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v. gautam

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  1. Erin, Your vision of the definitive Aloo Gobhi is the General Tso's chicken of Punjabi restaurant menus created in the diaspora. That does not mean a negative, just that there is no standard. Let me expand further. In Indian Punjab, at least, there IS a STANDARD aloo gobhi. But YOU would be horribly disappointed! It is a SIMPLE, non-greasy, non-spicy, dish with no onions, tomatoes, crisp potatoes etc. It may have onions & tomatoes added,if you wish, but it is an extremely simple, delicious plain dish. This is characteristic of a class of DRY-COOKED vegetarian dishes across the northern Indo-Gangetic plain, whose name in the West Bangala foodway is termed CHENCHKI. Here, the vegetables are cut in specific ways, fairly small, and never deep fried. I shall describe the procedure shortly, so you understand the underlying principles. The second TYPE of WET or gravied vegetarian preparation is known in Bangala as DALNA. That involves shallow-frying each component, e.g. cauliflower & potato, in large chunks cut in specific planes. The potatoes get roasted nice & golden! An aromatic temper is followed by a wet spice paste that is slowly brought to a gravy and the semi-cooked vegetables braised & finished off in that sauce with clever touches that bring out the flavor,e.g. ghee etc. In "Indian" restaurants, a hideous boiled onion-tomato masala is prepared for every thing,fish to vegetables, and everything cooked in this. Cream, tomato, oil, MSG, loads of cilantro & the deepfryer are used to cover up this essential truth. And people have grown to like this taste. NOT A PROBLEM. Food snobbery sucks,IMOP.If it tastes good to you, let me know. I shall explain how to make this basic magic sauce which is excellent if well-made. You can turn out tikka masala, aloo gobhi, butter makhani, korma, paneer bhurji, fish & chicken balti and every curry house magic with this single MOTHER sauce! Healthy, simple & cheap to make. But to return to the basic dry-cooked simple vegetable preparation, relished by MOST BENGALIS I KNOW. This is the template you need to understand first. Then, go on to other things. In arithmetic, you start with addition, & then move onto more complex operations; so too here. Cubed Yukon Gold or russet type potatoes, or any, scrubbed, skins on; 3-4 medium. Ghee, or clarified butter, failing which, peanut oil; a decent slosh. Nigella seeds, a teaspoon full or more. 1 Cassia tamala leaf, of good quality, if you have it, or omit. Good salt, a little sugar to taste. A heavy wok or frying pan with cover. Heat pan, then ghee, until it shimmers with heat, but does not smoke. Add cassia leaf, then nigella seeds; let then swim around & release aroma. You should see each seed enhaloed by a ring of minute bubbles; that will tell you that the fat is at the correct temperature. This takes just a few seconds! Add potato cubes, toss around to coat with hot oil, and cook without browning. Season with scant salt, and sprinkle just a few drops of water with your finger tips, just flicking some in to generate a trace of steam as you cover tight & reduce heat to medium low and steam-fry. No browning, ever! Cook for 6-8 minutes, depending on your stove etc. and remove cover. Scatter in a bit of sugar, raise heat and toss and turn to evaporate moisture and finish cooking. Some cubes will be breaking up and that is ideal. You will smell the Nigella & ghee. Off heat & serve with chapatis. Now, with cauliflower, break of florets with a knife. If you have no patience, slice them small. Include all the young leaves and meaty white stalks holding florets to the head. Start as above, but now keep moving and allow brown spots and scorches to develop on florets. When enough have countenances like "Spotted Dicks" and the smell has changed to inviting, add salt & sugar, reduce heat. You will see moisture begin to exude. Quickly cover, and regulate heat to maintain head of steam that will tenderize the florets without making them mushy. Off cover, raise heat, toss and dry fry, caramelizing, going by smell, color and looks, until just there. How you have cut the cauliflower, etc. will matter whether you end up with mush. The traditional Indian cauliflower varieties withstood this treatment very well. They also could be deep-fried to produce a crisp treat that cannot be duplicated with US types that get saturated with oil. Now that you know how to do potato & cauliflower separately, do them together, adding SUGAR + SALT before covering. The moisture pulled out will cook both together to perfection. Once you learn how to control the textures correctly, you will have succeeded in reproducing the authentic BASIC ALOO GOBHI. Then can we proceed to add bells and whistles, the spicing according to the various regions. The Ur-aloo gobhi is still going to be VERY mild: a hint of turmeric, fresh ginger, whole green chiles for aroma, cilantro, fresh ground coriander seed, cumin seed as temper, a hint of a souring agent: traditionally, dried green mango powder or dried pomegranate seed. That spells Punjab. West Bengal Brahman or Vaishnav flavorings would be the 5 whole seed spices: Nigella, cumin, fenugreek, fennel and randhuni, +cassia leaf as tempering mustard oil, followed by turmeric, cane jaggery, & a thread of raw mustard oil to finish. Please NOTE WELL what is MISSING from these authentic INDIAN FOODWAYS: CHILI HEAT, onions, garlic, grease, tomatoes!!! Hundreds of millions of Indians actually eat food like this, not resto. style food! Once you get this very simple dry-cooked vegetable under your belt, you will be ready to handle the next class of dishes, the gravied DALNA type. When you get that authentic type down pat, we can show you the restaurant sauce & their deep fryer version. Perhaps that is the rich version you are seeking? After that, you can invent your very own favorite by mixing & matching. P.S. People relish plain boiled dal, i.e. pigeon pea dal, arhar or toor, boiled soft with a hint of turmeric & salt; or red lentils, ditto. Eaten with rice, salt, a slice of lime, a drop of ghee, mashed bitter melons. I eat like this all the time, every week, my comfort food. A famous dish in Bengal is whole mung beans very slowly cooked with whole tender daikon, whole very tender eggplant, very tender entire plants of spinach, roots & all, small whole potaoes and small taro, Asian white sweet/purple potatoes. Nothing cut is included, but you may add kabocha, some ginger, and a cassia leaf or two, plus cane jaggery. This is eaten with either ghee, butter or mustard oil on steaming rice. Just to bring to your attention how people really eat, as opposed to the popular impression of stomach-searing spices floating in oil. People are not wealthy enough to afford either oil or spices! Read the IFPRI reports, India, Bangladesh etc, and you will see what I mean!!
