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Vikram

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Everything posted by Vikram

  1. This is so true. The neighbourhood in Bombay where I live, Khar, was one of the areas where refugees from Partition settled so there is a substantial Punjabi presence. And in consequence, the quality of what's on offer in the local dairies is amazing. In particular there's one place, generally acknowledged to be the best, where the paneer is simply incredible. Instead of the tasteless mass of white protein one gets in most places, this is creamy and very slightly salty - its as good or better than any feta cheese I've ever eaten.
  2. Please let me apologise if my post offended you - I certainly did NOT mean it as a personal attack in anyway. I guess my writing style, which is probably linked to my professional food writing style, does tend to the slightly acerbic and perhaps that carried onto this post, but I really don't see how that translates into 'vitriolic'. (And yes, I do think you're being a bit too sensitive). I agree that my post was unrelated to your query and perhaps 'unnecessary', but then isn't that part of the interest of forums like this, that discussions can lead in unexpected directions? The question of contexts is an interesting one - where does one respect the context a person is coming from and where can one expect the person to respect _your_ context? No easy answers here I guess and to prove that I just came across East Indian in a different context. This was in a petition about a lawyer of Indian origin now in jail in Arizona. The petition referred to him as East Indian and I think in this political context it made sense, since 'Indian' in the 'Native American' has still not been entirely superseded by the latter term in political contexts. The context here is a specifically Indian forum on a forum devoted to food knowledge, so I think I could fairly argue - as I said in my mail - that the term Indian takes precedence. (It would be interesting though if Native Americans started posting on their food!) and my post was just trying to point that out. Correction: I didn't say restaurants serving gustaba are crap, I said restaurants in Goa serving it are likely to be crap, which if you have any experience of resort cooking in India is a fairly safe prediction. I agree I have a bit of a bee in the bonnet about north Indian food, but again its not actual north Indian/punjabi food I'm talking about. I love genuine north Indian/punjabi food and cook it most of the time (South Indian dishes are often too much effort to fit into a busy week). What I can't stand and will always attack is the bastardised version that has spread its poisonous, over-spiced, all-made-from-the-same-onion-base, swimming-in-butter tentacles into 'Indian' restaurants around the world. Such food is even more of an insult to north Indian/punjabi than to the other Indian styles of cooking which it merely overlooks rather than perverts in such a horrifying way. Vikram
  3. An Indian friend of mine from New York who was passing through Bombay last night told me that its quite easy to get frozen uncooked parottas, the divinely flaky Kerala version of parathas, in Indian shops in NY. She said that all you need to do is put them on a hot griddle, flip after a point and you'll have wonderful, although hugely calorific, parottas. Just before leaving for India she had made a big batch of beef curry and got a stack of parottas and left them for her husband to work his way through until she returned. Has anyone on this list tried this? Vikram
  4. Please, please, I don't want to be rude, but 'East Indian' - in the sense that I think you are using - is a completely crap term. I know its used in the US to distinguish Indian dishes from West Indian dishes, but I think on egullet.com at least one could be entitled not to see it. As the original, I think Indian dishes should just be called 'Indian', with 'West Indian' for dishes from the West Indies. Ideally of course you should clarify it further and say North Indian, if you're talking about the generic Indian food mostly eaten in the US, or South Indian or East Indian if that happens to be what you are serving (I suppose even more ideally, you should stick to the particular names like Malayali or Bengali, but a certain amount of regional interplay is acceptable, I think). And yes, I see where the objection will be coming from - what about food from West India like Maharashtrian, Gujarati, Goan, etc. Well, I think in that case we could agree to say not West Indian, but Western Indian (lets forget that that term could probably be applied to lots of the Indian food one gets in the West (UK/US), but not in India like chicken tikka masala). The reason one needs to be specific is that there really is something called East Indian food which, _very_ confusingly, is made in West India, in Bombay and the region immediately around it. Its the cooking of the local Christian community, mostly descendents of converts made first by the Portuguese when they owned Bombay, and then the British after they received it as part of Catherine of Braganza's dowry. For a long time this community just called itself Christian, until Bombay's economic boom in the 19th century (because of the American Civil War, how do you like that connection?) started attracting Goan Christians to the city. Not particularly pleased at this influx, the local Christians decided to rechristen themselves and, defying any geographical logic, chose to call themselves 'East Indians' as a rather dubious way to show their loyalty to the British East India company. The food is distinguished from Goan cooking through several ways -less use of toddy vinegar or specifically Goan flavourings like triphala berries. Its slightly blander, reflecting the British influence rather than the undiluted Portuguese influence in Goa. What its best known for though is bottle masala - a spice mixture made from over 12-15 different local spices, which are dried and ground once every year and stored in old beer bottles (hence the name). its great stuff, savoury, but not hot and if that is indeed what you're using, my grovelling apologies. But otherwise, please just stick with Indian, Vikram PS: And as far as your bread query goes, parathas store and heat up quite well because of the fat that goes into making them.
