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Is there a dish you remember?


Suvir Saran
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I'm a big fan of Paneer Pasanda (sp?) but nobody seems to make it here. I called a local Indian restaurant and they told me they could do it, but only if I wanted at least a gallon of it.

I think it takes more than 24 hours to prepare. Is that correct?

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There are so many versions of Pasandas.... I am yet to eat the same version at any two homes or even restaurants.

What is a Pasanda to you?

Where did you eat it last? How did they prepare it?

If you give us some frame of reference to begin with, maybe we can get you a recipe.

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I've only had it at Jackson Diner, which seems to be the only restaurant that has it on the menu (at least in New York.) What is so fantastic about it? The balance of the heat, spices, cream, onions. It's the dish that's got it all.

What are the variations on it?

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The South Asian dish that had the most memorable impact on me, is in fact the first one I ever tasted. It was not in a restaurant, it was not in someone's home, it wasn't even Indian, but, rather, Pakistani. It was the Spring of 1969, 6th grade class picnic. It was next to the Hudson River by the Little Red Lighthouse in Northern Manhattan. We had all been instructed to have our parents provide us with a picnic lunch. Don't even remember what I brought, probably a sandwich of some sort, as did most all of the other kids. But not Wesley Khan. He and his sister, recent arrivals from Pakistan, and 3 years older than the rest of us, brought some strange looking concoctions. Luckily I sat with them. I had showed Wesley how to play baseball, and he was appreciative of the instruction I had given him. We became pals, often getting together after school to bat the ball to each other. I forgot whatever food I had unwrapped in front of me, and became intrigued by the strange looking bread which Wesley took from his brown bag. He then proceeded to remove several small tupperware type dishes from another brown bag. He saw me watching, and I am sure he understood that I had never seen food like this before, and just smiled and kept on with his preparation. When he finished, he explained that this was how they ate in Pakistan. I was amazed at how he would scoop up some of the contents of the tupperware with torn pieces of this bread. He offered me some, and I wasn't the least bit hesitant. Oh yum! I had never tasted anything like this before. He never did tell me the names of any of the dishes, but thinking back, I am fairly certain that the bread was a Pakistani version of a chapati. It was slightly cold, and a little wet to the touch, (though not oozing) a bit shiny, even, but was a deep golden color, almost as if turmeric were added, which I'm sure must not have been the case. It was very pliable, and broke off easily. I scooped up something orange, which I am nearly certain was orange lentils. It wasn't runny, like a dhal, but it was semi thick, as if it had been made for scooping purposes. Wesley instructed me to add the contents of the other tupperware to my scoopings. These were, as near as I can remember, tomato and onion chutneys, and green coriander sauce. I added these other elements, and agreed with Wesley that whatever I was tasting was made more delicious by these additions. Between Wesley, his sister, and myself, we must have polished off eight or so chapatis before all the filling was finished. Not to worry, I had a plastic spoon in my bag, and Wesley and I shared the rest of the fillings until they were gone. His sister had eaten her fill already by the time the chapatis were consumed. After this delicious meal, it never occured to me that I could have this sort of food again, or that I might try to finagle an invite to his house for dinner. A 6th grader just doesn't think that way, and certainly I had no idea that this sort of food could be had in a restaurant. Indeed it wasn't until 1976, more than 7 years later, that I had my first Indian restaurant meal. This was in Berkeley, California. After school, when I got back to New York, I discovered 6th street, and later, Curry Hill. Still haven't managed to finagle an invitation to eat South Asian in someone's home, but the restaurant circuit keeps my Indian food jones sated, to some extent, anyway.

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Indeed it wasn't until 1976, more than 7 years later, that I had my first Indian restaurant meal. This was in Berkeley, California. After school, when I got back to New York, I discovered 6th street, and later, Curry Hill. Still haven't managed to finagle an invitation to eat South Asian in someone's home, but the restaurant circuit keeps my Indian food jones sated, to some extent, anyway.

