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Everything posted by bhelpuri

  1. I love the adorable little kiddie hands reaching for the shelf of important books.
  2. there does seem to be enough of a hispanic population in colorado/denver to support good hispanic cuisine Not that i'm any kind of expert on Colorado, but I'm pretty sure that my experience of hunting down Mexican food in other places will be valid. It's out there, Mongo, and it's likely to be hard-core, earthy and delicious. But it may not be in a place you'd call a restaurant, or want to take your wife. It may be being sold right now out of a plastic bucket near a construction site, or from a makeshift counter in a store selling phone cards, or from the front porch of a tiny house in a rotten neighborhood. The fact is that states that feature as many migrant workers as Colorado - with a high proportion always being single, part-transient, men - always feature a small, mostly-underground, economy servicing them. And food is a huge part of it, because it is one item that the migrants can afford that is completely "authentic' and reminds them of home. So, don't necessarily expect helpful reviews in the mainstream newspapers, or even a signboard. Ask the illegals, ask the construction guy you see chowing down happily on barbecued goat when you walk by at lunchtime, ask the cleaning lady.
  3. The essential pickle in my household, one which I get very agitated about if it is not lurking in my fridge at all times, is misqut, from Goa. It's a spicy, vinegary, piquant preparation, made mostly of small and tender good quality green mangoes. These are first slit and salted and pressed for days under a very heavy weight, then stuffed with a combination of spices including hing and turmeric and chilis and mustard seeds, then submerged in hot oil made fragrant with further spices. Give it a year or so in the jar (my current stash is from 2000) and the pickle that you end up with is unbeatable with chicken or prawn or fish curry, or most anything else.
  4. This blog is so long (a good thing, of course) that one has difficulty finding quotes to refer to when making a response. Thus, I have no idea where the appropriate posts are about West Indian 'Indian' cooking, though this isn't going to stop me from making several points. 1) There were some comparitive comments made about the relative size of the (East) Indian populations in Guyana. The two biggest (east) Indian communities in the West Indies do belong to that country and Trinidad, with liberal sprinklings all over the rest of the Caribbean from Suriname to Jamaica to Belize and on. The exact numbers are hard to pin down, because the implication of the size of the community has all kinds of political ramifications. But, roughly, 45% of Trinidad's million-or-so population is Indian and 50% of Guyana's 700,000. So, the community is bigger in Trinidad, which also serves as something of a Indian cultural center for the whole W. Indies. 2) There isn't much to the 'Indian' food made in either Trinidad or Guyana, certainly there is only a hint of the breadth and sophistication of the many discrete cuisines of the subcontinent. This is unsurprising, since the majority of Indians in the Caribbean came over as extremely exploited indentured laborers, largely from one or two specific areas of rural India, and then were largely divested of all contact with the homeland and the living cultures left behind. What emerged in Trinidad (and Guyana, and Jamaica, etc) is a kind of Creole culture, a half-remembered and half-preserved vestige fused with a few new ingredients. Though there was a trickle of maintained contact between the subcontinent and the expatriated populations, it was not significant enough to keep a living connection. Contemporary ties are actually closer (there has been a spate of Hindu revivalism, for example), but these don't extend to food. Thus, 'Indian' food in the Caribbean is very very basic. Tasty, very enjoyable in parts, but very unvarying and limited (unlike what exists on the subcontinent). You have curry, 95% of the time made from a ready-made locally-produced mix, and the same exact recipe is used for every ingredient from conch to goat to duck. You have no more than two or three types of rotis, you have rice aplenty (both Trinidad and Guyana have ideal lands for rice cultivation), you have lots of fiery scotch bonnet (habanero) chilis, and that starts to be the sum of it. There are a couple of cool and unique Indo-Caribbean preparations (the fiery 'doubles' come to mind), but these are far fewer than you'd imagine. This is not meant to be a put-down of what is an enjoyable, and often extremely tasty sub-genre of Caribbean food and I hope it is not read as such.
  5. Guvar is the Hindi name for a kind of thin green bean, particularly popular (with different names) in the South. I think they might be a variety of cluster bean. Tindora is the Gujerati name for a finger-like gherkin-looking vegetable. It's a Bombay favorite (known as Tendli or Tondli), I've never figured out why the Gujju name is used exclusively here in the USA. You have a box of Tindora in one of your photos, Mongo, I think next to the okra (too lazy to go all the way back there and check). Turai/Toorai is the Hindi name for a fore-arm-sized green gourd (maybe a marrow?). It looks vaguely like a longer and unspiky variety of a karela. I've seen it incorrectly translated on a local menu as courgette, it is definitely not a courgette.
