garden as well as a cow sanctuary. The ashram nourished the souls and stomachs of people young and old who came to study there from around the world. In the cool mornings, we rose early to crowd around the wood-fired stove while we drank ginger tea and feasted on bananas or papayas from the garden. Once we were fully awake and warm, we headed off to hear the guru’s lectures. After class, the ashram served a full Indian meal for lunch: a dal (lentil stew), a subzi (a vegetable preparation), roti, and rice – plus some sweet for dessert. The particular lentil, vegetable, and sweet rotated daily, but the formula remained the same. Here my finger-fork skills finally came in handy. Tear the roti using forefinger and thumb. Grab a piece of vegetable between the roti piece. Dunk in lentil stew. Eat and repeat.

Resting after an afternoon of visiting Agra Fort

Resting after an afternoon of visiting Agra Fort

The food we ate at the ashram was healthful in a way I had not known possible. It was simple yet flavorful. In the United States, so often our cuisine forces us to choose between tasty and healthy: French fries or steamed kale? Donuts or steel-cut oatmeal? The hearty food at the ashram opened my eyes to what a needless dualism this is. Indian cuisine, I learned, was developed precisely to delight the tastebuds and to promote wellness. Scientists have shown that Indian food is objectively delicious precisely because it uses such contrasting and diverse flavor components. Many of those uniquely Indian flavor components – like turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and garlic – have been shown as having anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic properties. The low-fat, high-fiber nature of most meals makes Indian food one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. And for someone like me and my fiancé, who are passionate about making ethical consumption choices, eating a plant-based diet is easy in India – the country with the highest percentage of vegetarians in the world.

The last leg of our trip was a visit to Varanasi, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. No trip to India is complete without an overnight train ride, so this is how we journeyed to Varanasi. Twelve hours into our ride, the sun had risen and we had eaten through the snacks of nuts and chivda we had brought. My fiancé ventured out onto the platform during a stop to buy whatever was on offer from the vendors there for breakfast. I stared out the window, terrified that the train would take off without him and I’d be left stranded and hungry in this foreign land. But before the train pulled away, he returned triumphantly – in his hands, a few pieces of greasy bread wrapped in newspaper, a bowl of spicy stew, and two little cups of chai. It was the best breakfast I’d ever had.

Exploring the colorful streets of Varanasi with my fiancé, Amol

Exploring the colorful streets of Varanasi with my fiancé, Amol

From street food to ashram-prepared meals to homemade delicacies, my time in India was, in a way, no different from my time in any other country where I’ve traveled. It was full of new experiences that expanded my culinary repertoire and taught me the joy of that particular country’s cuisine. But my time in India was also unlike any other. It taught me how to eat with all five of my senses. It taught me how traditional recipes are passed down in families all while being continually updated, blended, and remixed. It taught me how food can be salutary for the body, mind, and soul. It taught me how even the simplest poori bhaji, wrapped in a humble newspaper, can bring unimaginable delight to a hungry American adventuring her way across the Indian countryside.

On the ghat - steps leading down to the Ganges river. This ghat was named after India’s sacred basil plant, tulsi

On the ghat – steps leading down to the Ganges river. This ghat was named after India’s sacred basil plant, tulsi

You can follow Lauren and her fiancé’s Amol’s adventures on their blog The Life of Two Minds, where they write about love, science, and spirituality.

Mad for Mangoes

By Buvana Sharma

My mother is a connoisseur of many things but it is her knowledge of mangoes that astounds me. From just a whiff or a bite she can trace a mango to its origin and finds the best way to cherish the flavor of each fruit. Some may call it an obsession, but I think it may be her superpower.

– Madhuri Sharma, Co-Founder & COO

While planning a trip to India, the most frequently asked question is, “when is the best time of year to visit?” My answer is simply, “during the mango season”. From about early May to early July the mangoes flood the market and the mango frenzy is at its peak. The heat and humidity in most parts of India can get a bit uncomfortable, but for a true “mango aficionado” it is a small price to pay.  From North to South and East to West, various regions grow its own variety of mangoes, each distinct and peculiar, marked by varying degrees of sweetness, tanginess, flavor and fragrance – very characteristic to the regions they represent. Like wine, they have to be savored and relished and a true connoisseur will be able to detect the fruit’s origins with just the smell and a sizable bite of the heavenly fruit. Like someone with a sensitive ear that can distinguish a Staten Islander from a Long Islander, I have been blessed with a palate that can track a mango to its place of origin, just by its flavor, color, texture of it’s pulp and characteristics of its skin.

