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Everything posted by mongo_jones

  1. the day's food related plans lunch: vegetarian left-overs from last night dal chicken-liver curry rice post-lunch: shopping at the local indian grocery. they get fresh veggies on tuesdays at 1. being familiar with the notion of indian standard time i will go at 3. hopefully they'll have fresh curry leaves, okra and raw mangoes. dinner: depending on how much of the vegetables survive lunch i may make bengali style alu-gobi or fried okra as a replacement mushoor dal (which will survive) catfish made in an upcountry malayali style (can't eat liver two meals in a row). rice if i don't have to cook a vegetable as well i'll make a bengali raw mango chutney for "dessert". let all non-indians (india forum regulars don't count) who have ever eaten a liver curry raise their hands. raise both if you ate it at a restaurant. ditto for raw mango chutney. one of the things that i'm trying to do in this blog (and it doesn't take special effort since this is the way we eat normally) is give the non-indians on egullet a sense of the difference between home-made indian food and restaurant food. as you'll see there are some dishes that don't show up at all on restaurant menus; others do in cognate versions that are cooked very differently. (see my introduction from yesterday and the longer piece from the afternoon to get a sense of where in india my home-made food originates.) i hope this is of interest to people. of the dishes that i posted pictures of yesterday it was the sexier fish dish that got the most attention--the evening's food got less of a response. i know this stuff is less exciting to look at but it is the kind of thing most indians eat on a daily basis, and it is delicious. but enough about the agenda.
  2. oh, so the steak-house is the new one. he already is part owner of another restaurant in cherry creek right?
  3. given the way kids these days adjectivize the word "gay" i'd say the olive garden would count.
  4. i've never thought of it this way episure but it makes a kind of sense. as you know a lot of indian dishes call for a squeeze of lime to actually be added at the table (like the bengali mushoor dal and rice). it does clarify the flavors beautifully. by the way, i want to clarify something. yesterday in two separate posts i first noted that a number of experts from the india forum were reading along, and then at the end of my longer post from the middle of the day i said i was suspicious of the narratives of experts. by this careless juxtaposition i didn't mean to say that i am suspicious of people like episure, rushina, bague25, monica (or vikram who hasn't yet checked in and bhelpuri who just did today); i am suspicious of people who set themselves up or who are set up as experts with a big e and who then become a repository of all information for a particular culture. the people i just listed, and others on the india forum such as ammini, edward, bong, rajsuman etc., are not people who set themselves up as experts in this ambitious, expansive way. they know their areas, often in incredible depth, and they're all very careful to mark the limits of their knowledge. of course they all know more than me (and i'm not being coy here or fishing for disavowals). within this group there's two people who stand out, in my opinion, as knowing the most about the widest range of indian food practices: episure and vikram. i'd urge anyone who wants to learn more about indian food to read as many of their posts (and those by the others i listed, and i know i've forgotten some key people) on the india forum as possible.
  5. speaking of biscuits, here's a picture of today's breakfast (as you'll see, considerably more extravagant than yesterday's): my usual favorite for dipping into the morning cup are brittania bourbon biscuits (an indian brand). tragically my local indian grocery has stopped carrying them. here's a discussion of these biscuits in the india forum, along with monica and nessa's incredibly generous offers to ship me some. however since they're available online here i decided not to trouble them. in india there's a wide variety of biscuits suitable for tea-dipping--though the brittania bourbon, in my opinion, bestrides this world like a veritable colossus (well, insofaras something without legs or feet can bestride anything). among these other, inferior, biscuits are butter-biscuits, thin-arrowroot biscuits etc. etc. there's a french butter biscuit available in large grocery stores that is a good dipper but they're expensive and i go through tea-biscuits like a thing what's voracious goes through another thing it likes and so. i am currently experimenting with a biscuit (maria's something or the other) from costplus that resembles an indian thin-arrowroot biscuit. it is passable i think--the flavor is nice but clearly this biscuit was not invented to be dipped in hot tea: it has a very low disintegration threshold. what were these italians thinking? but the mind is beginning to uncloud and soon the business of the day's blogging will begin. today should be a much calmer day at the blog. yesterday was an aberration--everybody came to see the dogfaced boy speak.
  6. didn't cheap trick and bob dylan do shows there?
  7. wife is throwing out cilantro because she thinks "it has gone bad". as for type of rice--all indian food goes very well with the general short-grained korean rice. not all indian rice is basmati, as you know, and basmati doesn't go well with any east-asian cuisine that i know of. for comfort food like tonight we go with whatever is available. for certain kinds of chicken and meat dishes i will make basmati.
  8. it is a souring agent--and a little goes a long way. it is typically added at the end of cooking--often off-heat. another nice effect it has (why, i don't know) is that it reduces the oily aspect of dishes it is added to. buy some, taste a little and see what you might want to add it to. would probably be an interesting addition to a spice-rub for a grilled meat.
