A Holi Day Full of Colours by Alisha Mody

On this holy day filled with gaiety and devotion,

We come to commemorate the enduring love saga of Ras Lila.

Malicious spirits are set to burn in a bonfire amidst merriment,

And riot of pastel colors paint the canvas of the sky.

With love and devotion overpowering evil,

We take up a mango blossoms and sandalwood paste as offerings from god,

And boil thin strands of vermicelli in fragrant sweet yellow milk,

With notes of cardamom and saffron,

Served in clay plots and decorated at the top with cashews and raisins.

As spring begins and the flowers bloom at the spirit of the nation,

The sound of the dholak with the crowds running lets no one rest.

Once trees are painted pink and the color runs out,

The traditional melodies wind down,

And homes are filled with an aroma of ecstasy.

Once the plates have been emptied,

Harmony is achieved in the nation,

As India and god witness the color of true peace.


  1. What piece did you choose to imitate?

I chose a piece that I found very intriguing, which was “Dong Huang Taiyi (Grand Unity, Spirit of the Eastern Sky)” written by Chu Ci by Qu Yuan. 

  1. Why did you choose this piece?

Coming from a religious Hindu family, I felt rather sentimental while reading “Dong Huang Taiyi” as this poem primarily revolves around an auspicious day. He describes the event in spiritual terms by using the food and singing served on this day. The scene painted through the poet’s words reminded me of the value that many dishes from India hold, which is that of spirituality. In India, many of the foods served on holidays serve as a link between the people eating it and god. Singing in “Dong Huang Taiyi” is also used to illustrate spirituality, just as how many of the ballads we sing on religious holidays in India are odes to the gods and serve to link the community. The title of the poem “Grand Unity, Spirit of the Eastern Sky” inspired me to choose a popular ancient festival in India called ‘Holi’.

Holi is known as the festival of colors or love, and marks the beginning of spring. It is celebrated to commemorate the love saga of radha and krishna, which are two gods of hinduism. The night before Holi, people gather and perform religious ceremonies in front of a bonfire where they pray to destroy and burn their internal evil the same way that Holika, sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire. The next morning is Holi, and people throw and drench each other in colorful powders. Everyone participates in this festival, and everyone, including the rich and poor, finally mix during this celebration of love. Many groups carry drums, known as dholaks, and other musical instruments as they go from place to place singing and dancing. The spiritual day is also filled with ‘seasonal delicacies’ like those we read about in Chinese culture in the reading “Food and Drink Traditions” in Chinese Food by Liu Junru. The dish mentioned in my poem is called Kheer (photo attached below), which is a particular ‘seasonal delicacy’ that is eaten on this auspicious day. 

  1. What did you learn about the culture of the original author through imitating his or her style?

    Through “Dong Huang Taiyi”, it is evident that the Chinese link their food to the spiritual world, similar to practices in India. One line that really spoke to me was, “Take up the fragrant flower offerings, the meats cooked in melilotus, served on orchid mats, And libations of cinnamon wine and pepper sauces!” What I understand here is that food offerings and songs are used to please the holy spirits and deities, and are seen as ‘seasonal delicacies’. We studied this idea of ‘seasonal delicacy’ in class and particularly read about in “Food and Drink Traditions” in Chinese Food by Liu Junru, which demonstrated how by eating zongzi during the dragon festival you are in essence celebrating not only the life of Qi yuan but the loyalty and spirit that Chinese people take large pride in as a community. These actions and ‘seasonal delicacies’ really show how culture and traditions are deeply embedded into Chinese festivals, and that food surpasses its normal connotation of nutrition and extends to a symbolic spiritual meaning in China.