  2. Whatever texture pleases you most. In north India, a soft, silken texture, with the small urad beans partially melted, and most whole yet very soft in their slightly mucilaginous way, interspersed with the pintos in their silken, NON-mucilaginous, toothsome glory, is the effect we are seeking. A salad or salsa that includes fresh lime/lemon, chopped thai-type green chiles, onion/scallion, cilantro + coarse sea salt,crushed black is to be eaten with any Nan type bread, e.g. pita, even hot steamed bao. Add chopped cucumber and/or tomato to the salad for added zest. Julienne fresh ginger served over the dal is another great idea, or served on the side, or served marinated in salt+ lemon or lime juice.
  3. Erin, In your part of China, a sprig of lemon grass should root & grow vigorously almost 8-9 months of the year. Surely a stalk can be found somewhere, and rooted? Or purchased from a gardener? Ask likely folk for a source? From the market people to the university types? I hear the country is overrun with Vietnamese brides; where are they when you need them?!!
  4. You can try 2 water: 1 milk, depending on how rich the milk is,and then move up or down from there the next time. The reason for going easy is crockpots can do weird things to milk cooked for long in stews; initial caution is merited. [OTOH, crockpots make extremely mellow lamb stock for Indian & Central Asian cooking: ginger,garlic, cassia, cardamom,meat,bones, onion, all get tamed down to an excellent broth] I think dals too may not need all that long a soak; I have ound my dry beans, Goya brand,& others, to cook up silky smooth from the dry state in my 30 year old "crockpot" set at both low & high. Frankly, flat or curly makes no difference. I think after 4-5 or more hours not much parsley flavor will survive, given the quantities prescribed. Who am I to gainsay experts?
  5. Having chipped my teeth [yes, plural] on both Indian & US origin legumes, I have been trying to devise a way to eliminate this hazard. In India, rice & dal are spread on a flat surface and picked over grain by grain, transferred from a "dirty" side to a "cleaned" side. This used to be done as a leisure time activity, when chatting, gossiping, and necessary social time was in progress. Long thick, oiled tresses, wet after bathing, also HAD to be dried in the late-afternoon sun. So lots of NECESSARY activities were going on!! 3, 4, 5, or more at one time during this time, all nested together. No idleness at all, just a rest period in the afternoon. Those punctuated periods and lifestyle are not possible today! Using a very large stainless steel mixing bowl, one might dump in a lb of beans or dal. After washing & scrubbing in several changes of water, fill up that BIG bowl with tepid water until the grains are well submerged. Agitate well. By careful handsful, transfer the legumes to another vessel. When you reach the very bottom, hopefully there will be so little dal left, that any STONES SETTLING DOWN BECAUSE OF THEIR HEAVIER WEIGHT, but difficult to see, will become more apparent to your now-soaked and more sensitive fingertips [+ eyes and questing mind].
  6. Erin, There is a UNIVERSE of different kofta types, and another UNIVERSE of SAUCES, and a THIRD UNIVERSE of RICE dishes and other things prepared with kofte, plural of kofta!!! Then there are kofte prepared with ingredients other than meat, e.g. fish, shrimp, various types of vegetables, spinach, types of root vegetables etc. Let us start with one type, the cuisine of the Kashmiri Pandits, who do not use onions or garlic. Their defining flavors are powdered dry ginger [sonth], powdered fennel seed, green cardamom and yoghurt. A few other things like mustard oil and some other spices may be used. Please note that aniseed is a misnomer for fennel. The gravies are thin. Lamb is used, and you may wish to prepare a light bone stock [trotters are excellent] with a piece of ginger and green cardamon and black pepper to give some substance. http://www.koausa.org/Cookbook/190.html http://www.indiacurry.com/spice/yakhnisauce.htm http://www.curryhouse.co.uk/catw/brent3.htm If you have the appetite for more kofte in the Indian repertoire, you only have to ask. It depends on how patient you are, how involved you want to get, what spices you want to buy, etc.
