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Suvir Saran

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Everything posted by Suvir Saran

  1. Elie, I would love your recipe for Harisa. And Mary Ann makes it without coconut and I like it better that way. But, I shall enjoy your recipe and all variations you suggest. Thanks for offering to share the recipe. I am most honored.
  2. Elie, but I am yet to meet you in person. You should come visit NYC... and I shall feed you some Indian fare for sure, but also promise you a meal at Mary Ann's home, if you plan the visit with me and her calendar all in synch. She is the best chef I know making Middle Eastern food.. and I know many..... High Comissioners of several states of the region beg her to work with caterers... she has calls coming all the time for cooking foods for special ceremonies... but alas, she only cooks for friends and family and only when so inspired. The recipe I have from her, the only non-Indian recipe, is not for dessert, but for a savory dish. There are many non-Indian desserts in my book.
  3. Sinclair, Many thanks for your insightful posts. You have been most generous and kind.
  4. I mention George only because I know that the Lebanese government and also the Lebanese groups in the US I know of, have made quite some fuss over this 4 star general being one of their brave sons in the US. Pottsville, PA, has a very large population of Americans of Lebanese heritage. What was most funny was that a couple of weeks ago, a guest at Amma was cooing over the food and its many layers of flavor and texture and surprising complexity and as she said that, she asked me if I had eaten Lebanese food. I said yes and mentioned how my best friend is from Lebanon. I said her full name, this lady immediately said the Joulwans from Pottsville? I said yes. This lady is from NYC, but her aunt married into the Joulwans of Pottsville. They knew each other. And as I would in the case of Indians, I realized what a small world ours can be. While I speak of Mary Ann, I should mention, hers is the only non-Indian recipe in my cookbook. And it is added for most all my family and friends have adopted it as an Indian recipe and cannot think of their Indian kitchens as being complete without this recipe.
  5. Elie, thanks for sharing this detail about the Lebanese also calling it Harissa. I will have to let my friend Mary Ann Joulwan (sister of General George Joulwan, ex Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO forces, from Pottsville, PA) know this. They are Lebanese and call it Basboussa. And it was from her, I realized that Tariq (our Syrian friend) was correct in calling Basboussa, Harissa. And yes, Tariq makes two version... the thick and very gooey type. Or the crisp on the outside, less dense, more grainy and more cake like as we understand cakes in this part of the world. But our friends Al Rawis from Iraq, drizzle the crisp thin one with generous (copious) amounts of honey and then bake it again to warm up the cake some.. and then eat it with yogurt. I simply have yet to eat your preparation of Baklava. I am sure after that, I shall not be a stranger to it or vice versa. Mary Ann, our friend who is Lebanese, has made it for me.... our other friends from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other parts of the Arab world, celebrate her version as being amazing, but still, I am at a loss for not appreciating it enough. And I do enjoy it... but if presented with other desserts at the same time, I shall always let Baklava be the one I shall ignore:shock:
  6. I just realized, I am like you.... maybe a little more tolerant... since I have a VERY sweet tooth, I will tolerate baklava... but would at any other dessert before I have to eat it... if there is a choice.
  7. In NY, the very best can be found at Oriental Bakery in Brooklyn. It is on Atlantic Avenue. Made by Syrian brothers. It is juicy and moist and the honey used is sublime. Syrians call it Harissa. Lebanese call it Basboussa. Moustache on Bedford street makes a lighter coarser version. They serve it warm with yogurt. And if you know the owner, he will heat it even further and drizzle special Iraqi honey on it for you.... Basboussa is one of my all time favorite Middle Eastern desserts.
  8. Chai and Chah are words for Tea. Masala (means spice or mix of spices) so Masala Chai, is spiced tea.
  9. Let us know what you come up with. Someone told me about the large numbers of Indian in Africa... those that went as indentured laborers for the rail road. Another spoke to me about the not yet well researched but "certain" trade between India and Africa for centuries before we have any written records of sea trade. And certainly the land trade between the Middle East and India goes back really far. I would be delighted to learn from someone who has an anthropology major how all of this happened. Would be fascinating to learn details about this...
