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Vikram

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Everything posted by Vikram

  1. Solkadhi, made from kokam and coconut milk, is the perfect drink to complement most Konkani food, especially when its served ice-cold. Its creamy-sourness should make it go with most other types of Indian food, except where the coconut milk in it would clash too much - like really rich Mughlai maybe. The colour of the drink, a sort of pinky-violet can be a bit startling, but it does stand out. It can be drunk before, after or during the meal, and even functions as an impromptu curry, used to moisten leftover grains of rice. Monica mentioned on another thread that you can get kokam abroad quite easily, so perhaps it shouldn't be too hard to try. I don't have a recipe, since I usually drink it in Konkani restaurants and don't make it at home, but this recipe from Ruth Davidar's excellent Indian Food Sense which she calls kokam saar sounds like it would work. I'd experiment with it - solkadhi varies a lot. Anantshram makes it quite spicy and thin, Gajalee makes it creamy - too creamy I think. Solkadi, the late lamented restaurant of that name in Phoenix Mills, did it just right (its sister in Bandra Soul Fry does NOT do it right), I think I had a good one the other day in Highway Gomantak and also Sindhudurg. The ideal - or my ideal - has the texture of full cream milk and both sour and garlicky. --------------- Kokum Saar (from Indian Food Sense) Prep Time: 20 mins Soaking Time: 30 mins Cooking Time: 20 mins Ingredients: 3 cups/750 ml hot water Half large shell/120 g freshly grated coconut, coarse ground 5 pieces dried kokum 1 cup/250 ml hot water 2 medium green chillies deseeded and finely chopped 3 garlic cloves, crushed A few chopped coriander leaves Salt to taste Add 1 cup hot water to ground coconut, mix well, squeeze to get first milk, repeat twice more, adding 1 cup hot water each time. Strain and set aside. [NOTE FROM ME: OR JUST CHEAT AND USE COCONUT MILK IN CARTON OR POWDER, LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO KEEP DOING ALL THIS] Soak kokum pieces in half cup hot water for 30 minutes, Rub vigorously between fingers [RESIGNING YOURSELF TO THEM BEING STAINED PURPLE] and squeeze to extract pulp. Add another half cup hot water to the same kokum. Extract pulp a second time, Strain and set aside. Mix all ingredients together and place pan over low heat. Gradually raise temperature till kokum drink comes to the boil. Remove from the fire. Cool to room temperature. Serve at the end of a heavy meal. --------------- Davidar's book is a nutritionists approach to Indian cooking and not as dire as that sounds. It does mean though that each recipe comes with a whole bunch of info on calories and composition, which I'll spare everyone. Also, I like her recipes, but she can go to maddening detail or make things just sound too complicated. She is forever saying things like "line a colander with a cloth and pass the liquid through" when it should just be "take a sieve and strain". Still, its a good book, Vikram
  2. Vikram

    Indian / Chinese

    Chicken 65 is supposed to be not from Hyderabad, but Madras. And from one place in particualr - Buhari's Hotel on Mount Road (Anna Salai) where this sort of spicy dry fried chicken is number 65 on the menu. It was apparently spread from there to a large extent by truck drivers who found it the ideal sort of spicy finger food to eat while drinking. When I was growing up it wasn't much known outside Madras, but these days I find it really has spread so perhaps the Buhari's-truck driver story isn't entirely an urban legend. I don't think it falls into the distinguished canon of Chinese-Indian food though, Vikram
  3. I'm afraid I've got bad news. The Thackers you are referring to is almost certainly Thacker Bhojanalay (which loosely was translated as Thacker Club) whicy was on Dadiseth Agiary Road. To get there you had to go down Chira Bazaar, which was straight on from Metro Cinema, not taking the usual left to the Princess Street flyover. At some point you'd see Dadiseth Agiary Road on your right and you went down almost to the other end and there would be Thacker Bhojanalay on your right. It was one of those places where you had to pay first downstairs and you were given a token. True to the tradition of bhojanalays, you could buy a booklet for all your monthly dinners. The bhojanalys were started as co-operative kitchens for bachelors from the same community, who had left home to work in Bombay. Their best bet for getting the home food they starting a co-operative kitchen, usually with cooking in terns, until they could employ a fulltime cook, who would finally set it up as a restaurant in its own right, though functioning as a bhojanalay for those who could afford it. Many of the best and most authentic eating places in the city had their origins in these bhojanalays or khanevals - Sri Ramanayaka in Matunga, for example, for Mysore Tamil food, or Martin's for Goan. Once you paid you were ushered upstairs to a spartan room and were offered a huge thali of pickles. In some ways I feel these pickles were the highlight of the meal - they were so fresh, so bursting with flavour, that you realise who over oily, over spiced and simply old concoctions are routinely served up to us in restaurants. You had barely chosen the pickles when the food would descend on you, and I mean that almost literally. It came with these boys who would compete