  5. Adding to this thread after a weekend conversation with Praveen Anand, executive chef of Dakshin, the ITC Welcomngroups's South Indian speciality restaurant that started in Madras and now has branches in other cities in India. Chef Praveen was in Bombay in connection with the festival of Madaliar cooking that's being held this week at the Dakshin in the ITC Grand Maratha. I tend to avoid food festivals, since I find them rather artificial occasions and no real test of a restaurant's capabilities, but I made an exception here since Chef Praveen is a really nice guy and one of the most knowledgeable people about the intricacies of different types of South Indian cooking. (If anyone is in Bombay and wants to go for this, I'd say that Mudaliar food is never going to set the books on fire - even literally, since its noticeably less hot than other types of Southern non-veg cooking like Andhra or Chettiar. But its pleasant enough and two dishes are outstanding - mutton chops coated in a pepper mixture (no chillies, which according to Praveen indicates its a really old recipe, predating the introduction of chillies from the West) and prawns cooked with drumstick tree leaves which was fantastic, the leaves adding a faint bitterness that very well contrasted with the prawns). But coming to the curry leaves, one of the things Praveen told me in passing was that one trick he did quite often, for example with the mutton chops I mentioned, was right at the end, to finish them off with a dusting of powdered dried curry leaves. He said that quite a few south Indian cooks did this, adding the powdered dried curry leaves as a final aromatic touch before serving the dish, Vikram
  6. Its interesting to note how these old war recipes can become relevant again under different circumstances. I've got friends who are strict Jains, a sect for which not just meat is forbidden, but anything that can remotely be said to be 'alive' or the consumption of which could result in killing animals. So no root vegetables since digging them can kill worms and other creatures in the soil. No eating food kept overnight, since by then bacteria could make it too alive. Even yoghurt can only be eaten on the same day that its made. And obviously eggs are way too full of potential life to be eaten. This naturally rules out most cake recipes, but I remember reading how an American lady married to a Jain man in Bombay wanted to make cakes that would be acceptable to her new family so she unearthed some of these old war recipes from her own family and started producing eggless cakes that were a huge hit. Making eggless cakes is now a profitable business for many bakeries here in Bombay. Vikram
  7. This list of fish commonly used on the Konkan coast might be of use. I compiled it because I was taking friends from abroad to the many small Konkani restaurants in Bombay where you get a great range of fish, much more than just the pomfret-surmai-rawas you get in the bigger places. But the problem is that the menus in these places are only in Marathi so you're faced with all these names you don't know and find hard to describe to foreign friends. Also now that I've started going to the wonderful Mahim fish market I needed some guide to dealing with the amazing range of fish you get there. So I enlisted the help of a friend who's a Saraswat Brahmin, a community for whom life without fish is impossible to imagine, but who's now living in Oxford so has to keep looking for substitutes for the fish he's used to cooking. This is what he's come up with: - Pomfret - is there an English equivalent? No. Here also it is called 'pomfret' when one sees it in chinese stores. - Bangda - Mackerel, but the mackerel we get here are closer to Surmai than to bangda. - Surmai - King Mackerel, they say in the US, but here it goes as 'Kingfish'. - Halwa - black pomfret - Mudadhushi - the veritable 'lady fish' - Mori - shark - Ravas - I translate it as sort of a 'large Sea Bass' - Karli - No name, I'm afraid. In its entirety it resembles a straight sword and is extremely boney - has to be cut in a specific way similar to a Pike. - Bhingi - sort of herring but bonier. - Pedi - similar to herring - Tarlya - Sardines, the only fish common to both shores in absolute equanimity - Mandeli - no name, but to adopt an aquarium equivalent it could be called a 'golden swordtail'. - Dhodiyare - Mullets - Bombil - Bombay Duck - Verlya - sort of Whitebait - Tisrya - I would say mussels or cockles. - Khube - here I guess 'clams' would be more appropriate - Kurlya - crabs - Gaboli - fish roe Since the Konkan extends roughly from north of Bombay down to Mangalore, the fish caught in its waters would include the Goan ones. The only exception would be Bombil or Bombay Duck, which is really only found around Bombay. Also, a Goan friend tells me that the fishes valued most in Goa are slightly different from those up north. In Bombay, Pomfret rules, but in Goa its just another fish, while its Dhodiyare or Mullet which gets the highest prices. Hope this helps, Vikram
  8. Vikram

    Banana Pudding

