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Indian Breads


jokhm
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Fresh-a we seem to have a communication difficulty here. What you don't seem to be getting is that ONLY in France do Indian restaurants serve Naan with cheese. This is NOT because the Indian owners like it that way. It is because their French customers demand it. And that is because they are French, and the French like to eat cheese. Even in Indian restaurants. Austrians demand pork all the time. So Indian restaurants have to serve it. The market in this type of restaurant is not driven by what the owners wish to cook but what customers demand to eat. The British diner does not demand pork or beef or cheese from its Indian restaurants and therefore these ingredients are totally absent in virtually all of them.

In the UK the important selling point for Indian restaurants is that they serve cold lager and that they are cheap. This is because customers will traditionally visit after the pub and demand more cold beer. There is a sub demand that the food is chilli hot, because amongst a certain type of diner eating hot curry equates to being macho. In the UK its not the ingredients themselves that are compromised but the quality of those ingredients, which are often pre-prepared and mass produced out of packets and jars to keep down costs.

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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You must be making this up as you go along, Tony!

In the UK the vast majority of Indian restaurants are in fact run by Bangladeshis who cook a well established curry house rota for a  largely post pub working class market.

Perhaps Scotland throws up some rare demographic anomalies (although I rather doubt it), but it's not my experience that Bangladeshis run the minority of restaurants let alone the vast majority. What are you basing your assertion on?

In London a few Indian restaurants break the mold and there is a wider range of regional and authentically cooked cuisines from the sub-continent

Only in London? Risible!

In the UK the important selling point for Indian restaurants is that they serve cold lager and that they are cheap. This is because customers will traditionally visit after the pub and demand more cold beer. There is a sub demand that the food is chilli hot, because amongst a certain type of diner eating hot curry equates to being macho.

And I thought Bernard Manning had cornered this market in stereotyping. Presumably those few London restaurants are breaking the mold in this respect, too?

As for the notion that authentic Indian cuisine would in no way countenance cheeses in naan, I think you are doing the invention and creativity of Chefs involved in it's creation a massive disservice. After all - as is widely recognised on this forum and beyond - the creativity involved in Indian cuisine is legendary. Would you think the creativity had stopped at some arbitary point in time whereby all those chefs decided there was no more need to experiment? No more need for creative use of ingredients was neccessary? Game over as it were - authenticity had been declared?

I'm certain this is not the case. I know and have worked with Indian chefs who delight in taking unusual, local ingredients and incorporating them skilfully and beautifully into their 'authentic' cuisine. Never tried a Tandoori Naan liberally stuffed with Gigha Smoked cheese? Scottish Salmon Buryani? I think you should try them, Tony. Kayani - the chef responsible for creating the dishes I mentioned - certainly considers his cuisine to be authentic. He's open-minded enough to know they may not be considered traditional, but I'd recognise the creativity and skill involved as authentic in any measure of Indian cuisine. Excepting the fact that Kayani is from Pakistan and would clip my ear for suggesting his cooking was exclusively Indian :laugh:

The fact is that this cuisine, and it's chefs, have been creative and making the best of what's available for as long there has been people creating the dishes.

It certainly didn't stop when they reached european shores.

Edited by A Scottish Chef (log)
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Thanks Scottish Chef, I knew there were other permutations in Indian food elsewhere, and that this is often justified...

But I guess it's easy to stereotype when you're a big expert in Indian food...

Edited by fresh_a (log)

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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SC.It is an absolute fact that over 90% of High St curry houses in the UK are run by Bangladeshis. If its not the same in Scotland then indeed it must be that the demographics are different but its certainly the case in England and Wales.

Most of these do not have original chefs as such. They have jobbing cooks who have no particular skill at cooking and who do it because its as good a job as any. Hence the cheap curry house formula seved up daily in restaurants around the land.

Most of the exceptions to this rule are in London (again can't speak for Scotland). These are either in enclaves with a high Asian population- Whitechapel, Southall, Wembley, Tooting-serving genuine regional food-or in very upmarket Central London restaurants such as Zaika and Tamarind, which do have skillful and original chefs and which aim for Michelin stars.