  2. What did you learn about your own culture while writing?

When researching about my own culture while writing this Journal Entry, I found that there are several ways the noodle, namely the vermicelli noodle, plays a role in popular dishes that are synonymous with certain auspicious festivals. I chose Holi, as I knew Kheer was a popular noodle-based dessert that is served during the festival. However, upon further research I was very surprised to find all the other roles the noodle plays in our Indian dishes! I never even noticed that the vermicelli noodle had such a big presence in our Indian spiritual dishes, and always thought of it to be more of a Southeast Asian staple. This peaked my curiosity, and I was further curious to learn about other festivals in India that have similar noodle-based dishes accompanying them. I found out that at Diwali, which is known as the Festival of Light, kheer is a popular dish that is also served then, in addition to dish called falooda. Falooda (shown below) is a cold dessert made by mixing rose syrup, vermicelli noodles, and sabja seeds (aka basil seeds) in sweet milk, and is often served with ice cream. Not only did I learn how certain food items have become synonymous with certain festivals and auspicious occasions, but I also learned that many of these ‘seasonal delicacies’ incorporate the noodle!

  1. Is there cultural DNA embedded in the piece you read and in your piece? How does this DNA manifest in the texts?

I have noticed a lot of similarities between auspicious festivals in China and India, primarily the methods of celebration. In India, festivals are loud, vibrant, and full of energy. This emotion and feeling is resonated in the poem as the author writes, “Flourish the drumsticks, beat the drum!…The singing begins softly to a slow solemn measure, malicious spirits are set ablaze in a bonfire”. This energy and singing inspired me to illustrate how music also plays a major role in Indian spirituality as depicted when I wrote “As spring begins and the flowers bloom at the spirit of the nation, The sound of the dholak with the crowds running lets no one rest.” Also, the concept of food and the preparation of food is very similar in both Indian and Chinese culture and society. Food is very important in many auspicious festivals, and the type of delicacy prepared is synonymous with the type of auspicious occasion. This can be seen when the poet writes, “Take up the fragrant flower offerings, The meats cooked in melilotus, served on orchid mats, And libations of cinnamon wine and pepper sauces”. I took this idea of offerings from god and ‘seasonal delicacies’ and translated it “With love and devotion overpowering evil, We take up a mango blossoms and sandalwood paste as offerings from god, And boil thin strands of vermicelli in fragrant sweet yellow milk, With notes of cardamom and saffron, Served in clay plots and decorated at the top with cashews and raisins.” Furthermore, the idea of pleasing the gods and harmony that is mentioned in the poem reminded me of the idea of harmonizing flavors from the “Food and Drink Traditions” in Chinese Food by Liu Junru. As mentioned in the reading, if food is harmonized, it is guaranteed that the bodies of the people will also be balanced and harmonized. The outcome of this is whole communities living in harmony as well, which is a very Daoist approach. I believe Indians also follow this approach in their foods and I translated this concept in my poem as “Once the plates have been emptied, Harmony is achieved in the nation, As India and god witness the color of true peace.

Works Cited- Images:



The Noodle Crossing Borders by Alisha Mody

In a recent survey, I asked five of my American friends where they believe the noodle originated. They all replied with China. When I asked one of the participants why they didn’t consider it to be from Italy, he replied with, “Well you asked me where the noodle originated, not pasta!” In a different survey, I asked five different Americans where they believed pasta originated. Four of them said Italy, and one of them said China. This short survey only reinforced what I believe are the common misconceptions of the word “noodle” and “pasta”, which is that the “noodle” refers to a food of the Chinese cuisine, where as “pasta” refers to a food of the Italian cuisine, and “pasta” is different than “noodles”.  In this post, I hope to clear up some of the common misconceptions about the noodle through its origin and significance. 