    Straying in from the India discussion forums, I'm half Malayali, from the southern Indian state of Kerala where bananas are important. Banana chips, often fresh fried off the roadside, are a common snack, fried bananas a teatime treat and the fresh ones area savoured in their different types and sizes: small sweet finger bananas, fat little bananas said to taste of cardamom, big ones that are green yet ripe inside, others that look all yellow and mottled and overripe when in fact that's when they are at their best, and above all, the really extraordinary looking red bananas with their heavily sweet taste. Among all these bananas, my favourite way of eating them was a very basic banana pudding we'd sometimes get as kids if the remains of dinner had the required ingredients. My mother called it generically Kerala pudding or by a Malayali name, pappadam pallam which means poppadums and bananas. It was made very simply by mashing some bananas, ideally almost over ripe with a fork, then mixing in some boiled rice left over from dinner and sugar and a little ghee. Finally four or five poppadums, these are the crisp fried golden South Indian ones (NOT roasted North Indian ones), are smashed up and the crisp crumbs sprinkled over the banana mush and that was it. Its really a nursery pudding which is probably why I remember it so lovingly, but I also think its very simply bliss. Ripe mushy bananas with rice for body and ghee and sugar for added richness and finally poppadums for a contrast in texture... banana flavoured bliss. Vikram
  9. Looking for Goan recipes online and found this site, which seems significantly better than the others: http://www.goacom.com/cuisine/recipes/ Haven't tried the recipes myself, but what seems good is that it doesn't have the obvious recipes like vindaloo and sorpotel, but the lesser known ones that you only eat in Goan homes. Like apa de camaroes, a totally dreamy prawn 'pie' made with a prawn balchao (pickle) filling and a crust of rice dough raised with toddy. The spiciness of the balchao counterpoints the starchiness of the crust beautifully. Its quite a time consuming dish to make, since you probably have to make the balchao first, but the final result is well worth it. Some of the ingredients will probably be easy to get, but I think it should be quite easy to find substitutes, since the spirit of these dishes is Portuguese, even if made with Indian ingredients. Even the toddy... wonder if beer with perhaps a bit of yeast for a further kicker could be substituted? Vikram
  10. Goshtabha has absolutely nothing to do with Goa, unless its served in some of the substandard resorts that clutter up the place. Bebinca is very Goan though and is a dessert that must qualify it for some sort of cholesterol loading contest. Its made of flour, sugar, coconut milk and tons of egg yolks, floavoured with nutmeg and made into a batter that is cooked with ghee in a pan on a slow flame, or baked in an oven. The way its done, you put in some batter, cook it, then put in another layer and cook, then another and so on until you end up with this layered cake, rubbery textured and ultra rich tasting. It should be noted that there are two types of Goan cooking - Christian and Hindu, the former differing in its use of pork and beef and toddy vinegar. Both use lots of fish and coconut, while Hindu cooking uses the sour kokam fruit that's common to all the cooking of the Konkan coast. The Portuguese influence is interesting both for what it brought from Portugal - the liberal use of yolks, salt cod, spicy pork, bread, vinegar and very syrupy port wine - as for the exchange of influences from other Portuguese colonies. Its interesting in fact to look at the Portuguese influence across Asia, from Goa, I think touching on Ceylon before the Dutch took over, Malacca in Malaysia where I've been told it may have influenced nonya cuisine and Macao where it links with Chinese. And there's Africa. I have eaten Chicken cafreal, which I think means African Chicken, in Macao and also in Goan restaurants - the dish comes from the Portueguese colony of Mozambique. Last year in Johannesburg I ate in a Portuguese restaurant started by immigrants from Mozambique and the common spirit with Goa was unmistakable, in the crusty bread, the vinho verde and salt cod (neither easy to get in Goa now but spoken about by older Goans), the piri-piri sauce made with vinegar. My one favourite Goan dish though is Goa sausages or choriz which are made with spices and vinegar so the pork is almost pickled and can stay good unrefrigerated. The spices and vinegar gives them the most amazing spicy-sour taste, quite unlike anything else you'll encounter in India. As it happens yesterday I took an American friend to Martin's, one of the few decent Goan places in Bombay, and he was raving about them, comparing them to everything from goulash to Brazilian dishes. If you ever get your hands on them - presumably clandestinely since their preparation is not exactly hygienic and unlikely ever to get past the US authorities - then you could just stew them with onions (they have so much fat you don't need to add any) or as I do, pressure cook them with onions, tomatoes and potatoes which should hopefully kill off any nasty things lurking inside. Martin's fries them in a way I have never managed to learn and in Goa you get them more dry cooked so they can be stuffed in buns for choriz-pau which I suppose could be seen as the Goan version of a hotdog... maybe someone in New York should think of serving these, Vikram
