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Vikram

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Everything posted by Vikram

  1. The neatest smoked food trick I've seen in Indian food is smoked buttermilk or lassi. Rajdhani, the Gujju thali place near Crawford market does this as an extra to the main thali - you have to ask for masala chhas. Its quite a production. They bring a brass tray with a few smoking coals on it, then in front of you add some ghee on the coals and then a few spices, I forget which. Then as the ghee is spluttering and the spices start smoking, they quickly put a stainless steel tumbler over the coals to trap the smoke. Then after a minute or less they take the tumbler out and VERY quickly before the smoke trapped inside has a chance to escape they pour in the buttermilk, swirling it around so it captures the smoke. And it really does taste smokey, its quite something. I've never seen this done anywhere else. This works very well with skinned mung dhal. In a Taste of India Madhur Jaffrey has an excellent Bengali recipe for roasted skinned mung dhal with spinach, where the roasting gives the dhal a wonderful rounded taste. Vikram
  2. Suvir, hope you're reading this thread, here's another Maharashtrian style of cooking oysters. I freely admit I haven't tried this, but I would trust the source even though it happens to be the back of the calendar in my cubicle! Its not just any calendar though, but the English version of Kalnirnay, the calendar-cum-almanac-cum-monthly magazine (the content printed on the reverse of the page for that month) which is counted as India's largest selling publication with a print run, across its 27 editions, of 10 million copies. If you're not already familiar with it, a Kalnirnay calendar is an absolute must on the walls of any kitchen in Western India, and increasingly other parts of the country as well. Of course, they even have a US edition now and the website, www.kalnirnay.com, thoughfully gives alternate timings of auspicious occasions in the almanac for different timezones depending on whether you're in NYC, Chicago or LA. So as far as authenticity goes its unimpeachable, and in addition the publisher, Jayraj Salgaokar, is a great guy and a foodie so I'm betting the recipes will be good. (In the interests of full disclosure I should note that Mr.Salgaokar sent me a case of the most incredible Alphonsos this year and, while we're not usually allowed to accept such gifts, in this case, on compassionate grounds, my editor gave me a waiver. Also, I wasn't writing anything about them then). Here's the recipe: Maharashtrian Oyster Masala Ingredients: about 50 medium sized oysters, 1 onion, 1/2 coconut, , 1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, 1 inch ginger 5-6 cloves garlic, 1 tsp powdered garam masala, 1 tsp powdered red chilli, 1 1/2 tbsp oil, I kokum, salt to taste. Oysters need to be washed at least for about ten minutes rinsing at least five to six times in water. Slit open the oyster shell with a sharp knife and separate the flesh so it sticks to one side of the shell, throw away the empty shell and retain the fleshy part. After all oyster are done keep aside. Shallow fry finely chopped onion, garlic (3 cloves), ginger and grated coconut in about 1 tsp oil. Add coriander leaves to this mixture and grind to a paste. This forms the masala. Heat remaining oil in a wok or kadai, chop remaining garlic cloves and add to the hot oil followed by the masala, powdered red chilly and garam masala, sauté mixture till oil leaves the sides. Add 1 cup water; kokum and salt (add salt sparingly as oysters are basically salty). Bring to a boil and add the oysters. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander and serve hot. Oysters are usually accompanied with bhakris, chapattis or rice. They are traditionally made with lunch followed by the Konkani sol-curry (a cool curry made by mixing kokum and coconut milk). Oysters are rich in calcium and are generally good for all age groups. Form people suffering from high cholesterol levels or obesity, this preparation can be made without oil. A footnote from me: I don't know if you've noticed a curious fact about all these shellfish recipes. They never seem to make use of the shellfish liquor, which seems a real waste. Vikram
  3. Vikram