with each other to force it on you. It was, as you say, totally delicious and homestyle, and quite unlike most restaurant versions of Gujju food. But as you can see, I'm referring to it in the past tense because in a real tragedy, it shut down about four years back. When I asked someone in the neighbourhood why, they said the owner was growing old and was no longer confident in being able to maintain the quality. Also he was under pressure to mdoernise, improve, add airconditioning, and he just felt he didn't have the money or interest in doing so. And to prove the point, someone - allegedly one of his sons - did set up a thali place there (in the downstairs area) to capitalise on the reputation and it was crap. (It may still be there, but don't eat there. I mean, crap may be exagerrating it, but its not a patch on the original). I was told that the old man might have changed his mind and might be restarting, but I doubt it. In that case, what are your options for a good Gujju thali in Bombay? Not Purohits - it was never that good and its shut down anyway. NEVER eat at Samrat, which many people go to - its rubbish served up for office goers. Chetna's is good, though more towards te Rajasthani style, which is HEAVY - don't even think of eating more than two dhal-bhatti-churmas. Panchavati Gaur, Golden Star (at Charni Road) are all OK, if not exactly scintillating. Rajdhani near Crawford market is really cramped and crowded, but also really quite good - always try their barbecued buttermilk, which sounds impossible, but it really quite a neat trick. Their (sweet) Gujju dhal is excellent. Thackers at Marine Lines is insanely rich, where others would use milk they use cream. Its tastes good, in a throat clotting sort of way. I really wish Asha Jhaveri at Swati Snacks would consider offering a thali, since that would be something. Unfortunately this doesn't seem on the cards, so for a really good, unpretentious but excellent place I'd recommend another bhojanalay - Friends Union Joshi Club, usually just referred to as FUJC (the name is less odd if you consider its a literal translation of Joshi Mitramandal). To reach there walk down the Kalbadevi Road (go straight from Metro, then at the Princess St junction turn right and then take the first left) till you see it on the left hand side on the first floor. FUJC isn't Thacker Bhojanalay, but its in its simple excellence its the closest you'll come to it, Vikram
  4. Sorry, I've got a recipe for sambhar with drumsicks from Samaithu Par (Cook & See), the classic Tamil cookbook with me, but its a bit long since Meenakshi Ammal gives all the details, and I'm a bit busy at the moment. I'll type it out and send it a little later, OK? I haven't heard of Sangati and the books I've got don't list it, but then a lot of very local dishes and terms are often not described. Where exactly is your family from? That could help pinpoint it, or I could ask Praveen Anand of Dakshin, who's the real authority on South Indian food. Could you mean Sandige, which is from Karnataka and described by Achaya as "irregular lumps of spiced rice-urad batter"? Vikram
  5. Tender coconuts, if you can get your hands on them, can be the source for good, light summer desserts I think. The sweet milky flesh is wonderful chilled and combines well with quite a few other things, I think. My grandmother makes a wonderful cold souffle from it. She only topped that once when we were driving back home to Madras from Pondicherry and picked up a whole bunch of nungu palm fruits - what's called targola in Bombay. For those who don't know it, this is the fruit of a palm variety with short, spiky leaves that seems to grow where nothing else can. The small round fruit has to be cut out the hard shells and has a thin brown skin so it looks a bit like a fresh baked breadroll. Peel the skin and you have a translucent, jelly like fruit with a wonderful, lightly sweet flavour. My grandmother combined that with coconut milk to make a truly heavenly souffle. Vikram
  6. Well I guess its partly because Gujaratis are a well off community so they have the money to go out and eat, and they're also a well travelled community, because so many of them go abroad for work, or have gone to visit relatives in the vast Gujju diaspora that stretches from East Africa to New Jersey. A more intangible factor I think is that I think Gujjus are quite an outgoing community, like the Punjabis, ready to party and have fun. Or sometimes I think its more that Gujjus are inclined to excess in everything they do. When they have fun, its like Navratri when everyone goes nuts. When they eat, its always in super abundance. When they fast on the other hand, its also extreme - I know all these Jains who have done 40 day fasts (one girl did it at 16!). Gujarat is the one Indian state to be rock solid on Prohibition - though again, when Gujjus drink its to excess (go to Daman and Diu to see it). And of course, when they make money, its always abundantly (Reliance is a Gujju company), though unfortunately when they commit frauds, they also take everyone to the cleaners. I don't think its an accident that Gandhi was a Gujju - you need that sort of Gujju excess passion to do what he did. (Unfortunately again here, there's a negative, in the Gujju excesses that got Modi into power). Anyway, back to food, the point is that because they are passionate about everything they do, and because eating is one of the most basic Gujju passions, they do it to excess and hence dominate the eating