  11. Don't know, its just the standard red-yellow coloured pumpkin one gets here, usually fairly large so its sold to you in slices. I'd guess that any fairly firm fleshed squash or pumpkin could do. Sai bhaji is pretty much an empty-out-your-vegetable-bin sort of dish so most things can go in. I warn you, it does not look appetising, but the taste is good, Vikram
  12. Interesting question. I think it depends on how you are defining herbs. What's the dividing line between a spice and a herb? Is it that herbs come from leaves and shoots rather than berries or bark or roots? But there are lots of leaves and shoots used in Indian cooking, many of them not well known, not just abroad, but not even in India outside their regional areas. Tamil cooking, for example, has a whole range of 'keerais' or leaves like mullukeerai, araikeerai and kuppukeerai which, according to Achaya, are members of the amaranth family - he refers to them as amaranth pot herbs. Bengali cooking has shukto, a dish made from bitter leaves which could be from the neem tree or several other plants. A friend with a husband from Karnataka tells me that their traditional cooking uses lots of leaves not known outside the state. I think the more you go into rural areas, tribal cultures, the more such leaves you'll find. When are all these considered herbs and when are they considered indegenous vegetables? If you stick to the herbs acknowledged by Western cooking then a simple reason for many not being used is that they aren't local and probably don't grow. Fresh sage, rosemary and thyme has only recently started coming into the Bombay market from specialty farms near the hills. Of those which are used, others have already mentioned cilantro, mint, methi (fenugreek greens), basil, curry leaves, and don't forget dill. Under the name suva or sooa bhaji its quite widely available in local markets and not just with the sellers who stock fancy vegetables. Fresh dill is the essential ingredient in Sindhi sai-bhaji, a dish best described as vegetable mush and not one that is ever going to win any prizes for great looking dishes. But its one of those low key delicious dishes, not with any hit you in the face flavour but quietly sustaining. Its also very cheap and simple to make, one of those dishes you can make over the weekend and then keep in the fridge to eat over the week. Its particularly good to eat then when you come back home late and tired because of the way it tastes, real comfort cooking. For extra health, here's an oil free recipe from Karen Anand's Lean Cuisine Cooking: Ingredients: 3 bunches (half kilo) spinach, washed and chopped 3 onions, chopped 2" piece ginger, chopped + 6 cloves garlic chopped (or cheat and use a couple of teaspoons of readymade ginger-garlic paste) 3 tomatoes, blanched in hot water, skinned and chopped 1 cup red pumpkin 1 medium aubergine chopped 1 potato, peeled and chopped 1 carrot, peeled and chopped Half cup channe ka dhal (split chickpeas) soaked for at least 2-3 hours 2 tablespoons chopped dill 4-6 green chillies Salt Put all the ingredients except the spinach and salt into a vessel, along with half a cup water and cook on a low flame, stirring occasionally. Cook till the veggies become soft and pulpy (you can also pressure cook it for a couple of whistles). Add the spinach and keep cooking, stirring fairly frequently. As you stir, mash the vegetables, till in the end you get a well cooked mush. Add salt to taste. Vikram
  13. She's not bad. She did one very good thing by combining her own reviews with a Zagat style approach of throwing her column open to readers and starting a phone line for them to call in too with their opinions, suggestions and requests. These really did throw up some gems, particularly from the more distant suburbs. She tends to be a bit gushy for my taste, but doesn't mind handing out the brickbats when needed. Karen was also good, but has largely stopped restaurant reviewing and has moved to Pune where she runs a successful food business and cooking school. Maryam Reshi is the other good reviewer for Delhi and has just come out with a book for the Hindustan Times, Vikram
  14. Don't. Its completely outdated (Gul Anand died about three years back and it was outdated even then). But there's no dearth of guides for most of the bigger cities at least. In Bombay the local newspapers, Mid-Day and The Times of India (I work for a sister publication), have come out with fairly extensive guides. Rashmi Uday Singh who's done the Mid-Day one and now writes for the Times, is pretty much the doyenne of this in Bombay. In Delhi The Times and The Hindustan Times have recently come out with guides, and there's another, very nice and more discrusive one called Flavours of Delhi produced, I think, by Penguin. Vikram
