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Suvir Saran

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  1. What makes you choose 2 lentils for one meal.. or were they options that you choose from? Just curious if you would serve two lentils at the same party. What is Cobra? How do you prepare your dhaansak?
  2. I understand and agree with most Simon says... And actually, the Anglo Indians have continued to evolve and go back to their roots. On both sides. It certainly must have had its roots in fusion, but the cuisine and culture are now over a century old and so, the fusion aspect has been turned into a way of life. In Calcutta where many such mixed families lived, one can sense the formidable contribution of this coming together of cultures in the Bazaars and the Clubs. Sandwiches served like they would be with tea in fine hotels in the west. Chutneys prepared in the tradition of canning that came from the west, but the ingredients and recipes being as Indian as any other. Barley sugar hard candy is made in Calcutta, and is better even than the candy I ate at Alain Ducasse in NYC. The candy canes, the lolli pops and the caramel are a dying art today, but those few shops that sell them, are still making a better product than any I have ever seen since my last indulgence of that Calcutta candy. Simon, what is Kedgeree? I always think of it as a Khicharee that has been a part of Indian cooking for as long as Indian food may have lived. It is Indian comfort food, eaten when you want your palate to get some rest from weeks of over indulgence. How do you percieve this dish? How is it really different from the many types of Khicharees that are made in Indian homes? What is so special about the Mulligatawny at Sweetings? What makes you endorse it? Curious. And you are on target when you say these dishes were not mere creations by chefs at the calling of an unknown muse, these were created for the yearning of royal folk that craved for the foods they had gotten used to in their indulgent lifestyle in India. There was no other reason, to my understanding. In fact, the children of these people also have similar stories to mine about Indian food and it being a cultural power as much as a culinary force. These Brits that came to India, quickly understood and accepted the necessity of food being a medium of dialogue and amity in the Indian landscape.
  3. I have them both ways.. and love them both ways.. In India the dry ones.. the ones with chilies, onions and tomatoes were made in our home for religious holidays. The soupy ones, were eaten with rice... on our home we made the soupy ones in two styles.. one with an onion and tomato gravy and the other with onions and yogurt. Both are great.
  4. If you are not living in India and are having a dinner for friends... what are the first steps in getting organized? 1) Is there a best way to get prepared? 2) How many dishes would one make? 3) How does one choose what to make? 4) How do you serve the dishes? 5) Is seated a good option, plated by course or do you end up serving a buffet and letting people self serve and come to the table?
  5. How so? Simon you must know this first hand... Calcutta has the largest community of Anglo-Indians... and how beautiful they are as a people.. and I am told some of their foods are just as good. Would you mind shedding some light on this matter?
  6. Does anyone know them? They are made in Indian homes. These are black chickpeas, it is from this pea that Besan (chickpea flour) is made. Or so I am told. I made some over the weekend, and I realized how much I love them. I love the meaty texture of these and the recipes I have to make them, are so tasty, I can never have enough of them with rice. Does anyone else care for them? I know Nirvana in NYC serves a appetiser portion of Black Chickpeas. Quite nice actually.
  7. The wine list at Bukhara Grill at both locations is very good. They have done a nice job finding wines that work well with Indian food.
  8. Sandra: Thans for the lead with Sapphire.
  9. When the chef is inspired or has made them herself, the ones at Nirvana in NYC have been my favorite. I ate the ones at Sapphire. But it was soon after they opened. Maybe I need to go back. Simon: Thanks for the recipe. It is close to my own. But I use all purpose flour. Never used corn starch.
  10. Tonyfinch: that was moving. Is the restaurant still open? Do you enjoy going back still? Sounds like you had a perfect rendering of tandoori chicken. You have described the dish perfectly. Simon: simple is always great. What was the mackerel dish called? The Bengali name for it that is.
  11. I keep lots of peas, butter, curry leaves, grated coconut, M & M cookie icecream sandwiches, 12-15 pints of Ben & Jerrys and Hagen-Dazs Icecream, Pineapple that was very sweet and perfectly ripe (great to defrost an hour or two before serving. It is amazing, the sweetness gets very intense), Kulfi and pumpkin flesh (to make muffins and pies) and some frozen corn,. But the quality of corn one is able to find even in the neighborhood green grocer is so good in the dead of winter, that it seems strange to have it now. I wish I had 5 freezers. I would be able to keep more ice-cream.
  12. I miss Ras Malai, and have not found even one restauran in NYC that serves a half way decent one.. Does anyone know of a secret place where they find good ras malais. Or even a recipe for a good one?
