Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Khumban da Appetizer (Mushroom Appetizer)


Until recently, khumban (mushrooms) were a seldom found vegetable on the street markets in Delhi, but if you happened to live in the country or near a farm, you might have been able to find some. This is why mushrooms have not really been part of the mainstream Punjabi cuisine until quite recently.

In the past decade, with the development of greenhouses that grow mushrooms, this vegetable has started to become readily available in large cities in India, although at high prices. Also, the popularity of pizzas and chains like Dominos and Pizza Hut has led to the rising use of mushrooms in cities.

In Delhi, the most commonly available mushrooms are the small, white button variety which are sold by the sabziwalas (vegetable hawkers) but you have to really search for them. Mushrooms are low in sugar but an excellent source of the B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid as well as phosphorus. When the mushroom is immature it may be white or brown but when mature, it is known as Portobello.

Since small white mushrooms cook quickly, it is best to make them as appetizers just before serving as they retain their crispiness and don’t become soggy. The trick is to make sure not to wash them in running water before cooking, as they will retain the moisture in the gills of their caps. This is why this recipe uses damp cleaning for the mushrooms.


1 lb chotti khumban (white or button mushrooms)
2 tbsp olive oil (olive oil)
3 tsp lassan-piyaaz paste (garlic-onion paste)
1 tsp garam masala
Spices to taste: Lal mirch (red pepper); namak (salt); haldi (turmeric); dhania (coriander)


1. Trim the ends of the mushrooms and place on the side on a dry cloth.
2. Take a damp paper towel and clean the dirt off each mushroom. Make sure not to wash them as the water will lodge in the caps. Leave the cleaned mushrooms on the cloth for 10 minutes to air dry.
3. Pour in the olive oil in a bowl, then add and the garlic-onion paste, garam masala and the spices and mix together. Throw in the mushrooms and coat them with the mixture.
4.Let the mushrooms marinate for an hour. If you are in a hurry, you can omit the marination and directly go to the next step and cook the mushrooms with the dry spices.
5.Warm up a frying pan over medium heat, no need to add any oil.
6.Pour in the mushrooms and the marinade. Stir continuously for a few minutes till the mushrooms are brown.
7.Remove from the heat, pour into a platter and serve with toothpicks.




One of the most common dishes for Indians is daal and for new cooks, it is also one that they have the most problems with like making it too thin, or too thick or simply letting it overcook and become a thin paste or gravy. This is all about the amount of heat used to cook it and the timing.

Many cooks leave the daal to boil and get busy in something else, only to find that it has boiled over and spilled onto their stoves and increased their housework! There are two ways to avoid this: either add a teaspoon of oil while boiling the daal or place a wooden kaadchi (ladle) over the top of the open pot and this will prevent the water from boiling over.



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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur (since renamed Faisalabad), India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes