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Suvir Saran

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  1. anil, You have lived in very diverse places. No wonder you find it easy to speak with such clarity and passion about this food. Do you work in the food industry?
  2. Naans are made rather poorly in most of the better restaurants in NYC. I will eat on 6th Street since I respect your opinion. The best Naan I have eaten outside of India, was at Bukhara Grill in NYC. I was amazed at how good it was and also how authentic it was in shape, size and texture to what is served in similar restaurants in New Delhi. The Naan there the other night took me back to Moti Mahal, a neighborhood restaurant in New Delhi that was one of the first restaurants our city had and has served great meaks for over 50 years to Delhites. What about the other breads? The three little condiments are not always served at all Indian restaurants in India. IN fact, they are served depending on what you order. The onions are not typical of the North Indian food that one normally sees on the menus. In the north, onions cured in vinegar are served. These are small pearl onions and they are delicious. Again, the best version comes from Moti Mahal. And they are credited across the board for having given that to the northerners.
  3. What do you all think of Chapatis, Naans, Parathas, Kulchas, Bhaturas, Rotis and other Indian breads? Which ones seem more special than the others? Where do you find your favorite Indian bread? And what has made it better than other places? Which lend themselves better to restaurant menus? What shortcomings do you experience? How would you like to see them change, if at all? Do you crave for them?
  4. Mirchi was great when it opened.. in fact I went there with the critics for both the NY TImes and NY Magazine. The food is spicy and as good an attempt as has been made here in a finer setting than Dimple Chaat House for selling street foods. With chickpeas we call it samosa kee chaat. It changes the dish altogether. But I love t hat too. And Hyderabad is the land of great fusion. They have a great marriage of moslem food from the north with the vegetarian and spicier foods of the south. And a fusion that was done under the patronage of Nizams that expected perfection as good as can be. We also had samosas with Ketchup in my home in Delhi where panditji our Brahmin chef of now close to 60 years made t hem for my friends and I. He would call us a battalion of hungry cricket players that needed 6-10 samosas each. And here, this man would make them fresh. 6-8 at a time so each of us could get one.. and we would each eat upto 10 each and would make dinner out of that street food made at home. The trick is to eat them right out of the fat and ghee makes all the difference. Anil, did you grow up in Delhi? Are you in the food business?
  5. Comparisons are healthy when one knows we each bring a very SUBJECTIVE baggage to any discussion. Yes pastry chefs and savory chefs are very different. IN the US, savory chefs are trying to re-create what they remember only from eating those desserts. Since most respectable Halwais (pastry chefs) will not let anyone in as they labor on these magnificent treats. It is a sacred domain. Steve, for you, it would be fascinating to take a dessert trip across India. Many chefs that made desserts are old and under utilized. Since the fine banquets for which they and their forefathers made these desserts do not happen in free India. These chefs had royal patronage. Which is not the case today. Thus even within India, find desserts at their very hight, are the luxury afforded by very few. The average person surely eats much better desserts than we find in NYC. BUt still, some money and contacts and knowledge can take you to the temples of desserts. And Steve, you are very wise about desserts.. and accept our reverence for your words as our respect for your words and actions. I know for a fact that you know what you say and speak. Thus, I would love to have you talk about INdian desserts even more.. after you have tasted even a fraction of what can be tasted with a lifetime spent in their pursuit. I live for desserts. I skip many savory meals.. and fill myself on desserts. I love them.. and thank those talented pastry chefs like you that have made this luxury possible for those like me. Keep sharing your thought and comparisons.. they make for great dialogue. Thanks
  6. Interesting too.. that Mela in London and Mela in NJ both make great samosas in two different continents. And on another note, Indian street food is certainly very vibrant. And that is true for most Asian street food. I guess people do spend a lot more time outdoors and walking. Maybe that makes for a need for food that can entertain the moods of those people. Since street food has amazing power to be restorative in its addictive quality. Ones body tired from a long day, can easily find a safe haven holding a bowl of chaat, gol-gappas or puchkas as you would call them in Bengal or paani poori elsewhere. \ Street food is heavenly and so fulfilling and yet so under rated.
  7. Indian food leaves so much room for personal interpretations that it would be hard to say what is a real authentic samosa. Samosas have been a part of Indian cuisine for a very long time as far as I have been told. The pastry has changed as rulers have changed and people of other cultures have brought their own take on making pastry. Samosas are as much about the filling as they are about the crust. The perfect balance lies in the crust being flaky and brittle and yet crisp. And the filling being just flavorful enough to give the crust some bite, but to not overwhelm the very gentle flavor of the fried crust. Therein lies the disappointment with most samosas. Many chefs loose themselves in this moment and forget that the spice mix is going to be stuffed into plain fried dough. The flour is greased with ghee before it is mixed with water and kneaded into a stiff dough. The dough is broken into marble sized balls that are then rolled into fine circles and the circles are cut in half to form into pockets into which the stuffing goes. Though today many fry samosas in oil.. Or rather all restaurants fry them in oil; ghee is what makes for a flakier crust for sure. It keeps the crust flakier and also makes the samosas taste better as they sit. Ghee tends to stick to the surface and harden lending to the crispy bite; oil on the other hand will make the samosas feel greasy as they sit for long periods. Traditional Stuffing: When one travels across the northern part of the country (India) one finds variations for sure, but for the most part, following is the most accepted filling mix: For old fashioned Halwai Samosas Potatoes Peas Heeng (asafoetida) Coarsely ground coriander seeds Cumin seeds (preferably shahi zeera, the fine black cumin seeds) Chopped green chilies Lots of fresh cilantro Red chili powder Amchoor (mango powder, and when desperate, to be substituted with lemon juice) This is the filling mix that one would find through Delhi, Lucknow, Haryana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. Or at least for t he most part. There is an absence of onions and ginger and garlic, since many of the business and trading communities do not eat these for religious reasons. Thus Heeng is used to give the savory taste that onions and garlic would have left in the mix. In traditional halwai samosas turmeric is never used. It is for two reasons, turmeric is great in curries as they cook for a long period of time and that softens the flavor of the powder. In samosas, the filling is barely cooked after being spiced and when turmeric is added, it becomes the reigning flavor, when in good samosa filling, one expects to see the coarsely ground coriander seeds, the cumin seeds and the cilantro and green chilies give the mix a tooth. Peas are added for the same reason. But in many villages and smaller cities, one often finds plan potato samosas. The samosas with meat are a later addition and belong to communities where meat was eaten. Thus it is more common in Bengal and Bangladesh to find these sold like potato samosas on the streets. In Bombay, the Parsees have left the same mark, so now, one can find street side vendors selling regular samosas and also Parsi Samosas with meat or even with a onion and potato filling for the vegetarians. Certainly since the independence of India, many tastes have traveled across the different communities, and now, those Halwai Samosas are slowly accepting changes. One can now find samosas with onions in them. Some with the addition of ginger. And some that also have nuts. Many vendors feel they need to add more as they compete with others. All of these factors have led to subtle changes taking place in the otherwise very simple recipe. What one sees in NYC kitchens is a fusion of the Bengali and North Indian tastes. Recently I was at a respectable Indian restaurant in NYC. I was being fed samosas by the chef who comes from a long line of famous chefs of the Mughal style of cooking. He was so happy to see me that he wanted to first give me my favorite snack, samosas and then charm me further with his food. Well, the samosas were not authentic and not part of his repertoire, as I had known. As I was waiting for them, we compared samosa recipes, and we each came up with the same. The owners of the restaurant also agreed and were excited to know others knew the simple recipe that had been shared down the generations. While the samosas that came to the table were perfectly crisp and flaky, the filling was yellow, killed with too much turmeric and had cumin and coriander in it but also Panch Phoron and onions and ginger and garlic and... on and on.... I asked the chef what had happened, and he smiled.. and said, well, the chef that makes the samosas is from Bangladesh. He had been given the recipe and changed it to his own tastes. I asked the chef what he thought of these samosas; he said he would never eat them. These were not to his taste. But people in NYC love them. And I asked what people. He said the Indians seem to not care one way or the other. Some like me would want either the shingaras from Bengal or the Samosas as I know from the north, but this fusion of the two does not work for those like the chef himself. The owners too were embarrassed and asked for the chef to make sure to share the recipe again with the samosa station chef. Well, I was surprised that this amazing chef cared little about the food coming from his kitchen. I would taste everything that came with my name associated with it. But then, I realized how little restaurant owner's share with these chefs. They work hard and are given little respect and share little in the fame that the restaurant gets. That made me understand his lazy approach to tasting. I only share this story, cause it gives us another thread in the evolution of samosas as we seem them in restaurants. They certainly have been changed. And as the world becomes a global village.. and chefs from various regions work together; this fusion is bound to happen. And in its occurrences are the wonders of new discoveries. While I enjoy these fusion recipes, I also have much respect for those recipes that have lasted generations. They are just as today in this century as they were several before. And what we create today with fusion would perhaps hold the same centuries later. But they each have their own strengths.