  13. Why do you remember it? What has made it memorable? Can it be reproduced overseas? What would it take to make that happen?
  14. Steve, I choose not to participate in what I clearly see as a very chauvinistic debate about culture. People have used carelessly words like globalized and now high culture to give comfort to their fractured sense of self, maybe? If there was comfort with which we are talking about and why, we would not need to put others down to bring out our points. Well, it is interesting reading, but gives me little need to join in as we even dignify first what was written without much care to begin with, and now debate with little care today, even in the aftermath of September 11th and what has happened in Afghanistan and is happening in the Middle East. I will observe and say little on this thread. I am sorry I joined in. But I could not keep quiet as cultures east of France were being labeled as lesser etc.... Even if only in quotes. And in my final posting on this thread, I would still like to say, no one chef Indian or otherwise can ever have the perfect recipe for a garam masala. Recipes change from home to home and from season to season and region to region. Curry powder is the same and like all foods, takes new flavors in new hands. And there is no telling which form is better or more accurate. One can only enjoy what is done with it. And if it makes one happy, so be it.
  15. That easy to get killed, eh? I think not. The conversation could last as long as time. But we need to know that globalized means something to some of us and another to another set. Would you not agree? No one person or group has the privilege to consider his or her agenda being superior or correct. They can only have opinions and thoughts, and they are correct in existing. And lose their intelligence when forced or made to subjugate on others rights to exist as they choose. This debate is wonderful. I only wanted to share the very real world that lives without any of this influence and yet influences all our lives even today. And for the sake of the life of this debate to not get killed by me, I would be happy for you all not bother about what I said. I will look and chat on other boards. Why should one persons thoughts influence a majority. No big deal.
  16. The recipe for the lamb biryani is wonderful and unlike any you would find in books... without garlic or onions.. it is amazing.. very subtle and will make you happy you waited. Maybe you can ask PK about this... she would be happy hearing from you. She has just as much to say about you.. and nice things.. as you have for her. Mutual admiration I see.
  17. And I have no reverence in my mind for French cooking and I was not saying for a moment that French cooking should influence the world. I actually was pointing to a salient fact, that French cooking has not had much influence in the majority of the world. It has had its influence in the west and in some small colonies overseas. But that still did not make it close to a major influence. The world lived without any knowledge of its existence. And today, the world lives in the knowledge that boundaries are blurring and life is changing. Those that choose to ignore it are at a loss of intelligence and will awaken to rude shocks. Post September 11th, America itself, the single super power, woke up to a very rude today, where in its own backyard, life was not as perfect as it believed. So, I feel, chefs too have to realize the gift they have in their midst of accepting the new order and taking it to natural new heights. And it is happening. In different ways in different parts of t he world. Some may be doing it more loudly, others in a more understated fashion. I would not agree that France is behind, I simply feel, they will rise and share the new turns in their cuisine if and when they are ready to do so. We are seeing much of what is yet to come already. And it would be silly for us to compare chefs in the US with chefs in France. Chefs in the US mirror the populace of the US, that thrives in being on your face. France is more understated and will remain so. What we will share in the US very quickly, will take time in France to come out. It does not mean it is not happening. It is simply not being exposed as much as we expose every small turn in the right direction. All I have said again and again is that any cuisine, be it from any part of the world, can only succeed when it is more than just a fad. Going to America and its success, do we call 9/11 success? Do we call carpet-bombing of poor starving masses in Afghanistan success? Do we call Columbia and its drug lords success? And the millions who died, in Somalia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Vietnam etc. etc. who died at the hands of governments, dictators , terrorists and armies that America either directly trained, armed, supplied with food and tactical training and money… and yes Yugoslavia, are they American success?? …. These bombings in Afghanistan are not revenge, it is yet another form in which America terrorizes the people of the world that may think differently. We can label America a terrorist state if we lived in the other side of the world. And America alone would form every part of the Axis of Evil. So, while our propaganda machine may be able to sway the masses of this country that have never traveled much within the US alone, forget overseas, it is difficult for a person that travels and lives with others from foreign cultures and worlds to view this as the Success of America. And yet, I agree, the success we have seen in America came from the need for respect in Plurality. But when it comes to foreign policy, we have fractured any sense of plurality in any debate. It is only a need to dominate, erase and gather from the others that which can feed, enliven and benefit our own state. There is little ease in getting out of the mess that America and every part of the world has created in the last many centuries. It would be foolish for any one nation to feel they alone have a higher moral ground. Today, the call of the day, is to be silent for a bit, reflect on all that has happened, delve into the ocean of wisdom that exists both in the old and new world collectively and see where we are. When we have done that, we