  6. Very cool. Very interesting. Very fusion. Not the way to eat mangoes. You should be ashamed of yourself. (a joke, just a joke)
  7. Akiko, It is the middle-end of the season for export Alphonse mangoes, and you can easily find them in London. I've found them even in certain high street markets in North London, but in virtually any small Indian area (Wembley, for instance) they're prominently displayed. Vineet Bhatia (of Zaika) agrees.
  8. We occasionally make sort-of-fusion instant baida rotis using kimchi. So, ready-made 'puff parathas', made in Singapore and easily available at Indian stores around here. These take two minutes to heat up on a tava, then an egg (beaten with salt and pepper and finely diced scallion) sis poured on and the heated paratha placed on it so that the egg sticks properly in the manner of a standard baida roti. Then, a lot of fresh leafy lettuce and some good spicy kimchi gets wrapped up in the roti. The whole process shouldn't take more than 5-6 minutes, and the results are highly satisfactory.
  9. One final comment: That's far too facile and hasty a conclusion, besides the UK is really not that culturally similar to the US. The main factors that have led to the proliferation and popularity of Indian restaurants in the UK are not at all identical in the US. Prominent among these is "pub culture". Indian restaurants became the "pub night" meal providers of choice because (a) they were cheap, (b) they stayed open after last call, © they located themselves on British high streets where other eating options are not terribly plentiful or varied and (d) the "pub night" itself is a central part of UK life in a manner that there is no direct equivalent of in most of the USA. And then you also have the historical factors, and then also the high concentration of immigrants in a much smaller national territory and smaller general population.
  10. Okay, now I've read the paper. Some comments, hopefully constructive. 1) The small sample size, and very specific locale of the survey, conspire together to make the report not very translateable or representative of either the general American audience for Indian food or the 'issues' which confront the vast majority of Indian restaurants as they seek to broaden their appeal and base. Specifically, I don't think the issue of hygiene (which assumes paramount importance in this report) is a universal problem or singular issue for Indian restaurants stretching across the major metropolitan areas of the USA. 2) I find that the report's specific claims about the two main segments of the Indian restaurant audience are too narrow. It's simply the case that Minnesota is a more homogenous state than most of the rest of the country where Indian restaurants have made inroads. There are also small but significant constituencies for Indian food which are simply unrepresented in Minnesota (and thus, the survey) but should not be glossed over if you want to draw a national picture. 3) The report makes a very brief mention of what should be generally looped under the rubric 'marketing'. This, in my opinion, is what Indian restaurants in the US have failed to manage in a systematic, collaborative, broad-based and intelligent manner. Here is one example, we Indians have a tremendous range of really interesting and charming holidays, with all kinds of boisterous and specific traditions attached to them. Why is this not used cannily as a marketing theme? If gringos can guzzle Corona and cram down quesadillas on the 5th of May each year, surely we can get them to light a sparkler, quaff Kingfishers and order platefuls of samosas on Divali. So, like Mexican restaurants in the USA collectively celebrate Cinco de Mayo there should be city-wide, region-wide, even national collaborative celebratiions for Indian festivals ( Divali, Holi, etc) to specific traditional days to highlight Parsi food or Gujerati food or Goan food. 4) In another thread, we have discussed the necessity for "regular" chefs to become more and more familiar with Indian ingredients and techniques. This is also marketing, but it has very practical and long-lasting implications. The Indian government is always shopping India as an exotic camel-and-elephant-filled travel destination, as the starry home of the Taj Mahal etc. It should also carefully campaign for India to be seen as a glorious and unique food destination, as the motherland and inspiration for countless food traditions, as the home of peerless ingredients and a mindboggling array of world class cuisines. In this forum, it's possible the next comment will raise hackles. However, it is my opinion that a good deal of credit for the championing and popularization of Mexican regional traditions should be laid at the feet of Rick Bayless. Yes, there were people before him and there will be many after him. And you have the additional advantage of a huge Mexican migrant population plus geographic proximity. However, the fact remains that Bayless is a big part of why "real" Mexican food is gaining near universal popularity in America. Someone like Bayless is going to have to emerge if Indian food is trult to start to cross over. There are hopeful signs of this, but a lot of groundwork needs to be done, and 10,000 times better awareness needs to be created of what Indian food has to offer, before our desi-fied equivalent takes the stage. One will not happen without the other, the awareness must seep out into enough of the popular imagination if we expect Indian food to take the kind of leap that Mexican, or Chinese or even Japanese food has. 5) Dr. Josiam's report is interesting, and it is very good to see these issues being tackled in a systematic and scientific manner. As a pioneering effort, it is certain to be valuable and is already (no pun intended) excellent food for thought.
