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eG Foodblog: mongo jones - how to lose friends and annoy people


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My god man, have you no shame? It's taken me two days just to catch up with two days worth of blogging. "El Mongo Magnifico Del Blog-blog" will be the tattoo of indignity imprinted on the arses of all who make it to page 8 of this master-work - and yea, they shall know each other in public places by much limping...

I obviously have to declare myself as an unparalleled and much-lauded expert in all food that I love (I pat my own back regularly), but in my recent so-joorn in Los Angeles, I found the level off Indian food to be much higher than I'd expected. By London standards (which is by no means the highest pedestal in England), one or two meals were even exceptional. I compare this, in my feeble-minded degenerate way with the New York Indian food of the early-mid 90's - which IMHO was to Indian cuisine what the first Russian snow flakes were to Napoleon.

My increasingly deluded point is this: now that New York seems out of the rabid curry dark ages, and areas as disparate as Los Angeles and Colorado are making a fair go of it, how do you think Indian cuisine will develop in a culture which doesn't carry the colonial, societal or historical burdens that so clearly existed in the UK - most heavily in the 60's-80's (but of course the residual effects are still there)? The best Indian meals in LA had taken on part of the California aesthetic of fresh ingredients, a pronounced separation of flavours in a way that was tremendously compelling, and of course a type of menu not dictated by the '10 pints of lager and a vindaloo on a Friday night' crowd. And what of your own ex-pat experience? Do you find your culinary desires dictated as much by nostalgia as any desire to break (you revolutionary you) - or see broken by others - new culinary ground? Where do you see the threshold moving to between those home cooked-regional dishes unavailable outside of their region, and the diaspora of proselytist chefs in the US at the moment?

Edited by MobyP (log)

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Hey Mongo, I notice that you don't use "curry powder" in your curry. Revelation. :blush: Of course being a total curry moron that I am, I went out on Sunday and bought three different curry "mixes" from a spice vendor at the market: curry "madras", curry "colombo", and curry "masal". I don't know what's in them because we buy them by the scoop - and I was too stupid to ask what's in them. Can I use one to make the chicken liver curry? :wacko::rolleyes:

Edited by bleudauvergne (log)
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What are a few Indian restaurants you know and trust? Have you tried any of ours here in DC?

Jennyuptown - I recently did a piece on the best Indian in DC for Washingtonian Magazine. The piece is online and you can see it here -- Beyond Tandoori

Mongo - Please continue.. I am really enjoying your interesting blog.

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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I never read foodblogs, or blogs of any sort, really. But these last two I haven't been able to stop. And now I'm thinking I might need to go back and read the others.

Because obviously I don't waste enough time on here already...

Nice job y'all. Fascinating.

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Hey Mongo, I notice that you don't use "curry powder" in your curry. Revelation. :blush: Of course being a total curry moron that I am, I went out on Sunday and bought three different curry "mixes" from a spice vendor at the market: curry "madras", curry "colombo", and curry "masal". I don't know what's in them because we buy them by the scoop - and I was too stupid to ask what's in them. Can I use one to make the chicken liver curry? :wacko::rolleyes:

No, no, no. It's such a simple thing to prepare your own spices for each dish, and the outcome is far superior. Think of it like the difference between buying bouquet garni already assembled (how would you know the herbs used were right for the dish you're using?) versus tying up your own to suit the flavors of the food being prepared.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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Hey Mongo, I notice that you don't use "curry powder" in your curry.  Revelation.  :blush:   Of course being a total curry moron that I am, I went out on Sunday and bought three different curry "mixes" from a spice vendor at the market: curry "madras", curry "colombo", and curry "masal".  I don't know what's in them because we buy them by the scoop - and I was too stupid to ask what's in them.  Can I use one to make the chicken liver curry? :wacko:    :rolleyes:

No, no, no. It's such a simple thing to prepare your own spices for each dish, and the outcome is far superior. Think of it like the difference between buying bouquet garni already assembled (how would you know the herbs used were right for the dish you're using?) versus tying up your own to suit the flavors of the food being prepared.

My problem is that I blew the budget on these "mixes" already! :shock:

I would come to an even better appreciation of mixing my own curries after having been down that "mix" road. I repent. But I also can't throw them away. Do the names mean anything, I mean to they indicate what they might be good in? Or are they just cutsey names... :hmmm: Damn. I should have waited until Mongo started his blog before I went out buying all these spices.

Edited by bleudauvergne (log)
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Hey Mongo, I notice that you don't use "curry powder" in your curry.  Revelation.  :blush:   Of course being a total curry moron that I am, I went out on Sunday and bought three different curry "mixes" from a spice vendor at the market: curry "madras", curry "colombo", and curry "masal".  I don't know what's in them because we buy them by the scoop - and I was too stupid to ask what's in them.  Can I use one to make the chicken liver curry? :wacko:    :rolleyes:

No, no, no. It's such a simple thing to prepare your own spices for each dish, and the outcome is far superior. Think of it like the difference between buying bouquet garni already assembled (how would you know the herbs used were right for the dish you're using?) versus tying up your own to suit the flavors of the food being prepared.