would have understood real success. Whose purpose are we feeding in the mass hysteria that envelops America after the bombing of innocent lives overseas? The news media is slave to the White House's need for creating terror within its boundaries with threats of more hijacking, bombs, anthrax and terrorist camps existing within our boundaries. The deflection suits our politicians perfectly. But it does not hide the need for the world to see itself shrink into a much more united force. It certainly will not suit the politic of every country to see people happy across culinary, religious, language and social divide, but we are a new people today. The Internet, and such boards have shrunk the world. To live in isolated belief that we alone and our country alone know best, is to doom failure. And just for a brief moment, this whole dialogue goes into the belief that the French were superior and relevant once but not today. America and its need for dominance will be reduced one day as well. And so will the fanaticism one sees in India. These are all extreme positions and they last not very long. In fact, they kill their own selves. The very terrorists that she had trained to win elections killed Indira Gandhi. They later realized that power that they had been given could be theirs for themselves. They fought against her, and killed the very artery that was giving them life-sustaining blood once. The groups of mad men that are anti-US were the same people that the US created and transplanted from the Middle East into Afghanistan. When it suited us to destabilize that region, we created them and armed them and gave them shelter, today, after we dumped them for their being no use for those people, they turn against us. As some had said in India after Mrs. Gandhi's assassination: what goes around comes around. America witnessed that 9/11. So, do we still call that supremacy which we feel in our country Success? Or shall we think of new creative ways in which we can share our countries successes with others without forcing infinite injustice on them? Why should it be that Justice for us means infinite injustice for every other developing nation? I am sure you do not mean that to be success do you? For if that is what you want, why bother with fusion. In fusion lies the very longing of life and people wanting more that just the usual. Change is beautiful, necessary and cannot be stopped. Madness and mad men can be watched for and we can try and not let them do what Hitler did in Europe. The Turks with the Armenians and the British with India. America would have been very different had it not been for the immigrants that have given it the very life it now breathes. And actually, America was very different. We erased as we came here, that which made this place different. And that part of our person, has not changed, we have done a damn good job of aiding and abetting in crimes against minorities or vice-versa the world over. Let us not pretend that history has not seen what America did. It has. We may not read history accurately in America but that does not mean others do not know. While US New Agencies are driven by the White House Agenda, there are many others around the world that are free from bias. Or at least freer than the American press. And do a reasonably good job in showing all sides. The skeletons from the large US closet lay bared and exposed to billions t he world over. Their rage may be hidden in many cases, but it would be foolish to believe it does not exist. Not every hurt soul would attack in revenge, but each victim of Americas greed for capitalist gain, will share their pain with the younger generations that is all ears for them. The same applies to art and all its many forms. No one country or culture has supremacy over another. We all have our own styles. And today, our styles are getting fused with what is being exposed to our lives. It may vary from country to country, but it is happening. And it is a unique and brilliant time to be living. Only if we can watch the mad men we choose to govern us around the world. And the example of Babbo being American is correct. In fact I love it and its food is not truly Italian at all. But again, it goes to roots that have some legs. And from there, it has found the roller blades that fit it, and created something that many can enjoy and for a lasting time. That is all I say... I have also no belief in accepting that we have to forget the billions that do not consider any of this relevant. To live today, and if we have to use the word SteveP uses to call us, Globalized people, we ought to bring every part of the world and its people into our dialogues and our life. Otherwise, lets just be parochial and from one small niche. Why use a heavy word as global. Your dialogue loses its great nature in that one sentence. Where you ask to forget those billions that form a majority and call the rest of the world the minority the globalized. That is your perspective. And yours alone. It is also a frightening specter from which to view the world. As these are the heavy handed approaches whereby we in our own little ways feed the seeds of separation and bias and superiority of some over the others. You are questioning rightly the superiority that the French claim on cuisine, and then do the same in saying we are the globalized and the billions that have not heard or care of French cooking are not important, or do not matter. A sound dialogue is based on the need to understand the many things that happen around us. And actually, the billions you choose to ignore here are the spirit behind the cultures that we talk about having brought about the waning of the French influence on cuisine. Fusion would not have happened if the world could be as isolated and separate as we may want it to be. It is in tensions that come from friction and coming together of cultures very separate that creates new and better art forms. And food is not separated from that social phenomenon. Change is the way of life. It is lives yearning for freedom from its own past. A way life lives. And those that choose not to learn and change, will be left behind. I am sure the French chefs are smarter than that. We only need to let them bring out at their own pace, that which they surely will, when they are ready.