  10. WOW! As noted by me before, in our home, it was made for one person. And Panditji, would make it with his blend of spices and then do exactly what you mention. I remember the malai (cream/skin) forming on the tea, and that being the step after which it would be strained.
  11. The only way Brooke Bond ever found usage in our home, was in one tea for which Panditji would use darjeeling green label and brooke bond red label. For the same reasons as you explain. And it was served black and with honey. At other times, with the good grace of friends that had tea plantations, we have teas from the different regions and tea was served quite religiously and with great respect for a tradition as old as my grandparents and theirs. My grandmothers have both passed away, my maternal grandfather is now alone in San Francisco, where he had lived with my grandma. My aunt now takes care of him.... and she is keeping up the fussy tea tradition. Both morning and evening. It is the most amazing time of the day to be present in an Indian home where tea is accorded that fuss. The foods, the cookies, the scones, the jams and jellies, the malai (cream) and the "snacks" are all the best of the best you would find in the home. And then the convesations and nostalgia that come peppered with the act of drinking tea.... amazing. Makes for a wonderful distraction from the mundane chores of life. I love Simla. And yes we would make trips to Simla for the snow. And only those years when it fell. And only after a message had come that snow was falling. I remember one year when it was so cold and there was so much snow, that even the train with the metal blades that cut the snow, had to stop running. I remember how the chai wallahs (tea vendors), would see the car with the flag coming and take their hot water and throw it on the windscreen to help melt the snow. Only in India could an official of the administration and their car, get away with such drama.
  12. Tryska, You have posted it all. Or at least all that I can think of. I LOVE samosas (potato filled ones) dearly. And you should see the large child like smile I get on my face when presented with Sambussas at Ethiopian restaurants. Curry Puffs in Singapore and Hong Kong are closer to what we call Patties in India. They are superb as well. But quite different and take me back to memories of childhood in India (read days in Modern School in Delhi, where we found these patties at the canteen. We kids would each try and eat a couple of them daily). At Amma, we make a Trio of Samosas, a tasting of pea, chicken and potato stuffed samosas. They have become quite the rage. Second only to the popularity of the Spinach Chaat. Samosas are soul food of India. Non Indian customers have the same baby like reaction to them as our Indian patrons. They do something unique to our minds and bellies. What can I say. I could eat samosas anytime. And just about endlessly.
  13. I believe your dismissive attitude towards Gastronomica Magazine concerning its credentials "in the world of food writing" are based on a mistaken assumption. Why that journal has to be a "food magazine" by some arbitrary definition of the genre is an open question. Gastronomica as a publication actually expands the realm, or, more accurately completes a circle begun by ancient priests and philosophers who were the original food writers. In attempting to define one's own being they discussed food in all its manifestations as a component of self. Bypassing prehistoric cave drawings, which featured the hunt, and Egyptian heiroglyphics, which were largely involved with documenting the production and storing of food, a good example of this can be found in one of the earliest actual writings extant. As Mark Kurlansky points out in the Introduction to "Choice Cuts", much of the Old Testament is devoted to how "the Hebrews were to define themselves as a distinct people" through specific diet. Kurlansky's book also contains several other sections dealing with early philosphers as "food writers". On the other hand, most of the earliest acknowledged food writers, Brillat Savarin, Escoffier, Larousse and especially Dumas tended to treat their primary subject as de facto philosophers. This existential view of food, (you are what you eat expanded to its absolute limit), conveys the idea of food being of greater importance to us than just for the fuction it provides to the rest of the plant and animal kingdom. Food thus becomes one of the defining aspects of human existence. The broad scope of articles presented in Gastronomica offers a venue for authors not necessarily even aware of the boundaries of modern food writing, and interesting fare for readers wishing to explore categorical expansion of their own consciousness. As such, Gastronomica, even in "dead tree" format, is perhaps a more modern purveyor of "food writing" than even eGullet, which, with all due repsect for its educational and entertaining Forums, is still only a faster method of relating information within the same old 20th Century perimeters. Whether it is part of the University of California Press, and for-profit or not, seems rather irrelevant. It's not unusual that an eccentric publication produced to such high standards wouldn't be immediately presented as a commercial proposition, but if enough people are willing to accept the philosophical undertones of Gastronomica's style it may indeed prove to be a harbinger of what comes to be defined as "food writing" in the 21st Century. THANX SB A great post. I have missed you on eGullet and shall look forward to reading your posts. You write beautifully. Thanks!