  9. interesting: "kandha" is hindi for shoulder; "kaandh" in bengali and in india we have a bewildering array of things to add to milk. bournvita was the reigning champ in my childhood. horlicks was strictly for the grandma set.
  10. i believe recipes for all these dishes are available on the india forum--i know i posted recipes for the dal and the alu-palak; can't remember if suvir had posted his recipe or whether he'd p.m'd me. if i was a nice guy i'd offer to hunt them all down and link to the appropriate threads here... they're all remarkably easy to make (as long as you have certain base ingredients).
  11. and here are the final pictures: 1. the finished mushoor dal --once again this would usually have been garnished with a few chopped cilantro leaves but there aren't any in the house (thanks to the evil you-know-who). mushoor dal is the classic bengali dal. 2. panditji's kaddu--again this is suvir saran's family cook (panditji)'s recipe. substituting butternut squash for the indian pumpkin (not available in the u.s) is suvir's idea. this is not a bengali dish. i do have bengali pumpkin recipes and if my mother ever finds out that i cooked a pumpkin dish for public display and used a total stranger's recipe instead of one of hers i'll be in trouble (but her recipes include steps like "grate the pumpkin", and really, who has the time--well, i do but) 3. alu-palak--the classic bengali way of eating this would be with kashondi (a kind of mustard sauce); a creamy mustard is not a bad sub, but we didn't have any. this looks pretty much like a trad. bengali recipe but bengalis don't, i think, use kasoori methi (a type of dried fenugreek) as i did here. 4. this is the meal on my plate--i love these aluminum(?) plates with the raised sides. i used to be served food only on these as a kid, due to my penchant for spilling food and i still love them. as you'll see the rice has been liberally doused with the dal, the lime-wedge that sits on the plate has been squeezed onto the rice/dal mix, and the vegetables are alongside--you eat some rice and dal and grab a little veg. every once in a while. the red thingy is gondalia red chilli pickle (made by the good people of swad, not me--the label says "takes you back home"; not completely sure where home would be for a gondalia red chilli pickle but i'm guessing it might be somewhere in andhra pradesh). yes, it was all good--but i would say that, wouldn't i? those whose only exposure to indian food has been in restaurants may be nonplussed by the lack of cream or heavy spices in any of these dishes. welcome to a wacky new world! (edit for obsessive reasons)
  12. the third thing in the bowl is fenugreek seeds--picture quality is the problem not your eyes 11/11 the last item is hing (asafoetida) not coriander--again picture quality to blame. the dal is ready--the squash is about 15 minutes away. i'll start the spinach 5 minutes from meal-time. too beat for chapatis--even though this is a meal better suited to chapatis or parathas i'm just going with the rice that's already in the cooker. pictures of final results later.
  13. to whet the appetite a little here are pictures of the dinner ingredients. 1. alu palak (forgot about the kasoori methi) 2. mushoor dal 3. panditji's kaddu i'll let someone else i.d the ingredients--i'm off to cook.
  14. mullets of all shapes, sizes and hues can be seen at garage sales in colorado. can't say if they're all hand colored though.
  15. i believe the study i looked at (or maybe another one) says that something like 90% (!) of adults over the age of 25 in the san gabriel valley are first generation immigrants.
  16. not to take us away from the topic of ass, but here's the projected menu for dinner tonight: alu-palak panditji's kaddu (suvir's family-chef's pumpkin recipe--substituting butternut squash) mushoor dal assorted korean banchan (prepared this morning by mrs. jones) chapatis (if i have time, if not, rice) yes, it will be a rare vegetarian night at the jones household (unless you count the korean stuff). i will try to document the prep of at least one of the veg dishes.
