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Everything posted by skchai

  1. Smen in general is clarified butter, but the smelly smen seems to be a peculiarly Magrebi and more specifically Moroccan phenomenon. According to Paula Wolfert, unclarified butter is referred to as zebda, in Morocco, while clarified butter is called smen (see Wolfer, Couscous, 36-39). Smen is not always "aged", but Berbers apparently developed the habit of burying it in the ground for safekeeping. Clarified butter seems to go by a bewildering number of names even in the middle east, as indicated by this useful page on butter products by the FAO. Note how many different romanized transliterations there are for smen, such as samn, samnah, samneh (can some Arabic speaker tell me if this reflects different Arabic spellings or not?) Interestingly roghan is used in Iran to refer to clarified butter, while I believe in India it typically refers to animal fat (is this so, Suvir?).
  2. Subsaharan Africa has quite a rich cuisine, though that of West and South Africa is generally seen as more varied than that of East and Central Africa. There is actually a great deal of culinary interchange between subsaharan countries, but one thing that makes tracking the origins of dishes difficult is the bewildering variety of languages and hence varying terms for similar dishes. For instance, what is called ugali in Kenya is called mealie meal porridge in South Africa, Kenkay in Ghana, Nsima in Zambia, etc. If any generalizations can be made, they are that West African cuisine is characterized by the use of "the ingredients", i.e. sauted onion, tomato, chilis, and palm oil, as well as, as mentioned already in this thread, peanuts. East African cuisine is heavily influenced by Arab and South Asian cuisines. South Africa is of course heavily influenced by Dutch cuisine, but also by that of South Asia and the East Indies (particularly in the Cape). There does seem to be a fairly pan-subsaharan liking for sticky stews eaten with pounded starchy tubers (e.g. foofoo).
  3. skchai


    How about: Ashitibichi (Pig's Feet Soup)? Also, for your amusement, I wanted to provide a long excerpt from the records of the party of Commodore Perry, who visited Okinawa in 1853-4: (!) This was excerpted in the book Okinawan Cookery and Culture by Hui O Laulima, the Woman's chapter of the United Okinawan Association in Hawai`i. But I think it's excerpted in other places including (?) a collection of translated Japanese diaries by Donald Keene.
  4. There is also a version w/o ginseng called yeonggye baeksuk. The upper-end version is made with "black-bone" chicken which is supposed to multiply the medicinal value greatly!
  5. The most famous manifestation of South Indian food in Singapore seems to be the "Banana Leaf" restaurants which specialize in a Singaporean-South Indian hybrid "Fish Head Curry". The most famous is Banana Leaf Apollo, but there seem to be a lot of others. Another famous Singaporean-South Indian dish is murtabak, which is unlike the egg-filled Hyderabadi version and is more like a keema-filled paratha made from maida. A murtabak w/o filling is called "roti canai" in Singapore / Malaysia / Indonesia.
  6. There was recently a big controversy (in Korea at least) about ownership over the ISO standard for kimchi. Apparently the Japanese kimchi interests had proposed basing the standard on "kimuchi" (i.e. Japanese-style Kimchi) rather than the South Korean version. As you might expect, there was a huge nationalist uproar in South Korea, as the usual patriots came out to defend their sacred food. I believe that the eventual ajudication was separate standards for "kimchi" and "kimuchi". So the great kimchi war was averted. The general stereotype of Japanese kimuchi in Korea is that it has sugar in it (!) and lacks both garlic and chili. Also that it is only made from baechu (hakusai) and mu (daikon) while Korean kimchi comes in a lot of varieties. From what I understand that may have been the case in the past (i.e. 1990s) but is no longer true.
  7. Another note on etymology: One of Thailand's five or so standard varieties of curry paste is something called "gaeng kari". "Gaeng" is typically translated as Thai for "curry", and gaeng kari is apparent a Thai curry in the Indian-influenced style, defined (as in much of the world outside the subcontinent) by use of ingredients such as turmeric, coriander, and cumin. The point of this seemingly pointless digression is that is indirectly rebuts the notion that the English "curry" is derived from cury as in "Forme of Cury", as is mentioned as one possibility in the informative menumagazine.co.uk page. Gaeng kari apparently predates the beginning of British influence in Thailand. It furthermore seems unlikely that, being much closer to India, that Thailand could only acquire a taste for "curry" spices via the British. Given the unlikelihood that the term "curry" arose independently in Britain and Thailand from different etymologies but with similar meanings, it seem almost guaranteed that the term must have an Indian source. Hence Hobson-Jobson is vindicated!
  8. The remark about curry in Chinese restaurants gets me started on the entire mystery of East Asian "curries" and their origins. Here in Honolulu we have several branches of Coco Ichibanya, Japan's biggest curry fast food chain. Japan's obsession with curry is nearly as deep, though not as broad, as Britain's. One survey showed that curry was the single most popular food among Japanese children. Yet Japanese curry makes post-Raj British "bog standard" look like pure Hindustani cuisine. It typically contains soy sauce and beef tallow, and is thicked to the point of pastyness by a wheat flour roux. Its solid chunks are typically stewed beef or "tonkatsu" (breaded pork cutlet), but can also include fried squid, seaweed, quasi-korean "kalbi" (beef ribs), or "natto" (fermented soybeans). Typical sauce additives are chopped apples, plums, and tonkatsu sauce (!). It does contain coriander, cumin, turmeric, etc. whence the appellation presumably comes, but it's not clear how it arrived in Japan. Via the British? Hard to believe given the huge disparity between the British version and the Japanese. Via the Chinese? Then how to explain the much greater popularity in Japan than any part of the greater China? Anyway, I digressed . . .
  9. What do you think of these two books? Burton's book is very droll and detailed. I haven't had a chance to more than glance through Brennan's book but it won an IACP award for literary food writing. Many people also recommend Colonel Kenny-Herbert's 1878 cookbook _Culinary Jottings from Madras_ as an amusing historical document. Again, I haven't been able to read more than excerpts from it but I believe it is still available in the archives of a number of libraries. Also the chapter on Raj cookery in the late Minakshie Das Gupta's first cookbook _Bangla Ranna_ (prior to the _Calcutta Cookbook_) is quite informative and entertaining.
  10. Any book in the Penguin India series on regional Indian cookery (a lot of them beginning with "The Essential . . .") will have decent historical background. Also, if you are at all interested in the amusing topic of British Raj cookery, you might look at David Burton's Raj at Table or Jennifer Brennan's Curry and Bugles (?)
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