    $6 bhelpuri

    Since we're talking about Indian street food abroad can people comment on an observation I'd made sometime back, partly from Indian restaurants in London and partly from looking at menus of Indian restaurants on the Net, that the ones most likely to serve streetfood are those with 'Bombay' in their names? In an article I wrote on Bombay street food sometime back, I suggested that just as 'Madras' now means a hot curry in the international lexicon of Indian food, 'Bombay' now signifies light snacky food. Here's a link to the article if anyone's interested: http://www.outlooktraveller.com/aspscripts...magid=16&page=1 I think the new found popularity of Indian street food abroad comes from supply as much as demand factors. If on the demand side you have more first generation desis abroad nostalgic for bhel and pani puri (and lets not forget the increasing numbers of non-desis who might have sampled it as backpacking tourists or vegetarians looking for any tasty veg options), on the supply side you have more people willing to make street food for pretty much the same reasons why they started doing it in Bombay or Delhi. More elaborate forms of Indian cuisine require much more investment - in the cost of setting up a restaurant, in the ingredients and in the time taken to prepare it. Street food is comparatively much easier to make since there might be a few ingredients like the chutneys that take time to make, but that can be done in bulk and in advance. Since its mostly vegetarian - and even there relies more on dried pulses than fresh veg - the ingredients are cheaper. And by definition, the space cost is low, all you'll need to spend on is the stand or cart and the municipal licenses (or in Bombay, the bribes to the cops!). So street food is easy to put together and supply, which is why its been the preserve of recent immigrants whether in NYC, from India, or in Bombay, from other parts of India. I don't know about NYC, but in Bombay its also been one area where women can find entrepreneurial opportunities, either making the stuff at home for their husbands to sell, or even setting up stalls on their own, like all the women who dish out lunches near Nariman Point. Its these supply factors as much as the demand that I think will explain the growing popularity of Indian street food abroad. Vikram
  4. I've done a quick check to confirm that the South African forum is a little used one, so I'm going to risk saying this. I love SA, beautiful place, wonderful people and, get this, amazing ingredients - just check the sort of seafood you get around the Cape, and the quality of the fruits and veg (well, the fruit and veg that isn't being standardised into perfect looking and tasteless specimens for the benefit of supermarket chains in Europe), and great meat. And what do they do with these ingredients. Well to use SAtalk, ag, shame man, you don't want to know. OK, that's not fair. I did eat in some good places in Jo'burg, a city made up from such a variety of cultures that you can always find something to your taste. Some places like the Portuguese-Mozambican or Jewish ones and at least one modern fusion sort of place I went to were all good. Even other places you could say there was a sort of comforting solidness that was nice to eat once, though maybe not again. Also one must consider mitigating circumstances. Look at where the main outside influences in SA have come from: Britain and the Netherlands. And with the more traditional African cultures I think poverty and decades of forcing people to live in townships at subsistence level (cut away from the country where they might have found traditional foods) has prevented the cooking evolving much. I also think the insane levels of violence in the cities is preventing the growth of the sort of interesting cosmopolitan food choices a city like Jo'burg should have: most such food options usually start in small restaurants or on the street, since that's all that immigrants can afford to sell from, and nobody in their right minds is going to sell on the streets in Jo'burg. With a few exceptions, most restaurants can only come up in the huge, high security malls and the price of space there means that you're only going to get high end places or chains, not interesting independent outlets. But the food is still too boring! Meats barely or badly seasoned (though I like biltong). Watery veg (my boyfriend, who tried studying there for a while, slowly found himself going out of his mind when he'd come down to the cafeteria everyday and find the same tasteless masses of butternut squash). And pastry, everything smothered in masses of tasteless pastry. Even the Indian food, which was sort of interesting (for me at least, in noting the way it differed from Indian food in India) was often stuffed into tasteless pies or wrapped into samoosas which were about as far as one can get from crisp tasty samosas in India. Of course, in Jo'brug everyone told us, go to Cape Town, that's where you'll really eat. And perhaps they were right if we could have afforded the really expensive places, or had travelled to Franshoek, which is where the food is supposed to be really outstanding since that's where French Huguenot immigrants settled. The seafood, just served grilled, was great and Olympia in Kalk Bay will go down as a truly historic bakery-deli for me. But otherwise ordinary day to day cooked food was strictly OK only and the widely lauded Cape Malay cuisine not impressive at all? Koeksisters? Greasy braided doughnuts. Bobotie (which some horny guy in these forums was asking for recipes for sometime back)? Bland meat curry under eggy glop. I think we bottomed out not in CT, but Soweto. This wasn't the Soweto of popular imagination, a vast poor slum. Soweto's not like that, though there are a few really poor parts at the margin, but I'm from Bombay OK, where slums are real slums, and Soweto was nothing like that. It was a surprisingly orderly place, streets and streets of identifit houses, but there were a few really posh areas with really fancy houses behind high walls and it was to one of these areas, Diepkloof, that we were going. It was at a big party at a guy's house that was billed as an African food night - a few dishes were cooked and you pay a small fee for that, and booze you bring yourself. And as to what was on offer, well, I'm going to be lazy and just paste in from a story I later wrote about the experience: So let me just state it: I definitely don't get chicken feet, whether Zulu or Cantonese! Vikram
  5. Beans on toast I can understand, even if I don't like it much. What I really don't get is that Australian favourite spaghetti on toast. Some years back when the Australian cricket team was touring India one of their stars, Shane Warne, brought along a big supply of canned spaghetti rather than have to eat anything local (presumably other than the bread). As some small revenge, he later ballooned up hugely and had to go on crash weight loss programmes! That being said I confess that I can get carb on carb combos sometimes. Never had a chip butty, but it sounds sort of good in an over the top way. And the number one street food snack here in Bombay is vada pau which is a ball of highly spiced mashed potatoes dipped in chickpea batter and deep fried, then stuffed into a spongy bun along with plenty of spicy sauce. I'm putting on weight just thinking of it, but its total bliss. Back to Australians, I don't get their obsession with Tim Tams: chocolate biscuits, sandwiched with chocolate cream and covered with chocolate? And not very good chocolate at that? Isn't some measure of contrast needed? And then they do the Tim-Tam Slam: take a hot drink like coffee or milk (or even cocoa, if there really is no limit to your chocolate tolerance), and a Tim-Tam. Bite off and eat the ends of the Tim-Tam and insert one end of the remaining biscuit into the hot drink. Suck really hard. Slowly the liquid travels up the biscuit, saturating itself en route with dissolving Tim-Tam. I know some things have value just because you did them as a kid, but I can't imagine sane adults doing this. Vikram
  6. Vikram