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Thanks Scottish Chef, I knew there were other permutations in Indian food elsewhere, and that this is often justified...

fresh_a. I have pointed out to you that putting cheese in naan does not happen outside of France. I have no experience of it in the UK despite having eaten in Indian restaurants all over the country (though Scottish Chef says he's had it, so it apparently does happen)

Cheese (of the European kind) has no place in thousands of years of great traditional Indian cuisine. To include cheese is to fundamentally misunderstand how the cuisine operates. Its the equivalent of putting, say, soy sauce into French food. It just has no place. You can slop it in if you like and say it tastes better but that's only because you can't eat food without soy sauce and you're not willing to try. You can put anything with anything and say its "justified", you can slop ketchup over everything if you wish, but if we're interested in learning about and respecting the traditions of cuisine we will refrain from chucking in ingredients which are completely outside that cuisin'e normal parameters.

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Cheese (of the European kind) has no place in thousands of years of great traditional Indian cuisine. To include cheese is to fundamentally misunderstand how the cuisine operates.

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

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Pork is often found in Goa. That being said it is rarely found in the hybrid menus of the rest of the world or in other parts of India

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

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I'm aware that pork is used in India. Indeed most Indian cookbooks have recipes for it. However, as i've said, it rarely shows up on restaurant menus either there or here (the UK). My point is that there is no demand from the British to have it on menus. Or beef which also rarely shows up. So why not? i can only conclude that there is a greater respect for the dietry laws of most Hindus and Muslims to the point where we realise that pork and beef would be offensive to large sections of those working in the restaurants and we are prepared to accept lamb and chicken as the meats in Indian restaurants because we accept that that is what most Indians who eat meat eat.

It is clear that the Austrians and Germans (pork is also commonplace in German Indian restaurants) do not have that same degree of respect or cultural consciousness and are not willing to contemplate giving business to restaurants unless they serve pork, regardless of what the restaurant workers feel.

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Tonyfinch: Cheese (of the European kind) has no place in thousands of years of great traditional Indian cuisine. To include cheese is to fundamentally misunderstand how the cuisine operates.

Tony: I'm not certain I understand what points you are trying to drive home at all. It looks remarkably like you are trying to dismiss the creative invention of Indian chefs and cuisine from it's tradition. I'm very definately arguing that this creativity is a vital part of the tradition.

Are you saying, for example, that Kayani's remarkable inclusion of local Scottish ingredients into his cuisine has no place because he fundamentally misunderstands how the cuisine operates? In this very thread, Suvir speaks enthusiastically of manipulations on basic Naan - does he also fundamentally misunderstand? It's just silly, Tony.

Tonyfinch: Its the equivalent of putting, say, soy sauce into French food. It just has no place....but if we're interested in learning about and respecting the traditions of cuisine we will refrain from chucking in ingredients which are completely outside that cuisin'e normal parameters.

Well. :laugh:

You refrain away to your hearts content. If any cuisine can claim to include invention as an inherent part of its traditions, then I'm betting the vast body of opinion would most definately include the French. What happens, Tony, when you come across new french dishes that include, say, soy sauce? Do you push the food away in disgust and say: " I can't eat french food with soy sauce and I'm not willing to try."

Have a wee look at how Raymond Blanc is getting creative with french and asian food.

Shock! Horror! French chef uses soy sauce in his pot-au-feu!

I'm surprised at you, Tony :biggrin:

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SC, I'm talking about CHEESE here. Not other ingredients. The French produce tonnes and tonnes of the stuff. A lot of people make a living from it. They need restaurants to sell it. They wish to see it incorporated into menus. It is an economic imperative that it is marketed. it has nothing to do with being "creative". No creative Indian chef in the UK or anywhere else in the world gets creative with CHEESE. Apart from your chap, apparently (could you elaborate on him?) Why then in France? Cheese is an irrelevancy to Indian cuisine (apart from Paneer, as we've said, which probably merits a separate discussion)

And the Blanc example sort of proves my point. French chefs before have tinkered with Asian flavours and spices. Normally it comes down to a tentative sprinkle of curry in the cream sauce for the scallops. The dish is then called "Coquilles al la creme avec Epices Orientale" or some such. In other words, Indian food Frenchified. The truth is French chefs don't have a clue about how spicing really works, and what indian food is all about, and in fairness they do not pretend to. But I'm not going to pretend that putting cheese in a Naan is an advance or a development on Naan whatsoever either. It is a detraction from the beauty of great Indian bread to put cheese in it and that is why the great majority of Indian chefs would never dream of doing it. if it enhanced the cuisine, they would.