  7. Erin, I regularly cook pinto & pea beans without soaking in my crock-pot. I have not done this dal without soaking, but have made makhani many times; call me hidebound! My point is that if dry pinto & pea beans become silky smooth from their dry state, why will not urad? BTW, I find the texture of the two whole beans mentioned far superior to rajma, which are red kidney beans. Even PINK kidney beans are much tastier, for my tastebuds at least, in this or any other Indian dish. I go through quite a lot every month. In a tested recipe, a friend at another site takes whole urad, soaks overnight [you decide how long!] enough water in slow cooker, be it clay/sandy pot on the stove or an electric appliance, for a thick puree, cook very slow, with some rich milk & 4oz butter per 1/2 lb. She suggests adding 2 tablespoons cream & a little yoghurt 1/2 hour before the dal is done. Salt, of course. She adapted this recipe from a famous cookbook created in the 1950s tailored for the Western reader, CLASSIC COOKING FROM INDIA by Dharam Jit Singh. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston (1956). Another excellent title: [The art of rice cookery Dharam Jit Singh (Author) Archer House (1963)] There, it appears as a method for the split & hulled urad dal, the white form: 1/2 lb. white urad cleaned well, soaked overnight [use your own judgment when enough is enough!!] Drain well. Place in a crockpot or sandypot. Add 2 oz. butter, 2 tablespoons chopped (European) parsley [YES PARSLEY!!], 4 lightly crushed GREEN cardamoms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a good pinch asafoetida [if you have it], a few chopped mint leaves and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Mix well. Add just enough water to cover. Mix again to distribute spices. POACH, instructs SinghSaheb using lowest possible heat. "Moisten lightly as often as necessary, but do not inundate with water. Test by extracting a few grains from the centre with a perforated spoon. When these are tender but whole (like rice grains) the lentils are done. If desired add 6 tablespoons melted butter and some chopped chives. Serve hot." NOTE: You are to follow the SAME spicing with the whole urad dal, but increase the liquid, poaching in milk + water, upping the butter quotient, adding yoghurt & cream just before the finish. That gives you dal makhAni, makhan meaning BUTTER!! So you cannot have DAL MAKHANI without its eponymous ingredient! The WHITE VERSION above is called KHARA MAH or MAHN DAL, whole or entire urad dal, i.e, dal cooked to leave the grains entire, or dry-cooked, not dissolved into liquid. Urad = maasha, mAsha, in Sanskrit, becomes MAH, nasalized to MAHN in Punjabi. You can go here http://www.anothersubcontinent.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php?t1997.html to see the person from whom I took this recipe and her modifications. RE: Pressure Cookers. Pressure cookers cook dals soft but the texture of long slow cooking is missing. Pressure cooking completely destroys or at least attenuates certain spice/aromatic flavors or converts them to a steamy version. You can cook red lentils on the stove, in a crockpot or a PC, and distinctly taste the differences in each. PCs have their sterling and utilitarian virtues, but dal makhani is not a dish for this device. In fact, a clay pot, nestled in the embers of a wood fire, overnight, offers the incomparable true taste. The same may be said of tomatoes or eggplant rubbed with oil and roasted in the ashes of a more active fire, while cooking is proceeding. The correct temperature of the hot ash bakes the vegetables and induces hairline fissures that leak excess fluid which is absorbed by the ashy bed. This produces a roasted, smoky vegetable with concentrated flavors unlike any one can achieve on a comal, oven etc. Such vegetables are made into the real bhartas, salsas etc. Again, onions roasted in this fashion are to be ground for the cooked masalas of some south Indian gashi-type dishes. This ash-cooked technique is central to achieving the authentic flavors. The types of wood matters, straw fires or jute sticks won't do. Coconut husks & shells will, if supplemented by something more substantial. In my childhood, hardwoods like mango & jackfruit, among many others, were the usual fuel, along with Cajanus cajan stalks. Those days are so past!!
  8. Thanks for the clarification, Kent. @Chris: Since you asked for a recipe w/sa-cha, I am assuming you already are aware of the one using this sauce, posted by our Ah Leung, when he was doing his series of recipes? In fact,I was educated about brand choice by his comment on a past sa-cha thread! Jan 21, 2006 Chiu Chow (Teochew)/Thai Style Fish Cakes with Sa Cha Sauce
  9. Kent, I have both the Spicy & the Regular BULL NOSE brand, [the one with a comical yellow cow face on it?]. Have to ask: does anyone find the finely ground fish bones in that brand annoying? I ask this as someone who has been raised on tiny whole bony fish, very greatly prefers such, and eats very very bony shad, climbing perch & pure fish frames,heads & offal with gusto. Anna, It is so interesting that you write about your grandmother's gai laan dish. By some coincidence, of the many Korean,Chinese and Thai preserves and sauces I have and use, I seem to employ the sa-cha almost exclusively on a dish I just threw together one day but which became my favorite: spinach fettucine, American broccoli & cabbage if I have some. A local store has its own brand of spinach fettucine always on sale [probably because it is a bit thick & an ugly color & does not sell well] But that becomes a virtue here as it soaks up the robust sa-cha & veg. juices & plumps up thick & chewy, needing very little oil.
