Spicy, yogurty karhi sauce offered to Lord Krsna: complete protein for pennies, and priceless spiritual benefit.

Krsna Prasadam

You probably know that protein is an essential substance in your body, but you may not know all the reasons why. It's needed not only for building and repairing tissues but also for synthesizing enzymes that start the body's many chemical reactions, for serving as building blocks for hormones and antibodies, for supplying energy, and for many other things. Various proteins take part in every life process, and some are lost through these processes. So to maintain our health, we must eat enough protein daily.

How much of what kinds of protein to eat is a question anyone concerned about his health must answer. And because of the wide variety of protein-rich foods, the question can look complicated. While all living bodies from human beings down to viruses are built of proteins, these proteins are of innumerable kinds, which are determined by the patterns and ratios of the amino acids that make them up. Because the proteins in animals are similar to those in humans, animal flesh provides all the amino acids we need in the proper proportions. So animal proteins are generally classified as "complete," while plant proteins, which have amino acids suitable for plants' needs, are classified as "incomplete." At first glance, then, what the meat lobby says seems true: "Meat is the best source of complete protein, so you should eat plenty of meat to stay healthy."

However, when we combine various kinds of vegetarian foods, the amino acids of their incomplete proteins complement each other, and then these incomplete proteins become complete. Nutrition researchers have shown that a daily diet rich in a variety of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products will easily provide enough protein (along with all other essential nutrients). The proof that the researchers are right is that millions of vegetarians the world over easily fulfill their protein needs and enjoy radiant health.

This month we're presenting an excellent vegetarian source of protein: karhi sauce. It contains yogurt, a complete protein, and chickpea flour, an incomplete protein that becomes complete in conjunction with yogurt. You can eat karhi sauce as an alternative to dal (the bean soup that's a protein staple in Krsna's cuisine), and, as with dal, you won't have to worry about ingesting the toxins, pesticides, carcinogenic wastes, and cholesterol-producing fats that meat contains. Yet from karhi sauce you'll get complete protein, just as you would from meat.

But getting enough protein and other nutrients isn't the only health reason for eating karhi sauce. Once you've offered it to Lord Krsna, karhi sauce has many properties you can't know about just by reading books on health foods and nutrition.

If we simply keep our bodies healthy, that's good, but incomplete. It's like keeping a birdcage in excellent shape but neglecting to feed the bird inside. What you'll soon have is a beautiful cage and a very sick bird. Similarly, if we keep our body in tip-top condition but neglect the spirit soul inside, then we're actually in the most unhealthy condition imaginable, because we're doomed to undergo the syndrome of birth, old age, disease, and death, in body after body. So physical health without spiritual health is useless.

There are many ways to become spiritually healthy, and one of the most pleasurable is by eating krsna-prasadam (food that's been offered to Krsna). In this connection, Srila Prabhupada explains, "Prasadam means 'favor.' One should considerprasadam a favor of Krsna. Krsna is very kind. In this material world we are all very attached to tasting various types of food. Therefore, Krsna eats many nice varieties of food and offers the food back to the devotees. Not only are your demands for various tastes satisfied, but by eating prasadam you make advancement in spiritual life. Therefore, we should never consider ordinary food to be on an equal level with prasadam." So, when we eat karhi sauce that's been offered to Lord Krsna with love and devotion, we become healthy physically and spiritually. Such a spiritualized dish is actually complete.

Eating karhi-sauce prasadam will make us not only healthy but also wealthy. First, it's a lot cheaper than meat, especially if you make your own yogurt. So you'll save a lot on your weekly grocery bill if karhi sauce rather than meat is your major source of protein.

But more importantly, you'll become spiritually wealthy, that is, more and more attracted to Krsna and everything related to Him. When this attraction increases to the highest pitch, it's called prema-dhana, "the treasure of love of God." This love destroys all material miseries and immerses one in an ocean of transcendental bliss, eternally. What could be more valuable than that?

Finally, eating karhi-sauce prasadam will make us wise. A developed moral sense is one aspect of wisdom, and eating the flesh of slaughtered animals destroys our finer moral sentiments; it's most immoral. So by substituting karhi sauce for meat as your source of protein, you'll become wise by avoiding the crime of animal slaughter.