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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Tonyfinch: No creative Indian chef in the UK or anywhere else in the world gets creative with CHEESE. Apart from your chap, apparently (could you elaborate on him?)

I'll do better than that for you, Tony, I'll ask some of the Indian/Bengali/Pakistani chefs I know what they think of using local ingredients in their cuisine. And, yes, I'll specifically ask about cheese. As for Kayani, whilst I can't talk of his personal details, I'll ask him for some of his thoughts with regard to this. I'll get back to you with his comments right here as soon as I can.

Tonyfinch:I'm not going to pretend that putting cheese in a Naan is an advance or a development on Naan whatsoever either. It is a detraction from the beauty of great Indian bread to put cheese in it and that is why the great majority of Indian chefs would never dream of doing it. if it enhanced the cuisine, they would.

Tony! In this very thread - you mentioned a notable indian restaurant iin London called Zaika and had this to say

Tonyfinch:very upmarket Central London restaurants such as Zaika and Tamarind, which do have skillful and original chefs and which aim for Michelin stars

I had a look at their website. Guess what's on the menu?

MALAI NAAN

Naan filled with assorted cheese, onion

and chillies

£2.95

:laugh::laugh:

It's worth repeating, Tony, that I cannot understand why you are so intent on pursuing this argument. It's a nonsense to suggest that great Indian chef's will not experiment with local and unusual ingredients to advance and develop their cuisine. Why the hell wouldn't they?

And, in light of the first quote of yours in this post, aren't those Zaika chefs - aiming for Michelin stars no less - both working and creating right here in the UK? Gulp: with cheese?

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Yes but I think you'll find that malai in this case is a kind of paneer-which I've already cited as an exception. It was the use of European style cheese I was talking about.

You see I don't have a problem with chefs using local ingredients,. Cafe Spice Namaste in London has Tandoori Duck, and marinated Venison and is one of my favourite upscale Indian restaurants. Salmon is fish plentifully available and can be used in place of another fish. It is when an ingredient is introduced which goes against the fundamental tenets of the cuisine that I question it.

Would you expect to find pork on the menu in a Jewish restaurant? Would you expect to find cheese in a Japanese or Chinese restaurant? What about fermented fish paste in an Italian restaurant? How about dog in an English restaurant? Or if that's too extreme-donkey, or horse?

Its not about being reluctant to experiment, its about experimenting while still respecting the integrity of the cuisine's cultural framework.

But I admit I've laboured the point now. Tell me more about these chefs you know.

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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Laboured? Really??

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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I have nothing to prove..

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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Here in France, you'll find every Indian restaurant has cheese nans, a nan bread with Vache Qui Rit cheese inside, which is very tasty, but which I haven't seen elsewhere. Does this exist in England, the US, etc? If so, I havenn't seen it..

Hi all

I'm not an expert on Indian food and don't mean to stir this naan and cheese issue any further but thought I'd just add that we get Cheese Naan here in Malaysia!

We have a sizable Indian and Sri Lankan community here (about 10% of the population) and cheese is hardly a local ingredient.

Cheese Naan has popped up in the menus of many 'Mamak' (Indian Muslim) eateries here in the last 5 years (not in the posher Indian restaurants though). These are not fancy places but just simple everyday eateries that are found in almost every town in Malaysia. The cooks at these 'Mamak' eateries are usually from India. And the cheese used in these Cheese Naans ... I would think it would be processed cheddar slices as it's probably the only cheese that's commonly available here!

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This sounds like an extremely nastyand retrograde culinary development. At least in France you'd be sure that the cheese you put in your naan was good quality :raz: The idea of putting plastic processed cheese slices into naans, bread or burgers or anything should be discouraged at all costs and I think you should start a newspaper campaign to warn people off this non-food immediately.

Plastic cheese in food in Malaysia? Whyowhyowhy? :sad:

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Like I previously said, the cheese in the French version of the cheese nan is "Le Vache Qui Rit", a processed cheese, and hardly something the local French would ask for in a restaurant..I still think it's the restaurant owners who chose it like this, and not some French pressure. In fact, most of the time I go tomy local Indian , the French choose a nan nature, meaning a simple nan bread with no filling. I might ask the owner today, why, the cheese nan....