  10. Pishmaniye is closer to an Indian sweet called SOHAN PAPRI/soan papdi. This is a fairly specialized process left to confectioners. If you watch from 4:18 onwards in the video clip below you will see why: Unlike the sugar floss hand-spun on streetcorners by nimble fingers in various Chinatowns in the USA, Pishmaniye/soan papdi is not just sugar. There are 2 components. One, a sugar + a glucose syrup in known proportions is acidified or brought to a pH level best known to the professionals and cooked to a particular stage, known as "2 wires". In India,they measure syrup temperature or viscosity by putting a drop on the thumb and pulling the syrup between the index finger & thumb and seeing how it behaves. Also by dropping syrup from a spoon! It is let to cool to a certain temperature where it can be worked on a round oiled tray. This is where the Turkish & Iranians have magnificent pishmaniye machines, huge spidery arms mechanically spinning around over arrays of beautiful stainless steel dishes nearly 2 meters in diameter. Lines of them, say 6 + 6. Everything wonderfully automated where the poor Indians don plastic sanitary overgarments and do everything by hand in stifling heat, since the whole 'dough' has to kept quite warm. When I see the Indians struggling, as I have since childhood, and see the gleaming Turkish factories, I am just struck dumb with wonder! Now comes what makes Pishmaniye/soan papdi different from mere sugar floss. In India, a base of chickpea flour cooked in ghee & flavored with green cardamom is incorporated in the sugar lump, and then stretched by hand like throwing noodles, but in a slightly different way. Pistachios are added as garnish to the finished product. Earlier, malt from germinating wheat [malt=sohan]was a favorite, but today, chickpea flour is the favored base in India. In Turkey and Iran the DIFFERENT base flours and the fats in which they are cooked, and then the flavoring & garnish chosen, define the type & quality of the pishmaniye. Mutton fat is not just any old sheep fat: it is specifically the tail fat of the DUMBA, the fat-tailed sheep breeds of Iran. Karakul, found in the USA, is a somewhat fat-tailed breed, but has not been selected here for that feature. The quality of that fat from pastured sheep, when carefully rendered, is like lard of exceptional quality from kidney suet or caul fat. MESU is a cousin of SOAN PAPDI that also demands extreme care & skill but yet may be adapted to the home kitchen. Interested folks may google chef Saadat Siddiqui + Afzal Nizami + MESU and find the relevant instructions & video. They would need someone fluent in Hindi/Urdu to translate for them, and a source of glucose syrup from a bakery supply. This thick viscous material is sold by that name in the subcontinent but what it actually is, I cannot say. It might even be fructose syrup, misnamed "glucose" by the trade there!! HALDIRAM'S is an excellent brand with mechanized production facilities of soan papdi, which they sell in sealed tins available in the USA & elsewhere by mail order and wherever Indian groceries are sold. One might try & taste this product and expand one's pishmaniye universe.
  11. Bruce, I shall always wish every business Godspeed. However, this W'kana whatever and the whole slick PR set me growling with its pretentiousness [is that a word?] and sheer false colors. So beware! Beginning with W'kana! What word is that? I am quite fluent in the language and am puzzled? If they are so aware of their culture, they would have known that the Vedic people called their common language just "Language", BhAshA, and their sacred or liturgical forms several things, including "Ch(h)anda". Vedic priests get huffy when they see their heritage prostituted. Their whole style is slick, hotel school shtick: foreshadowing cooking with absolutely garbage technique. It may raise the expectation of certain tastes, e.g. as British vindaloo or "phal" has, or of Panda Express Orange Chicken and the infamous General Tso. One casualty is the problem you experienced with rasam and something that Jenny partially addressed [where in the meal itis eaten]. These restaurateurs never trouble to explain to their diners HOW the food should be eaten. Thus, an entire tradition falls by the wayside. Many communities live cheek by jowl in or near the Tamil sphere of influence, and yet partake of rasams that vary in their powder texture etc. Some common rasam types:Lemon rasam, ginger, black pepper, tamarind, tomato, Mysore rasam, etc. Each will have different levels of spicing, sourness, and permutation by community. Now, the way to eat rasam is to take slightly soft rice, warm or hot, and mash it up with rasam in a particular Indian manner with fingers and thumb. Only then is rasam well incorported with the starch, and a particular soupy,messy texture achieved. Many add plain yoghurt too. It is ONLY in this context that the rasam-rice becomes exceedingly delightful. Rasam is spiced to be a foil to this quantity of rice AND yoghurt! OR, rasam is eaten as RASAVADE, where HOT urad dal vada are plunged into steaming rasam to become plump pillows. Again, the edges are blunted, a known dilution effect. This brings us to a general problem of spicing Indian food for US customers. In India, rice or breads comprise 80% of a mouthful,the vegetable, meat or the "vyanjana" less than 20%. Indeed, the flavor and texture of breads MUST be PARAMOUNT, and veggies or "curries" be applied merely as "dipping sauces". All too often, I have seen US patrons push away their "starch" ( Ah, that demon word !!!) and spoon gravy, meat, what have you, on to their plates. THEN they complain about Indian food being heavy, greasy etc. If you were to spoon CHICKEN SOUP BASE into your mouth, you would have the same reaction!!!! Hello, dilution factors! AND, the self-proclaimed "experts" of .....hound and similar boards could not distinguish good regional food if it hit them head on. The ones who claim to have gone native are the worst offenders. Interestingly, you will NEVER EVER find any real natives voicing their opinions there!! And the younger generations in India are growing up in a food landscape so radically changed, they probably cannot distinguish how things used to taste in the bad old days!! Or how a basic dish should taste. NO compromises. This is not an insane Jeremiad. The very genetics of cauliflower, tomato, eggplant, pumpkin, okra etc. have undergone irreversible change in India.
  12. Many types of short grain rices appear to contain higher proportions of branched starches, amylopectins, to straighter-chained starches, amylose; long grains have the opposite. I believe that cooked rice undergoes a process known as the retrogradation of the hydrated starch [see:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrogradation_%28starch%29]. The Japanese SG rices do not benefit as much by Retrogradation, a process that re-establishes the crystalline structures of LG that gets mushed out by cooking in water and gelling. If you cook in oil at higher temperatures, then introduce water, long grain rices undergo gelatinization in ways that preserve the crystal structure better,as we all have noticed in pilafs.