In China, the origin of noodles dates as far back as the Han dynasty, where they were commonly referred to as “cake(饼)”, according to the “Noodles, traditionally and today” article (Zhang 2016).  While there were several different shapes of noodle, the vast changes in shapes and its increase in production is credited to the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties. The change in the shape of the noodles brought about the development of two special kinds of noodles called “shui yin (水引)” and “bo tuo(馎饦)” (Zhang 2016). Shui yin is prepared by “pulling the dough into strips as think as chopsticks”, soaking them in water after cutting them into long pieces, then flattening them into “noodles shaped as a leek leaf” and cooking them in a pot of boiling water (Zhang 2016). As the variety of noodle shapes increased, especially during the Sui, Tang, and Five dynasty periods, so did the different techniques of preparing and cooking these shapes. These various methods and techniques of cooking gave rise to several exotic types of noodles such as pig and sheep raw noodles. One of the unique noodles, with a strong gripping characteristic shape, was even referred to as “one of the seven wonderful health foods”, and it was said that the “wet noodles can be used to tie the shoe” (Zhang 2016). One of the most famous types of noodles was brought about in the Qing Dynasty, and these were referred to as the five spicy noodles and eight treasures noodles. These variations of the noodle gave rise to the various unique noodles that we enjoy and eat today. 

As the various noodles traveled and developed, different regions in China began crafting and cooking the noodles differently. This goes to say that some of the differences in noodles we see today can be classified by the region they originated from. Moreover, each region specializes in the cooking of a specific noodle: East China features Shanghai Noodle in Superior Soup, while Southern China is famous for Guangzhou Wonton Noodles, and Central China features Wuhan hot noodles with sesame paste. There are several ways in which these various noodles represent the culture of the region where they originate, but most importantly, its diversity is an ode to each regions’ specific environment and access to different resources, which illustrates how they are so indicative of different regions, cultures, and people who cook them.

Not only are the noodles representative of the various diverse regions, but they also illustrate the diverse cultural and traditional values of Chinese society. There is a fascinating story behind why Quishan minced noodles were originally called “sister-in-law noodles” and later called “ashamed-son noodles”, which serves to explain the societal values of these noodles. The story goes that there was an orphan scholar who was raised by his brother and sister-in-law. The sister-in-law was a really good cook, and would make him these special noodles that would “let him read books for fame” (Zhang 2016). He passed the examinations, and as a result, the noodles were named the “sister-in-law noodles”. In an effort to replicate the same success, the parents began cooking these noodles for their children to achieve similar success, however the children failed, and as a result, these noodles were named, “ashamed son noodles”. With an abundance of stories and unique names for the noodle like so, it is hard not to see how reflective the noodle is of the Chinese culture, values, and traditions of the people that cook them. 

This reflection of noodles on region, culture, and people is not just unique to China. The Italian noodle, or pasta, has become such a universal household necessity, that it is difficult to find someone who is not aware of at least one kind of Italian pasta. Pasta is such an integral part of the food history of Italy, and is often misconstrued, especially in school. According to the article “History of Pasta”, many school children were taught that Marco Polo was responsible for bringing pasta to Italy from his adventures in China, however this is far from the truth. Pasta already played an integral role in the food history of Italy, long before Marco Polo came to be. Pasta can be dated back to the Etrusco-Roman era where dry pasta was a staple. Even though Italy is a far smaller country than China, the pasta in Italy still has vast regional differences, with the biggest difference in pasta between the North and South of Italy. In the Middle Ages, Arabic invasions in the 8th century resulted in a heavy Mediterranean influence on the pasta of Italy. This Mediterranean influence is uniquely noticeable in the Italian region of Sicily, in which pasta dishes are made with unique ingredients such as cinnamon and raisins. In comparison, from my experiences, the pasta in the North has a very different style. The pasta cooked in Northern Italy is a result of a lot of French and German influences, which highlights the various resources specific to that area. The Italian peninsula is so rich in history, and the different kinds of pasta sprinkled from the North to the South of Italy have shaped what we know as pasta today. I believe that this historical implication is the primary reason why pasta is such an integral part of Italian culture and society. While we can trace the origins of pasta all the way to the Etrusco-Roman era, the main reason why pasta has become such a global commodity is due to the Age of Exploration. According to the same article, pasta, especially dry pasta, was the perfect dish for voyagers on long journeys as it was high in nutritious value and was able to stay good for long periods of time. It was due to these factors that pasta was able to cross borders, make its way around the world, and impact the lives and cultures of every society it met.