out scene in Bombay. (And if you really want to see passionate eating out, go to Ahmedabad). And since they've been exposed to different cultures and types of food on their travels, they are keen on trying them - but as long as its vegetarian (or for Gujju Jains, as long as its Jain, meaning no onions, garlic, etc.) I think this attachment to vegetarian food is another sign of Gujju excess because it can be very deep, even when in every other way they hardly fit the 'vegetarian' mindset. I have a friend who drinks like crazy, sleeps around like crazy - but is absolutely firmly vegetarian. You can have the most sophisticated, well travelled, wordly Gujaratis, who done everything, been everywhere, experienced everything - except eating meat. Its like an identity thing, this emphatic vegetarianism. The ultimate expression of this is, of course, the Kitchen Car tours of Europe that Indian tour companies now run. The companies have realised that there's a large number of Gujjus (and other vegetarian communities like Marwaris) who really want to travel and see places, but don't because they aren't sure they'll get their food where they go. So the companies arrange these tours where the groups go everywhere - Paris, Florence, London, you name it - and wherever they go this mobile kitchen goes with them, equipped with a 'maharaj', an Indian chef to dish out the vegetarian food that they want! Its quite an incredible concept and I've often wondered if locals in these countries could avail of service of these kitchen cars since that's one way you could get really authentic Indian food. (I wonder if there are Kitchen Car tours of the US now). When it comes to Bombay, restaurants here have no option but to have large vegetarian and furthermore, Jain, sections or they know they won't get the customers. All the chefs I know moan about this, not least because of the double standards that they say these customers inflict on them. These customers only want vegetarian food, they say, but if you use the same vegetables they eat at home then they don't want that either. As one really talented young guy (who has since moved to Canada) told me, "I can slave away making the best aubergine dish for them and they'll come and say, "arre, this is just baingain and look what they are charging for it!" " The solution then is to use vegetables and stuff which isn't part of traditional Gujju food. Hence the plague of the Bs that has descended on our vegetable markets - babycorn, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy. Hence eager use - and overuse - of those parts of international cuisine that can be vegetarian like pasta or tacos. And hence above all that sea of melted processed cheese (it is not a coincidence that the company that makes it most of it, Amul, which Monica recently wrote about, is based in Gujarat). I wish I could be more complementary about this modern Gujju food since I do appreciate the fact that many Gujjus are passionate about food and that there is at least theoretically the potential for interesting fusion here. But I've just survived a cousins wedding in the course of which I immersed myself in Gujju food again, both the old style, at the homes of Gujju friends my mother and I visited before the wedding, and the new style, at some of my more mod cousins' place and at the wedding itself. And the gap between the two was HUGE! The traditional Gujju food was so good. And the new GTM stuff so totally, completely, drenched in cheese, vile.... Vikram
  7. Well the vendors are new, many are gone... and the area has been cleansed. Maybe Vikram, can share more with us about the changes that happened. Don't know what further could have happened. As you note, Chowpatty (pedantic paranthesis: by which I guess you mean Girgaum Chowpatty at the foot of Malabar Hill. 'Chowpatty' is also used for other beaches like the strip at Dadar) has been cleaned up a bit. There's a park for senior citizens, the hawkers have been herded together in one corner and the massage boys chased away, all of which may or may not be an improvement depending on your viewpoint. Its fun enough, as is Juhu beach, though I don't think the street food is anything special. I mean, I love street food, but I'm opposed to fetishising it just because its street food. You'll get all the usual Bombay snacks there - bhel puri, pani puri, pav bhaji, vada pau, khaman dhokla, ragda pattice, stuffed dosas, kulfi, etc. Nothing outstanding, but all tasty. You can eat here if you want the atmosphere, but personally I'd say that since you're not that far from Swati Snacks, which is hands down one of Bombay's most outstanding restaurants. You can go there and eat all this street food stuff, made very well and hygienically and for a bonus get to try all the unusual veggie dishes that Asha Jhaveri, the owner, is reviving. Back on Chowpatty, on the opposite side of the road there's a whole bunch of 'interesting' restaurants, where 'interesting' must not be taken to equate with 'good'. I call this area, between the two overbridges Gujju Gulch because that's where Gujju's all come out in the evening to eat (I'm half Gujju, I'm allowed to be rude about them). So the restaurants all (a) are vegetarian and (b) have very rich food, and © are mainly focussed at the GTM, or Gujju Turned Mod crowd, which means that they also do examples of world cuisine tweaked for Gujju tastes, which means extra chillies and everything drowned in melted processed cheese. There is a restaurant in that bunch called