  13. Sorry for a belated reply. I am very anxious that everyone enjoy their "Indian" eating excursions, and get to know the varied terrain better. The first issue, as Bruce has discovered, is that food outlets differ in quality, service and authenticity. It is well known among expatriates that profit is the bottom line for these businesses, not any desire to provide great food. There is a website created by an Indian that delights in listing every minor & major health code violation of "Indian" restaurants in the NYC area in lurid detail!! Many of these restaurants create "food" and get by!! Such is the case of many lower-end Chinese & Thai take-aways, and they too manage to survive for decades and develop quite a loyal following. I have myself cooked for a Thai-Lao "joint" of this persuasion, that has thrived against all odds. You don't even want to know the nature of the "Thai" and "Lao" food they purvey! From a lowly prep person,I was promoted/shanghaied to Chef #2 on my 3rd day w/o inquiring if I knew anything or not, including using the high pressure stoves, so you can guess at the state of affairs! A similar climate prevails in Indian F&B in the US where any legitimate chef commands huge salaries. While it may be ok to cook for a family, the same skills do not translate into restaurant cookery, for many reasons. That is a problem many Indian joints realize well after opening. Thus, we have wild interpretations of food,the same phenomenon that created the Curry House Cuisine of the Bangladeshi cooks in Britain. The need to earn money and throw something at customers that they will like drives this market. The same impulse drives much "Chinese" cookery in India. That said, some broad clarifications short of minor details to assist Bruce in his forays: Pakora: Indian TEMPURA with chickpea flour batter. [Also called BAAJJI in southern India. Note that BHAAJEE/BHAJI is a different food in north India, a dry-cooked veggie]. Whole slices usual: like your US onion rings!! Eggplant slices, ditto cauliflower, pumpkin, whole spinach leaves etc. In Punjab & south, may comprise chopped mixtures e.g. potato + spinach + onion, dusted with chickpea flour, gathered up into balls by virtue of their residual moisture, fried. Kachori: Indian fry breads enclosing a filling that is generally thin and simple: various ground raw dals, esp. Mung, Urad, Chickpea flavored very simply. Eaten with a very lightly spiced vegetable or potato curry, jalebis, or sooji halwa. Khasta Kachori: Pastry with very short dough deep fried: traditionally ball shaped holding a spicy-sweet filling made from legumes such as mashed Mung beans, lilva = immature pods of hyacinth bean, Lablab purpureus. Raj kachori seems to be a more recent innovation from Delhi, a short dough disc fried to a crisp puffed round, hollowed and filled with various goodies.
  14. Kachori-s: when preparing from raw flour as opposed to PRESENTATION for eating, there are 2 ways to make them [there is annoying animal named "bedmi" around Delhi & western UP, but here is will remain invisible!]. A kachori is made from a short flour dough and filling of soaked split legumes [dals], commonly urad [black gram, Vigna mungo], moong/mung [green gram, Vigna radiata], moth bean, prounced "mote" [Vigna acutifolius]and channa dal [split chickpea]. Khasta means heavily shortened, creating a crisp effect. Terminology varies from region to region. In Bengal or Gujarat, Khasta Kachori describes something shaped like a golf ball. The inner filling is crushed, soaked moong dal, a paste in Bengal and of looser texture in Gujarat. This has been pre-cooked with ginger, green or pounded red chillies, asafetida, cane jaggery, pounded cumin, carom seed [ajwain] and other spices to make an exciting sweet& hot flavorful mix. This is stuffed in very short crust pastry that is rolled into balls and deep fried. The result is a most delicious, HEAVY DUTY MORSEL that keeps for weeks without refrigeration. Jamnagar in Gujarat is especially famous for this type of KHASTA KACHORI. Now we come to the "Delhi" type of Khasta kachori made notorious by Nathu's Sweets RAJ KACHORI and now taken even deeper into the annals of infamy [lol] by having BHELPURI stuffed into its innards by Udipi folks!! It's like a Neapolitan having to witness first ham & pineapple, then tandoori duck, finally corn & Kewpie mayo, all on the same pizza!! And being relished with delight & wonder by hapless innocents! I shall take revenge by concocting a Shrimp Bisi Bele or CapsicumRice, so be warned Udupi!! Technically, this "khasta kachori" is basically a highly leavened form of the ORDINARY kachori described below, so that the puffed hollow remains crisp and can be made the repository of nameless horrors!! That is NOT how ordinary Indians USED to enjoy ORDINARY kachoris! Let us take Bengal: a simple urad dal ground on stone flavored with asafetida was stuffed into a mildly leavened dough, that was rolled out and fried like the puri. The puffed rounds were especially enjoyed with hot Jalebis. In common with most of North India & Pakistan, only a very, very lightly spiced, "wet" potato "curry" was ever served alongside. Even in Pakistan, this dish has no onion or garlic, just whole cumin seeds, maybe nigella, red chili, turmeric. Moong & Chana dal were popular fillings. In Rajasthan, you have onions, and more exotic stuffings. In Bengal, you transition to special classes of kachori that are more filling than dough, e.g. fresh green pea & fish. They hark back to the ancient Indo-European roots of this dish: pur is cognate with portal, door, so we get the concept of filling something. Khacha-puri is a Georgian fried or baked dough filled with a curdled milk cheese. Filling dough with legume or whatever is at hand is a universal concept and we can trace the linguistic roots of the name, but that does not imply conceptual import, much like the samosa. The ordinary kachori, though puffed, is soft enough to fold around stuff. In Rajasthan street food you begin to transition to thicker & more filled versions, just as with the "special class kochuri-s" of Bengal. BTW, Bruce probably had an usal or Misal pav. Here is an allegedly Udipi cook interpreting a Maharashtrian dish within a restaurant BUDGET in the USA. Sometimes substitutions are made, and "good enough" results are attempted.