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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Here in France, you'll find every Indian restaurant has cheese nans, a nan bread with Vache Qui Rit cheese inside, which is very tasty, but which I haven't seen elsewhere. Does this exist in England, the US, etc? If so, I havenn't seen it..

No they do not exist in England. But the French do not have a clue about Indian food (or any food other than French) and have a need to Frenchify everything to keep it within their monocultural perspective-so:French cheese in the naan.

Some Sikhs we know who run an Indian restaurant in Vienna have to make all the meat dishes with pork. Pork is also unheard of in Indian restaurants in the UK. But they say that if they do not put pork on the menu the Austrians simply won't eat there-another example of the same thing.

I do remember reading an article by one of the chefs in one of the more upmarket (And authentic) london Indian restaurants (I'll try to dig it out) where he used grated mild cheddar in one of his marinades, as it was the closest he could get to a particular ingredient. I think it was probably more of a textural thing though.

I also read something were a chef was confronted by a customer asking why he used wester fish in his recipes, rather than pomfret for instance. His answer was that it is beter to use local, fresh ingredients, than something flown, frozen halfway around the world.

I think it is the techniques, philosophies and approaches to cooking that define a particular cuisine, rather than ingredients, so Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza, is definitley not indian, even if it uses an ancient moghul recipe, and uses a chapati base, whereas a dish of spiced fried trout (Don't think you get trout in india do you?) would be.

Cheese Nan is a nasty concept though!

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Many Tandoori marinades have some cheese in them. In India Amul cheese is used. I find baby gouda to be very similar in taste and also a very mild cheddar does fine.

Adding Cheese into marinades is about adding to the textural quality of the finished item.

And there are tons of dishes found in India where cheese has been added today. Sometimes the cheese is Paneer, and at other times good ole Amul Cheese from India.

Just the other day, someone had prepared for me traditional Indian tomato sandwiches, and into these, she had added cheese. They tasted amazing. She said that eversince avocado has found its way into the Indian markets, she now adds avocado and cheese to her old recipe for tomato sandwich. They were delicious.

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MALAI NAAN

Naan filled with assorted cheese, onion

and chillies

£2.95

I have just hung up after a pleasant and not too short a telephone conversation with Sanjay Dwivedi, Head Chef at Zaika under Vineet Bhatia.

Well, the Malai Naan is indeed made with cheese other than Paneer. There is actually no Paneer in it. And this is nothing new, even as a kid when I would dine with my parents and friends at small banquets, the chefs would make us similar naans using cheese but not paneer.

Zaikas Malai Naan has taken the Indian version of contemporary cheese naan a step further, and added to the cheese inclusion an assortment of cheeses that has changed the end product and given it Vineet Bhatias signature.

There are a total of 3 cheeses. I shall not write their names just yet. I shall ask the chef permission before doing so. And also in the mix are fresh chiles, chile powder and cilantro.

Other Indian chefs in India and overseas also use Cheddar, Mozarella and other cheeses in ther repertoire and have done so for quite some time. Some have used it even without many customers never picking up on it. It has been a part of the Indian kitchen so to speak for about a couple of decades now.

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okay - enough talk about naan, cheese, pork and east indians!

let's talk about the bread (breads) closest to my heart - dosas and idlis.

living in the Northern US made it quite difficult to ferment the flours for dosas and idlis - in my house we had a micro right above a self-cleaning oven, so one trick we developed was to put the oven in cleaning mode and leave the pot with the batter in the micro so the ambient heat would help ferment it. Does anybody else have soem workarounds - both my parents and I live in the South now and temperatures bode well for fermenting the batter in the summer, but not the winter.

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living in the Northern US made it quite difficult to ferment the flours for dosas and idlis - in my house we had a micro right above a self-cleaning oven, so one trick we developed was to put the oven in cleaning mode and leave the pot with the batter in the micro so the ambient heat would help ferment it.

I use a similar trick myself. I turn on the oven at my lowest setting, leave it on for 5 minutes and then turn it off. I then leave the pilot light inside the oven turned on -- that seems to provide enough warmth for the Dosa batter to ferment perfectly.

I use the same technique when making Yougurt...

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