    SUVIR SARAN

    I must admit, Suvir was starting to give me a complex. He moderated this forum, gave recipes endlessly (and recipes he had personally tried himself), was writing a book and was starting up a restaurant as well! Just thinking of all that made me exhausted. Well now it seems he's human after all, but its a pity he has to prove it this way. But, as he says, he'll still be posting and that's great. All the best, Suvir, vikram
  7. Suvir, our friend Ashok Row Kavi has just given me the recipe. He says its the usual 3:2:1 masala that he's taught you, namely 3 portions of grated coconut (say half a coconut) to 2 hot dried chillies to 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste. Mix with a little water in a blender till its toothpaste texture (only ARK seems to use this particularly description!). Simmer for a bit and then add a pinch of asafoetida. Add drumsticks if you have them and 2-3 quartered potatoes (I've never had either in the restaurant versions) and simmer 15 minutes or so. Throw in shelled oysters and add salt to taste. Right at the end add a teaspoon of coconut oil. ARK says the curry should now turn red and add some chopped coriander leaves and its ready to serve, Vikram
  8. Isn't it possible to get frozen alu ka parathas? I'd assume they would freeze quite well. A friend of mine in NYC says she gets excellent flaky Kerala parottas frozen which is what she leaves at home for husband to eat every time she travels. BTW, an alu ka paratha thread would be a good place to note my astonishment, some years back, when I finally made it to Parathe wale ke gully in old Delhi. Apart from the range of stuffed parathas - forget potato and radish, it was the papad stuffed ones (made with crumbled fried papad) that got me - what surprised me was their form. I was used to the standard alu ka parathas you get outside Delhi, big and thick with the potato filling. These were small and very plump, just bursting with the ghee and the filling. How common are these outside Delhi? Vikram
  9. Vikram