  15. I do not know about the skin thickness but I have heard good things about the egg & meat quality of the NAGOYA chicken. There is a concerted effort to bring this breed back into production, and several strains have been bred.[K. Kino. Poultry Institute, Aichi-ken Agricultural Research Center, Nagakute, Aichi] "There are 7 breeding farms in Aichi prefecture that produce commercial Nagoya chicks. In 1999, they provided 580 thousand commercial chicks mainly to 26 poultry farms in this area. The grown birds are dispatched to 12 slaughterhouses. The meat is sold at many department stores and supermarkets locally and in many cities in Japan, and the price is about $40/kg, which is about 5 times higher than that of broiler meat.... Generally Nagoya's meat is tough and tasty, and we tried to investigate what factors affect the hard texture and the taste.... Japanese people enjoy chicken raw meat for "Sashimi", boiled meat for "Sukiyaki", "Mizutaki" or "Shyabu-shyabu" and baked meat for "Yakitori". The hard texture and tasty meat of Nagoya is more preferable for such Japanese cooking" Giant Shamo is another excellent meat bird. If you want to do exceptional Indian cooking, these two breeds are the ones you need, not the Rock Cornish flabby broilers sold in the US.
  16. v. gautam

    Yogurt Substitute

    Lactose intolerance may be a lesser affliction than allergy to milk proteins, which disallows any use. The former allows very limited use depending on how severe your condition is:Yoghurt & kefir appear have a lower lactose load than milk or cream in vivo. Small amounts may be permissible in marinades, or very sparingly in some N.Indian meat dishes [kormas] as a flavoring agent, or in moru kuzhambu, a Tamil soupy preparation where a tiny bit of yoghurt + a greater amount soy yoghurt may be ground up with fresh grated coconut, a small qty. of soaked dal [pigeonpea or some other] and given a tempering. Kadhi is the north Indian version of this yoghurt soup, where chickpea flour is added to create a colloidal suspension and various solids are added. You can see that Yoghurt is used in a number of different ways in Indian cookery. Here are a few common ways 1. meat tenderizer, e.g. tandoori chicken : here lemon or lime juice might suffice with scant diminution of flavor. 2. various types of yoghurt soups, where soy yoghurts may be used, with tiny quantities of yoghurt added for flavor, if wished. 3. raitas : cool yoghurt based relishes containing cucumbers, carrots, and other things. 4. yoghurt rices,eaten cold/ room temperature 5. pilafs with a yoghurt base: mint pulao, various biryanis 6. gravied meat dishes with a yoghurt base 7. Yoghurt incorporated in bread dough In some of these, yoghurt can be left out, e.g. mint pulao, w/o too much pain. In the case of biryanis, soy yoghurt will create strange tastes, so better to leave that out and forge ahead. When you figure out what each dish is, you can determine whether to substitute, and with what.
  17. Dear H-san, Have many in Japan heard of, or used, this: "AKASAKÉ MIRIN is a rice wine which has an unusual, unique sweet flavor with a slight chocolate note and golden reddish brown color. ...AKASAKÉ MIRIN is a wonderful substitute for traditional mirin..... flavorful, reasonably priced and readily available alternative to traditional mirin, and is distinctly superior to mass produced faux mirin. ... ...alkaline wood ash preserved the saké by raising the pH to 7.2. This prevents the growth of spoilage bacteria. And also the brew acquired a beautiful red hue. Akasaké brewers in Kumamoto Prefecture still practice this ancient saké preservation technique to produce this unique type of sake." http://www.nymtc.com/pl_mtcpremium/akazakemirin.html Am curious to know what this might be in terms of utility and value:price ratio, or if it is some new foodie trend in the making, like French sea salt? Thanks.
  18. Bengaluru is a haven of "old book" stores where finding a cheap windfall may not be out of the question; or, libraries like the British Council may have a copy: Here are some old favorites, and some newer ones as well, to whet your interest. Check under "Dim Sum" Amazon books, for more titles. Florence Lin's Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads by Florence Lin and Peter Lavigna (Paperback - Nov 1993) 8 Used & new from $64.46 [Amazon] The Dim Sum Dumpling Book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (Paperback - Nov 1995) 11 Used & new from $35.00 Chinese Dim Sum (Paperback) by Wei-Chuan School (Author), Wei-Chuan Publishing (Author) $14.93 Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder (Hardcover - April 9, 2002) Buy new: $25.00 $16.5046 Used & new from $8.01 Dim Sum Made Easy by Lucille Liang (Paperback - Nov 28, 2006) Buy new: $12.95 $10.1542 Used & new from $5.00 Some excellent varieties of cultivated mushrooms, e.g. Calocybe indica, called Milky Mushrooms in the trade, are now available in Btown. You could experiment chopping these up into your ground chicken to provide moisture, flavor & tenderness to the final steamed product without incorporating additional fat or cabbagey flavors (chopped napa or other cabbages being the other simple option). BTW, Momo & Tingmo are very, very definitely TIBETAN, BHOD, the correct name, and not ethnic Nepalese. That last epithet has no meaning by itself anyway, because depending on altitude, latitude & longitude, Nepal is home to endgamous ethnic groups that until very recently [and even now] have little in common with each other [language, food, religion, culture]. The reason one finds momos in a "Nepali" restaurant is due to the very strong Tibetan influence in Nepal AND Northern India [Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Himachal Pradesh, Mussoorie, Dehra Dun], especially post-diaspora. Momos have become a pan-Indian phenomenon in the last 2 decades with the maturing of the 2nd generation (nisei) of Tibetans in India, much as pizza & bagels became pan-American after WWII. In the restaurant business, nothing is as it seems. "Indian" restaurants in the UK are not at all run by Indians, "Japanese" retaurants in the US rarely by Japanese. "Mexican" tortillerias in NYC are run by the Chinese! Therefore, to conclude from finding momos at a "Nepali" restaurant in London that they are a Nepali dish, is marvellously flawed logic. People from Arunachal Pradesh, from the Tawang region, are Monpas, with an ancient and rich heritage paralleling and conjoined with that of U & Tsang of Tibet. There is NOTHING that Nepal has contributed here with respect to momos and Sino-Tibetan cookery. The latter part of the statement holds true for every state of North-east India, that, incidentally, lay on the path taken by Tibetans fleeing the occupation of their country. Eastern Nepal, the gateway to Tingri/Dhingri in Tibet, lies firmly within the Tibetan sphere. The Sherpas & Tamangs further west are also within that cultural universe, not of Nepal. So the food reflects this cultural [and formerly political] fact. I am sorry that my sensitivities are showing because the Nepal government today is in the process of wreaking indescribable havoc on the Tibetan diaspora that has sought refuge within it, and continues to do so on defenseless group. To conflate Tibetan food under Nepalese suzerainty when the former are in the process of being inexorably extinguished culturally & racially in their homeland, seems just a bit unbearable.]