  17. i asked the question "what does indian food mean to you?" largely because i have been, for some years now, grappling with the question of my own (un-preventable) americanization, the ensuing alteration (conscious/semi-conscious/unconscious) of my relationship with, and idea of, something called "india". and in some ways i think my relationship with issues of indian cuisine in the u.s is merely a symptom of that--my investment in those debates can probably be graphed alongside my shifting negotiations of my own cultural identity. but that's enough psychobabble. now, onto other forms of babble. (none of what follows is in any way meant as a critique or indictment of anyone's answers to the question.) from the responses so far to my question it would seem that for the most part there is a certain consensus about what indian food is. (i like the "before amma" and "after ammma" designations that docsconz and others have evoked--shows the importance of what suvir and hemant are doing; but more on this later.) in the u.s most people who encounter indian food encounter it in a particular kind of north-indian restaurant and thus their concept of what indian food is comes out of that. as it happens the average north-indian restaurant menu in the u.s is not that different from the average north-indian restaurant menu in india (i am excluding the restaurants in 5-star hotels here). the difference is that for indians in india there is obviously an experiential understanding of the difference between what has (for complex sociological reasons) become homogenized as "mughlai food" and become synonymous with "what you go to an indian restaurant to eat" and the regionally specific food that they eat at home. and regionality is very important in india: being a bengali or a khasi or a kashmiri pandit marks much more than being a new yorker or a cajun or a northern californian does. it has become a cliche to say that india is a subcontinent--so much so that people forget that the reason it is called one is that there is a greater cultural diversity within the borders of the indian nation than there is in western europe. not only are there more than 35 officially recognized languages spoken in its states (not to mention many more distinct languages and dialects) but people in these states (and in regions and communities that don't respect recently drawn state lines) have different cultural/religious practices and often radically different food. while some indian cuisines can clearly be seen as part of the same family (with local ingredients providing the diversification in flavors) others bear little, if any, resemblance to each other (try to compare, for instance, naga and gujarati food). now, while many indians may know this intellectually they don't always know it experientially. that is to say while oriyas and marathis both know that what they eat at home is not like the food in the local mughlai/tandoori restaurant there are very few oriyas or marathis (insert other community here) who have ever eaten each other's marathi or oriya food. in this sense the average indian in india is not so much better off than the average non-indian aficionado of indian food in the united states. indeed, one of my aunts (who along with my uncle leads a peripatetic international life) says that it is now easier to eat a variety of indian foods in london than it is in most indian cities. (the same is probably true of chinese cuisines and the san gabriel valley in los angeles county). in the u.s. some appreciation of the differences between south indian and north indian cuisine is beginning to manifest itself. but there is as yet a very limited understanding of the huge diversity within those two classifications. most americans make the mistake of equating south indian food with what is really the food of certain groups of tamil and kannada speaking brahmans (then again so do most indians)--this would be the vegetarian menu at the average udupi restaurant: dosas, idlis, vadas etc.. in reality millions and millions of south indians--from both coasts and in between--eat fish, chicken, goat, pork and beef (though rarely all these things). these ingredients are cooked up in a variety of distinct cuisines, from chettinad to andhra to hyderabadi-muslim to moplah-malayali to kodava to konkani to goan etc. which are rarely articulated in their own context outside their region in india, let alone in the united states. sure, an occasional pepper chicken chettinad or a hyderabadi biryani might show up on a menu, but rare is the restaurant that devotes its menu to a particular regional cuisine. the same exercise could be performed with every other geographic region in india. this is not to say that this knowledge and experience cannot grow. it is, however, a slow process. and it is happening: as i have said elsewhere on egullet, one of the more interesting things about what is happening in india today is that people are leaving their home regions more and more and encountering other cultures more and more. this will lead (and has probably already led) not just to a greater knowledge of indian foods from outside home regions but a greater fusion between indian cuisines. my mother's kitchen and my own are already mini-labs of this process. it is in this context that i referenced my family's airforce background in my second post in this blog: because we lived all over india our meals have never been pure bengali meals. we grew up eating punjabi kali dal alongside bengali fish dishes and my mother's takes on tamil sambhar or hyderabadi baghara baingan. we aren't the only ones but we're still in the minority. given this situation it becomes very difficult, or at least complicated, to talk about indian cuisine. clearly if you are going to make pronouncements about what indian cuisine is or developments in indian cuisine you need to literally know what it is you are talking about. you can't talk about "new" indian cuisine if you don't know what the implied "old" indian cuisine is. this is not to say that a new variant of indian cuisine cannot come about, or hasn' already come about in the u.s (the indo-french fusion which suvir doesn't like to think he is a part of :-) )--or in england (balti etc.) or in the other destinations of the diaspora that we forget about (guyana and the rest of the caribbean, east-africa, south africa, singapore, fiji etc. etc.); it is merely to say that whatever claims can be made for these variants need to be highly contingent. one must, in my opinion, be cautious about adopting the vocabulary of evolution. or a narrative of progress in which the culinary journey is mapped onto a geographical one--one in which "indian" food only becomes a global player by literally leaving india behind. we have to learn a certain humility; we have to learn to recognize newness in places we don't often look; we have to learn that to be truly global means to recognize that every part of the world gets to equally center the globe around them. or so i think anyway. this hasn't been very coherent and i could go on but i'm getting tired. i do want to say though that i am not by any means an expert on indian food (whatever that is) and none of my thoughts or recipes or anecdotes should be given any more representative significance than they deserve. the only thing i am prepared to say definitively is that i am suspicious of the narrative of the expert, and of the expansive cultural generalization. there was another sense in which i asked the question "what does indian food mean to you?" but i'll leave that for another time. thanks for your patience--this will probably be the post that breaks this blog's back!
