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BBhasin

HOT FOODS IN SUMMER

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Numerous have been the occasions when our patrons have explained their absence during the summer months with ,' its too hot for Indian food'.

What do you think ?

I have some views on this but would like to hear from all you wonderful people out there.

Thanks


Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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Some sort-of Indian vegetarian meals we make goes like this:

I grill vegetables on a charcoal barbeque, like eggplant, squash, peppers, cauliflower, etc. Then I toss them in a mint-cilantro chutney, and serve.

Other times I will brush the vegetables at the end of grilling with a tamarind chutney.

Summer is hot and short, and it's easier to cook outside. Often I will do the naans out on the grill too. Or chapatis, on a griddle on the barbeque. Then, they can be puffed up right on the ash-covered charcoal coals. If it is a dinner party, the guests can do this themselves. It's alot of fun.

And we look forward to Iced Masala chai, or a an iced tea that we have added ginger, mint and basil leaves to, and sweetened with honey.

We have had barbeques with skewered paneer, with a tandoor style marinade. Sometimes homemade paneer patties, where we have added fresh herbs to the cheese before it is pressed, makes a great bbq addition.

We always include raitas using fresh new potatoes, and roasted, ground cumin seed. Cabbage salads flavoured with lime juice and mustard seeds, and lots of pickles.

Rick

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Something else that I especially try to include for outdoor, summer eating are the chaats! I have been experimenting with as many as I can, and inventing new ones along the way.

Looking at books, and restaurant menus. it seems that herbs, greens and fresh fruits get short-shifted quite a bit. I try to maximize the use of them during the summer, and save more of the 'heavier' foods for the winter months.

I try to take a lesson from the Thai and Vietnamese, who eat herbs constantly, and are reknown for their fruit and vegetable salads. Like Indian cuisine, they focus on the elemental tastes sweet, sour, salty, spicy, etc. It especially helps to think like that during the summer, and to use as many raw salads, and cool refreshing foods as we can.

Rick

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Indian food rocks in the summer.

One only needs to eat what is great for the summer.

Rick,like you, Chaats become a summer staple in my kitchen and table. All kinds of chaats.

Grilled meats and fish and veggies are a dependable option.

Raita and dal and chaawal (yogurt, lentils and rice) have never been met without great applause from my guests.

Biryaanis with raita are always welcome it seems.

Dosas, even though one would have though fried is bad, are extremely popular.

I make some avials and pachadis that find happy stomachs.

Alot of the nashtaa/Farsaan (snacks) are really easy to enjoy.

And most of all, anything really spicy does wonders to a tired and fatigued body and mind.

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I've always enjoyed eating aloo tikkis dressed in mint and tamarind chutneys, a sprinke of hari mirch, chole, and fresh, crispy onions. It's a evening snack in the summertime giving a perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavors.

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why is it that cultures in hot climates often develop spicy foods? seems like they must be on to something.

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I don't know if this answer your question completely Tommy, but the construction of Indian meals and its history revolves around the principles of Ayurveda. The approach suggests a particular sequence in consuming food so that digestion is easier for the body and the benefits are maximized.

According to Ayurvedic principles the environment influences the body as much as what we consume. The changing of the seasons increases the chances of acquiring some sort of illness (there are six seasons in the vedic system). To assist in balancing this threat, the Ayurvedic school of thought suggests modifying one's diet to suite the climate. Even though you find a lot of spicy or "heating" elements in the summer, there are just as many "cooling" elements (raitas, rice, honey) incorporated in the snack or meal to balance.

I'm sure other egulleters more knowledgeable about the history can offer a better explanation. :smile:

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Okay here is my quarters worth of an opinion. In addition to all the stuff that Suvir has indicated.. here are my thoughts.

It has as much to do with colors and presentation and the sounds of the dishes as much as it does with the dishes themselves...

For example:

A basmati rice that is yellow in color and has "warm spices" added to it like cinnamon or bay leaves or cloves and lots of vegetables looks like it would be too "hot" for a summer day. Its not -- it just LOOKS like it... the alternate would be to serve basmati rice _white -- no haldi and add cumin and some "cool" vegetables -- carrots and peas. Better yet, serve the rice, again white, with a tadka of mustard seeds and red chilies

For drinks, in addition to the lassi, I would do a lighter buttermilk and LOTS of fruit juices like watermelon juice

I think what we are trying to address is the impression that the food is hot for hot weather

For the kadhi type dishes, I would focus on a south Indian dahi ki kadi, which is a lot thinner in consistency than the "heavier" ounjabi kadhi

I would add LOTS of kebabs and breads

I would add LOTs of chaats and light appetizers... staying away from a lot of deep friend stuff

Lots of flavored ice teas to serve in pitchers with tons of ice --- again its about the visuals --

Of course, the science of Ayurveda, is about the effects of the food -- heating and cooling -- and should be considered.. but it does not focus on the visual appeal of food

That sir, is my opinion

:laugh:


Edited by Monica Bhide (log)

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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Carrots and peas are not traditional summer veggies in India.

Peas have been found frozen easily for the longest time. They are of great quality and easily available all over the country.

Carrots in India are for the most part enjoyed in the winter. Frozen carrots are available. Fresh carrots available towards the end of the year, are the best carrots I have ever eaten.

But there are so many wonderful vegetables that come around the summer.

And then the berries available this time of the year are superb.

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My immediate reaction to the topic is that spicey foods seem to stimulate my appetite, but there is something about Indian food, or at least Indian food as experienced by a broad American audience, that says "hot" or "warm" to most of us and we look for "cool" in the summer. How one reacts to the weather may be different in tropical climates than it is in temperate ones. I wonder how Mexican restaurants in the northern pars of the US fare duing the various seasons.