  8. And how could I forget.. in Bombay, the Parsis have given us their own take of samosas. The crust is a little greasier, more firm and elastic and I think it has eggs in it. The filling is different as well.. and can be vegetarian and made with meats. And then you have the sambussas you find in Ethiopian restaurants. Stuffed with lentils or meat. Delicious again. The crust of the sambussas is closer to the Parsi style samosas.
  9. It is mismanaged for the most part. And why be sorry.. at least you had some that you loved and found better than what you have seen since. Whopping amount of curry.. what would you mean by that? What was too much in the samosa? I have not had a good samosa in a restaurant for a long time. A few years ago I had samosas in an Indian restaurant in New Jersey called Mela. They were so perfect to what a typical Indian street side Halwai would make, that I called our friend Gael Green and told her about it. The next thing I know, we were in a stretch limo leaving NYC and going to Ridgewood for an evening of samosas and Indian food. We had a famous Bollywood designer with us and he was carrying a yet to be released movies un-edited video, we saw that, ate some chili potato chips I had made at home and reached NJ to sample the samosas for the most part. They inspired Gael to write one of the few pieces she has ever written about a non NYC restaurant. So, you are not alone in your pursuit of samosas. They inspire all of us to make an effort. For when good, they are amazing. And when poor, they can still interest ones palate, but leave nothing more for the memory. You describe that samosa as one would a perfect one..... Flaky yet firm.. simultaneously, not greasy.. these are the winning words. That is exactly what one needs in samosas. Also, as we read more posts, you will see how they also ought to be very delicately seasoned. We see in the US at least, an over zealous mix of spices and ingredients. It is that which kills them for me. And yes in Bengal they make the most wonderful samosas with minced chicken very delicately spiced. It is also in Bengal that you can find Shingaras (vegetable samosas) and again, these are very delicately spiced. Many restaurants in NYC have done a marriage of shingaras with the north Indian samosas and not succeeded in doing justice to either style. But that is my take alone.. I am sure we will uncover many other subtleties that go in the enjoyment of savoring and making of samosas.
  10. Where did you last eat your favorite samosa? What made it so? How was it different from the others you have eaten?
  11. Anil, I am curious... are you in the food business in NYC? And I take it you come from Delhi, is that a safe guess. I think I may have picked this up from the dessert thread. Your knowledge and understanding remind me of another guest here, Vivin. He too shares the same passion and understanding of the fine nuances of Indian cooking across the many parts of India. So many people try limiting Indian cuisine by defining it with what has been seen in restaurants. I realize from your words that you have seen it in its many varied forms. And that makes all the difference. I have enjoyed your postings very much. Through all the different threads. Look forward to reading more from you.
  12. But Anil, have you had good Vadai served in Buffets? I have often found the samosas, the pakoras and when I see vadas, served on platters alongside buffets to be very mediocre. It is rare to find hot crips not too greasy specimens. Have you had better luck? Where? I find even samosas in the US being mediocre like desserts. What in India can be so simple and pleasureable has been made into a marriage of too many spices and way too many inconsistencies. And yes, Vadas will change depending on how fermented the batter is and also on how litte water you use in grinding the lentils. The lesser there is, the more fluffy it gets.