Haggis,

You write so beautifully and with such passion. Thanks for sharing that first meal you ate from the sub-continent. Indeed the orange dish could have been a thick dal or even some other curry with vegetables or even chickpeas or something.

Conidments are always a great addition. Especially when eating cold meals. They make up for the lack of perfect bread. I am sure what you ate was just a cold chapati. And from having been wrapped up when it was hot, some of the condensation made it seem just a little wet.

What are your favorite dishes now at the Indian restaurants you frequent? What are your favorite restaurants in NYC? What dishes do you like most at these restaurants?

Do you ever cook Indian food at home?

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Thanks, Suvir, that is kind of you to say. I do cook Indian food at home. I am not sure about its authenticity, but I can vouch for its tastiness. Mostly I try my hand at curries. My best dishes seem to be simple potato curry, saag paneer, and baingan bhartha. To flavor each of these I use garam masala, and lots of fresh chopped ginger, onion, garlic and green cayenne (which I understand is the most authentic chile to cook with if I want to replicate Indian cooking, is it not?) I will sometimes use serrano, thai bird, or plain old jalapenos if green cayenne is unavailable. I would love to be able to prepare the South Indian favorites, but I am sure that the results would be less than spectacular. I can make very good pancakes from scratch, but somehow I don't think that skill would translate equally to utthapams, would it?

My current faves for NYC Indian restaurants are Pongal, Udipi Palace, and Madras Mahal for South Indian; Dimple for chaats and the curries on their buffet; Delhi Palace in Jackson Heights for traditional Mughlai cuisine and surprisingly good iddly, believe it or not; Chola and Utsav for upscale Indian dining (Chola especially, for its diverse regional menu); and Banjara for their Dumpakhts. These are curries that have a shell of pastry surrounding them, and are fun to eat, sort of like breaking through the browned cheese in French Onion Soup. I've never seen them before on any other Indian menu, and I wonder if they are a novelty, or if they are seen on Indian menus or homes in India. But you know, Suvir, Indian restaurants in NYC always seem to be in flux, with chefs jumping ship left and right. Though I feel confident that the above roster represents my favorites in July 2002, by October or November, I will probably have to drop one or two and add a few others. But that's ok, I enjoy the hunt, and am happy to have discovered eGullet and its Indian forum to help me track down leads. I know you enjoy Pongal and Dimple, Suvir, but I am wondering how my other crop of faves stack up against yours?

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Dum Pukht dishes come from the Oudh region of Northern India. The area that Mughal Cuisine could call its birthplace. Yes many homes would have that in their repertoire. IN fact in my home in NYC I make my Biryaani dum pukht with bread sealing the pan.

Banjara is great in that it does have these on its menu. Even before Banjara Indian Oven had these and I am sure still has these on its menu. Indian Oven is on the UWS side. It is a great spot for a neighborhood restaurant. Do you know of it? They also happen to make the best Bhel Puri in that area and also the best Chaat Papri. And of course their Dum Pukht dishes are great. And also they serve the best Tandoori Pomfret.

Uthappams are relatively easy to make. Get a hold of one of Julie Sahnis cook books. I think the vegetarian and grain cook book has a recipe. Dosai need a deft hand and a lot of practice. Uthappams are far more forgiving. And actually amazing to make for a bunch of freinds that would be willing to sit in your kitchen as you make them.

Maybe you can start a thread on Baingan Bharta... and tell us how you make it. It is one of those most favorite Indian dishes using eggplants. Also maybe you can start threads on Saap Paneer or even your potato curry. All seem like dishes that would bring lots of interest from other members as well.

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A college friend from Lucknow introduced me to Indian food. On my dorm-room hotplate (illegal), we made curry and dal. The curry was simple - oil-toasted spices, lots of onions, lamb or chicken, water. The room and hallway were fragrant for days after, so the hotplate didn't last long. :raz:

I was invited to my friend’s home in NJ on occasion. On my first visit, she assured her mother I could handle the heat level they liked. The lamb curry was so spicy it brought tears to my eyes but I loved it.