  18. Simon, The manuscript is due this fall and it is due to be out next fall. I am not sure of the UK rights issue. May be too early yet, dont you think? But I am sure PK must have an idea.
  19. I was given the choice at age 16, since I was then a young adult. My parents wanted to give me the freedom to choose my ways. Is it difficult to apprehend? I was living in the home of my grandmother, her rules were ours to understand and live by. Again, something most civilized people do. She like my parents and her own, was vegetarian. In fact, had a temple in the kitchen, and all food prepared in the kitchen, was made by a Brahmin chef and first offered to the Gods and then to the birds and then to us. So, as food was cooked, it was not defiled by tasting for salt and spices. The chef had trained himself and his eyes and nose to do the tasting. An art I have now learned from having observed him since I was a little kid. I chose to remain vegetarian. Again, it is by choice that I am a vegetarian. I never eat meat at home or parties or for my personal pleasure. Never. I do not know of one instance when I was not working that I have every eaten meat. I do cook with it, and I enjoy serving it to others. But never have I eaten it when eating for pleasure amongst friends. That is what I mean by saying I choose to remain vegetarian. And for the most part I am. I mean, there have been instances, where for my need as a chef and writer of food, I have needed to taste something. I have done so. At first, with much pain and strife, and now with cold-blooded work related duty. The task of tasting meats. I held back for 4 years before I started. Just two years ago. Much to my own and my partners chagrin. For the small amount I eat when I taste, certainly does nothing for converting me, and also leaves 90 percent of the serving on the plate to go back to the kitchen. I have loved steak and foie gras. Well, when I have tasted meat, the two that I have loved most, are Steak and Foie Gras. While I certainly will not be every eating it for pleasure, I do not even make any more effort to taste these. But when I have, they have really made me happy. Being Hindu, it was not easy to taste beef, but I realized how the roots of Hinduism are the most secular roots you could find anywhere. There are no absolutes in Hinduism and no fundamentals. Since I can afford that freedom, I made the distinction, that if I can more easily justify tasting chicken, why stop. The connotation of holiness is human and our own need for control. So Tonyfinch, I hope I have answered your questions... I have been vegetarian all my life. I have eaten none more than a few tablespoons of meat, perhaps 15 times in my life. Would that make me a non-smoker in between not smoking? I doubt that. Mine is certainly not pure absolute vegetarianism in terms of having made at the most 15 exceptions in my life and tasted 2 tablespoons at the most of some meat but should that qualify me as a non-vegetarian? By the way, before I am considered to be a vegan having eaten a tablespoon or two of meat 15 times in my life, and assigned more sin, I should clarify, I am an ovo-lacto-vegetarian. I eat eggs and dairy. While it is human nature to want absolutes in life, I believe there can be instances where one is close to the absolute without having compromised much. Do you not agree?
  20. Novelty and change are very important and keep life from becoming stagnant. But change just for the sake of it, means nothing. And has shown us how dysfunctional it can make us. Thus, even as one of the most civilized, rich and advanced nations, we are still one of the most crime ridden ones. Respect for oneself, ones culture, ones heritage, ones surroundings and ones past is what makes one become more profoundly intelligent. And when we are able to understand without fear and ignorance that which we are, we are able to move on. The rest of us, struggle each day. Whilst we certainly can entertain novelty and something very different, it is by no means an assurance t hat we have found in that new situation a lifetime of success. We can live to create from life or we can understand that life creates that which it must be. For in the end, we are a very small blemish in the large expanse. And when we can understand that, we can keep creating, but in balance with where we are, at what time and what place. For in living as one with the world, we are also able to accept the fact that life ultimately is its own revenge. And I do not even for a moment, that America does not have culture. We have given the world a lot. Have we shared it the right way? No. We are so into always worrying about the external form of all our creations, that the wonderful substance that would have been worth sharing, one that would sustain often gets ignored. What is shared is only PR driven and dies a quick death until the next fad and next big thing. But that still does not erase all the many things we have created. It only makes other lose focus with all that we could have left them with, but could not, since we did not grasp their attention to those things that make us worthwhile, we lost them in the frivolous details that most do not care about. While France, India and China and other old nations may not be on the cutting edge, they will certainly have victory over the US in having lasting successes. Also, while we may celebrate that which today seems fascinating and meaningful, those that live amongst very high standards, debate, challenge and struggle in their acceptance of all things new, but those that can show resilience, are soon accepted as new classics. This makes me feel that French cooking is far from diminished or dull. At least just yet, the light not only shines on French cooking, but it is from French cooking that it finds its direction in the western hemisphere.