  13. Anil, YOu are correct. In fact, many of the chefs that worked in the Jewish families of both Calcutta and Cochin were Non-Jews. And in researching the foods of their communities, one has had to rely on the chefs to gather recipes and traditions.
  14. Simon and Anil, what would we do without you two. Wow... your knowledge and understanding of Indian food and culture is brilliant. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in these posts.
  15. Anil and Simon, You both seem to have enjoyed a variety of Indian desserts. And what you say is perfectly true. Dessers to India are not just mere ending to a meal. They can be meals onto themselves and a begining of more courses to come. And I have to agree, it is Delhi where you often get the best desserts from across India. In all my travles, I have never been dissapointed in the array of desserts to choose from, and how many people know exactly which place to take one to for the most clever and perfect rendering of a particular dessert. Eg: Roshan di kulfi Ras Malai from Bengali Sweets Yaadav in Old Delhi makes the best Daanedaar Barfi and Piste kee Lauj and so on.... And as Anil points out, I too have yet to see even a C grade Indian dessert in NYC. Simon you seem lucky to be in London where you are able to find great Indian desserts. In NYC, I have to be on my home stove for close to 9 hours to make a good perfect Kheer without cheating by using other thickeners. I do have recipes that are quicker and close to perfect, but there is something amazing about these kheers, rabris and malais when they are made with whole milk that has been reduced. Half and Half and evaporated milk and condensed mild certainly can thicken them very easily, but also change the color and the sweetness to be one that is very sugary. Not the sweeteness that comes from reducing milk over a very gentle flame over several hours. And as Simon said, I too would not argue with Steve about pastry. He is the master. And certainly has much better understanding of the finer nuances of desserts. It was evident in his succinct posting. And Simon you are acurate in calling a comparison between the two unfair. We are talking of t wo very different animals here. But there are new fusion desserts that combine the best of the Indian and Western traditions of dessert making. It would be exciting to see the new levels of perfection they reach. And yes, once that new tradition is grounded some, comparisons would be fair and neccessary. Simon, thanks for sharing the wedding story. Very sweet.
  16. Steve, Thanks for your exhaustive thoughts. Very well said, and so well reserached. Thanks. But again, I have to still say, who are we to think something is inferior to superior to another. I love creme brulee, I love almost all western desserts other than any made with marzipan or peanut butter. There are over a billion people just in India that are very proud of what they find as reliable, tasty and good desserts. And a sizeable chunk of the upper middle class has traveled and come back to craving the same desserts that we may find inferior. After having lived abroad, had chefs working in their summer homes in France and London, they come back to wanting to have their share of those desserts only very few and the very talented dessert chefs in Bombay and Calcutta can make. I do not know of one famous dessert chef from Delhi or Calcutta coming to America. They are for the most part, married to their kitchens in India. There are very subtle and very complex layers to many Indian desserts. Like fruit juice being used in the cheese with which Sandesh are made in Bengal. Almonds, pistachios, coconut, cashewnuts, saffron, chirnoji nuts, dates and lotus seeds are used in the preparation of kheer. And the way one brings the essential oils from these ingredients into the Kheer is by sauteeing them in Ghee. What you Steve seem to call as a good way of treating Kheer. So, the same is done by talented dessert chefs. [i have made a few kheers with pastas and grains where I've added coconut milk, jaggery, raisins, spices and ghee (repeat after me, ghee is good) and been quite happy--so I know it is possible.] Quote from Steve Steve, so the finer chefs in India whose stores one goes to in search of fine desserts have been doing what you say you do, for the last many hundred years through their generational expertise with this art form. In fact, just last weekend, I made Sheer Khurma, a vermecelli pudding that is made with very fine vermecelli noodles and is prepared like a rice pudding and the milk is flavored with cardamom, very finely chopped dried dates, chironji nuts, equal weight of pistachio as compared with the noodles and a small amount of raisins and almonds. These