  18. just as long as you remember the following: if it turns out well it is because you followed directions slavishly; if it sucks it is because you didn't.
  19. no, we actually use entirely different kinds of peppers. those lethal slim thai chillies for me, a whole different range of korean peppers for her. even though these peppers she used aren't that hot this might give you a sense, jschyun, of why i always say i find korean food to be very spicy.
  20. while bengalis eat fish-heads with relish (mmmm fish eyes...) even my mother won't eat the mackerel head. i throw it in with everything else to extract flavor. once done cooking i pick the flesh out of the rear of the head and discard the rest.
  21. mackerel is in fact a fairly popular fish in india among those indian communities that eat it. as i say that i immediately forget all the various local names for it (episure, help me out here). my people (the bengalis, not the crackheads) don't eat that much of it since their own obsessions are with riverine and estuarine fish. and i say it isn't a classic preparation only because it isn't something i'd eaten or read about before i made it. inspiration is largely the last stage of mental osmosis though and i hesitate to claim originality or ownership for something that is merely the result of having arrived at a particular stage in my relationship with indian spices, flavors and fish. and for all i know this does resemble some indian region's classic fish dish. keep the answers to the "what does indian food mean to you?" question rolling in people. i'm going to wait for a few more responses before weighing in. as for the self-deprecation part: i wasn't saying i'm not going to post detailed pictures of food prep because my photographic skills suck; i was saying it because it is a pain in the ass to cook and photograph what you're cooking--i almost scorched the fish! my photographic skills (as compared to every other blogger before me) do suck though. though instead of pointing to the endless blurry shot as proof of that maybe i should just echo billy wilder who quipped to his cinematographer during the filming of sunset boulevard, "keep it out of focus, i want to win the best foreign film award". or something like that. the self-deprecating sense of humor, alongwith a love of cricket and p.g wodehouse/conan doyle/agatha christie/enid blyton/spike milligan/gerald durrell/et al., is my most enduring inheritance of colonial history (thankfully i escaped the teeth issues...).
  22. a disassembled mackerel artfully arranged around the spices (turmeric, chilli powder) in which it is about to be coated 2 medium tomatoes, 1 tspn chilli powder, 1 medium onion, 6 cloves garlic, 1/2 tspn turmeric, 1/2 tspn coriander powder and salt shoved into a blender and blended till it resembles something someone with nasty lung problems might cough up on a bad day the coated fish first heat some oil and fry the fish on all sides till the skin is crispy. remove fish add the spice/tomato paste to the pan cook down to this texture return the fish to the pan, coat gently with the spice-paste, cover and simmer till done (add as much or as little water as you like--i made it drier than usual this time). once almost done add a pinch of garam masala and cook for another minute. horrible, blurry picture of end result normally i would have garnished this with chopped cilantro and sliced green chillies but we're uncharacteristically all out. as i noted earlier this isn't a classic preparation (for all i know, anyway). feel free to adapt it in any way you want. increase/decrease individual spices, water; add some sugar along with the water etc. etc. the sweetness of the tomatoes will go a long way towards determining the end flavor of the dish. i can pretty much guarantee that this will probably be the only dish in the blog that will have been photographed at all stages of its preparation. from now on out it is end-results only! (edit to ask: why the hell do i keep pasting in only the url when i mean to link to the image?)
  23. mrs. jones saintly? that's a laugher. the woman is evil. let me say only that she has a long history of eating the last piece of chocolate cake. not only eating it but making no announcement of this event so that the person who had been hoarding it for just the right moment gets to go to the refrigerator at that moment, tingling with anticipation, only to find it gone. and yes, she's korean (korean-american from age 10). our korean-indian fusion has largely been confined to eating korean and indian food together in the same meal. i've posted in the india forum about kimchi going well with certain bengali dishes. as for fusing in the cooking process, the changes have largely occurred in her cooking: she has started using indian chilli powder in some of her dishes (her dok-bok-ki tastes more like the korean street version with it she says) and other dishes she has started preparing with a lot more sauce than before (given the bengali penchant for dousing rice with lots of sauce as opposed to the korean method of eating rice alongside bites of relatively dry dishes). but enough about her, i have pictures of mackerel.
  24. apparently mrs. jones didn't get the memo about finishing the leftovers for lunch. this is what she's whipped up as fresh banchan (korean side dishes): 1. sauteed fish-cake strips with peppers 2. steamed spiced mung-bean sprouts (picture blurred by steam and my general ineptitude) the next aroma in the house will be from mackerel preparation
  25. actually, before i go to start cooking the mackerel, let me throw this out there: when you think of indian food what do you think of? specific dishes? other associations? i'm very interested in different people's answers to this general question. there's no right answer of course, but lots of good raw material for us to cook with.
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