Revival where I have never seen ANY dish not drowned in melted processed cheese. Others in the line are called Cream Centre, America and New York New York and that probably gives you an idea of what they're like more than anything else. As it happens if you walk a little further, at the end of the line just before Wilson College, there's a genuinely good restaurant. Its a very simple looking place called Crystal that, despite its super humble appearance is a minor legend for a certain type of Bombayite. Its renowned for serving absolutely home-style North Indian cooking - all those basic dhal-roti dishes you get at homes, but almost never in restaurants. Like its one of the few restaurants in Bombay that I know which has rajma on the menu - and a very simple tasty rajma too, not loaded with cream and tomato puree. Generations of students and young men and women staying as paying guests in the city have gone there to have homesick meals. And one last bit of info on the Chowpatty eating experience. The one time, of course, when one has to be at Chowpatty and nowhere else in the city is on Anant Chaturdashi, the last day of the Ganesh festival which is when all the really big Ganesh idols are brought to the sea for immersing. People put them in the sea everywhere, but all the really big and famous idols are brought to Girgaum Chowpatty and the sight is simply INCREDIBLE. The crowds, the huge idols floating over the waves, the trucks bringing more idols - and all really well organised thanks to the Bombay Police who, on this day at least, fulfill their function. Its a total blast and best of all, you can get to eat quite well and free at the stalls set up by service groups at the back of the beach. Last year I had wonderful hot vada-pau and jalebis dripping warm syrup at the Haryana Mitra Mandal stall - just what I needed after all the exhilaration of the crowds! Vikram
  8. I wonder if the recipe here could have used kokam, a dried berry that's used on the Konkan (Western Indian) coast as a souring agent. Kokam does give a lurid pink-purple hue to things, unless mixed with other strongly coloured ingredients, so that could have resulted in the colour you mention. Its true that I don't immediately associate kokam with patia or Parsi cooking in general, but there's no reason why not. Parsis are very much a part of the Konkan (mostly in the Bombay area, or north to Gujarat) and they would have access to the ingredient. They are also great synthesisers and users of different ingredients. I'll check Bhicoo Maneckshaw's book at home tonight about this. Its another matter how the restaurant would have got hold of kokam. I'm assuming its not easily available abroad, right? Vikram
  9. Vikram

    Busybee

    Suvir, do I detect an attack on incipient luvviedom on your part? Which can be defined as a condition where friendship and an excessive desire to say only nice things, clouds a more objective judgment? Before I say anything more I should state that despite being a journalist in Bombay, I didn't know Busyee, don't know his widow, have never had anything to with Afternoon, the paper he started, or Upper Crust, the food magazine, he and his wife started. Like most other Bombayites, I enjoyed Busybee's columns a lot and felt really sad when he died. As a journalist I appreciated his consummate ability to produce readable prose and a distinctive column, with such regularity. As a Bombay lover, I appreciated his immense love and knowledge of the city. And as someone who eats out a lot in the city, I appreciated his reviews for doing more than anyone else to emphasise the variety available in the city. Unlike many other reviewers who tend to stick to fancier restaurants, Busybee would go both to the fancy ones and the footpath ones. He realised that the true food of the city is to found in its many small joints as much, or even more, than its expensive restaurants. But that being said, I have sometimes wondered if we don't make a bit more of him than he might have desired himself. He was a good journalist, but not I think a great one - its just the absence of quality around him that made him shine so much more. I find the current attempts to treat his writings like Holy Writ, to be exploited to the hilt by his widom and remaining staff at Afternoon, to be doing increasingly less service to the man. Its now all seeming too stretched and forced - and the exact opposite of the lightness of his column. The paper itself is looking increasingly pathetic. The only reason for its existence was Busybee's column, and its current incarnation with resurrected columns at the back and a combination of luvvies, has-beens and assorted space fillers (I never read your mother's column so please don't see this as a comment on it) in the inside pages, all printed on the cheapest newsprint possible, its all just looking desperate and pointless. This, I'm assuming, is a joke? Whatever terms come to mind to describe her - the word 'strange' comes to mind - I don't think anyone could ever call her a 'brilliant' or even particularly good writer. Her occasional articles and columns are the most excruciating part of the paper and the best possible example of why it should be put out of its misery as soon as possible. I'm really sorry to hear about your heartbreaking family stuff and without knowing anything about it, send my sympathies and best wishes for you. But please lets not lap into luvviedom on this forum, Vikram PS: And maybe you shouldn't send this link to Farzana!