    $6 bhelpuri

    Well at one time that's what the coffee shops in 5 star hotels were doing. Maybe not popcorn, but nachos and I remember as a kid one of the ultimate treats was the ultra long frankfurters at Samarkand, now the Palms at the Oberoi Towers. BTW Vir Sanghvi, who writes hands down the best food column in India, under the pseudonym Grand Fromage in the Hindustan Times, had an excellent piece last Sunday on the growth of hotel coffee shops in India. Here's a link: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/674_388...07,00310006.htm I like how he captures the way in which such coffee shops had an influence far beyond the hotels themselves. Its in his observation that unlike hotel coffee shops anywhere else in the world, those in India always had a higher usage by locals than hotel guests simply because they were the cheapest way locals could access that five star hotel ambience and also till recently they were often the most stylish places to eat in and only places you could be assured of getting a decent cappucino or pizza or something like that. These days are past thankfully since really most of the coffee shops weren't that great (I am thinking of the Taj's Shamiana and shuddering inwardly) and quite expensive. Now there are independent restaurants like Indigo and pizzerias galore and in anticipation of Starbucks arriving, Coffee Day and Barista are flooding us with lattes and mochas. Still in their heyday the coffee shops did play an important role. The hotel coffee shops also offered Indian street food at inflated prices and surprisingly, if you could bring yourself to eat it when the authentic stuff was on the footpath outside, it wasn't bad. It was useful when you were entertaining foreign guests with nervous tummies since it was, allegedly, made with bottled water (now others like Swati do the same). I've eaten the bhel at the Sea Lounge, the one Taj restaurant I have some fondness for, sitting and watching the constant entertainment afforded by it being the number one place in Bombay for those formal first meetings between the two families in arranged marriages. I think this was partly because it had that slightly separate section outside where after enough chitchat and coffee the girl and boy were allowed - so modern, no! - to go and "get to know each other". I don't know why but in such situations the girls always seemed so nice and the boys always seemed such losers I'd be sitting there trying to mentally transmit to them, "no! NO! Not him!" But this is perhaps drifting away from the topic, Vikram
  10. One considerably less pleasant aspect to this not tasting custom is that the food that the person cooking the food wasn't allowed to eat that sort of food. This was mostly when the cooking was being done by a widowed woman who in many orthodox Hindu communities was not allowed to eat a whole bunch of stuff. One truly unpleasant hypothesis from some sociologists is that this, in combination with the many compulsory religious fasts, was meant to reduce the widow to a state of near starvation, the better to hasten her death. Chitrita Banerji's excellent book 'The Hour of the Goddess: Memories of Women, Food & Ritual in Bengal' has a moving chapter on this called "What Bengali Widows Cannot Eat". There's also a good chapter earlier where she writes of her rebelliousness as a girl in contending with the same custom Suvir describes of not eating food before it was offered to the Gods. She remembers arguing with her grandmother about this. They would taste food before offering it to their guests to make sure it was good, she says, so why not do it before offering it to God? Her grandmother sidesteps this with a story about Krishna as a child leading the other children of the cowherds. When these children would find some particularly good food they would eat a bit and if it was good, offer it to Krishna their leader. Like Banerji, I'm afraid I don't have much patience with this ritual aspect of not tasting. I've had spats with the boyfriend because he comes from the sort of traditional north Indian household that Suvir describes and was horrified when he first saw me tasting as I cooked. Personally I feel how people cook is up to them, of course, but I'd avoid glamourising not tasting as some wonderful Indian tradition, Vikram
  11. No, doesn't count, Le Creuset is selling beautiful ones at Vama. At Rs5,000 each they may not exactly be paisa vasool, but you do get them here. The second item sounds so bizarre that it probably counts, but being an adamant urbanist I certainly don't envisage needing one. I agree with you on Thai ingredients, Ananda Solomon war mourning to me how the Kaffir lime trees he's tried growing here just never taste the same. There are stores selling kitchen systems like Poggenpohl, but no kitchen equipment stores yet. Large department stores like Lifestyle and Westside do have a good range of equipment, but not specialist stuff though. For example, when it comes to baking stuff, the one place in Bombay remains Arife, that old stall in Crawford market where everyone from Catholic aunties from Bandra to catering college students have come for ages to buy their baking tins and icing bags. Its hard to think of off-hand, though I'm sure there'll be hundreds of things that come to mind when I really start cooking. Cachaca is always top of the list. Real parmesan, not that sawdust crap in plastic tins. I picked up a mysterious fondness for biltong in South Africa, but its admittedly not a major necessity. Good quality cooking chocolate would have been a major item, but someone has started getting quite decent chocolate under the brand name Morde. Oh yes, vanilla beans, I'm sure there's a source, but never found it. I seem to be having trouble locating a kitchen thermometer, but this is temporary, I'm sure. Will think of more, Vikram
