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Everything posted by Vikram

  1. Dusting off an old thread, but my interest isn't metal vessels at the moment, but stone ones - of kal-chattis, as they're called in Tamil. I knew they were used for pickles and thought that was quaint, but perhaps not that practicable and anyway glass jars did the jobas well. But I've begun to wonder if stone has any properties that make it suited for certain types of food operations? A friend in Madras recently showed me the small kal-chatti she used to make yoghurt and she swears that nothing else is as good. She added that the vessel did have to be seasoned first which she did by packing i
  2. I have been trying to find a good pic of an open mangosteen on the Net, but have found nothing that really does them justice. Even the Food Thesaurus, normally infallible, lets me down here. Did find this article though, which gives an idea of the praises and cravings mangosteens bring on. I'm particularly impressed by the fact that David Karp, the Fruit Detective guy rates them so highly: http://www.downtownexpress.com/de_26/findingaforbidden.html Vikram
  3. Penguin India has just come out with a collection of Vir Sanghvi's Rude Food columns, which I've occasionally posted to this list. (I'm not sure if its on the shelves yet, since the one I've seen is a review copy sent to my mother, but I guess it'll be there soon). Columns rarely reproduce well in book format (Busybee is, just, an exception), and I don't think these entirely escape that problem, but that being said, the book is a very welcome addition to the rather meagre corpus of Indian food writing. Because that's what is really to Sanghvi's credit - he recognised writing on food, as oppos
  4. Those are the hairy red ones, right? You see them occasionally, but I think they're imported from Sri Lanka or Malaysia. Have never had a really earth shaking one, but its probably due to lack of enough opportunity to try, Vikram
  5. Won't you find similar ones, if not from cookie obsessed American companies, but other Commonwealth countries? I did an article once that attempted an international typology of biscuits and while it threw up certain distinct national types like South African Ouma Rusks or those disgustingly sweet Australian Tim Tams, there were also common types which usually originated in certain ur-biscuits created by Victorian era companies like Huntley & Palmer and distributed by them across the British Empire. These then became the models for the local biscuits and I think bourbon creams (why bourbo
  6. Now for the nitpicking... Bague wrote: I've heard of this link before and Monica just made it again in the summer soups thread where she referred to kokam as, in parantheses, mangosteens. But is this accurate? The kokam link Monica posted says that its related to the mangosteen tree, but its not the same thing. The only reference book I have with me here in Madras is J.S.Pruthi's Spices And Condiments, one of those cheaply printed and dryly written National Book Trust publications, but which one hopes is fairly accurate and here's what he says on the subject: The link does seem clear, and i
  7. Lifting out my eulogy to mangosteens from the mango thread. As this topic's subhead says, they entirely deserve a thread of their own (also I want to do some nitpicking). Are there other mangosteen maniacs out there apart from me? Any other mangosteen memories? I don't know whether to ask for mangosteen recipes though, because part of me feels that fruit so perfect shouldn't be messed around with.
  8. Monica, that's a coincidence, because I just bought a megapack of those Niligiri's chocolate covered digestives (for the bf, not me, he added, unconvincingly). They're easier to get here in Madras than back in Bombay. And they are totally delicious. Are you sure Niligiri's doesn't export them... or are you scared of finding out that they do! Vikram
  9. I might have some good news soon on the importing mangos to the US issue soon - or at least more precise news. I've been trying to follow up about the exact reasons for the refusal. The head of the Ambo Konkan festival told me that the initial reason given by the US govt was fruit fly, so a decontamination unit - something about a vapour heat process - was built in Vashi (on the mainland near Bombay), but the mangos were still rejected. He muttered darkly about NAFTA. I finally tracked down a govt of India source in the food quarantine department in Faridabad and he told me a detailed report
  10. Come on Episure, if you wanted to drive Mongo mad, you're going to need more appetising pictures than that pile of distinctly unripe looking mangoes (unless its one of those types that's ripe when its green). Like maybe he should have seen the mangos in Chennai's central produce market at Koyambedu the other day. Its a wonderful and very well organised place, so when my father suggested a trip there a few mornings back, I jumped at it. In one of the few sensible urban planning decisions this town has taken, the markets were moved from the crowded area near the port, to this place on the outsk
  11. I think Mongo is right that the type of kimchi I ate was the reason for my sweeping statement. As he says, it was very fresh and squeaky and the fact that I was trying to eat it with sambhar and rice probably didn't help. (I think coconut and tamarind, both South Indian staples, can both be problematic in food combinations. They don't make it impossible, but you have to be careful). I'm back in Madras now and overdosing on the excellent Korean food you get here, courtesy Hyundai's mega factory here. (Also, in passing, I'd like to note that of all Indian cities, Madras/Chennai now seems the mo
  12. The bakery at Auroville, the international community in South India, close to Madras, produces a several classic French recipes adapted to local ingredients. Their version of financiers are made with cashews rather than almonds and are totally awesome. I'm going to Madras next week and consumption of cashew financiers is high on my list of things to do, Vikram
  13. One of the things I like best about Maharashtrian cooking is its use of peanuts, placing real value on it for its taste and texture. A properly made poha for breakfast, with the rice flakes just soft enough, with curry leaves and mustard seeds and small pieces of potato, a pinch of sugar, some turmeric for colour and peanuts for a contrast in texture and taste, is a very good way to start the day.