  10. I don't have a recipe, but if you come to Bombay, Shalimar serves a very good one. Its not the most inspiring of restaurants, being chaotic and crowded with tables in every corner and all spaces filled up with squalling kids, but the raan is excellent. Only complaint is that they give you no means of extracting the marrow. One has to do all sorts of contortions with sucking and deployment of bone shards to get at it. Vikram
  11. Don't some places uses papaya as a tenderizer? I was told that this was the secret behind the decent steaks served up at The Only Place, Bangalore's famous steak joint (once upon a time). Apparently Haroun, the owner, was taught the technique and how to cook steaks by Peace Corps volunteers. Thanks for the suggestions on cooking buff. You're right, Francois Maison is excellent and I used to buy from them when I stayed in that area. Maybe its worth making the trek out there from Bandra. Vikram
  12. I think the key with Caiprinhas is the halved limes being mashed inside the glass so that some of the bitter oil comes from the skin. Its that bitterness that makes a Caiprinha, not just the lime juice. I don't think white rum is a good substitute for cachaca. Its too sweet and smooth, where what is exciting about cachaca is the raw, wild edge in the spirit. A cachaca made with white rum just tastes too sweet and syrupy to me. I'd rather go with vodka for a tamer drink which I've seen called a caipiroshka, but is also, I think, the same as a lemon drop. Wish it was easier to get cachaca though. India is far from Brazil, and while most of my friends coming from abroad have been trained in want to bring, even they don't seem to find it easy finding cachaca in London or NY. I have to end up making do with vodka, even though India has tons of sugar cane so should theoretically not find it hard to have cachaca. I have asked friends in the liquor industry about this, but got no good answer. Currently I am trying to get a Brazilian friend here to start doing some homebrewing, so lets see... Vikram
  13. Monica's article on India's white revolution makes me think about another little commented on aspect of it: much of the milk that goes into it comes from water buffalos as well as cows (I don't know the proportions, but I could try finding out). I think that has a definite impact on many Indian dairy products, but I don't know enough about the subject to comment on exactly how - can anyone explain? The even less noted aspect though is that a lot of water buffalos (I'm going to drop the 'water' from now on) must mean a lot of buffalo meat. But you will never find buffalo meat being sold as such. Indian cooks, perhaps correctly, feel that people won't want to eat buffalo meat, so most of what goes as 'beef' in India is really buffalo meat. Just like 'lamb' or 'mutton' is often goat. Vir Sanghvi, the editor of the daily The Hindustan Times, who writes a most excellent food column under the pen name Grand Fromage, noted that in Nepal you can find buffalo billed honestly, if a rather peculiarly, as 'buff steak' but you will never find anything like this in India. What is really strange about this culinary deception is that there are considerable and real penalties attached to it - not for the deception, but for consuming beef. Barring a few states like Kerala, West Bengal and some of the Northeastern ones, the Hindu religious lobby has ensured that killing a cow is a crime in most of the country. (For those unfamiliar with Hinduism the cow is considered very sacred for various reasons I don't want to get into because the chances of my saying something contentious are quite high [And I'm a Hindu myself]. All I'll say is that if you want an interesting take on it, read the anthropologist Marvin Harris' famous essay on the subject). The growth in power of Hindu fundamentalists means that cow killing has become an increasingly emotive issue. There is a very strong move now to make killing cows illegal across the whole country. (Apart from trampling on the rights of beef eaters, this will mean millions of starving decrepit cows, but that for some reason if OK, as long as they aren't killed). There have been several horrific cases recently of people being killed on suspicion of killing cows. And yet a lot of meat is sold and eaten, whether its from buffalos or cows. In my own city of Bombay not far from where I'm typing this I can go and find a number of places serving excellent - and another irony - very cheap beef. 'Mutton' is expensive, presumably because its legal, but beef is cheap which is another reason why its popular. Mmmmm, maybe this might be my dinner solution. Beef kebabs at Baghdadi in Colaba maybe, or beef khichada, a wonderful creamy stew of meat cooked with wheat and pulses, in the lanes of Minara Masjid. You have to know what to ask though - people are wary on the beef issue now. Only in the hearts of Muslim or Christian neighbourhoods will you find beef being openly sold. In the roadside places serving beef you might be asked "bade ka ya chote ka?" ("the big one or the small one?" where big is obviously beef and small is mutton). In butcher's shops you ask for 'undercut' or specify beef sotto voce. And if you ask an expensive restaurant where they got their steaks from they'll say it came from outside the state, since its illegal to kill cows in the state, but not (yet) to eat them. This isn't quite true, of course. Some really expensive restaurants do import genuine beef from abroad and some people are presumably shipping dead cows into the city (But from Kerala or W.Bengal, neither of which are near?). The bulk of course comes from illegal abbatoirs in the city and you can just imagine the workpractices there, since its all illegal anyway. And yet, despite all these problems, restaurateurs and butchers still shy away from saying that they are serving - quite legal - buffalo! I suppose it the unprepossesing muddy black look of the animal, though I rather like their cud chewing placidity as they stand in the middle of roads defying all attempts to move them - 'India's natural speedbreakers' as exasperated drivers call them. Cows can be skittish and will move with a honk, but buffalos will stand there till kingdom, or the kid in nominal charge of them, comes. Anyway, this mail did have a