  11. I don't know what "percentage" means, exactly, in this context. However, in the past decade, Indian migrantion to the USA has reached the point where it is the single largest concentration of Indians in any country outside the subcontinent. The number doubled in the the 90's (to, officially, 1.7 million) and there is little doubt that the total (including illegals) is currently somewhere in excess of 2 million. This puts the Indian population in the US ahead of the number in the UK and Malaysia (both somewhat less than 2 million). Anyway, I have to admit that I have not yet read Dr. Josiam's paper (will do so, now), but there is an additional factor in the proliferation of the UK Indian restaurants. There is shared history, some familiarity with the food, greater concentrations of migrants - yes. But there is also the phenomenon of Sylheti migration from Bangladesh, largely unskilled workers who made it into the food trade and own and run the majority of curryhouses across the British Isles.
  12. Since posting about hypothetical chestnut kulfi, I have been musing a little bit about the older cultural ties between India and Italy. The contact between the two peoples is ancient, long before any real concept of "India" and "Italy" took shape. At the risk of flying totally off-topic, I'll review a bit of what I know here because (a) it is very tangentially food-related and (b) this post is not likely to draw political-hack-chatter on this site. Even by the time the Romans came to dominate their part of the Meditteranean, we know that there was considerable trade done with the subcontinent. Part of this was conducted via the Silk Routes, and a great portion via the maritime lanes. Though there is evidence that a broad range of goods were involved, most of this probably involved spices for which the Romans displayed an insatiable appetite. Huge coin hoards found in South India, particularly Kerala, along with contemporary accounts, even indicate that the "Italians" had to grapple with a serious problem with a balance of payments problem. In various forms, this trade lessened but continued through the centuries. The Venetian Empire did business with the subcontinent, and it is from the accounts of these traders (including Marco Polo, who visited Madras) that another Italian - Christopher Colombus - got the idea to seek out a quicker direct sea route to India. After the Portuguese beat him to it, we enter into another -more limited, but interesting - type of contact. This next small (but influential) trickle of Italians came in search of souls, not spices. Most were Jesuits, and it is the Italians among them who became the first really persuasive proselytizers in the colonial era in India. Some of these Jesuit pioneers are quite significant, like de Nobili who donned the accoutrements of a sanyasin and sought to achieve the appeal of a pure asetic. There is at least one Italian jesuit who became revered as a scholar and artist in his adopted Tamil (remember, we're talking 16th-17th century here) and who wrote epics in that language. Most fascinating (to me) is the contact between the Mughal emperor, Akbar, and the art of the Italian (and broader European) Renaissance. At one point, the Great Mughal expressed openness to a Jesuit mission which duly made its way to him and spent some years trying to convert him. Along with them, they took reproductions of paintings by Renaissance (Italian) painters like Michelangelo and even an artist. It's quite funny that the religiosity "did not take" but the paintings did! The somewhat syncretic creations that come out of Akbar's court painters at this time are totally mind-blowing and exceptional. And so to the modern era. There are plenty of details to fill in the blanks - but the next and final great contact between the Italians (before 20th century tourism and shopping hit) and the Indians took place in WWII. Tens of thousands of Indian troops served with the Allies in the Italian theatre (remember that turbanned sapper from The English Patient). Thousands of Italian POW's were housed in camps in India, though they seem to have left at the end of WWII without leaving much impact. However, I have heard (unreliably) that the man who brought Fiat to India immediately soon after Independence was a former POW who had some affection for the Indians he had met while in captivity. Now, 2004. The next Indian Prime Minister is quite likely to be the Italian-born Sonia Maino Gandhi.