  21. And whose world are we basing this distinction on... To billions...... Who love to eat and often live to eat, French cooking means nothing. And has no place in their culinary conscience. There are more billions living in this planet I suppose with little interest in French cooking than those that worship it. And yet, that does not make French cooking any less relevant. All we need to understand is that all of this means something only when we understand well, how little of the world we represent in our discussions. While America is a fraction of this world, it is eating away 85 percent of the world's resources. But that still does not make it represent the world. I say that only to make all realize that in the culinary realm, there would be a similar percentage ratio. In my meetings with French chefs and my travels, I have realized that many French chefs and most French people would first love and entertain Asian cuisines and cultures before giving any due to the American culture or food. In Indian cooking, I am told by many, they find a deep connection to history and culture, which they believe true about their own cooking. And why I bring this out is to share with all the very cultural base of cuisine. While food is independent of all other art forms, it still represents the state of being of any culture within which it evolves. Thus the food movement in France is a small reflection into the French reality. The French have become far less stubborn about not speaking in English and are just as open to change as most other people from other nations. Thus, I am sure the French chef is just as apt to accept change and create anew, as any of his counterpart anywhere else.
  22. Steven you are very correct in sharing the affect of stress and all the other factors on ones physical well being. More often than not, it is simply a matter of nerves. I am nervous about eating condiments in restaurants where they have bottles left out for the duration of the service. I have no desire to touch those containers. For the same reasons as sited above. And after having seen kitchens fancy and very humble, I am never happy looking at kitchens. Even some of the nicest ones, have some very scary stuff happening. It is so much better to be able to enjoy ones meal without having seen every detail that goes into its preparation. What you have not seen cannot hurt is my attitude.
  23. And I am vegetarian for the same reasons as Indiagirl, my parents were Hindu vegetarians. I was given the option to choose at the age of 16 what I wanted to be. I chose to remain vegetarian. And for the most part, I still am. I have loved steak and foie gras. Do I crave them? No. I love them when I eat them, just as I love eating Kararee Bhindi (crisp okra), Kamal Kakree (lotus root) or makhaane kee kheer (lotus seed pudding). I travel a lot and still have never yet, faced the need to be changing my diet. I have found something wonderful even in the most non-creative restaurants. Often just an order of very nice French fries with some hot sauce, fried herbs or even a great grilled cheese sandwich in the deep south, that a chef made for me as they felt bad that I had limited options. I am very happy being vegetarian. And I could not ever think of eating meat even 2 times a week. For me it is something I will eat when I go to a new restaurant, or a chef does a special tasting. Even then, I take a bite or two, sate my need to try and move on to my vegetarian meal. Call me strange.. But that is how I am. And I seem to have no need to be otherwise. I would love to eat more meat.. But I feel no urge... no desire.. I have worked with chefs and people that love meat, and yet, they have learned how to enjoy vegetables from me, and not the vice-versa. For some reason, they choose to follow my lead in eating more of the vegetable options that would otherwise get neglected. So, I seem to have no pressure from friends in social setting either. My sister at the age of 16 started eating meat. And now at age 31, she is sick of it. She now craves for completely vegetarian meals. She missed the many subtle ways in which vegetarians at least in India, create textures, taste profiles and innovative ways in sating their appetites with vegetables alone, that she never finds with meat. And she I think is simply sick of having overdone something. It was so new to her at age 16, that meat was all she ate for a long time after. Now that the novelty is over, she wants to become that vegetarian that she was, but is not now.
  24. Vivin, is it the Indian in you that does not tire of food too easily? We grow up around at least one great meal everyday... I remember so vividly the fuss made around every meal... Or at least dinner. But like you, I never tire of marathon great food dinners as I seem to revel in their wonder. But give me a tired meal day after day.. and I want to run. You seem to have enjoyed a great many meals and so it makes sense to not run to the next French restaurant you hear about in NYC.
  25. Nirulas serves the best Hot Fudge Sundae.. I crave it all the time. The owner, a classmate of my dad in school in India, came to study at Cornell and went back to start it. He has found great success and done it without the ugly madness that comes with the multinationals. And yes, we have so many different chains similar to thse two that already exist.. It is a shame that just for them being American, people get swayed in, and then, most never go back, but some that need to be seen in an American place, will venture another time... I grew up with many chain options around India. But these did not have the marketing power, or the cultish baggage of these two giants. But still, they were very successful and very good.
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