query, before I got carried away, which is this: when it comes to cooking the animals, how much does buffalo meat differ from beef? I find the meat I get at the butchers pretty tough and I usually have to pressure cook it which is fine for curries, but I guess means no steaks. I'm told restaurants tenderize like crazy. But is buffalo meat really tougher than beef, or is it more a reflection on the way both cows and buffalos are raised in India? Can it be used in almost exactly the same way as beef or should adjustments be made? And finally, are there other cultures less snobbish about water buffalo meat that have recipes specifically for it? I think I've read in Davidson about it being popular in parts of Southeast (but is it labelled as such, or is 'beef' again used?) What about Italy? What happens to all those mozzarella producers once they're past their producing days? And can anyone give me Italian buffalo recipes? It'll make a nice change the next time I get some 'undercut' from my butcher. Vikram
  14. The pungent kind of course. Try it, for example, in 'tel muri' which is a popular Calcutta snack. Just mix puffed rice with finely chopped onion and a few split roasted chickpeas (or you could substitute peanuts, I guess), some chopped coriander leaves and green chillies, salt and a little raw mustard oil as seasoning, and eat it quickly before it goes soft. The oil really serves as the flavouring here, Vikram
  15. Pork is very much a part of Goan cooking, even if it doesn't show up much in the hotels and resorts which are where most visitors must be eating. Pork sorpotel is one of the key Goan dishes, suckling pig is roasted for feasts and choriz or Goa sausages are wonderful - sour, spicy, total heaven. Pork also crops up in other parts of India, even if its not much acknowledged because of its doubly unclean - Muslim and Hindu - status. In South India for example its eaten by certain lower caste communities, cooked in the spicy South Indian style. Its not commonly served in the South Indian non-vegetarian restaurants that are generically called 'Chettiar' (genuine Chettiar food is different, but that's another story), but I think these communities would also eat it when its calling it 'wild boar', the game status dignifying what are usual just feral pigs. The most famous non-Goan pork dish though is the Coorgi pandi curry, which is really good. Its from the mountainous region of Coorg whose famously good looking inhabitants proudly maintain certain tribal customs, among them the consumption of pork. Genuine pandi curry, which is hard to find in restaurants (Koshy's in Bangalore does a decent version) is mainly spiced with pepper, which grows wild in the region. I think they also make a good pork pickle. The tribal cultures in the North East also eat a lot of pork, but I've never eaten any of these dishes. Vikram
  16. You haven't eaten recently in Bombay then! These days I find cheese - usually unfortunately of the most basic processed kind (Amul) - sprinkled on pretty much everything. What's happened is that the substantial vegetarian population has suddenly started demanding new taste sensations, but still wants it vegetarian and cheese comes in usefully here. So you have cheese stuffed dosas, and cheese on pav bhaji and cheese on chat and cheese on bhel puri and just a couple of days back I found my local vada-pav joint where I sneak to when I want to indulge in carbohydrate overloading has started offering a cheese vada pau. And there are any number of places offering 'East-West' fusion, which tends to mean Indian ingredients deluged in a sea of cheese flavoured white sauce. A very few of these variations are palatable - the cheese dosas aren't that bad. Most however are quite awful which is why I'd go along with Tony in denouncing this unthinking use of cheese as a perversion of Indian cooking. Still, while I'd agree with him about cheese in the French sense being alien to Indian food, I think there are enough examples of its use in the form of paneer and when its well made - i.e. not just basic, tasteless white protein - then paneer can be creamy and delicate enough to count as a cheese in the French sense. I've certainly not been able to detect much difference between some goat cheeses or fresh cow's cheeses and the best paneer. And as SC notes, this paneer is well used by cooks in all sorts of ways. Apart from its use in curries, the Bukhara and Peshawari restaurants from the ITC group serve a paneer staffed nan which is truly wonderful. Cheese also makes me think of Bandel cheese, which I think is worth a different thread, Vikram
  17. Quite close to Trishna, in one of the lanes just off Pherozeshah Mehta Road (if you're at the Stock Exchange, go to Horniman Circle and go straight and its on that road). Apoorva is one of several Mangalorean places like Mahesh Lunch Home and Bharat Lunch Home (which has a fancier first floor restaurant called Excellensea). All of them are quite good, but I think Apoorva is the best value - really good food, at the cheapest rates of all these places. Trishna probably _is_ the best of them all, but has now become so expensive and so focussed on a foreign clientele, that I find it too annoying to eat in. Vikram
  18. The recipe was cajoled out of Ashok himself, along with a few others like a really good one for tisriyo (small clams) which I can post if people are interested. (Suvir, just spoke to Ashok and he says hi to you, and he told me about the fish he made when he last saw you in New York). Monica, do you get banana leaves where you stay? I just read an article on the NYT site about Hawaiian food which talks about locating a banana leaf supplier in NY, and that made me think of my second favourite way of eating pomfret, which is patra ni macchi, the Parsi style, where its wrapped with green chutney in banana leaves. Its one dish I've found that even people who don't like Indian food much, really fall for, because of its lightness and the way the flavours just seem to burst out. Don't have a recipe, but that link I posted has one for the another Parsi style of fish, called saas ni macchi which is pretty good. My favourite way of eating pomfrets is cooked tandoori style, but I'd never dare to do it at home, when I can eat it made so superlatively well in Mangalorean restaurants like Apoorva or Trishna. (I find that the Punjabi restaurants, which should be the guardians of tandoori cooking, tend to go overboard on the marinades for fish, so you don't taste the fish at all. Possibly its because they just slather on the same stuff they use for chicken, but the Mangalorean places, being more fish focussed, treat it separately). Vikram