  19. David, Love to have had you come for a visit recently. You would have seen some eye-popping prices, $4/lb green beans, teeny bunches of cilantro at $2, incredibly expensive stuff all round at the Ithaca Farmers Market!! However, it helps local artisanal growers survive, and the market prices are what the clientele are willing to pay out. The Farmers Market has become an enormously successful tourist attraction and a carnival-like affair with many cooking booths etc. Were you to come mid-to late August,there is a great bargain on PA peaches by the 1/2-1 bushel, not at the farmers market, but a little distance away [though you might as well go to PA!! Now, towards late September, we are getting to apple & grape harvest. Were you to come some weekday, I could take you to visit the apple & grape collection at Geneva, say on a Friday. Saturday is the crazy busy day at the Ithaca farmers market!!
  20. You are most welcome. I too love these 'cellophane' type noodles prepared from various starches,and use them in vaguely Asian ways that nevertheless please me. One such is a modified spring roll that is not fried but microwaved with a loose cover on, either plastic or similar,to prevent drying out.It is not high in fat,full of veggies & pleasant to my taste with a dip of sriracha, so not too much salt. You soak some thin bean thread bundles and snip them. Add grated zuchhini, grated carrot, or some finely sliced napa or savoy cabbage/bok chok/choi sum, sliced soaked shiitake, ditto some wood ears, some scallions. To this base, if you want to get more elaborate,you could add soft/silken tofu mashed up with hands, some raw ground chicken or turkey,chopped shrimp, dry shrimp powder [ sold in bottles or make your own],etc., just one or two maybe? Season with some fish sauce, hint of sesame oil, ditto soy sauce, salt, pinch sugar, fresh ground black pepper. Let sit & roll up envelope style into spring roll skins [the thin flour 9 inch froen sheets,not egg rolls ones]. Arrange like cigars on a plate, cover, sprinkle with the lightest touchof water ifdrying out and microwave until just cooked and wrinkled. Sort of a lower calorie version of the lovely fried spring rolls. http://thaifoodtonight.com/thaifoodtonight/recipes-MungBeanNoodleSalad.html
  21. If you go to the thread Thai Cooking at Home in this forum, posts 797 & 802 refer to Kasma's Bean Thread in a Clay Pot and recipes that are similar to hers. Since bean thread is a synonym, while searching recipes, you could use that too. If variations of Korean and Thai are not out of the picture, both, the sweet potato noodles and the bean thread, make varieties of Chap chae to suit your taste and what is in the house. There is a flat, broader bean thread from Taiwan. You may ask for it in groceries and try it too, for a change of texture. So then you have 3 types of "cellophane" noodles with 3 thicknesses and textures to play with: the thin bean thread, the thicker sweet potato noodles from Korea, and the flat, broader ones from Taiwan. Whatever stir fry etc. you are cooking, if you have some bean thread soaked in water, drain and snipped into manageable strands [just hack away with a pair of sciccors, hack hack as per Pete Seeger, 2 whacks] and drop into the bubbling liquid that is accumulaing. This is after you have added some final seasoning, be it oyster sauce, hoisin hot, soy, bean baste, sweet bean paste, Sriracha sauce, final touch of fish sauce, hint of sesame oil etc. Singly or in some judicious combination and quantity, better less than more. Now drop in your noodles and move around. They may seem waterlogged [you woud use at least 2-3 little bundles, 1oz. each?, in a 14 inch wok] and dragging their heels, but wait, shutting off the heat. You may even cover for a while, addin any fresh herbs like basil, mint, chopped scallions, but then you need to adust cooking time for vegetables so as not to overcook. In a couple of minutes, the noodles will have gained resilience and dried out. You may add a hint of fresh ground peppercorns, if warranted by the dish. So this is just like a "lo mein" except with bean thread. You need to soak in water for a couple of minutes only, so it is much less hassle than flour noodles.