  15. Hoping these old threads are still being read. I have a theory that in each region of India there is one totally food obsessed city. This doesn't quite mean the same as the type of city detailed by Suvir where you can get to eat a very wide range of good Indian cooking. That city exists and, even if you make allowance for the fact thjat I'm not entirely objective on this, its Bombay. Nowhere else are you going to get such a wide range of styles of eating simply because no other city in India has been created like Bombay, the city to which immigrants from all other parts of the country have come to find their fortunes. Other cities are dominated by a local culture. Since Partition Delhi has been Punjabi dominated (except for the Muslim gullies of Chandni Chowk). Madras is overwhelmingly Tamil, Calcutta is Bengali, Hyderabad was Muslim, but is now mostly Telugu and so on. Bangalore perhaps comes closest to Bombay in being formed by immigrants rather than locals, but its still too new and unsure of its self to have a clear identity. Only in Bombay do you find a strong city-identity not linked to the local culture - despite everything that the zealots in the Shiv Sena want to claim (the Mahrashtrian centre is Pune). So Bombay is your best bet for a wide range of eating styles, especially if you're willing to get out of the five star hotel traps. For those who might be interested, I'll paste a list after this that I'd made for a WSJ journalist friend who was coming to do a piece on eating out in Bombay. (I should also add that Bombay is not perfect. Some styles of cooking you don't really get here, or don't get very well. The one formal Malayali restaurant, which I've listed, is actually quite crap and its a mystery why so close to Goa, Martin's continues to be the only really good Goan restaurant - the [NYT praised] tourist trap of Goa Portuguesa notwithstanding). But coming back to my original point, I don't think Bombay is really that food obsessed - who has the time? Bombay is really only obsessed with one thing: making money. The real food obsessed city in Western India is Ahmedabad where a huge and happy to spend Gujarati middle class is quite happy to go totally nuts in their pursuit of particular (usually vegetarian) foodstuffs. Its the really local, offbeat ones they go most nuts for, like ponkh, roasted green jowar (millet, I think) which you only get in winter, or another winter specialty, oondhiyoo, a mix of vegetables slathered in green garlic chutney and roasted in a sealed pot (ideally out in the fields where its buried in a pile of hay that's set on fire). Oh and Amdavadis, as they are called, go nuts about ice cream of any kind. The food obsessed city in North India isn't Delhi - as I said, too Punjabi and politics focused, though you are at least getting some variety in the food (but unfortunately not the politics) - but Lucknow. This is where you get dum pukhed cooking, also cooked in a sealed pot and all the best kebabs. Lucknowis will go on to almost tedious effect about Tunde mian's supersoft kebabs. The food obsessed city in Eastern India is obviously Calcutta (what other city is there in Eastern India anyway...) I think Simon is a bit overstating it to say don't go to India if you don't go to Cal, but you will certainly eat very well there. BBhasin has mentioned most of the good places and I'd only add that Tangra is the best area for Chinese food, K.C.Das on Esplanade for Bengali sweets (personal choice, devotees of Bhim Nag or Nobin Chandra please excuse me), Nahoum's bakery in New Market was supposed to close down, but luckily still seems around to dish out macaroons and vanilla fudge. And best of all, the last few years have finally seen someone rectifying the weirdest absence of a good Bengali restaurant. I haven't eaten at Kewpie's, but everyone says its totally outstanding. In the South the most food obsessed city is certainly not Madras, in fact its probably the least food interested city in India. The Tamil Brahmins who dominate the city aren't particularly interested in food and for years it was hard to get anything other than the standard iddli-dosa-'meals' (excuse the slight bitterness, but I spent many adolescent years in Madras). That has changed recently, with a greater variety both international (rather strangely Madras is a very good place to eat Korean food, because of the big local Hyundai plant) and local, with the sudden explosion in 'Chettinad' restaurants, about which I have lots of opinions, but this is probably not the right place. The real food obsessed place in South India is Hyderabad. This dates back to the Nizam's days where, as in Lucknow, a Muslim (and Hindu to some extent) aristocracy could support the quest for an ultra refined court cuisine. I don't much like biriani, but the Hyderabad version is the one style I find palatable. Their haleem, a meat and wheat stew is one reason to go there during Ramzaan. I have never had a more delicate ice cream than the fresh melon one at the Moazam Jha Market and there is not better stewed fruit dish than qubbani-ka-meetha, stewed spiced dried apricots served with cream. Its true that the Telugu culture that has taken over Hyderabad has less interest in this sort of food, but go to the gullis near Charminar and you'll