My memories of what else we ate and cooked are sketchy, alas. (This was many years ago, and it was the ‘60s more or less.) Keemah, mostly with ground lamb. Pulau. Chapatis and mango pickle. A vegetable stew of potatoes and something else - peas? cauliflower? It was called pudya, pronounced like ‘wouldjya.’ I can’t find it on the Web so maybe I’ve garbled the name, or the spelling, or both.

Most exotic, to my ignorant palate, was carrot halwa. We peeled and grated piles of carrots, cooked them in ghee and a little sugar until caramelized, then added milk and cardamom pods and simmered until the carrots were almost dry. Pistachios were mixed in at some point. Intensely sweet, very rich, almost fudgy in texture. Oh it was good. Does anyone have a recipe to share?

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I made my own version of aSouthern Indian molee yesterday,using the smoked dried mangosteen[kodampoli],that I'd brought back from India.Sauteed some onions,ginger and garlic,fresh chilies;added tomatos,turmeric,salt,and chili powder,and let it simmer a bit before adding coconut milk,curry leaf,and then,some wonderful fresh cod from the greenmarket.I simmered this gently,until the fish was cooked,then served with rice and fresh cilantro and more diced chilies.....and it had the smoky taste of the kodampoli,and was quite memorable,wonderful,and tasty....

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I simmered this gently,until the fish was cooked,then served with rice and fresh cilantro and more diced chilies.....and it had the smoky taste of the kodampoli,and was quite memorable,wonderful,and tasty....

Yummm... and where was I? Kidding!

The Molee sounds wonderful. Do you make it often? When were you in India last?

Thanks for sharing your recipe. :smile:

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A college friend from Lucknow introduced me to Indian food.  On my dorm-room hotplate (illegal), we made curry and dal.  The curry was simple - oil-toasted spices, lots of onions, lamb or chicken, water. The room and hallway were fragrant for days after, so the hotplate didn't last long. :raz:

I was invited to my friend’s home in NJ on occasion.  On my first visit, she assured her mother I could handle the heat level they liked.  The lamb curry was so spicy it brought tears to my eyes but I loved it. 

My memories of what else we ate and cooked are sketchy, alas.  (This was many years ago, and it was the ‘60s more or less.)  Keemah, mostly with ground lamb.  Pulau.  Chapatis and mango pickle.  A vegetable stew of potatoes and something else - peas? cauliflower?  It was called pudya, pronounced like ‘wouldjya.’ I can’t find it on the Web so maybe I’ve garbled the name, or the spelling, or both. 

Most exotic, to my ignorant palate, was carrot halwa.  We peeled and grated piles of carrots, cooked them in ghee and a little sugar until caramelized, then added milk and cardamom pods and simmered until the carrots were almost dry.  Pistachios were mixed in at some point.  Intensely sweet, very rich, almost fudgy in texture.  Oh it was good.  Does anyone have a recipe to share?

Cathy,

Thanks for sharing your memories. Lucknow is the land considered mother to many of Indias cultural treasures. Not the least of which are Kathak (dance form), Urdu (language) and Dum Pukht and many other types of Mughal recipes.

Gaajar Halwa when made with care and affection is amazing. It is made as you describe. I have yet to find good carrots like those I grew up eating in India. And thus, I am yet to test the recipe from my notes from Panditji (our chef at home).

Most Indians I know do not waste efforts making it here. I know some restaurants do make it. My grandmother in SF makes it once in a few years when one of my cousins is really missing it. But for the most part, we enjoy it made by Panditji at home in India. Our families recipe, like our rice pudding, is made over several hours of cooking. It is amazing and my mother smuggles it into the country quite often when she comes here in the winter months. Carrots are a winter vegetable in India.

I am sorry that I am unable to think of a name for that dishs you remember with potatoes, peas and cauliflower.

Look forward to your sharing other stories you have about Indian cooking. This was wonderful. You have me all nostalgic about Lucknow now.

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