  22. Yes, I have been an addict of Fishbase, since I come from West Bengal from a time when we had no refrigeration: that meant all the fish had to be fresh caught, and sold very, very fresh [mostly fresh water, from estuaries, rivers & ponds]. That particular culture abjured any dried, preserved or fermented fish products. My favorite then & now for filleted fries is/was Lates calcarifer, the barramundi of the Ganga estuary [a bit different from the Australian in taste] sized whole at less than 2-3 kg, > 1.5 kg. You are quite right with regard to trout. I lived in Utah, where both farmed trout and wild were available. Even the farmed from various provenances had better and worse tastes, reflecting warm water and the algal geosmin. Where I live now, the deep waters of the Finger Lakes supposedly have immense Lake Trout, and the rushing streams the rainbow, but I do not fish. When America was young, her eastern streams where shaded, very cool, clear and well-oxygenated. Brook trout flourished. With the great woods removed, the European brown trout introduced, and the waters turned warmer and more turbid [and more toxic] the brook trout has all but disappeared. The chub, a coarse tasting fish in summer, becomes clean and delicious in the frigid waters of January. But this native fish, too, is gradually being displaced. I have been surprised at how good the channel catfish can taste when well-farmed in clean waters. Ditto, some tilapia. In these cases, and also buffalofish [excelent as bone-in darnes], warm shallow water does NOT adversely affect the taste, as they are adapted to relative warmth. Clean water and spacious quarters, sufficient plant life, and a natural pond ecology as opposed to circulating, high-density tanks make all the difference. North America has the land and exceptionally rich aquatic fauna that outdoor, uncrowded natural farms can give excellent results for these species. Sadly, this mode [uncrowded] is the rare exception but shows the possibilities of excellent fish that can be made available to all for $3/lb w/o wrecking any marine or terrestrial environment. These fishes may grow slower but taste way better when not fed ocean-derived fish meal. Since 30% of the feed offered to farmed fish is never ingested, that means a lot of ocean life not being destroyed. [it is a bit worrying that 70% of USA's fresh water bodies are redlined, i.e. fish from these waters are hazardous. Since this nation is the custodian of a substantial fraction of the earth's surface [liquid] fresh water, it is sort of a general indicator of what we are doing to our environment and fish life all over the globe.]
  23. In Chinatown, there are several purveyors of vegetarian foods that are very good cold. One large firm is : May Wah Healthy Vegetarian Food 213 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013 Tel: 212.334.4428 | Fax: 212.334.4423 Their "tuna" is supposed to be good. Many of these products are vegan as well. Huge selection, including curry etc. There is another place whose product we get here in Ithaca, and I shall try and get the name if you are interested. They make an excellent "mock duck." It tastes nothing like duck, but is delicious cold in its own right. Layers of beans sheet enclosing shredded bamboo shoot, shiitake, maybe wheat gluten: all braised in a sweet, rich sauce. it comes in an 8oz foil meat-loaf or pound cake style container, about $3-4, and is good for many rolls below. It is so rich that it could [should actually] become the filling in a kimbap or sushi, cut with vinegared rice, a stick of crunchy cucumber, slivers of avocado, maybe a ginger slice [if the kid is not too young] a tiny bit of the daikon/carrot relish or even some sweet-sour bread & butter pickles. Experiment & see what you think. Suzie's Seitan, made in Ithaca, is distributed to NYC, by a firm named Regional Access, Trumansburg, NY. Absolutely great stuff, sold in thin cooked slices, with many flavors, including shiitake. MorningStar Farms has some great vegetarian meat strips that can be made into various stir-fries and fajita-like things that taste good even cold; they soak up flavor. Phillips (?), a fresh mushroom company [producer, wholesaler], used to have a portobello burger [bellaburger?] that was excellent. Being a foodwriter, you would have sources able to trace what became of it. If you do, please do let me know. There is a green Korean shredded seaweed item that is offered as banchan. I do not know how to make this but it should be a healthy food to include. Hijiki (stewed) can be introduced in gradual steps. The Korean deli style of green spinach so common in the late 70s, early 80s [remember Paik's on 71st & Colombus?] that stands being eaten cold so well. Another way with collard greens I was shown that looks very unappealing but tastes delicious: saute some chopped onion & garlic in a very tiny bit of olive oil, add water, bring to boil, add chopped collards, & stems separately. Salt lightly Cook until soft to your taste. Season water with a bit of brown sugar & vinegar to flavor the greens. Try this! The Japanese sesame dressing with a hint of ginger served in Japanese-American restaurants, to be eaten with cucumber sticks [kirby], carrot sticks, and ohitashi form of rolled spinach [better: swiss chard, not astringent]. Make tiny cylinders of chard to go with the cukes, and practice eating as a family all the things you will add to the bento, so there will be no surprises.
  24. Sheetz, There are many "traditional" Chinese doughs [i am familiar with the Cantonese] that use boiling water poured over flour. There are even steamed breads etc. that employ layering "hot water" dough and "cold water" doughs for textural quality. 1. Are these hot water roux breads, then, a modification of the very traditional Chinese techniques? 2. Are the boiling water doughs so popular in the Cantonese styles a borrowing from the Portuguese and thus a European discovery from ancient times, as its widespread use in Europe might suggest? Or is it an independent Chinese innovation? Shortcrust & various types of doughs, even though analogous to European types can be discovered independently in several cultures and there is no need, except that owed to cultural chauvinism, to posit a sole center of origin and subsequent diffusion.
  25. I had a Chinese friend who used to use tea as the diluent to loosen sesame paste and/or peanut butter for cold noodles. Just a tiny, judicious amount; you may try oolong or green tea, to see which one suits your palate. The tea adds a little depth, astringency and complexity to the richness of the cold noodles. You may cut down on the soy sauce when you do so, leaving more of the seed flavor unalloyed. Increase the quantity of tea until it is enough to make a slurry, if you feel that is to your taste. Try it once, and let us know how it worked out. Pickled [Chinese style] gherkins & garlic cloves, & fresh Kirby/pickling cucumbers shredded, on the side, as mentioed upthread, are excellent.
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