But beyond this, you'll attain spiritual wisdom. By eating krsna-prasadam, we easily and happily become attached to Krsna, His devotees, and His devotional service. And when by serving Krsna we realize that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes, we'll be actually wise spiritually wise. At this point, we'll always chant the holy names of the Lord, serve Him and His devotees, and eat nothing but His prasadam. Then our health, wealth, and wisdom will be complete.

(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)

Braised Green Peppers in Creamy Yogurt Gravy

(Bada Mirch Dahi Karhi)

Preparation time: about 1 hour 
Servings: 4 or 5

Ingredients for paste seasoning:

½ tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons dried or fresh powdered coconut
¼ to 1 small hot green chili
½ tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and minced fine
6 tablespoons water

Ingredients for the chaunce and vegetables:

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ tablespoon split, skinned urad dal (try an Indian grocery)
8 to 10 broken fresh or dried curry (sweet nim) leaves
2 ½ tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
2 medium-size sweet green or red peppers

Ingredients for the karhi sauce:

2 ½ cups plain yogurt or thick cultured buttermilk
1 ½ cups water or whey
3 ½ tablespoons chickpea flour
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 ¼ teaspoons turmeric

To prepare the paste seasoning:

Combine the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, and coconut in a blender and grind to a coarse powder. Add the chilies, ginger, and water; then cover and blend for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the ingredients are reduced to a smooth paste. Set aside.

To prepare the chaunce, vegetables, and karhi sauce:

1. Wash, core, and seed the peppers, and then cut them crosswise into thin disks.

2. Sieve the chickpea flour into a 1 ½-quart mixing bowl. Add a little of the water or whey to make a smooth batter. Pour in the remaining water and the yogurt, salt, turmeric, and paste seasoning. Then whisk to thoroughly mix all the ingredients.

3. In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan heat the ghee or vegetable oil over a medium-high flame until a drop of water flicked into the pan sputters instantly. Add the black mustard seeds and urad dal, and fry until the seeds pop and sputter. Drop in the sweetnim leaves and immediately add the sliced green peppers. Now stir-fry until the vegetables are half tender and slightly brown.

4. Pour the yogurt sauce into the frying pan and, while stirring constantly, allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the flame to medium or medium-low and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the gravy thick.

5. Remove from the flame, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and keep warm until you're ready to offer the dish to Krsna.


Follow the above recipe, but omit the green peppers and substitute ¾ pound eggplant cut into ½-inch cubes. Increase the ghee to 3 ½ tablespoons so you can slightly brown and partially cook the eggplant.

Green Peas in Coconut-Yogurt Gravy

(Mattar Dahi Karhi)

Preparation time: about 1 hour 
Servings: 5 or 6

Ingredients for the paste seasoning:

½ cup (packed tight) dried coconut, either powdered or ribboned
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
¼ to 1 small green chili, seeded
½ tablespoon fresh peeled ginger root, minced fine
1/3 cup water or whey

Ingredients for the karhi sauce:

4 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 ½ cups water or whey
2 cups yogurt or thick cultured buttermilk
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 ¼ teaspoons turmeric powder
1 cup steamed or boiled peas

Ingredients for the chaunce:

2 ½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
8 to 10 broken fresh or dried curry (sweet nim) leaves

To prepare the paste seasoning:

Place the coconut and cumin seeds in a blender, cover, and pulverize to a coarse powder. Add the chili, ginger, and liquid. Then cover and blend until the ingredients are reduced to a smooth paste. Scrape all the paste into a small bowl and set aside.

To prepare the karhi sauce:

1. Sieve the chickpea flour into a 1 ½-quart mixing bowl. Add a little of the water to make a smooth, thick batter. Pour in the remaining water and the yogurt, salt, and turmeric, and churn until smooth.

2. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the ghee or oil over a medium-high flame until a drop of water flicked into the pan sputters instantly. Drop in the mustard seeds and fry until they sputter and pop. Then add the sweet nim leaves and the coconut paste, and fry for about 2 minutes.

3. Pour in the karhi sauce and, while stirring frequently, bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Add the steamed vegetables and simmer until thick. Remove from the flame, cover well, and keep warm until you're ready to offer the dish to Krsna.


Omit the green peas and add 1 cup of corn kernels or chopped steamed broccoli.