Nowadays, there are over 300 various shapes and varieties of dried pasta in Italy, and many of these shapes range from, “simple tubes to bow ties, to unique shapes like tennis rackets.” As mentioned in the “Encyclopedia of Pasta Introduction”, many shapes of pasta have been given “endearing” names such as “farfalline (little butterflies)” and “margherite (daisies)” (Zanini De Vita 1936). This shows that many of pasta names that we know of today are related to beautiful shapes in nature. These unique shapes of pasta are a testament to its rich history in Italy, and are indicative of the culture, traditions, and people cooking them. One important cultural value of the Italians with regards to pasta is that it must always always always be prepared by hand, just as how the nonnas in “How to Create Pasta like a Badass Italian Nonna” did, which is a form of art in itself. This idea of pasta as a form of art reveals a key value of the Italian culture—discipline. The Italians never sway from this traditional preparation of the noodle. 

In my country of origin, India, noodles are represented in various ways across different regions, just like as seen in both China and Italy. One of the most popular, and delicious versions of the noodle is present in a dish called falooda, as pictured above. The noodles used in making falooda are vermicelli rice noodles, which is traditionally a very thin type of pasta. In Italy, vermicelli is slightly thicker than spaghetti, but in Asian countries, vermicelli is similar to that of angel hair pasta or capellini. In India, the vermicelli used in falooda is very thin, and is made traditionally from wheat, arrowroot, cornstarch, and sago. What makes falooda especially unique is that unlike other noodle and pasta dishes, falooda is a dessert. The vermicelli noodles are usually mixed with rose syrup, sweet basil seeds, ice cream and milk. While falooda is a very popular dessert in India, contrary to popular belief, this dish actually originated in Iran, and was brought over to India by Muslim merchants and dynasties that settled in India. Nowadays falooda is popular in Bangladeshi and Pakistani culture and is usually served on Islamic holidays and various other occasions. There are also many variations of falooda across the Indian subcontinent. Some parts of India make their falooda with fruit jelly instead of nuts, while others use strong black tea and tapioca pearls. Similar to noodles in China and pasta in Italy, falooda varies from region to region across India, representing the various cultures and traditions unique to each region.

In my opinion, noodles are one of the most versatile dishes in the world. As a food item, noodles not only serve to fill out big appetites, but they also provide a cultural, societal, and economical value. They have influenced and connected every part of the world, while also maintaining a sense of self and uniqueness to communities and regions. This complicated, yet simple, food item has served to unite the world, and transcend boundaries. While there are various definitions of the noodle and pasta today, I believe many are not as open-minded and inclusive of all regions and cultures cooking them. If I were to define the noodle, I would say that it is a diverse food made from a dough that can be shaped and cooked in any way, which has allowed it to cross borders and continues to do so to this day, while also shaping cultures as it travels. Below is a picture I believe encompasses my definition of the noodle.

Works Cited:

Vita, Oretta Zanini De, et al. Encyclopedia of Pasta. University of California Press, 2009.

“History of Pasta.” Life in Italy, 5 Nov. 2018, www.lifeinitaly.com/food/history-of-pasta <%22http://>.

The Truth About Pasta. The International Pasta Organization, 2016, oldwayspt.org/system/files/atoms/files/TruthAboutPasta16.pdf.

Zhang, Na, and Guansheng Ma. “Noodles, Traditionally and Today.” Journal of Ethnic Foods, vol. 3, no. 3, 2016, pp. 209–212., doi:10.1016/j.jef.2016.08.003.




