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Everything posted by Vikram

  1. You don't need to stock on Christmas music to hear it. Just ring any Indian government department and ask some question so complicated that you're put on hold. A few have some suitably patriotic music like that mournful shehnai stuff you hear on Air India, but most of them haven't bothered to change the default hold music the telephone system came with, and for some reason it usually seems to be "Jingle Bells"! Vikram
  2. This sounds like a variation on the abominable use of 'East Indian' to decribe any kind of Indian food. I'm guessing that the thinking here is that the Indian food in this case is probably 'South Indian' because Pakistan is to the north of India, or something like that. Little shudders are going through my spine at seeing naan described as South Indian. Obviously, however many South Indian restaurants now exist in the US, there still aren't enough. Vikram
  3. Rather late in life I've come to bafenu, the classic Parsi pickle made with a whole ripe Alphonso mango, and I am now kicking myself for missing out on this so long. (Actually as soon as I tasted it I remembered eating it as a kid at the homes of Parsi friends. I had this vivid flashback to meals all formally laid out, lots of linen and cutlery and porcelain bowls, and the starchy voice of my friend's grandmother telling us we had to finish the bowl of rather inspid soup before we were allowed to go on to the lacey cutlets and dhan-dhar-nu-patia, along with which, I'm guessing, came the bafen
  4. That's calumny! What I think I meant when - if! - I ever said that was that as ports they are a disaster, but as alcoholic cough syrups they aren't bad, and I've always quite liked cough syrups (maybe that nice dopey Benadryl feeling has something to do with it). Vinicola, which sells these 'ports' most aggresively, got it about right with its name - its really a not that soft drink of some kind. I have also, just once, has a relatively decent port at the house of a Goan friend. I think the name was Tres Irmaos, or something like that, and she said it was the one port that Goans felt was a cut
  5. Interesting thread Episure, thanks for bringing it up (though I wonder if your two year delayed reply to A Balic's question breaks some sort of eGullet record!). Which is the company that is planning on manufacturing Asha? Sounds like a dubious proposition - I haven't tried it, but like many of these fabled things, its always seemed like the story sounds better than the product really is. As the previous respondents on this thread have pointed out, gin would be the basis for the most historically accurate cocktail in the modern sense - lets not get into what was mixed in those Ashas. They see
  6. Vikram


    If you don't already have Chitrita Banerji's Life and Food in Bengal, try and get your hands on a copy. She has very interesting descriptions of food in Dhaka - all sounding more rich than its equivalent in West Bengal. She mentions a Duck cooked with oranges that sounds interesting, if only to see what a Bengali version of Duck a l'orange is like. Also lots of dishes made from the meat of castrated goats - I forget the Bengali term at the moment - and other things like egg halva. Vikram
  7. Is anyone here familiar with the Hot Breads chain in the US? Yes, its the same Hot Breads that started in Madras and then franchised, rather disastrously, across India. After that turned out badly, the owner focused on Madras and then the global market - expanding to the Gulf, then the US and now even Paris where he has two outlets. I'll admit here that I'm doing a story on them, but I'm not asking these questions for it (the story is almost over anyway, just taking a break between finishing it). What I found interesting, and relevant to many of the discussions we have here on fusion food, is
  8. Does onion mean the whole plant? If so then add spring onion greens, something that I'm mildly addicted to. They have a great blend of saladness and the hint of onion pungency. I love eating them cooked the Gujju way - heat oil, add some chopped up onion and green chillis and saute, then add the chopped greens, cover and let sweat a bit, then remove cover and add some salt and roasted besan into which you've mixed turmeric, chilli powder, dhania-jeera powder and just a little oil which you mix till breadcrumb consistency. Fry the whole lot over a high heat, just a little. The dish looks like a
  9. Mishree I guess is another spelling of misri means sugar crystals, and I've sometimes seen it used for brown sugar crystals, as opposed to white sugar crystals which is chini. But there are lots of curiosities here. The etymology would seem to suggest that the products came to India from outside - 'chini' meaning Chinese or from China, while 'misri' is Egyptian or from Egypt (Misr is the Arab term for Egypt - its official name, I think, is Republic of Misr). But food history says that sugarcane - which to complicate matters, seems to have originated in New Guinea, before spreading across Asia
  10. I think you'll find quite a few dishes made with the small Madras onions (have we decided if these are shallots or not?) Onion sambhar is the best of all sambhars, and made to perfection by our maestro at home. In fact I almost never eat dosai with sambhar and chutney outside home, because nothing quite compares to his dosai with onion sambhar. There's also a curry made with these Madras onions, I ate a very good version at Dakshin in Madras once - very intense, almost to the point of being a pickle. I will say though that onions cooked alone have a wonderful caramelly sweet-savouriness, that
  11. Things are slightly different here! In my experience, its the girls who are doing the serious drinking (I keep bottles of India's excellent Old Monk rum almost exclusively for them), while the boyz are fooling around with lighter stuff (or each other). Vikram
  12. This has always struck me as one of those great food shaggy dog stories which probably crops up wherever coffee is grown. You get the same story in the coffee growing areas of South India, except with monkeys rather than civets - the coffee is supposed to be called 'monkey parchment'. (Wonder if there a Brazilian version -marmosets, maybe?) I'm not saying its not possible - Alun's pet civet proves it is - but it sounds like one of those cases where the story is more the point than the product. Its like the monkey brains story from Malaysia - you know, the one about those tables with holes in
  13. Vikram