  14. A pulao is nondescript, a biriani is way over the top. Pulaos are accompaniments, birianis are, unfortunately, often the main course. I can just about bring myself to eat a Huderabadi biriani if I'm in the Charminar area, because the genuine stuff is really quite light and elegant. Most other birianis are just too rich and full of stuff that has no business being there. Vikram
  15. Good decision. I think I'm coming to the conclusion that a lot of homemade Indian desserts are really not very good. Shrikhand, for example, strikes me as a dish that is just wrong. Its a way too throat cloggingly creamy and while the addition of mango pulp lightens it a bit, its usually just a waste of mangoes. Those china grass desserts sound frankly disgusting, and so it goes with a lot of homemade desserts. That's why most Indian houses don't bother with them, preferring to get something really good from a professional sweetmaker, or keeping it simple with kheer, which is always welcome,
  16. I adore Ale Pak, there's usually a jar full of it on my dining table, but I've got a cold at the moment, and have eaten it all. Its fudgy fire, if you can imagine such a concept - its got the texture of fudge, but when you put it in your mouth, first you get the sweetness and then the pure and powerful burn of ginger. Its the best thing to eat when you have a cold, and I eat it anytime, but its not for everyone (thank god). Friends I have offered it to are prone to reeling back, clutching their throats and screaming hoarse imprecations at me. I need to stop off at Dadar today evening to reple
  17. A new food sighting in a Bollywood film. Well, not that new since the film is Maqbool, the Bollywood take on Macbeth set in the Mumbai underworld which was released quite a few months back, but I only just got around to seeing it. And my advice to anyone else who hasn't it - see it! The film has got ecstatic reviews, and I'm not sure its all that good. Or its more like this - I thought the film was really good, but it fell apart at the end and somehow that was all the more annoying for how good it could have been. Its interesting, I think, that it fell apart precisely where it diverged most s
  18. On one of these threads I recently described how raw jackfruit is cooked by some Muslim communities as a sort of mock meat dish and is called Tree Goat. I've been reading an interesting book, "Indian Mansions: A Social History of the Haveli" by Sarah Tillotson, where I came across this wonderful bit of information. She's talking about how cooking was done in the havelis, and how the vegatarian - non-vegetarian differences were maintained, usually with separate cooking areas: I love the idea of moving vegetables! And it occurs to me that this sort of deception is probably more common than the
  19. Momos were till recently one of the very few food items where that awful city up north could rightly claim superiority over Bombay. I have even eaten them down south in Coorg, in one of the resettlement camps for Tibetans in the hills there, but they never seemed to make it to Bombay. But now I'm told there's a place in the suburbs dishing out very decent momos. Its in Andheri Lokhandwala, somewhere near that Lotus petrol pump. A couple of weekends back the boyfriend and I tried finding it, and we almost located it, with the help of the talking Yellow Pages service. They gave us the number, bu
  20. The nation's capital? Monica I didn't realise you're all coming to Delhi? Why would anyone come to Delhi to eat Bombay street food?
  21. Bhelpuri and I were recently salivating on the Swati Snacks thread for the owner's amazing new dish of a curry made with ripe guavas. Wonderful sweet-tart-spicy taste. Later I was told its an old Jain dish. Jakfruit is often cooked green because its texture at that time is closest to meat. Its used a mock meat in several recipes where its coyly called Tree-Goat. Khubani Ka Meetha is like a lovely rich and faintly spicy jam. The ITC Kitchen's Of India range has a canned version which is pretty much the only one in that range I really like. Dried apricots are also used in jerdaloo sali boti, a
  22. I didn't know whether to put this under the Saag or Soul Food thread, since it could fit equally well there. Because my favourite way of cooking chickpeas is hariyali style - in a thick spinach gravy. I picked up the recipe from a Nita Mehta cookbook (she's like a cheaper version of Tarla Dalal - not particularly fancy, but good basic stuff that works), in fact her Low Fat cookbook, since the recipe uses only a little oil so that's another bonus. Its also an excellent recipe to make for a large bunch of people, since its either a dhal or a veggie dish, depending on how you look at it, and it
  23. Usually I enjoy reading these features but... is it just me, or did anyone else think this one was ever so slightly precious? Vikram
  24. There really isn't much Indo-French stuff in Pondicherry and probably not the other ex-French colonies either. One of my grandfathers came from Mahe, the colony in Kerala, and I've never heard of any French inspired cooking from there. There's the excellent Pondicherry bread, of course, but that's about it. My theory is that the local Tamil cooking in Pondicherry was too individual and different from French cooking to be able to blend with it in any meaningful way. How do such links tend to happen? I'm guessing its when the colonial elites tend to like some native dishes or ingredients, so in
  25. Oddly enough, while Mumbai still annoys me at some subliminal level, I quite like being a Mumbaikar. It somehow seems a more authentic word than the rather effete Bombayite. Soul food... bit difficult, since my mother has always hated cooking (while paradoxically being quite a good cook). So I don't have the major childhood memories of her cooking which are, I think, the genesis of soul food. There was a succession of cooks who made different things, with different levels of skill, but nothing much stuck. Until Vijayan appeared in our lives and has since stuck on and is still going strong. H
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