A Dining Floor for Strangers by Alisha Mody

My name is Alisha Mody, and as a social anthropologist interested in capturing “the spirit—the natives’ views and opinions and utterances”, I will be investigating an important cultural artifact: where we eat (Malinowski 1966, 25). Like Bronisław Malinowski, a world renowned anthropologist and ethnographer, I too share the common goal of using scientific fieldwork in order to “grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realise his vision of his world” in the hopes that “we shall have some light shed on our own” (Malinowski 1966, 25). The subject of this study is a well-versed, intelligent, and strong woman native to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania whom I like to call Mama Asha. While she is not my birth mother, she quickly became a mother-like figure to me in the short three-weeks that she hosted me, along with several other foreigners, in her home in Dar es Salaam in the Summer of 2016. I was given the privilege of living with her and immersing myself into her culture while I was volunteering at Mwananyamala Government Hospital. As I was out of the house most of the day working ten-hour shifts, the only time I was able to spend with Mama Asha was on her living room floor where I ate breakfast with her early in the morning and dinner late at night. Despite the short interactions we would have daily, we nonetheless formed a powerful bond over these meals we would eat on the floor and led me to begin calling her “Mama”. For this reason, I have decided to conduct a study on Mama Asha’s “dining floor” and how it is able to foster such a loving and welcoming environment for the various strangers that she hosts in her home daily. 

As I currently study in Atlanta, Georgia, I am unable to visit Mama Asha in Dar es Salaam to conduct this study through participatory fieldwork. Instead, I will be employing the observational method, which is deemed the least invasive method. I chose this method to minimally integrate myself into the culture I am studying in order to gather observations and data through verbal communication, while also remaining non-intrusive of her daily habits. This will be done by conducting an interview with Mama Asha via phone.

I scheduled an interview with Mama Asha via phone at 9:00 a.m. EST, which was 4:00 p.m. in Dar es Saalam, on Saturday, July 13, 2019. After catching up with her, I explained my study, its relation to the field of social anthropology, and asked if she would allow me to interview her about her “dining floor” and habits. She thanked me for remembering her and said she was thrilled to participate and be the subject of my study. I asked Mama Asha a series of questions while I took extensive and detailed notes on her answers and comments. I began by asking her why she chooses to sit on the floor to eat. She explained that she very well could get a bigger dining table to accommodate all the members in her household, but she specifically chooses to sit on the floor for the people she hosts. She believes that the floor is a more welcoming and relaxed place of eating, which allows people to bond faster than a formal dining table would. Mama Asha expressed, “I consider whoever is eating with me on the floor that day, my family. Many may not enjoy it at first and it is a culture shock for most, but by the end of it they are usually calling me Mama Asha and they start to trust me.” She said she only ever uses her small kitchen table for eating during lunch if she is alone as it is too small to fit her, her husband, and her host kids all at once. However, she made it a point to mention that she would never let anyone older than her sit on the floor out of respect. When her husband’s parents come and visit, they all eat at the table.  

She is currently hosting a couple from Scotland and a young man from Canada whom are all in Dar es Salaam for volunteer work. Every morning she prepares a light traditional breakfast for her husband and those she is hosting consisting of breads, chapati (a flatbread tortilla), samosas (a triangular fried snack originating from India stuffed with various fillings), pilau (rice mixed with a variety of spices), hard boiled eggs, and a large steaming pot of chai. She utilizes her kitchen table, which is a small four-seater square wooden breakfast table, in order to roll the chapati dough, stuff her samosas, and prepare other breakfast items. She uses this table to cook and prep breakfast as she does not want to make a mess on the kitchen counter because her host kids use the counter after breakfast to make their sack lunches to-go before they leave for work. For this reason, they all have breakfast and dinner on the floor in the living room family-style. She discussed her daily rituals with me in vivid detail. At about 7 a.m. they all gather on the living room floor for breakfast. She was telling me about the young man from Canada who is “a particular delight to have around at breakfast” as he has a curious mind that is constantly asking about how she prepared certain traditional food items, and Tanzanian culture in general. All meal times on Mama Asha’s “dining floor” seem to be associated with deep discussions and rich cultural exchange of ideas as people from various parts of the world eat with her on her dining floor. 