nuts and the dates are sauteed in ghee and then reduced into the milk. I use some milk powder in the recipe. I fry the milk powder in some ghee and t hen add that into the milk. The result, a very rich and very multifaceted pudding that makes one crave many extra bites even after feeling very full. This was a traditional recipe with which the Mughal rulers broke their fast of Ramadan. IN fact, this last Ramadan, I made enough of this so as to drop of containers of this pudding with all my Moslem neighbors that I was aquainted with. I knew how rough this last fall had been for most of them. A good firni has both rice flour and almond flour. And only a very good dessert chef would know that. The home chef could not even dream that one. But, therein is the subtle play of experience and confidence. And I cannot agree with you more about desserts being reduced to nothing with too much rose water or screw pine essence (Kewra). It kills them completely. One cannot tell the difference between eating dessert or biting into a pot pourri bag. Steve and Steven, I would only say one thing here, the desserts you find in NYC are not what I waste my time or money buying even when desperately home sick or craving those Indian sweets. These are poor quick versions of what a dessert could be. It is like having a tarte tatin made by a young pastry chef using puff pastry and a blow torch. The apples lack the deep flavoring that comes from having cooked in the caramel. While to many it looks close to perfect or even better than what the books make that dessert to be, to the trained palate, a blow torched Tarte Tatin means nothing but another mediocre try. In Bombay, a city with very few good desserts of any refined taste, there is a boutique which sells desserts as if they are jewels. It is amazing to go into it, just to see how seriously some Indians take fine desserts. The desserts are showcased as if they were limoge boxes from another era and need very special handling. Mishti Bela is the name. And simple Indian candy like desserts, the marzipan like fudges, are sold here in variations that none of us could imagine no matter how inebriate we get. It is marvelous seeing the refinement they have gone through. And while most of the fudges rely on sugar and flour, at this store, they are all nut and fruit. So the flavor is intense and lasting. Then there are those Meetha Parathas that are made in homes in the north of India after a simple meal. It is nothing but chapati flour that has been stuffed with sugar, rolled like a paratha and then cooked on the skillet with ghee. The sugar which is large crystals, breaks through the dough and caramalizes nicely. These are then topped with Malai, cream collected from the whole milk daily. Amazing how simple and yet how complex and refined the flavors are. Not very different from a great french toast. Not many today, in the west make good french toasts. We have forgotten the art. And while we talk about Jaggery, I use it to sweeten pumpkin tarts and other desserts. It works very well in adding a layer of complexity that plain sugar cannot lend to desserts. Steve, you are a master in your knowledge, I would love to be in India with you. So, I can take you with me to those stores that are small and yet precious, where even today, desserts are made with the respect for them as was compulsory in Mughal India where complexity had to be observed in all things. These excessive rulers had little time for mediocrity. Their lives were spent trying to outdo each other and what they did the day before. I can only imagine how you will come back with much information and will be clever enough to then share with us ways in which we can see a new repertoire of Indian desserts evolve that can sate the palate of even the most fussy dessert eater.
  17. Yes carrot Halwa is one possibility.. the other would be Jalebis which are more common... but both are divine when made right... which does not happen too often in NYC restaurants at least.
  18. Pantha Panchali - is it the same as Pather Panchali... the film you mean? You are lucky you get Doi there in London. We do not... and it is terrible in the place i have eaten it at. Worse than even simple home made yogurt. And in earthenware shikoras no less... wow. Aamar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tumaaye Bhaalo Bhaashi Tagores poems are brilliant... wish they would seem as brilliant in english. But words like those cannot be found in this language of ours. It is way to cut and dry, black and white, Tagore and his poems thrived in the looseness of the moment.. and in the many subtle ways in which words can be changed... now I will be singing Rabindra sangeet and Nazirul Geeti all day myself.