My problem is that I blew the budget on these "mixes" already! :shock:

actually, as i said somewhere earlier in the blog, i am in the minority on egullet on these matters: i see nothing whatsoever wrong with using commercial spice-mixes. the only reason i didn't yesterday is that i needed to finish my coriander and cumin powders and it would have been a bit much to add curry powder (which also contains those) on top of them. i'd recommend you try both ways (individual spices or substituting the curry powder for everything but the red chilli and turmeric), see which flavor you like better and decide accordingly. there's obviously way more spices in the mixes than i put separately in my liver curry--but that just means it'll taste different. (see note from yesterday about there not being any fixed recipes.)

i will say that i have no idea what curry "madras" and curry "colombo" are. i know that sri lankan food is supposed to be made with spices that have been fried to a greater degree of darkness (and thus depth of flavor) so that might be something, but i still don't know what a "madras curry" is supposed to be. i know there is such a thing in england (is it supposed to be hotter or milder than a vindaloo?--it is somewhere high-up on the curry-machismo scale) but i don't believe there is such a thing in madras/chennai. then again, i'm not from there. anyone know?

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Mongo, nice Blog, if not long... :smile:

Why no cream?  Curious, do you eat/cook anything other than Indian (and I suppose korean) food with any regularity?

no cream in my tea or no cream in my cooking?

if the former, because i just prefer black tea. if the latter, because most indian home-cooking is much more subtly flavored than restaurant food and doesn't take well to cream being added to it. certainly the liver curry is something that could stand up to the introduction of some cream but if you think that with my cholesterol count where it is i am going to add cream to a liver dish then you is a dummy!

at home we mostly eat indian and korean food--say 65% and 25% of the time. the other 10% i make a limited but pretty good range of italian dishes (all from ma hazan's bible). when we go out we rarely eat korean or indian. i refuse to eat sandwiches for lunch or dinner.

Edited by mongo_jones (log)
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the price-list

prices.jpg

Mongo

What is

- Edo (Alavi)

- Dosakai???

search me. does this mean you know what "guvar", "tindora" and "turai" are? i'll have to make a trip to the store again tomorrow--i unaccountably forgot to replenish my supply of rice yesterday--if no south indians have stepped in before that i'll ask the owner. i will remind you though that, as i reported on the india forum a while ago, this is a woman who when asked the difference between black and white kokum told me with a straight face, "this one is black and that one is white".

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does this mean you know what "guvar", "tindora" and "turai" are?

Guvar is the Hindi name for a kind of thin green bean, particularly popular (with different names) in the South. I think they might be a variety of cluster bean.

Tindora is the Gujerati name for a finger-like gherkin-looking vegetable. It's a Bombay favorite (known as Tendli or Tondli), I've never figured out why the Gujju name is used exclusively here in the USA. You have a box of Tindora in one of your photos, Mongo, I think next to the okra (too lazy to go all the way back there and check).

Turai/Toorai is the Hindi name for a fore-arm-sized green gourd (maybe a marrow?). It looks vaguely like a longer and unspiky variety of a karela. I've seen it incorrectly translated on a local menu as courgette, it is definitely not a courgette.

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does this mean you know what "guvar", "tindora" and "turai" are?

Guvar is the Hindi name for a kind of thin green bean, particularly popular (with different names) in the South. I think they might be a variety of cluster bean.

Tindora is the Gujerati name for a finger-like gherkin-looking vegetable. It's a Bombay favorite (known as Tendli or Tondli), I've never figured out why the Gujju name is used exclusively here in the USA. You have a box of Tindora in one of your photos, Mongo, I think next to the okra (too lazy to go all the way back there and check).

Turai/Toorai is the Hindi name for a fore-arm-sized green gourd (maybe a marrow?). It looks vaguely like a longer and unspiky variety of a karela. I've seen it incorrectly translated on a local menu as courgette, it is definitely not a courgette.

thank you very much bhelpuri! yes, the tindora is next to the okra and the turai next to the chillies, i think.

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This blog is so long (a good thing, of course) that one has difficulty finding quotes to refer to when making a response.

Thus, I have no idea where the appropriate posts are about West Indian 'Indian' cooking, though this isn't going to stop me from making several points.

1) There were some comparitive comments made about the relative size of the (East) Indian populations in Guyana. The two biggest (east) Indian communities in the West Indies do belong to that country and Trinidad, with liberal sprinklings all over the rest of the Caribbean from Suriname to Jamaica to Belize and on. The exact numbers are hard to pin down, because the implication of the size of the community has all kinds of political ramifications. But, roughly, 45% of Trinidad's million-or-so population is Indian and 50% of Guyana's 700,000.

So, the community is bigger in Trinidad, which also serves as something of a Indian cultural center for the whole W. Indies.