During the day, Mama Asha runs a day-care from her home for children from ages of 4-10 years-old. When they are not running around the yard hula-hooping or playing with the ball, they are sitting on the floor pillows in a circle on her “dining floor” ready and eager for snack time to begin. Mama Asha said, “Its a social hour for them. They all finish their snacks in the first 5 minutes, but they sit for over an hour, talking, laughing, some even fighting, but they still create strong friendships. And the younger ones seem to mature faster as they learn from the older kids.” At night for dinner, her husband and host kids once again sit in a circle on her “dining floor” and they all talk about their day and share their experiences with one another.

While it was difficult and took a while for Mama Asha to verbalize the effect that eating on the floor has on the relationships she forms there, she and I came to a realization during the interview: there is a sense of vulnerability that comes with sitting on a stranger’s floor and eating with them, which creates an immediate connection and a sense of trust. I believe it is also possible to extend this study to include the anthropological concept of “foodscapes”, which addresses the “flow of ingredients and cuisines across the globe, and their local presence” (Crowther 2013, 25). As Crowther explains, across the various culinary sites around the world people are exposed to new foods and eating practices that they are able to engage with and associate with meaning. As Mama Asha hosts and feeds these various strangers of different race, culture, traditions, and backgrounds, she is slowly “homogenizing the world’s food culture” through globalization as these ideas and practices travel away with the strangers into their own cultures (Crowther 2013, 25). The main thing I learned through this study was that the act of strangers coming together and eating on Mama Asha’s “dining floor” changes each person’s perspective of the world, forces them to become more accepting of others, and reduces perceptions of inequality. People who sit on Mama Asha’s floor start to view those of different socioeconomic background, race, and culture as more equal than they might have in different social scenarios. 

Works cited:
Crowther, Gillian, and Gillian Crowther. “Setting The Anthropological Table.” Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food, University of Toronto Press, 2018.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. Malinowski: Collected Works. Routledge, 2002.

(Unrelated to this study— below is a photo of Mama Asha and I from my stay with her, a picture of her day-care kids playing, and a picture with my “host siblings”!)


There are few things in life better than walking into my home on a Saturday night. The comforting pungent aroma and soothing sound of simmering fills my home before dinnertime in preparation for my favourite dish: indo-enchiladas. But before I tell y’all why, let me start with a little background. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas and both my mother and father are of Indian nationality. My older brother and I were raised in a household full of food and love from seven people—us, my parents, my aunt and uncle, and the most important member of the family: my grandmother, who I call Mota (translates to “grandmother” in Gujarati). As Hindu’s, we all practice vegetarianism, and as Indians in Texas, we love our Mexican food extra extra spicy. Our indo-enchiladas are not your average classic Mexican enchilada, but an Indian take on the vegetarian version of the Mexican speciality. Picture a soft corn tortilla rolled around a generous helping of flavorful chunky black beans, and doused in a thick aromatic tomato-based sauce with pungent notes of onion, cumin, and turmeric (a traditional Indian spice), all topped with plentiful Mexican cheese and fresh coriander. And if that description didn’t already convince you (and maybe even make your mouth water) that this is my favorite dish, then allow me to tell you exactly why. The reason my family’s indo-enchiladas are my favourite dish is because it effectively ties together my Indian heritage and my Texas upbringing—two vastly different cultures that represent my identity. This dish is also my father’s favorite as my grandmother made it for him every Saturday since he was a teenager after they immigrated from Mumbai to Houston. That beloved Saturday night tradition is still continuing.  Writing this post and thinking of this dish as a memory led me to an important realization, I’ve stopped thinking of my culture’s cuisine in monolithic terms such as just Indian or Mexican, and I’ve started to appreciate how it truly is a beautiful culmination of several cultures.