  19. Try this. Its from my friend Ashok Row Kavi, journalist, AIDS worker, provocateur, pioneering Indian gay activist and the best fish cook I know. Everytime the government's AIDS policy gets him down, he threatens to throw in the towel, give it all up and go to Florida to run a seafood restaurants (why Florida, I don't know). In the meantime, he runs a 24 hour helpline for people who want emergency fish advice. This recipe is written in his own inimitable style. Its is, BTW, is from a collection of recipes I'd compiled which can be accessed, in case anyone is interested, at this link: http://www.gaybombay.cc/reading/cookidx.html Ashok-amma’s pomfret Easiest fish to get and cook is mostly pomfret. It's called the white bass/butterfish etc. Let's stick to the word pomfret. You also get 'black pomfret' or 'halwa' which is liked by some but has a stronger smell. Now try to get to the market on time. After noon, the fish gets a bit gamey. The fish must be moist to the touch and must not bend much when you pick it and hold it by the head. Gills must be red and moist, a sign of a stale fish is pinkish dry gills. Now ask the fisherwoman to make slices about half an inch thick. She usually asks if it is for frying or for curry. Pieces for frying may be a bit thicker than for currries. Wash well till the fish smell is gone. I do that five to six times. Rinse gently as fish slices must stay intact and not break up. Sprinkle salt and half teaspoon turmeric powder, pat pieces as you would a nice looking guy on his bum and keep aside. One big pomfret sliced into say five/six pieces. Discard head if you wish but I keep it for later (to fry and eat with drinks). Masala: (Ambat-teek) You get ready made dehydrated coconut paste at the bania nowadays. Ask him whether he has coconut milk powder. If not, get half a fresh coconut and get the copra out. Slice the copra and drop the pieces into the mixie. Take five red chillies(three if you want a milder curry). Half inch diameter ball of tamarind preserve. Add half cuppa water and wet grind to a fine paste (it must have the feel and consistency of Colgate toothpaste. Then chop half an inch of ginger into julienes and finely chop half a large onion. Keep aside. Pour in masala paste into flat bottomed vessel and heat on slow fire. If the paste is too thick then pour in some water (half a cup) and stir till it simmers.Throw in ginger and stir. Then gently place the fish pieces in the curry and shake the vessel. Do not stir the fish pieces with a ladle as they may break. Sort of shake the vessel as if you're shaking your lover to get out of bed early on Monday morning. Then add exactly one tablespoon of groundnut cooking oil and again shake the vessel gently or mix with ladle without disturbing fish pieces too much. Place your black tadka kadai (every queen must have one. You get them outside main bazars on the street), pour in a teaspoon of oil. Heat to high smoking heat and throw in the finely chopped onion. Fry till golden brown and then pour the whole mess into the curry. Stir to mix the onion garnish well. Strew chopped coriander on top of the simmering curry and give it another minute of simmering. Total cooking time, 15 minutes. Pomfret cooks fast. Can be eaten with bread, steamed rice,or chapattis. Bon appetit. Ashok
  20. Vikram

    Favorite condiment

    One Indian condiment that's not as widely known as it should be is Surati Jiralu, a spice mixture from Gujarat on the west coast. It combines salt, cumin, black salt, chilli, turmeric, dry ginger and asafoetida, all in powder form. Its a bright yellow powder and despite the chilli, not hot at all, but with a wonderful salty-savoury taste. One can eat it sprinkled on tomatoes or other raw veggies, on bread or khakras (crisp flatbread), but it is the best, repeat, THE BEST, thing to eat sprinkled on plain fresh yoghurt, Vikram
  21. What about the other way round? What have been the influences of the war on Vietnamese cooking? For example, isn't the use of condensed milk in Vietnamese coffee - which I totally love - a result of the war? Vikram
  22. Good question, since I just spent much of last evening rearranging my spices! I don't like the traditional Indian seven spice dabba (box), a fact that lead to some contention between my mother and I when she was visiting a few weeks back. She wanted to know how I could function without one and wanted to buy me one. I said, no way. One reason I think a traditional dabba doesn't work for me is that they are designed for traditional families who cook mostly only one type of food, so would generally use just 6-7 types of spices depending on that region. But I cook across regions, so I need a wider range more regularly. Even then I guess there are some spices I use more commonly than others, but I also found myself being quite clumsy with the dabba. I would regularly spill spice from one compartment into another (the turmeric in particular seemed to go everywhere), would jostle about even more when I struggled to open the lid, I'd lose the small spoon that goes inside and so on. Eventually I found I just stopped using it and when I moved to my own place, I left it behind in my old shared apartment. The way I arrange spices now is dictated in part by the design of my new kitchen. There already was a small rack near the stove when I moved in and there, I've found, my more commonly used spices have come to rest, like turmeric, chilli powder (hot), cumin and coriander powders (separately and mixed, so counts as three) powder, sea and plain salt, whole and powdered pepper, asafoetida and whole mustard grains. Everything else goes in a shelf in the cabinet, which is what I was rearranging last night. I put the biggest jars at the back - dried bay leaves, whole cinnamon sticks - along with bottles of flavourings like nam pla. Then the spices I use rarely like mace and nutmeg, ajwain (thymol, I think its called), ginger powder, dried