2) There isn't much to the 'Indian' food made in either Trinidad or Guyana, certainly there is only a hint of the breadth and sophistication of the many discrete cuisines of the subcontinent.

This is unsurprising, since the majority of Indians in the Caribbean came over as extremely exploited indentured laborers, largely from one or two specific areas of rural India, and then were largely divested of all contact with the homeland and the living cultures left behind. What emerged in Trinidad (and Guyana, and Jamaica, etc) is a kind of Creole culture, a half-remembered and half-preserved vestige fused with a few new ingredients. Though there was a trickle of maintained contact between the subcontinent and the expatriated populations, it was not significant enough to keep a living connection. Contemporary ties are actually closer (there has been a spate of Hindu revivalism, for example), but these don't extend to food.

Thus, 'Indian' food in the Caribbean is very very basic. Tasty, very enjoyable in parts, but very unvarying and limited (unlike what exists on the subcontinent). You have curry, 95% of the time made from a ready-made locally-produced mix, and the same exact recipe is used for every ingredient from conch to goat to duck. You have no more than two or three types of rotis, you have rice aplenty (both Trinidad and Guyana have ideal lands for rice cultivation), you have lots of fiery scotch bonnet (habanero) chilis, and that starts to be the sum of it. There are a couple of cool and unique Indo-Caribbean preparations (the fiery 'doubles' come to mind), but these are far fewer than you'd imagine.

This is not meant to be a put-down of what is an enjoyable, and often extremely tasty sub-genre of Caribbean food and I hope it is not read as such.

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very, very interesting bhelpuri. i had a friend in los angeles--chinese-americans whose family immigrated to los angeles from guyana when she was very young! her mother used to make guyanese-indian food and send it for me at work. now, that's hybrid! unfortunately we fell out of touch some years ago.

and i'd forgotten about the indian population in trinidad. that, of course, is where v.s naipaul, or as derek walcott refers to him, v.s nightfall is from.

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and here's a picture of today's breakfast--i know some of you were getting worried, wondering if i was going to eat anything. you'll be glad to see today's morning meal is more ample and nutritious than the usual:

melon.jpg

is it true that breakfast should be the largest meal of the day? i always eat light breakfasts and monster lunches and dinners.

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a new dal--channa? mung? kali? cast your votes

people,

perhaps you didn't read this, perhaps you don't care, but i need to make dal again tonight. since i've already made mushoor this week i'm going to make either mung/moog dal, channa dal or kali urad dal. but i will let blog-readers pick which one i should make (and document).

since the egullet software doesn't allow me to start a poll, i'm just going to have to poll you here. so if you have a preference respond to this message with just one of the following choices in your reply:

1. moog

2. channa

3. kali urad

polls will close at 2 p.m mountain time since if one of the latter two dals is selected some soaking will be required. keep in mind that one of the other two will probably be cooked on friday (i don't think there'll be time in this blog for all three dals to be cooked).

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perhaps you didn't read this, perhaps you don't care, but i need to make dal again tonight. since i've already made mushoor this week i'm going to make either mung/moog dal, channa dal or kali urad dal. but i will let blog-readers pick which one i should make (and document).

Channa dal, please!

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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It seems I am the only one goofing off and every one else is working... hmmm

I did see that Mongo but I didn't know if one would be better paired with your other remaining ingredients, flavour-wise. Does it matter? So little knowledge...

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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Another vote for channa dal.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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It seems I am the only one goofing off and every one else is working... hmmm

I did see that Mongo but I didn't know if one would be better paired with your other remaining ingredients, flavour-wise. Does it matter? So little knowledge...

don't worry about stuff like pairing with other components of the meal--what do you think this is, masterpiece kitchen theater?

and everyone please vote--i have my preferences but as a nigerian colleague of mine likes to say about elections, "this is not nigerian democracy, we cannot know the results till the votes have been counted"

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It seems I am the only one goofing off and every one else is working... hmmm

it is hump-day at the blog and i think everyone, including me, is a little weary from reading all this crap.

(hump-day: that's an americanism that i didn't understand for many years and only got after being shocked to hear it come out of an innocent co-worker's mouth 3 years ago)

i'm going to try and shake this lassitude--it has been cloudy all morning in boulder--by getting started on the unripe mango chutney. see you all soon.

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(first let me say in another parenthetical aside, for the benefit of those who wonder at the level of detail in this dream, that i am currently on medication, one of whose side-effects is ultra-vivid dreams.)

Would this explain why someone swooned up-thread about mongo being "so dreamy"?

The person who said it was under the influence of the Foodblog Oracle, they were predicting the future, it's obvious.

edited for clarity

Edited by bleudauvergne (log)
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Phew! What a blog--by the time I got to page eight there were two more pages to read. Good thing I'm not supposed to be editing a newsletter or anything... :hmmm:

Mr. Jones, perhaps this is a stupid question, but why do you add the garam masala towards the end of cooking and not with the other spices?

I vote for mung dal; I have a huge bag I need to use up.

Thanks for the great reading!

Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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