still find it. And the hearty, basically peasant Telugu cooking is not bad at all if you have the stomach for SERIOUS spiciness (and can get your hands on their dynamite chillies). Also they have two of the best Indian pickles with gongura (the saour tasting leaves of a local shrub) and their ginger pickle, which is wonderfully fresh and gingery tasting and deserves to be much better known. Hope all this is of interest to someone. Also the list of Bombay restaurants I'm pasting below, Vikram Bombay eating, in no particular order - Mangalorean (seafood, all downtown) · Trishna · Mahesh · Apoorva · Excellensea - Konkani/Malvani · Anantashram · Saayba (Bandra) · Gajalee (Vile Parle East) · Sindhudurg (Dadar) · Konkan Cafe - five star hotel style (President) - Gujarati · Rajdhani · Friends Union Joshi Club · Panchavati Gaur - Bengali · Oh Calcutta - Tamil (Mysore) · Udipi Shree Ramanayaka (Matunga East) · couple of more places, some possibly more typically Tamil in that area · Dakshin - five star hotel style (Grand Maratha), all South Indian regions, far out near airport - Parsi/Irani · Britannia · Jimmy Boys - Muslim (Chillia) · Olympia - Muslim (Mughlai) · Shalimar · all the small places near Minara Masjid · Dum Pukht - five star hotel style (Grand Maratha), for the Lucknowi dum pukt (closed cooking) style, far out near airport - Punjabi/Frontier (tandoori) · Crystal (home style vegetarian Punjabi) · Peshawari - five star hotel style (Grand Maratha), far out near airport - Goan/East Indian · Martin’s · Goa Portueguesa (Mahim) - Sindhi · Kailash Parbat - Malayali · Rice Boats - General · Swati Snacks · Indigo · Tea Centre · Prithvi Cafe (Juhu) · Samovar
  16. Reading through some of the past threads on this board. I think the correct vinegar to use for Goan dishes is toddy vinegar, which is made from fermented toddy which is tapped from palm trees. Its a dark and tangy product and really the only vinegar I use for Indian dishes since the alternative is the totally chemical tasting synthetic stuff. I use it in particular for Syrian Christian style beef which is one of my fallback recipes. Don't know what sort of vinegar Syrian Christians use in Kerala, but its probably something similar. My Goan friends tell me that an alternative in their dishes that use vinegar like balchao or vindaloo is to use feni, the local Goan moonshine which can be distilled from coconut toddy or cashew apples (the fruit part, from which the but develops). Haven't tried either since I think feni is way too rank to drink, but it might be interesting. Vikram
  17. Yes live in Bombay, but grew up both here and in Madras and studied in Calcutta, so lucky enough to get exposure to lots of good and different cooking (I'm half Gujarati and half Malayali which helps a bit more). You should have been in Bombay this summer since for the first time in years it didn't rain earlier on and spoil the Alphonso crop. The market was full of the most amazing mangoes at affordable rates - well, relatively affordable, since it was still around Rs400/- for two dozen, but really good ones. I still think Alphonsos are too good to be made into aamras, or eaten any other way really, other than just chilled, but this year I was just willing to consider it! Vikram
  18. Most of these breads are fairly readily available in Bombay which is the other reason why I don't make them myself (apart from the fact, as I said earlier, that they aren't that easy to make). Many of the griddle breads really depend on someone making them almost directly in front of you, so I don't see them as being easy to make at home without a fulltime cook in the kitchen or in a regular bakery. Of the ones I've listed, thalipith I eat all the time, especially with the besan ka pitla - chickpea flour curry - at Swati Snacks, the best place in Bombay for traditional vegetarian dishes of this kind. Vade is a must everytime I'm eating in a Konkani restaurant which serves the coastal seafood of this region. Rotlis are harder to get and usually require my gearing myself to pay one of my very infrequent visits to some of my Guajrati relatives over here. Pathiri is impossible to get outside Kerala, and not that easy to find there either. You have to go to North Kerala to cities like Calicut which is the Moplah heartland. I last ate them in Palghat at the house of an aunt who hires a Moplah girl to help her in the kitchen. Parotta luckily is easier to find - its one dish that Malayalis have taken on their migration and if you ask around and find a restaurant run by Malayalis you'll find they sometimes make it for themselves. One other type of bread I forgot to mention, is so unusual I have never even seen a recipe for it. In my family its called Neypattal and is made from a stiff rice flour dough that is made into a ball and then pinched in five corners to form a star shape and deepfried. Very delicious and looks great. I realised there were several sweet flatbreads I forgot - the whole category of breads stuffed with some variation on sweetened chickpea flour called puran-poli. There are actually quite wide variations within this - I can think of at least four: a thick North Indian style paratha with sweet chickpea flour filling, the even thicker - almost an inch - cakelike version made by the Parsis, the small, very plump versions bursting with hot ghee made by the Gujaratis and my favourite, the large, thin, very dry puran-polis made by Maharashtrians that are eaten dipped in milk. I'll try and post recipes for the breads I've mentioned, but as I said, in most cases I haven't tried them. The easiest will probably be thalipith, and here's a recipe from bawarchi.com which is generally quite reliable. http://www.bawarchi.com/contribution/contrib1418.html (Note on ingredients: I guess millet and sorghum could be used for the bajra and jowar flours, or flour from any similar grains. Besan is chickpea flour. Dhania-jeera is a coriander-cumin spice blend) Vikram
