Saturday, June 13, 2009


My dad is Pakistani, and Muhajir, which means his family fled India during partition because they were Muslim. My dad was seven when they left. His family left their entire lives in Delhi; they took what they could carry and reestablished their lives in Karachi by selling his mother’s jewelry.

As a result, my dad grew up poor. Not Slumdog Millionaire poor, but poor enough that their concerns around food centered on 1) Is there enough and 2) does it taste good? Freshness, overall quality, authenticity, or healthiness were secondary at best.

Pakistani men do not learn to cook, but my dad did. He was the kind of person who could learn by watching, and he learned a few recipes from his mom. When he went to Canada for his PhD, he depended on those recipes. He made curry and he made muttar keema – hamburger and peas.

The curry was by far the most versatile. In his student apartment in Montreal, he’d buy and curry (cheap) fresh river perch and vegetables. By the time I remember, when my dad was a college professor with a mob of adoring students, he’d make chicken curry for all his students at the end of every semester. He was famous for its delicious taste.

Curry was his go-to dish in the face of weird American food; in fact, in the face of any dinner problem. He could eat – and feed his helpless kids – curry for a week without getting tired of it. A student proudly brought us fresh-killed venison or pheasant? Curry. Buffalo, catfish, ostrich? Curry. Mom was away and no one bought groceries? Curried chickpeas and potatoes. Freezer-burned chicken? Curry. You get my point.

My dad has Alzheimer’s now, and he can’t cook any more. He’s a picky eater, sometimes, and I worry about vegetables and fiber. So every Sunday I make big pot of bean and vegetable curry, and he has it all week for lunch. Every single time we heat up his plate of curry and rice he looks delighted.


Big pot


Two medium onions

Two medium tomatoes

5 Tsp curry powder (some people mix their own curry powder. Dad did that sometimes. Mostly he just bought one he liked.)

2 cups chopped vegetables (frozen or canned is fine)

1-2 cups protein (cooked meat or poultry, canned beans, or tofu – starting from raw meat is a different recipe)


  1. Chop the onions and the tomatoes; keep separate.
  2. Sauté the onions in butter or oil of your choice until they start to get translucent.
  3. Add the curry powder, and sauté until the powder has absorbed all the oil and you can smell it strongly.
  4. Add the tomatoes; cook until they fall apart and look like sauce.
  5. Add you veggies and protein; simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I loved your hamburger & peas, and I never knew its proper name. I'd forgotten about it, but now I shall make it soon. Thank you for sharing what your dad taught. It's very valuable to pass along.

    sorry to read that you were under the weather - hope you're feeling more the thing now...

  3. Your Dad's Curry is a family favorite - I think he would usually add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the recipe, and the rice has to be long grain (never minute rice).

  4. Ned, you are absolutely right about the lemon. I squeeze it in after I've added all the vegetables and protein. It's so automatic I forgot to add it in!

  5. What a great post, and a wonderfully flexible recipe structure! I always find it particularly useful to give the basics of a recipe along with potential variations and optional ingredients. Thanks for sharing.

    Casual Kitchen

  6. would love to hear how to make curry powder.....