  12. This thread is mainly directed at eGulletteers in India, or who come here frequently! If you such, you'll certainly now how there was a time, and not a very distant time either, when being a foodfreak was a difficult thing. In those NOT nostalgically remembered days before liberalisation, getting many ingredients for non-Indian cooking was very difficult. So friends and relatives coming from abroad would be presented with loooooong lists of items to be purchased, and when they came we would circle round their suitcases like vultures hoping to see what they had got us. In the unlikely event that we went abroad in those foreign exchange control days the torture was worse, as we stood in the middle of a supermarket (or as a last twist, in the duty free homeward bound) and stood lost because we wanted it all and had next to nothing to buy it with. Or back at home there were the dubious pleasures of the local smuggled goods shops like Hira Panna in Bombay or Burma Bazaar in Madras where you might find the odd food item nestling below the stacks of Walkmans and bottles of fake scent. If you knew any diplomats that was another route and God knows did we put up with many self important minor embassy types to get them. And failing everything there was always the fun of trying to substitute, like a recipe for coq au vin that blithely suggested that soy sauce could be substituted for red wine... I remember trays of Western herbs tenderly nurtured from seeds smuggled through customs (they mostly died), or suitcases perfumed with rapidly deteriorating Brie and Camembert (some of those old suitcases still vaguely smell of them), or bottles of entirely dubious wine procured, via Mr.Friendly Neighbourhood Bootlegger from a down at heels Soviet Bloc consulate (so you can imagine what sort of wine I'm talking about). And what is horrible is that we cherished them, cherished them all, for the fugitive links to foreign tastes. And then came Dr.Manmohan Singh, finance minister of blessed memory (lets forget what he's been doing recently), who, to use a phrase endlessly recycled by my bizjournalist brethren, "threw upon the gates to the winds of liberalisation". Under him and his successors the Export-Import policy was modified and now you can get a lot of the stuff that was never available before. My kiranawalla sells Italian pasta and the vegetable seller has fresh rosemary thanks to enlightened agriculturists like Trikaya (whose gourmet greens are partly subsidised by their production of iceberg letture for McDonald's in India, doesn't globalisation work in wonderful ways). Initially it was only dried foods, but now you're even getting perishable stuff, like cheeses. These days you are even getting imported kitchenware, which was one of the last things I still had to keep imploring aunts to bring. Even Le Creuset is now selling here (thank god, since I would never have dared to ask anyone to bring a single pan that would have taken up all their luggage allowance weight). So what is there left to ask people to bring? Or what should one stock up on when you are abroad? Obviously particular brands, labels, makes might top this list, and I'll be interested to hear which. But I'm looking more for types of food in general that are still hard to get here. Vikram
  13. An interesting thread, with lots to think about. I'm not sure I've understood Rachel's post entirely, so forgive me is this goes a bit off track, but it made me think of an exchange I had on another list on the subject of Indian ways of cooking turkey. I posted some a recipe from Bombay's East Indian community (a local Christian community which decided to call themselves East Indians after the East India company to distinguish themselves from Goan Catholics. The small logical oddity of being East Indians in Western India seems to have been overlooked) which an Australian friend of mine, of Anglo Indian origin, got excited about. My friend had lived for many years in Latin America and knew a lot about Iberian-origin culture and was convinced by a similar thesis to Rachel's, that there are many links in areas like cooking, or poetry, which are due to Islamic influences. He died earlier this year or I'd ask him for more information, but here's the turkey recipe he saw as a similar link, though in this case he makes the connection through Sephardi Jews who were present up and down the West coast of India. I'll quote the links almost in full, first my post: Now Quentin's response: I'd be interested if others also see an Iberian link in the recipe. Its quite possible - the East Indians were originally converted by the Portuguese. BTW, everyone knows of chillies as one link between Mexico and India, but the other plant that tends to be overlooked is the sapodilla which is very strongly established in India, especially in the South. Most people don't even imagine it came from Mexico, though the local name is a giveaway - chickoo, which presumably links to the chicle from its sap, Vikram
  14. Vikram