India has over 260 varieties of mangoes out of which 12 are most popular. If you were to begin your trip in Northern India, the Chaunsa from Himachal would be a good one to start with. Then you would probably easily get your hands on Alphonso/aapoos in Maharashtra, so popular that families buy them by the baskets versus dozens. Kesar in Gujrath gets its name from the “saffron” color of its sweet juicy pulp. This variety is widely used for making “aam rus”, a sweet side dish to go with pooris and ghee during the mango season. A distinct feature of this variety is that the skin remains green even when ripe, in direct contrast to the sunrise orange flesh. Another popular mango in the North is Langda, which translates to “lame” and is named after the disabled farmer who first cultivated it. Raspuri is yet another variety used primarily for its juicy pulp in making lassi, a buttermilk based drink that is a staple to Punjabi cuisine. If you prefer, you could puncture a small hole in a ripe fruit and suck its interior dry without even having to cut it!


While descending South you might chance into Banganpalli in Andhra. The appeal for this variety lies in its smooth glowing golden skin but also its fiber-free pulp that is marked by a milder sweetness. It is no wonder that this ranks as one of the favorites of the masses in the later part of the season. Neelam from Tamil Nadu, named after the color “blue” is another popular variety. The dark green & white powdery skin that almost looks blue in the moonlit nights, is quite the opposite of Banganpalli; the skin is much thicker but the intensity of sweetness definitely higher, appealing to the ones with more of a sweet tooth. Himam Pasandh, a rare more expensive hybrid fruit, can easily win the title of “King of Mangoes”. A larger fruit with a flavor & sweetness to match its size, it lives up to its name, which translates to the King’s choice. Coming down to Karnataka, you have the Tothapuri. The diversity of the use of this variety is mind-boggling. From pickles, to salads, to snacks with salt & chili powder smeared on it or a perfect dessert its versatility is quite appealing. Another variety Mallika, which means “jasmine”, is commonly found in the tail end of the season and like the flower is packed with a lot of fragrance and a sweetness to match it.

While I can appreciate all these varieties, my all time favorite is the Romani – the mango that disguises itself as an apple! It’s late appearance in the market proves that mother nature truly saves the best for last! Starting from the easy-to-peel thin skin, the round yellow shape, the fiber-free juicy pulp with only a very small seed to throw away, it satisfies your every craving and leaves you wanting for more! It’s the perfect grand finale to the mango season, leaving you with an after taste that can last you a whole year, or at least until the season arrives again!

Easy solution for your Butter Chicken leftovers – Naanchos

The Fix

Paneer bhurji Ingredients

Bold spices, enticing heat, decadent textures, and the comfort of home. That’s what Indian food means to us at the Saffron Fix kitchen. Even if you are a novice cook with little to no experience our goal is to make you fall in love with process of cooking Indian food. The feeling of plucking fresh fenugreek leaves, the art of blooming whole spices in oil, and the aromatherapy of steaming Basmati rice are just a few of the of the wonderful moments you would never experience if you order take out. We are not just sending you a box of ingredients; we are inviting you inside our kitchen, to our dining table and giving you a taste of home.

Since we are hoping to transport you with every meal, think of this blog like a travelers guide. What is curry leaf? Where is Chettinad exactly? How can I make authentic chai? We plan to demystify this cuisine until you feel as comfortable cooking Chicken Tikka Masala as you would spaghetti.

With each box you contribute to our story. Saffron Fix is not a product but a community of those who believe in cooking what you crave. Reflections of your experience, what you have learned and what you wish to know more about are as vital to our recipes as salt. Without it things would be pretty bland, so share your thoughts in the comment section or send us a note anytime. We look forward to taking this journey with you!