  19. Simon, Welcome back. How was your foray into France? I anticipated a much different response from you. But I guess you are far too humble to sing praises of the masterful wizardry with which the Bengalis have given India the best of desserts. Rabri- your spelling is right as far as I know, but again, it is a hindi word, and in english different people spell it differenly. It is my most favorite and desired dessert. I could travel across continents to get it. In fact, in LA, I wish I remembered the name of the store, an ex-army officer from India, makes the best Rabri I have had outside of a small village near Rohtak in Haryana. My parents would have the Rabri driven over 300 Kilometeres in a chilled carton to serve at decadent parties in Delhi. For those special occasions. And from another village another 300 Kms or so in another direction, would come Malpuas (pancakes) that were served hot alongside the chilled rabri. This was heaven right on earth to 15 year old Suvir. And my father saw such pure, innocent and simple love of the sublime in my eyes, that he knew after that first time, that with this meeting of two great desserts, he had found that perfect way of making little Suvir do that which he wanted me to and I did not. Homework more and more of it. A gift of these two desserts paired together, could make me a willing indentured laborer. But now to other desserts - Ajay, the Venison, Lamb and Chicken desserts are from an India that is lived in decadence and over the top existence. A remnant of the Mughal era, these are made in homes where chefs come from a lineage of cooks that have proudly catered feasts for those that knew better than most of us foodies combined will ever know. While in America we have white paties and black parties, that bring people to dance and get into a trance, in India of those days, a white feast meant all foods that were served at a particular meal were white. WHich meant bleaching of spices and nuts to ensure their usage without losing the essence of the evening. So, in those days, meats were cookied with milk and cream and spices and made into puddings. When I say cakes, I do not talk about baked cakes. We have a dessert that comes from Alwar in Rajasthan called Milk Cake, it is nothing but a milk fudge that has been made by a reduction of milk over so many hours that the solids are first white, some are set aside the others are cooked further till they turn a little ligh caramel colored, this is then layered over the white fudge, then the milk fudge is cooked further to add more color and more layers... and in the end, you have a layered cake with several grades of white and brown. When I have friend coming from Delhi they come bearing Milk Cake from Alwar if they can or simple Kalakand. It is milk fudge in a consistency where it is still not too dry and yet not too wet. The milk solids are like pearls sticking with one another. Again, while a poor chef would make these too sweet, a careful chef would take the extra hours of cooking to reduce the milk without adding sugar to speed t he process. Steven, condensed milk comes from the west. The poor Indian village chef will not even know what those cans are or what he could do with them. So, while chefs from India have used it for home cooking, they are looked down on by even other young chefs like me. In my Indian cooking, I never.... Never use condensed milk. While believe it or not, there are savory sauces in which I use Heinz Ketchup. So, I am not all that pure. Condensed milk has been used by chefs with little time to give milk custards a sweetness and also a creamier consistency without having to reduce the milk that much more. Or at least that is what I am told as t he reasoning for using condensed milk. And yes a perfect rice pudding or rabri or milk cake is made by condensing the milk by cooking for hours... not just one or two or three.. but several more... and then when the milk gets to that very thick consistency, it already has a lot of sweetness and simple sugar is added to bring it to where you want the sweetness to be. Now back to Simon and Bengali Sweets - When was the last time anyone tasted Mishti Doi (sweetened yogurt)? Or Sandesh (for lack of a better description - desserts made with Indian cheese), or Ras Malai from Bengali Sweets in New Delhi? If the answer is yes, you know what I feel about them. If the answer is no, take the next aircraft to India, make trips to Calcutta and Delhi, and there, go to the temples of desserts run by Bengali chefs, you will have desserts like you did not know existed. Not too sweet, and yet, desserts that will take you to another world. With textures, tastes, flavorings and consistencies. Mishti Doi - the sweetened yogurt custard from Bengal, is a dessert that even those that hate sweets will fall in love with. It has the perfect blending of sour with sweet. And of creaminess with the lightness of yogurt. How do they make it? I do not know... not too many in India can make it. I have seen a recipe or two in cook books... they test to be very poor. Sandesh made from Indian cheese (called chenna before it is shaped into paneer) is another array of Indian desserts that are easy to enjoy for a non Indian palate and delectable in taste and low in sugar. They also come in many shapes and sizes and flavors. I am sure Simon can tell us more about these and other great desserts from Bengal. They are undoubtedly the wizards when it comes to Indian desserts. It is thus no wonder that sweet shops across India often have the word Bengali somewhere in their name. It makes them seem pedigree. And for the rest... I await Steve Klc's views, before sharing more of mine. And Ajay, another different dessert for you... Garlic Pudding.