  13. Fine question. There are a lot of people eating crow right now, many have the taste of ashes in their mouth as well. And then there are a whole bunch who have visions of milk and honey (and free electricity). Sonia Gandhi is from the Piedmont, a mountanous region way up in the North of Italy famous for great wines (like Barolo) and also for truffles. But she is the head of a party that was elected on the back of a populist disenchantment with high-flying rhetoric, so luxury ingredients are out. On the plus side, the Piedmont is also a committed rice-eating region so perhaps an Indian-ized risotto-cum-biriyani can be the signature dish of this possible Indian Prime Minister from the Piedmont. But there is even an easier way out. The main city of the region, Torino (Turin), close to where Sonia was born, is particularly known for sweets especially chocolate and all kinds of nut preparations. Perhaps, today, her family can distribute hearty Indian chikki instead of laddoos. Perhaps a chestnut burfi can be concocted, or even a chestnut-flavored kulfi. Those both sound very good, and very fitting. Stunning election results, these.
  14. Wow. That looks like an awesome recipe, easyguru. I intend on trying it, perhaps as soon as this weekend. Thanks for sharing it. How do you buy your goat meat for this recipe? Boneless? I have trouble getting good boneless goat meat at the local halal butcher. Also, is that 1tbsp of each of those dals? Or one of any one of them?
  15. Khuda Hafiz. You've done something special, and quite vital in our times of dispersal. I'm a firm believer in the open source model. That is, everyone should get all elements of the heritage to make of what they wish and what is natural. Your experiment, in the family, is exactly the kind of knowledge maintenance that will provide some of the essential aspects of moving forward - within the culture - in these times. -- So, um, how about letting us into the Rushina family secrets as well?
  16. No, I have not been to Alfama. Of course, if you wanted to ask me, the very name of the restaurant reeks of touristy-ness. But I wouldn't be so cavalier to pass judgement before I tried it out, and I have eaten memorable - totally "authentic" - Portuguese meals in Manhattan before, most memorably at the outpost 'Pao'.
  17. I suggest, not that humbly, that you go to Seabra's by yourself, revel in the all-Portuguese/only-Portuguese counter scene, and then return to pass judgement about the restaurant's Luso-chops.
  18. Don't be silly. There's no reason to produce credentials on this food forum, first of all. But, most important, the allegation that some (not all) of the restaurants in Newarks' Ironbound are "not authentic" is nonsense. The place recommended twice now, Seabra's Marisqueria, has 90% of its clientele from Portugal, at least. It can actually be hard to get a server who speaks English. Roughly the same is true for a couple of other places, as well as most of the grocery stores. I'm all for seeking as close to the original as possible, but it's patently ridiculous to strike off the Ironbound as touristy. Specifically, I defy anyone presumably in the know to go to the aforementioned restaurant and dismiss it as anything but the real deal.
  19. Having said all of that, there is no doubt that the specifically Indian fish that I regularly buy in the US is of more variable quality than can be bought easily in, say, Bombay. This is partly understandable, and partly due to indifferent preservation technology.
  20. Recently, there was a mini-flap over frozen fish served in sushi restaurants in the USA (and some discussion on this site). Here's the abstract of the NYTimes article that triggered the discussion-
  21. In general, you do not get fresh salt-water fish in the USA except in some coastal areas and in specific markets catering mostly to locals or to fish-crazy immigrants like (variously) the Chinese and Portuguese. Fresh, of course, meaning never frozen. But then, a lot of the fish you get in India which is not directly from the day's catch is also frozen for a while, including (especially) deep-water fish like surmai (king mackerel). Shrimp are also most often frozen. In any case, there is nothing at all wrong with frozen fish and in most cases (both in the tropics and when shipping is involved) it is superior to fish which has been sitting around for longer than a few hours.
  22. Even for l'il ol' PC me, that's a new one.
  23. You're being overly romantic, Doctor Jones. In my experience, fisherfolk not only want their fish cooked, they want a specific fish cooked in one specific way or it is deemed unsatisfactory. That's worldwide, by the way.
  24. That's true, richw, millions of people have gone to Hyderabad to indulge in that swallow-a-live-fish therapy to alleviate asthma. Here's an article about it. Of course, that's not for nutritional purposes, but rather a form of naturopathy. I bet there are other such naturopathic "cures" which require that the ingredient be raw (or alive). Somewhere in my albums, I have a photo of a Nepali forest guard carefully collecting the (super fresh! raw!!) urine from a grunting baby male rhinocerous for use in such a "cure". I urged him to lift the mug and drink it for my camera, but - believe it or not - the piss was so valuable that he preferred to bottle it for sale. And then there's our former Prime Minister, Morarji Desai, whose (super fresh ! raw!!) naturopathic daily routine involved lofting a glass or two of his own first-press Pissky.
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