  14. Suvir Saran


    I am home in Brooklyn and would love to know what they say. I will do a google search now. Did we fare OK? Since you said nothing more, I am slightly nervous.
  15. In my travels across India and many homes, modest, middle class and overtly affluent, I have found an Indian brand called Brooke Bond, red label (?? in the red box) to be the most commonly used loose tea for Masala Chai. When I ask the women or chefs using this tea why they prefer it over the rest, they say it is heartier, stronger and with more tannin that pairs well with the spicy notes of the masala. As I said before, I only try and document what each of these families does with tea. I have little if any enjoyment in drinking masala chai. I would rather drink other teas and without any spice at all. We had one person in our extended family (family members and household employees) that drank masala chai. The rest enjoyed tea of other kinds. Tea was a ceremony accorded much fuss and aplomb. My grandparents drank tea way early in the morning and it was a ritual just as lavish and beautiful as you find it in movies of the Raj era. It was accompanied with baked goods and jams and jellies and creams to go with the baked stuff. And that was even more to my taste instead of the teas. Which I begun to enjoy so I could partake of all these other goodies. My mother would drink tea in a similar, but not as fussy manner. But even that was a ceremony. She would end each day, and begin each morning with a tea prepared with honey and lime or a citrus of some sort... and this was a cleansing tea. My sister enjoyed this particular tea. It had no milk in it. In my book I share the recipe for the Masala Chai that was made in the kitchen of our home for this one person. I would be glad to PM it to anyone interested. But as I said before, Masala Chai is all about personal preference and taste.
  16. I am using what the store called baby tin molds. They are like your usual round cake tins. But much smaller in size. 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches in depth (height). Keep us posted about the mango-peach cobbler.
  17. I have added nuts to cookies and then ground them in the food processor and added a little melted butter and then pressed the crust into the tin. Is that acceptable or should I be doing it some other way?
  18. No drama or superiority of inferiority complex takes place in Indian kitchens. I have never seen much fuss or ceremony accorded to anything but the food and taste. You will never find too many discusssions about brands etc. Only about recipes, where they come from and who makes them best in a community.
  19. I mean flexipan. I have not tried the freeze to release method. Will have to now that I have read about it here. The mango cheesecake that Surbhi makes at Amma has become quite a hit. I am glad to know you find this helpful... I certainly do Richard. How is your baking coming along? What are you cooking lately? Have not seen you around the boards...
  20. Megaira, you have done what I have seen done in many an Indian home in my travels. Not much of a fan of Masala Chai, I only ask for a demo of Chai making from my hosts wherever I am in India, so I can come back with another variation for it. Thanks for sharing your method and recipe. Fresh ginger I do think makes a great difference in the end.
  21. Thanks Sujatha! Are there variations still???
  22. Many of the Indian homes I have visited and asked to be in the kitchen as they prepare masal chai, have done what you did, changing the spice mix to suit their individual tastes, and have added milk and sugar after adding the tea. They do not use tea bags... loose tea. After the addition of tea, they wait for it to come to a boil, add the milk, wait for it to come to a boil, turn down the heat to the lowest flame and bring to another boil. Strain into glasses (yes Indians drink masala chai from glasses often, if not most of the time) or cups and serve. The sugar is added with the milk. It is funny for me to document how every home has their own very unique blend of spices.
  23. Welcome to eGullet EllenC. Thanks for your post. Looking forward to your recipe in my mailbox. If you can email it, even better. My email is chef@suvir.com. Otherwise, PM is just fine. Thanks.
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