Although I may react differently, many people may well associate the "hot" spices as winter food. In addition I think most people think of Indian food as long simmered. The idea of the pot simmering on the stove just says winter to us, even when we're not the ones tending the stove. Many Americans long for salads in the summer because they're cold dishes and because the produce that goes into a salad is either available fresh or at its peak of flavor and doesn't benefit from simmering with seasonings.

BBhasin, although I don't agree with your patrons, let me ask if your menu changes with the seasons. My guess is that if in April, your patrons were aware that the menu would drastically change in June or July, they would make it a point of trying the summer menu. I know so little about Indian food that I'd scarcely be the one to suggest what changes to make in the menu, but I'd look for fresh salads, greens that were not long cooked, grilled meats. It's quite possible that it might not be what Indians in India would eat in the hottest season. You wouldn't have to change the whole menu. You just need enough dishes to draw in those want something different in the summer and to break their habit of staying away. Don't forget that when four people are planning on a restaurant, it only takes one to say no. If you attract a few, you may get many.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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why is it that cultures in hot climates often develop spicy foods?  seems like they must be on to something.

There's a reason.

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Whatever ones point of choosing vegetables in the summer in the US may be, in India, as also in many Asian countries, even today, cooking is mostly done with produce locally fresh and available without need for freezing.

This makes for amazing quality of ingredients and an even more amazing finished meal.

That is the brilliance of the Indian table. What is served, is ripe, bursting with flavor, and not in need of much to be added in way of accents. But here, where we often are dealing with cold storage produce, endless amounts of accents cannot turn what is not brilliant into something stellar. One can only celebrate what one should with given quality.

In Singapore and Malaysia, I saw how similarly they treat food to us Indians.

Meals were always prepared using the freshest of ingredients. And little if any consideration was given to what could be added from the freezer section of grocery stores.

The meals they serve you, are rich in taste and number of items. And one has no need to rely on what is not of the season.

I generally do not enjoy traveling to India in the summer, but Indian summer food is sensational. The vegetables, fruits and berries are so tasty and delicious, that a taste of them for a couple of weeks is worth enduring the hot climate.

Spicy foods work wonder in the summer. Most importantly for they excite the palate. And if you live in our cultures (India and the neighboring hot climate countries), it is not something simply debated on the internet, but something you have grown to understand and made part of your daily routine. Those living outside of India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thaialnd may never grasp why and how spices can cool a fatigued body and mind, but all of us that have lived in these countries or traveled there, can quickly attest to what spices can do.

In the west cinnamon, cloves, powdered ginger, mace and allspice are used often in dishes that are mostly prepared in the winter. But in India, these spices are used very differently than we use them in the west. And many a dish are prepared without them.

The permutations and combinations are endless and many. The brilliance of the pairing of spices in these countries is age old and time tested. The variety is mind boggling.

And billions live and thrive and celebrate in the hottest of heat eating, enjoying and salivating over hot spicy foods.

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why is it that cultures in hot climates often develop spicy foods?  seems like they must be on to something.

There's also a rather simplistic, if not obvious, reason: peppers (hot and not so hot), the *hot* spices, the ingredients of spicy foods, grow in hot climates.

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BBhasin, although I don't agree with your patrons, let me ask if your menu changes with the seasons. My guess is that if in April, your patrons were aware that the menu would drastically change in June or July, they would make it a point of trying the summer menu. I know so little about Indian food that I'd scarcely be the one to suggest what changes to make in the menu, but I'd look for fresh salads, greens that were not long cooked, grilled meats. It's quite possible that it might not be what Indians in India would eat in the hottest season. You wouldn't have to change the whole menu. You just need enough dishes to draw in those want something different in the summer and to break their habit of staying away. Don't forget that when four people are planning on a restaurant, it only takes one to say no. If you attract a few, you may get many.

Thank you Bux.

To answer your question, no the menu does not change though we we do intent to work on that ,exactly on the guidelines you outlined.

We have a sunday buffet for lunch where we do tend to get a little seasonal. To give an example ,this past sunday we had a summery long squash ( ghia ) prepared with split yellow lentils (channa dal) with fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and grated ginger. We usually do not run out of lentils but this time we did.


Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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Bhasin, I cook a lot with summer squashes as well.

Ghia and also all the odd shaped ones you can find in the farmers market at Union Square. Always great fun.

Mr. & Mrs. Fat Guy had taken some pictures of a squash stir fry I make. Maybe one of them could post it here.

The possibilities of what we can make Indian in the US is endless. And the results are always so great.

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Ghia is one of the few vegetables I disliked since childhood -


anil

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Ghia is one of the few vegetables I disliked since childhood -

As did I, Anil. I have become somewhat appreciative of it now.

But in our home in Delhi, it was made daily during the summer. My Dadi ( Paternal grandmother, God bless her soul, she passed away not too long ago) would not eat any meal without it. It was cooked as a very light vegetable for the summer daily. And often in more than one form, if made into koftas or even a stuffed subzi.

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Personally, I don't think it's the spice as much as the cream and fat. I agree with the posters who suggest going with seasonal vegetables - tomatoes are in season, squash, lots of fresh herbs/greens. At least that holds true for me personally.

How might this translate into a restaurant? Perhaps a bhel-puri bar for the summer months?

I guess this post is rather late to the thread - the summer's waning now. So what did you try? How did it turn out?


Dinner Diaries - It's what's for dinner!

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