  20. I have no clue what this very orange dessert you are talking about is. We do use tapioca but I have not seen anything orange made with it. We do tapioca pudding, a similar concept to the tapioca pudding one finds in parts of the Americas. Could you be perhaps making a reference to Jalebis? The concentric circled Orange sweet? Has an orange color and is a deep fried dessert that has been then soaked in a simple syrup. Kulfis are great. I love Kulfi. There is something ethereal about it to my taste. But I am certainly prejudiced as I grew up with it. Rice pudding is as Indian as a dessert can get. But Indian rice pudding is very different from what you find in Asian or middle eastern or western restaurants. It has much less sugar and most of the sweetness in a correctly rendered Indian rice pudding comes from having reduced the milk by a lot. It is the milk solids that make it seem sweet. And certainly make the pudding very rich and creamy and sinful. It is rare to find well made rice pudding at a restaurant. Even in India it is a rarity. In fact, so much so, that most home chefs have forgotten the art of making good rice pudding. People do not seem to care to give as much time to its preparation as it deserves. Firni is a great variation of rice pudding that came to India from the middle east. It is made with rice flour and not the grain. It is smooth and sets like a pudding made with jello. Light and creamy, it is a great dessert. I had friends in Delhi, Bombay and Pune from Palestine, Jordan and Syria that loved Firni because it reminded them of the rice pudding their grandmother would make in better times.
  21. And I await Steve's note. Steve... are you sharing your thoughts with us? I am waiting. Ajay all I can say is that while you are true about many being too sweet, you speak of a very limited range. What you may have seen in Gujarat would have been a small representation of Indian sweets as a whole. As I traveled through India, desserts unfurled to my eyes, like did languages, customs and traditions. Beware, India is also the same country which has desserts made with chicken, lamb and even venison. Fruits are a huge part of the diet in the northern region and especially Himachal Pradesh. Desserts are made with several fruits. These are made into kulfis, Puddings and also halvas and cakes. But I will get into more detail after I read what Steve has to say. Since he is the pastry chef.. and I just a lover of desserts. I could live without most any food, but could never give up desserts. No amount of courses are too many. I like them all.. from being scantly sweet to being cloaked in sugar. I am exceedingly multifaceted in my liking of desserts.
  22. Steve, Maybe you should go first. I want to see your views. And then say what I have to. That would be better. What do you say? We have had this chat before.. I believe on this site itself.
  23. I will get you a good recipe next week. But hot oil, 375 F is what they should be fried at. And only once, till golden. They should be eaten fresh. Many buffet services refry them and make them seem really bad. You were indeed lucky. While they are not difficult to make, it is an art to be able to fry them as doughnut shapes. Many people simply make small dough balls at home instead of the doughnut shaped vadai. They are great eaten by themselves when fresh and crispy or soaked in Saambhaar (spiced lentil sauce) or even dipped in a spicy yogurt sauce as a cold salad.
  24. The oldest synagogue in the south east or perhaps even east of what is the middle east, is in India. In Kochin, in southern India. Unfortunately, there are no more than a handful enjoying thise temple. It is mostly a tourist attraction. The synagogue shares a wall with a local Hindu temple. The ruler that gave refuge to the Jews escaping persecution, understood the clever politic of doing so. In having the temple and the synagogue share a wall, for posterity, he protected the synagogue from being attacked. Clever thinking! We need more people thinking like that these days.
  25. Flloyd needs to be respected and revered for being able to cook some of the best short ribs, since he certainly did now grow up eating them, or even knowing what those were. And in culinary school in India, one is not trained to learn that preparation. He was a favorite of Gray Kunz I am told. So, perhaps he learned with a great master. No wonder, Steven, you love that short rib preparation. There are similarly many Indian women that never eat meat, and yet, cook grand meals with lots of meat and seafood without evert tasting it.
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