    CHEERS

    Yes please, I stay just round the corner from Khar Danda village so a nearby drinking place would be a welcome alternative to Olive! One fish that I particularly associate with drinking joints, BTW, is mudadashi or ladyfish, the small ones fried whole for eating as you drink. Vikram
  15. I've also just been given a bagfull by a friend who's came from Istanbul and knew my liking for odd ingredients. If you come up with any ideas for using it, let me know, Vikram
  16. Vikram

    arrack

    Many thanks all, now I have some prospects of getting through these bottles. The rum cake suggestion was particularly promising. Just curious, why does this cloudiness happen? Vikram
  17. Vikram

    CHEERS

    Gokul's has changed a bit from those days! Its now a more sedate and general place, really large, it seems to have grown all sorts of nooks and corners. So yes, the a/c room at the back is still there, as the more 'refined' drinking area, but there are rooms in front and above as well. The food is not outstanding, but good and honest. As you remember, the naans and tandoori rotis come fresh and hot, and with excellent mint chutney on the side. They'll fry up a pomfret or slices of surmai or rawas very nicely for you - all excellent to eat while drinking. Golconda wine is, thankfully, mostly a thing of the past now! Vikram
  18. What I want to know is why we can't have Cachaca? I adore caiprinhas (they're alcoholic nimbu pani, after all), but they are really not the same if you don't have cachaca. Vodka doesn't have that exciting raw edge and white rum is too syrupy. I have to implore all friends coming from abroad to pick up bottles for me and luckily, in New York, at least, access seems to be becoming easier. But the question is, why not cachaca in India? Its just sugar cane spirit, after all, and god knows we have vast amounts of sugar cane, vast waving fields of it that go to prop up those mysteriously saccharine figures of Mahrashtrian politics, the sugar barons. Sometimes after a Sunday lunch at Sri Ramanayaka in Matunga I go to that guy in the market who sells neatly peeled and quartered chunks of it, all ready for chewing. Surely it could be put to good use making cachaca? Or even more interestingly, perhaps a country liquor version already exists? But like Episure, every time I put this question to people in the liquor industry, all one gets is a don't-waste-out-time attitude. And yes, I've been hearing those rumours about improved Feni for ages, but I have yet to taste anything that doesn't taste better than superior gasoline. Wasn't this done using kettles? An old colonel uncle once showed me the trick of how to quick chill beer: fill a kettle full of ice cubes, our the beer in from the top and IMMEDIATELY out of the spout. Perfectly chilled and hardly diluted. Vikram
  19. Vikram

    CHEERS

    Country liquor is not quite my tipple, but I think one of the best places to drink in Bombay is Gokul's behind the Taj opposite the HUGELY overrated Bade Miyan (the food at Gokul's is much better). Its a big, busy, quite easy going place, the booze is cheap and its also one of the few places women can go to drink without problems (in the ground floor a/c room). And if you want a contrast, the other excellent place to drink in Bombay is just a few streets away at Indigo! Vikram
  20. Vikram

    CHEERS

    I think Episure is right. The custom of saying cheers in India has been taken from the West, so the word has too. I can certainly remember it cropping up in Hindi movie drinking scenes. A friend of mine is trying to popularise the world 'tulleeho' and from this impulse has come a website and a company that deals with drinking in India. Its quite a nice site and can be accessed at www.tulleeho.com Vikram
  21. I spent a substantial part of my recent trip home to Madras doing just this! I love kimchi, and Korean food in general (much better suited to Indian palates than Chinese food) and somewhat improbably Madras is a good place to get it, thanks to the presence of a gigantic Hyundai factory and other Korean businesses. There are several restaurants in Madras catering mostly to Koreans - and the rare locals like me who might stray in -so the quality is good. In fact I'd go out on a limb and say that one meal I ate at a restaurant called Arirang was the best Korean food I've eaten which in my experience mostly covers places in India and Hong Kong. Where do they get such fantastic beef from - the bulgogi was incredibly savoury and tender. I had to pack most of it up, since the friends I was eating with were strict vegetarians (what they were doing in a Korean restaurant is a good question), and was eating it for days later. The good part of eating with them though was that we got double the number of free starters - veg for them, non-veg for me, so the table was so full of small plates that I was wondering whether we needed to proceed to main courses at all! Also one of these friends was my source for kimchi. She makes a living teaching Korean housewives English, so it was wasy to get her to ask her students to pack some kimchi for me. The only problem was that while I was expecting a small bag, the lady was so enthusiastic she gave me a huge boxfull. It was wonderful, but smelled so pungent that no one else in the house would eat it. Vijayan, who is our equivalent of Suvir's panditji, didn't approve either and expressed his disapproval by very pointedly placing the big box full of kimchi next to my plate at each meal. So I pretty much had to eat it with whatever we were eating! My verdict: you can eat it, but it doesn't go brilliantly, at least not with the sort of simple sambhar-sabhji sort of food normally cooked in my parents' house. Partly its because that pungent fermented taste is decidedly not an Indian one, and clashes too much with coconut or Indian spice mixtures. Partly too its texture - that slightly squeaky consistency of freshly made kimchi is not common in Indian vegetable preparations. We eat our veggies well cooked so they are generally soft, or maybe more solid as with sprouts and pulses, but not squeaky like kimchi. In the end I mostly just ate the kimchi separately with plain boiled rice and spring onions, which could be almost a Korean way of eating it, right? Vikram
  22. Vikram