    Superior Vinegars

    Vinegar isn't a big ingredient in Indian cooking, apart from Goan and (to a lesser extent) Parsi cooking and in pickles, but there is one outstanding vinegar made here - sugarcane vinegar made in Navsari, to the north of Bombay. The best known firm is Kolah's, an old Parsi company, that has been making it for ages, and its a rich and complex product, black and with molasses overtones. Its an absolute must for making the fruity Parsi pickles and either you get Kolah's to ship it to you in sealed plastic pouches, or there are just a few shops in Bombay (Motilal Masalawala being the best known) w
  14. hey Mongo, just joining the chorus of praise for this blog, and thanks for the kind words many many pages back. What I particularly like about the blog, is that you're including some of those really basic, day to day, recipes that, as you point out, are what most Indian households cook everyday. It hardly sexy food - vegetarian rather than meat and its going to win no awards for looks (and no, your camera skills aren't to blame, if anything your food looks better than what I've seen in most Indian cookbooks), but its great stuff when cooked with a modicum of care, and that really comes through
  15. Oh god, maybe there are secret bamboo pickle addicts in this office who gobbled it in my absence. Or maybe it was Rushina's brother. Or maybe its still here under the mountains of papers on my table. Will investigate, and please ask your friend as well. But thanks for finding it, Vikram
  16. Interesting thread, and a great couple of posts SWoodyWhite. Its made me think of the gay restaurants I've been to with the bf outside India and the definite role that restaurants have for gay people within India. Outside India, I can remember going to specifically gay places (meaning rainbow flag outside the door) in Amsterdam and Cape Town. Can't remember the Amsterdam places, but one CT restaurant I remember was called Manhattan, in De Waterkant, CT's gay district. Nice enough place, though unmemorable food. One really good place I do remember, not specifically gay, but (I think) gay owned
  17. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Bombay's flaky khari biscuits (though they are perhaps a pastry rather than a biscuit). Mongo will presumably defend to the death Bourbon's as the best biscuit for dunking, but perhaps kahris could count as the best savoury biscuits for dunking, Vikram
  18. Fresh green chickpeas are occasionally available in Bombay markets in season - the Bazaargate area is a reliable place to find them - but I have some faint memory of hearing that the town of Hubli, in Karnataka, close to the Maharashtra border, is particularly noted for these. I did once pass through Hubli and sure enough they were on sale, but I can't remember if they were particularly special. Vikram
  19. My pickle audit of what's currently available at home. The selection is influenced by the fact that I don't really like most mango and lime pickles. I think most commercial pickle manufacturers make their pickles too acid to begin with, and when you combine this with the natural acidity of green mangos and lime, the result is too mouth puckering for its own good. Perhaps the problem is that I don't get homemade versions of these often. My family makes other kinds, of which more in a minute, but not these two, so I don't have nostalgic memories of them. The only mango pickle I ever really fel
  20. While everyone is thinking Malaysian food, I can ask this. I'm curious not just about Ais Kacang, but the whole range of shaved ice desserts that seems to extend through SE Asia upto Japan. Has there been a thread on this on eGullet already? Does anyone have any idea where they originate and from when? Because surely they can't be that old, since how old is ice production in these areas? OK, maybe ice is not a problem in Japan (though did Japan have a tradition of storing ice for use in summers?), but what about the more tropical parts of the Far East? Was there a tradition of making ice from
  21. Thanks for the insights everyone. I think the theory that it was used to conceal the flavour of powdered milk sounds most plausible to me. In India too there have been periods when good quality fresh milk wasn't that easily in the large cities - a much harder deprivation for such a milk obsessed country - and I think that's one reason that the add-to-milk products like Horlicks and Bournvita became popular, both for taste and for nutrition. The 'white revolution' that Monica wrote a piece about sometime back has now made milk shortages rare and, not coincidentally I think, sales of these produ
  22. Can anyone explain the origins and reasons for the huge consumption of Milo (a rather sicky sweet chocolate drink from Nestle, made by adding Milo powder to milk) in Malaysia? I was reminded of this in a new Malaysian fast food restaurant called Pelita Nasi Kandar that's opened in Chennai (Madras), India. I think Nestle launched Milo ages back in India, but it flopped and I think was taken off the market. But here, to prove its an authentic Malaysian restaurant, was Milo on the menu again, imported, the restaurant manager assured me, from Malasyia and available both hot and cold (ais Milo, th
  23. Thanks gingerly, interesting post on soapstone. You're right, that's what the kal-chattis are made from. I picked up three yesterday from Dakshinachitra, the south Indian crafts village down the East Coast Road. Its an excellent place (admittedly not entirely objective here, I know some of the ladies who started it). Its one place you can still get kal-chattis, but even more its worth seeing because they've been reconstructing traditional houses from different parts of the south - these are the actual houses, which they buy, take apart and put back together in Dakshinachitra with as much of t
  24. I've just picked up an excellent looking book on traditional Udipi recipes - 'Udipi Cuisine' by U.B.Rajalakshmi. Its a bit like 'Samaithu Par' and 'Rasachandrika', lots of traditional recipes along with hints on how to cook healthy food and medicinal recipes, notes on the ingredients used, details about the rituals behind serving the food and even some of the mythology behind Udipi food. Here's a note on how the metal of the cooking vessels affects health:
  25. Maybe the photographer has done it for dramatic effect, but Crawford Market never seems to me as dark and dramatic looking as it does here. (New Market in Cal I remember as dark and somewhat dank). I love the place though and any publicity is good for it. Vikram
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