The best-selling cookbook author wants you to feel less intimidated by Indian cooking, one spice blend at a time.

By Laura Rege
June 01, 2020
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Priya Krishna
Credit: Priya Krishna

As a kid in Dallas, Priya Krishna brought dal chawal to school for lunch, which didn’t exactly help her fit in with the other students. “While I was being an angsty teen, my mom was performing culinary wizardry in our kitchen,” says Krishna.

Her mother’s creations included cultural mash-ups like pizza on roti crust and saag paneer made with feta. Krishna came to appreciate these dishes as an adult, so she wrote a cookbook, Indian-ish (Buy It, $15, with her mom to commemorate them.

Indian food is delicious, and it’s easier to make than people think,” says Krishna. Here, she fills us in.

Your cookbook has celebrity fans. How does that feel?

"One of the coolest moments was seeing Mindy Kaling and Chrissy Teigen post about it. I was sitting on the couch when Mindy put it on Instagram, and I was in shock. Just as cool is seeing people who had never made Indian food cook from it. They may have been intimidated, but they realize it’s not hard at all."

What’s an Indian technique we can all master?

"My favorite is chhonk, which is spices that are tempered in ghee or oil and poured over food. Chhonk brings out the aromas and intensity of the spices and adds instant depth to any dish. Try it over noodles, grains, vegetables, nachos, or steak."

To add flavor to a bland dish, what do you use?

"Chaat masala. I put it on everything. It’s a funky blend of spices, including chili powder and amchur, a dry powder made of unripe mangoes, that’s used in Indian street food. It adds smoky, spicy, and acidic notes."

How do you give vegetables an Indian twist?

"I make a sabzi—vegetables sautéed with spices. Here is the general formula: 'Bloom' spices in oil or ghee; add your vegetable, along with ginger, onion, garlic, green chiles, and lime juice; and top the dish with peanuts and a dollop of yogurt."

You’re an avid runner. What do you eat post-workout?

"Dill pickles. The salt is great after a run, and they’re full of flavor. Sometimes I eat them before a run too. The night before last year’s New York City Marathon, I split an entire jar with a friend." (Hold on, should you actually drink pickle juice after a workout?)

Shape Magazine, June 2020 issue