  19. No, as Suvir says, most Indian fasts (barring some of the extreme Jain fasts) are based on the principle of giving up a few things, which has lead to a great deal of ingenuity with the ingredients one can use. Looking at more than just fasts, one could almost argue that one of the most interesting features of Indian cooking is the way the many religious taboos have spurred creativity in the choice and use of ingredients. (Perhaps in the same way as Jewish cooking?) So Jain food could easily sound like the most bleak and austere cuisine: no meats obviously, but also no root vegetables (might kill animals while digging them up), no leafy vegetables in the monsoons (that's then there are animals likely to be living in them), no food kept overnight (since it becomes too 'alive') which rules out any long fermented products and so on. Yet Jain food is wonderful, delicious and inventive (and also quite healthy). The best gatte-ke-saag, curried chickpea dumplings, I have ever eaten comes from a Jain household I know and there are hundreds of other dishes like that. You will always eat very well in a Jain household. (The other interesting aspect of such proscriptions is that Jain food is acceptable to other communities which also follow dietary restrictions, but almost never as severe as the Jains. So in Antwerp where Gujarati Jains and Orthodox Jews work side by side in the diamond business, the Jews often are quite happy to eat with the Jains at weddings and functions though, of course, not vice versa [but the Jews are apparently hiring Jain caterers for their events]. (Or there's now a sizeable community of Israeli students who come backpacking in India after their military service and apparently one of the attractions is that for the observant, food is less of a problem that elsewhere since Indian vegetarian food qualifies as kosher). But coming back to the fasting questions, there are many other interesting dishes that are cooked for fasts or occasions when special diets are required. Some of these might be hard to replicate elsewhere - I don't exactly imagine that its easy to find raw jackfruit which is cooked like meat to such good effect its known as tree-goat - but others like the Maharashtrian upvas ones which use tapioca might be. I can see these being of value to people who suffer from gluten allergies. Perhaps we should start a separate thread on fasting foods? Vikram
  20. I've been reading this thread and the earlier Indian bread threads highlighted and was rather disappointed to find that its got such a strong North Indian focus. I suppose that's inevitable since most people posting here seem to be from outside India and Indian food outside India does tend to be dominated by North Indian food. Whatever the reason it needs correcting, not just because there are many breads from other parts of the country, but also because they are so delicious. Many of the breads, particularly those from Western India are really delicious and healthy multigrain breads, while for lightness and delicacy _nothing_ can compare to pathiri, rice flour flatbread from the Kerala Muslim community. Compared to these many North Indian breads can seem pretty greasy and leaden (yes, I'm not a great fan of North Indian things - how did you guess...). Someone excluded dosas, which are well known, which I guess means the thread is focussing on flatbreads made from dough rather than batter. So lets exclude all products based on fermented rice flour batter like dosas, iddlies, addai, appams, panniyaram, pesarattu, Mangalorean neer dosa and Goan sannas. Lets also stick to griddle or tandoor baked breads which means excluding steamed breads like Kerala puttu or iddiyappams (string hoppers). That would still leave you with: - pathiri - very fine and delicate white chappati like breads made from rice flour. They're a speciality of the Moplahs - Kerala Muslim community and according to one of my Malayali aunts, impossible to make by anyone other than a Mplah woman. - parotta - as the name suggests, this is sort of the Kerala version of parathas, but the way its made it turns out all flaky in a way very different from parathas. (They are also called Ceylon parathas). To get an idea of what they look like check this link: http://www.kairalee.com/recipes/vegetarian/parotta.htm - vade - a Konkani (Western Indian) dish that looks like thick puris, but are much tastier and