manjo powder, pomegranite seeds, caraway, nigella seeds, black cardamom and so on. Then a row of spice mixtures - chat masala, chole (chickpea masala), sambhar powder, tandoori masala, Surati jiyaralu, dhansak masala and East Indian bottle masala. (No flak for not mixing my own please, life is too short to mix something you're only going to use a pinch of every now and then. I discard and refresh every six months or so). And then the spices I use reasonably regularly but not everyday, like fenugreek seeds, aniseed, whole coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon powder, poppyseeds, Kashmiri chilli powder, tabasco sauce. Which leaves enough side on the side for extra packets of spices and some pickles. What I haven't figured out where to do with is the different types of chillies. This is a bit of a passion since I think one of the worst things that is happening with Indian food in India is a standardisation of chilli types due to the increased use of pre packed spices or what's sold in supermarkets. The different local types of chillies are getting harder to find, particularly in large metros like Bombay, with the result that everyone just ends up using those damn Kashmiri chillies, which have colour, but no taste, and just one other variety (usually Begdes here). So I try and buy dried chillies wherever I can find them, but storing them properly is a problem, since they accumulate and I really can't use all of them that often. But they have to be well stored or even dried ones go bad, especially now in the monsoons. I just found a couple of packets of small chillies from Kerala and some big, parrot's beak shaped ones have all gone mouldy and I had to throw them away. This is a problem a lot of cooks I know face. One of the best chefs I know, Praveen Anand of Dakshin in Madras, has a really huge collection of local South Indian chillies, and has to put serious effort into keeping track of them. One other problem of keeping spices at least in India, is that the spices one buys from the market are often not cleaned that well. I'm not saying they are that insanitary, but that however well cleaned they seem and however careful you are to keep them from dampness, you often find small bugs crawling in them after a while. Coriander seed is particularly prone to this, and also panchphoron, the Bengali five spice mixture. I know keep panchphoron at least in the fridge. Vikram
  23. Raw mustard seed oil has such a strong taste and smell that it tends to be disliked by communities not used to it - and adored by those who are. In India its one of the essential ingredients in Bengali cooking, used more as a flavouring than a cooking medium. Its also why many people from other communities claim not to like Bengali food, much to their loss, in my opinion. In some Indian traditions mustard oil has a connotation of being earthy and sensual - not in an altogether positive sense. the word used is tamasik, which in ayurveda means inclined to sensual, violent, somewhat wild tendencies. Its the attribute of the god Shiva and in opposition to sattvik, the pure, refined, serene attributes of Vishnu. The sattvik cooking medium is ghee. Achaya writes (in his Companion to Indian Food: "In the Chandimangala, written in the sixteenth century by Mukundram Chakravarti, the tamasic nature of Lord Shiva is reflected in the fact that his food is cooked not in ghee, which is a luminous sattvika product, but in pungent mustard oil." Its also worth noting that the flavour and smell are very much reduced when the oil is heated, so it has to be used raw if the flavour is required, Vikram PS: I'm amused to note how careful you are to distinguish your use of the term East Indian! I never meant to sound so dogmatic about it, so I promise not to take off on anyone in the future for using it!
  24. The subject of nimmish, the milk froth sweet, in a recent thread, made me think about the importance of earthenware in general for Indian milk sweets. Its all too common these days to find sweets that are traditionally served in those throwaway earthenware cups, like Bengali mishti dhoi (sweet curd) or Muslim phirni (rice pudding), being served in plastic tubs. Apart from aesthetics, it seems to me that the stuff in plastic never tastes the same and I wonder if the earthenware could be considered to be part of the cooking process. Does the earthenware leach away some of the water content in the milk based sweet, leaving what remains even denser and creamier? It certainly seems that way everytime I manage to get my hands on mishti dhoi or phirni in the authentic earthenware cups. And if this is the case, is it possible at all to duplicate or compensate for it, if you don't happen to have a potter in your backyard, turning out piles of throwaway earthen cups? ' Vikram
  25. This is nimmish which you're right is usually associated with UP, but you get similar products in other parts of India too. It could have spread from UP though, given the way that 'bhaiyas' from UP work as milkmen in many other parts of India. The door to door milk trade in Bombay is still run by UP bhaiyas, who also sell other milk porducts like kulfi (though as my earlier post noted, they aren't a patch on the Punjabis when it comes to paneer). Whatever its origins, its still claimed as a specialty by different communities. I've heard of it in Hyderabad while here in Bombay, the Parsis claim it as 'dudh na puff'. Its one of those big nostalgia things for Parsis who as kids used to spend winter holidays with relatives in the villages in Gujarat where the oldest Parsi communities are located. You can get it in Bombay, on early winter mornings in certain localities, but I've never been motivated enough to get up in time. (A Parsi friend I just checked with says that despite Parsi claims, in Bombay at least its mostly made by Khoja Muslims who sell it to Parsis). The aristocratic link I guess is that you probably needed to be aristocratic to be able to have the sort of servants who'd devote early mornings to whipping up milk froth. I think the base is slightly thickened sweet milk (though maybe not as much as rabri). I wonder if with todays refrigerators and electric whisks it would be possible to duplicate it in the kitchen? Vikram
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