I was born and raised in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in all of India. If UP, as it is popularly known, were a nation, it would be the 6th biggest country in the world.
That reflects in the cuisine of the state, which has been influenced over centuries by waves upon waves of empire-building invasions. The long series of Mughal invasions gave rise to the famous Awadhi cuisine. The most common Indian food served in US restaurants is a mixture of Awadhi and Punjabi food, richly spiced and cooked in butter and cream.
Food at home, while eclectic, was decidedly more saatvik. Influenced both by the geography and religion, it relied on fresh vegetables, fruit, lentils and light dairy. Made with very little oil and few spices, it was simple, fresh, and supposedly kept one peaceful and calm.
A classic example of saatvik breakfast fare is Javein (Juh-vayn, with just a hint of the n at the end). Tiny whole wheat pasta rolled at home by women, this version of vermicelli can be sweet or savory. I grew up watching the neighborhood aunties make their morning rounds, carrying a tiny tin of dough in the folds of their saris, their fingers busy rolling pasta as they exchanged news. My mom could roll a pound of javein in a week, dry roasting the pasta before storing it for future use.
She still does the same, sometimes dyeing the dough with fresh vegetables and spices before shipping it to her daughters.
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric (I omitted it here because I wanted to keep the color of the pasta)
1 tbsp green chili-ginger paste
1 cup parboiled vegetables (peas and carrots are common choices)
1 cup vermicelli, broken into shorter lengths (orzo would make a fine substitute, but you may have to adjust the water according to package instructions)
2 cups water
1 tbsp lime juice
a few sprigs of cilantro
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Wait till they start popping, then add the ginger-chili paste and saute quickly. Add the vegetables and salt and saute for a minute or so.
Pour in the water and bring it to a boil. Now add the vermicelli, turn the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring once or twice till all the water is absorbed. Add the lemon juice, gently fluff and serve with chopped cilantro on top.