In Indian cultures, community is key in the food culture, and food is the key that opens the door to explore any culture. On Saturday nights, when we prepare our indo-enchilada’s, we usually come home to a hefty stockpot on the stove simmering with my grandma’s special sauce. The aroma reaches our nose even before the food reaches our mouth, and we can already taste it. But the sauce my grandma prepares never ends up being the same taste as the sauce that tops our enchiladas in the end—the reason lies in the seven different flavors of taste-buds I live with. Once my grandma makes her sauce, she asks someone to try it, and that person usually adds whatever spice he or she may think is missing. And we all know once my mom gets a spoonful of the sauce, she will be adding plentiful onion, chilies, and turmeric, always giving the sauce that extra Indian kick we were all looking for. Everyone visits the pot, one person after the next, adding whatever they think the sauce could use. And usually, the familial process only stops when someone complains about being starving (which is admittedly usually me). I believe this practice of cooking not only creates strong bonds within my family, but also creates an immense sense of trust in one another (especially when my brother goes in for a taste). Moreover, the family style of eating this dish just makes the memories all the more joyful and warm. Most families prepare enchiladas by baking them in single serving dish. However, we never serve the indo-enchiladas on a single portioned and plated dish, but we all chose to share from a large communal baking pan. 

My grandma shared her love for cooking with me and taught me her secret indo-enchilada recipe. Below is a picture of the dish I prepared for my roommates at Emory last semester using my grandma’s beloved recipe. (My roommates loved the dish, and said they had never tasted anything like it before!) The next image is a picture of my grandmother and I, and the third image is a recent photo of my grandma enjoying indo-enchilada leftovers for dinner the next night!

But, the significance of this dish for me goes as far as the meaning it has to my grandmother and my father. My grandmother comes from a very traditional Indian family in Mumbai, India, where she was born and brought up. Being the oldest sibling of three with busy parents, Mota was forced to learn her way around the kitchen at a very young age. She began cooking intricate, yet classically traditional Indian meals, such as Chole Bhature and Malai Kofta, for her parents, siblings, and even friends when she was only eleven years old. Since then, her unwavering passion for cooking grew and grew, and everyone in town was encouraging her to open up her own catering business. And so she did— and her catering became a local smash hit. When her kids were in high school, she and her husband decided to immigrate to the United States in search of bigger opportunities. My grandmother found immense pleasure and warmth from sharing her cooking with others, so she decided to continue her catering business from the comforts of her home in the wonderfully diverse city of Houston, Texas. Not only was this her first time in the United States, but it was also her first time leaving her own country. Unsurprisingly, she struggled at first given the language barrier and hired a culinarily talented assistant named Rosa, an immigrant from Mexico. While Rosa helped and learned how to prepare heavenly Indian dishes, she also shared her passion for cooking Mexican food with my grandmother. Rosa and Mota didn’t speak each other’s languages, yet food still powerfully connected them— it was a common language they both understood. The first dish Rosa taught my grandmother was her enchiladas— a recipe that had been passed down in Rosa’s family for generations. Rosa, of course, altered the original recipe, which included beef, to meet Mota’s religious dietary restrictions. A beautiful friendship unfolded between my grandmother and Rosa— all based on the premise of food and culture. As Rosa and my grandmother exchanged their recipes, their two cultures began to merge

The enchilada was the first recipe my grandmother had tried from culture that was not her own. She was amazed and intrigued by Rosa’s classic preparation of the enchilada, and appreciated Rosa vegatarianizing the dish for her. In celebration, my grandmother began to add her traditional Indian aromatic spices such as turmeric and coriander to Rosa’s Tex-Mex enchilada recipe, dubbing the “indo-enchilada”. Not only was this my grandmother’s first classic Tex-Mex dish, but it was also my father’s (her son) first non-Indian dish. The indo-enchilada quickly became my father’s favorite dish, which was a new and exotic dish for him at the time, and had evolved to become the dish that represents his new home.