healthier since they are made from a rice and lentil dough. Not to be confused with wadas, which are fried lentil flour cakes, often, but not always, doughnut shaped. - rotlis - the Gujarati version of chapattis, but much thinner and finer due to the liberal use of ghee while making them. Rotlis are made from wheat flour, but there are variations on this like Parsi chokha ni rotli made from rice flour. Parsis have some breads of their own like papeta-na-paratha which is like alu-parathas. - thalipith - this is a really outstanding Maharashtrian multigrain bread. Its made from the flour of at least four grains - wheat, rice, millet, sorghum, plus chickpea flour as well (in Bombay you can buy the flours readymixed) which are all kneaded with onions, chillies, coriander leaves and ghee to a thick dough and then baked on a griddle. Its fantastic especially when eaten with chickpea flour curry (besan-ka-pitla). There's also an interesting upvas or 'fasting' version meant to be eaten during religious festivals when certain cereals aren't supposed to be eaten so you use substitutes like tapioca. If people are interested I could post recipes for these, though not my own. I find these breads - like all breads I guess - really difficult to make. The simplicity of the ingredients means that the real secret is in the technique - the lightness of touch with which the dough is kneaded and rollod out, the speed of cooking. Some of them, I think, can only really be made well in large quantities which is why they are best eaten in restaurants or sometimes at weddings where they made by professional caterers. Still, some like thalipith are so good that they are certainly worth trying, Vikram
  21. Vikram

    Dinner! 2003

    This is intriguing. Do you roast the chickpea flour when you use it in batter, like in vegetable bhajis?
  22. Vikram

    Dinner! 2003

    Its just started raining in Bombay (though maybe not full monsoon yet) and the veggies in the market are looking fresh and cheerful. There were these big bunches of spring onions with long, bright green shoots on top. This is always tempts me into cooking them with chickpea flour, a standard Gujarati technique that can be used with all sorts of leafy veggies, or green peppers, but I like it best with spring onions. I roasted some chickpea flour till it smelled 'cooked', sieved it with turmeric, coriander-cumin powder and red chilli powder, and then added a little oil to make it into very fine breadcrumb texture. Sliced the onion bulbs and sauteed them with a couple of chopped up green chillies and then when they were soft, added the chopped green sping onion tops. When they were wilted, added some salt and then the chickpea flour mixture and cooked it till dry. The aim is to get the wilted green and onions surrounded by golden grains of the chickpea flour mixture. This is allium lovers bliss, eaten with slices of seven grain bread and listening to the rain fall, Vikram
  23. My first post on eGullet and I'm happy its on something I can strongly defend. When I started cooking (I live in Bombay) I went through a spell of being as authentic as possible, but quickly came to the conclusion that (a) life was too short and (b) it didn't make that much difference if the garlic was ground fresh or from a packet and © in fact not infrequently the latter was even better or estimable in its own right (Dabur's Hommade pastes are particularly good, and no, I'm not paid anything by the company). I'd hazard a guess that Indian cooking tends to be more forgiving of this sort of thing, since a lot of it requires a combination of many spices and ingredients, long slow cooking where everything simmers into a savoury mass and because, despite all the efforts of food stylists, the end with Indian food results, in the words of a top Indian food writer who I interviewed recently, 'brown glop or green glop or yellow glop'. Delicious glop certainly, but glop nonetheless. Readymade spice mixtures are also quite authentic in some cases. Yes, recipes from some regions, like Kerala, tend to require the spice mixtures to be freshly roasted and ground each time, but there are others like the East Indian recipes from Bombay which use spice mixtures that are made up in batches just once a year. This is what's known as bottle masala (since its usually kept in an old beer bottle) and is made up every year by East Indian aunties who each have their own special combinations. Just after summer sets in, these hefty peasant women come to the city with their long poles and wooden buckets in which the whole spices, after being selected and dried and roasted (where needed), are then pounded into powder which goes into the beer bottles for the rest of the year. Great stuff, savoury, but not too hot and something that is only ever used readymade. And there are plenty of other spice combinations like that. And as for jelly and a pretty chemical tasting custard, that's what I lap up after eating Goa sausage at Martin's, the best place for Goan food in this city. After the spice and sourness of the sausage, nothing is better than that sweet blandness, Vikram
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