    arrack

    If your friend ever gets to Goa, remind him to pick up a bottle of Goan white port! The red port is OK, in a sort of cough syrup way, but the white defies description. I don't think I'd put the arrack in that category, as I said, I quite like it, in small doses. Its not dissimilar to sambuca, just slightly more raw tasting. Any cocktails that use sambuca? A friend from Istanbul tells me that she had a really good drink there made from arrack, almond syrup, bitter lemon syrup and club soda. Might be worth trying, Vikram
  23. Vikram

    arrack

    This sounds great, but Batavian I guess means it comes from Indonesia, in which case its more likely to be like the arrak of South India, a cheap, ultra strong spirit. The arrack I'm talking about is the Middle Eastern kind, very strongly flavoured with anise, so if I use the proportions in your recipe, the anise would drown out all other tastes. Looks like I'm going to have these bottles for life! Vikram
  24. Sometimes the best of restaurants can't match mothers on this, which is why the smart chefs co-opt them. If you go to the President Hotel in Bombay where Chef Ananda Solomon presides over one of the few five star hotels with really excellent food, in the middle of the kitchen for his Konkan Cafe restaurant you'll see this old Konkani granny, dressed up in whites like the rest of his staff, and grinding away the masalas. Chef Solomon told me that he first met this lady when he was cooking in Goa and was simply never able to duplicate her skill with masala pastes. So when he got round to starting Konkan Cafe, which highlights the cooking of the West Coast, he went back to Goa and persuaded her to come and join his team. She was a widow, which helped, and he promised her family that he'd get special quarters from the hotel for her, and now everyday she's there, in her usual nine yard sari with the whites on top, hard at work on the grinding stone. BTW, that reminds me, I've finally decided I need my own granite grinding stone. The electric ginder that I have is certainly convenient, but it grinds things too fine and I think, sometimes, with chutneys and some spice pastes, a slight graininess is needed. In particular I want to try make the SUPERLATIVE prawn pickle our cook in Madras makes and my sister tells me that for that, stone ground masala is a must. How do cooks and restaurants abroad manage? Does anyone do their grinding on stone and where do they get the stones from? Vikram
  25. Interesting thread on souring agents. Indian dishes are most often associated with spiciness, but in fact I think its the souring agents that can be the really distinctive factors. Certainly I think communities tend to have their own souring agents which they cling to as points of distinction. So, for example, on the West coast an in particular in Goa, fairly similar ingredients and styles of cooking are distinguished by the souring agent of kokam, which would be used by Hindus, and vinegar, which would be used by Christians. And different types of vinegar, as Suvir notes, are used by different communities. Anardana is a _very_ north Indian spice - I never saw it in a kitchen until I was in London staying with a friend of Pakistani origin. Barberries, by the way, are used in dishes made by the Irani community in Bombay, made up, as their name suggests, of immigrants from Iran who came at the turn of the last century. Bombay's economy was booming then, lead in particular by Parsi entrepreneurs and they used their new prosperity to bring over people from Persia, the homeland they had fled centuries back, to work as servants for them. Some of these people were poor Zoroastrians like the Parsis, some were Muslims, but since their connections to Persia were much more recent than those of the Parsis, they stiff used ingredients like barberries that the Parsis had given up. Not far from my office there's an excellent restaurant called Britannia which makes Parsi and Irani dishes for lunch including an absolutely amazing chicken berry pulao where the berries are barberries imported from Iran. Vikram
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