Like many would predict, enchiladas originated in Mexico. The dish was first associated with the region of Mexico by the Yucatan in pre-Columbian days. Corn tortillas were a staple of the Mayan people and there is strong evidence that the first enchiladas were tortillas that had fish rolled in it. Back then, the dish was primarily food for the nobles and was said to be served for special occasions. Today, the culture of enchiladas has expanded and the food has since gone international, with most places hosting a variety of different types. Moreover, enchiladas today are not only available at Mexican establishments, but can also be found at most Tex-Mex restaurants, diners and even many supermarkets, which sell either frozen enchiladas or ready-made ingredients for quick preparation. But the true joy in enchiladas comes not only from the taste itself, but also the memories you make while you prepare the dish, which is something my grandma taught me. In Mexico, enchiladas have always held connotations of a familial meal. And over the years, many Mexicans have immigrated to the US, bringing with them their culture that included their delicious foods. Today, the enchilada and other great Mexican foods are continuing to grow in popularity. Due to its easy to make ingredients and plenty of ways to prepare it and add your own culture’s twist, you might even see enchiladas merging with your culture soon.


Mota & Rosa’s Indo-enchiladas Recipe

Qty: for 4 people

Ingredients for Indo-enchilada sauce:

16 Large fully ripened tomatoes—boiled and grinded into a puree

1 Large white onion—finely chopped 

6 Garlic cloves—finely minced

4 Large jalapeños—finely chopped  

1/2 Bunch cilantro—finely chopped 

1 Teaspoon fresh ginger—finely shredded 

2 Tablespoon ghee (Indian twist)

1 Teaspoon salt

1 Teaspoon Jaggery  (Indian twist)

1 Teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 Teaspoon Kashmiri Red chili pepper (Indian twist)

Pinch of saffron  (Indian twist)

Water as needed

Ingredients for Black Beans: 

2 Cans of Black Beans—thoroughly washed

1 small white onion—finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves—finely minced 

2 small Jalapenos—Finely chopped

2 Tablespoon ghee (Indian twist)

1/2 Teaspoon turmeric (Indian twist)

1/2 Teaspoon  Kashmiri Red chili powder (Indian twist)

½ Teaspoon coriander powder (Indian twist)

1/2 Teaspoon cumin powder 

1/4 Teaspoon salt

1/2 Teaspoon sugar

1 Teaspoon lemon juice

 Other Items

8 to 10  Corn Tortillas

Shredded Mexican cheese

To Make the Indo-enchiladas Sauce: Take a large pot and fill up with the water and start the stove to boil water. Wash tomatoes and jalapenos and add in to the pot. Drain tomatoes and jalapenos once skin is crinkled, which means its fully soft and cooked. After draining, grind tomatoes and jalapenos. Discard the boiled water. Use a same large pot on a stove and add ghee. Once ghee is warm add finely minced garlic and ginger. Soon after that add finely chopped onions and cilantro. You can add cumin powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, and salt once the onions are slightly clear which means it is sautéed well. Once everything is mixed well add grinded tomato  and jalapeno puree in the pot and let it simmer at slow heat for about 20 to 25 minutes. Once fully simmered at slow heat, add pinch of saffron and jaggery. Let it simmer for 5 to 10 more minutes until jaggery is fully melted. Mix well and your sauce is ready.

To Prepare the Black Beans: Take a medium size pot and put on a stove at slow heat and add ghee in to the pot. Add turmeric and before turmeric changes the color add minced garlic and ginger. Soon after that add finely chopped onions and jalapenos. Add cumin and coriander powder along with Kashmiri red chili powder and salt once onions are clear and sautéed well. Add washed black beans then add sugar and lemon juice.  Mix it well and let it simmer at slow heat for 15 minutes and beans are ready.

To prepare the dish: Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Add a layer of sauce to coat the bottom of a large baking pan. Roll warm corn tortillas stuffed with black beans and add to the pan. Cover the indo-enchiladas with a thick layer of sauce. Add shredded cheese on top. Place this ovenproof plate in to preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander and enjoy family style!