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Back from my travels


Suvir Saran
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Welcome back, Suvir.

So, tell us. What did you eat?

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jinmyo,

We ate much too much.  Will write in detail very soon I promise.

In Delhi I went to my favorite Southern Indian restaurant Sagar.  It was great eating Dosas (rice and lentil crepes) stuffed with spiced southern style mashed potatoes, Vadas (dumplings made with rice and bean batter) in sambhaar (lentil and mixed vegetable stew), Rava Dosas (crepes made with semolina) and Masala Vadas (fried dumplings made with lentils and onions and chilies).

We were attending a wedding whilst we were there.  The food was  nice.  The Kashmiri dishes were great as also the Kulfi made in earthenware containers.  The Gulab Jamuns had me crying as I never get those even half as good in America.  

We were off to Bombay next.  Panditji (our chef at home of over 60 years) made lots of food and great food.  We ate enough for a battalion of soldiers.  But no amount was enough.  Taree Waale Gatte (very light fritters made with Chickpea flour and carom seeds laced in a very light tomato sauce), Stuffed Tindas (a round tomato like gourd stuffed with spices and steamed in a tomato and onion gravy), Arvi ke chaaps  (Colocasia chips made like fish n chips), Kathal kee Sabzee (Jackfruit made like a chicken curry), Kathak Kee Biryaani (Jackfruit Biryaani), Raajmah Chaawal (Kidney beans and rice), Kwalitys Chaanas ( these are chickpeas made in the style of this famous Delhi restaurant called Kwalitys.  My mother has taught Panditji this recipe.  These dark sour and spicy chick peas are served with pooris or bhaturas), Mangauri Kee Sabzee (Mung bean dumplings in a very light watery gravy, while many homes make this, only a few can make these fresh and as soft and light as Panditji.  I have tried and have failed every time), Bharwaan Parwal ( spice stuffed Parwal, which is another very tiny gourd almost the size of a okra), Of course lots of chutneys and pickles and for the last meal he made Tahiree ( rice cooked with peas and potatoes and served with raita and chutney and papadums).  I have not listed everything he made but just a few highlights.  At breakfast he made at least two dishes.  Each morning and these could be a cookbook for me to write.  Addictive deep fried dishes, parathas(flat breads, stuffed or even plain but spiced), uppmas ( a spicy dry porridge like dish made with semolina cooked with yogurt), Poha (beaten rice spiced and cooked with potatoes and peas) and other breakfast foods.

We ate a wonderful meal at Khyber reputed to be the best North Indian restaurant in Bombay.  The owner hosted a small dinner at which he invited a few friends so we could meet these people in one night.  The food was great.  Crispy Baby corn, Mushroom Tikkas (heavenly), Chicken Kababs, Great Papri Chaat (street food dish made with whole wheat crisps and spiked with toasted cumin, chilies, chutneys and yogurt) and then many entrees.

We went off to Goa next where we had amazing food.  Some fusion food.. French and Indian.  Actually very impressive meal.  The best Prawn Curry I have every eaten and think will eat in a long time. Nothing has ever come close to that rendition of Prawn curry ever before.. and I think I will have to live long before I eat one as good.  It was at a very small restaurant in town called Pranit (will check on the name and post it once I know I am correct).  It is one of the oldest restaurants and the food was sensational.  The calamari was amazing.  The french fries the best I have eaten yet.

So much more to write.. WIll write more later.  I am sure this gives you a brief insight into what else happened.

Singapore was another world altogether.  Endless amounts of eating and drinking.

And then there was Holi in Delhi.  Which would be a book in itself.  What was served at the Holi party may have caused arrests in some countries.  Brownied served Alice B. Toklas style are mild compared to what was being served that day.  I am sure you understand what I mean.

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Great summary.

I love dosas but often see them made so that they are as big as the length of my arm. I'd rather something about the size of the palm of my hand.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jinmyo dosas made at homes in the south are much smaller.  More like the size of large pancakes as one would see in the south of the US.

At Indian restaurants they also sell Family Dosas that are even bigger than the length of your arm... maybe two lengths... and as the name suggests they cater to a family.

But I am yet to eat a great south Indian meal in the US.  At some places the Dosas are great but the condiments and the sambhaar are far from good.  At others the sambhaar is decent but the Dosas far from good.  At Sagar they are all perfect. And that is what one should have at any meal.

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Suvir,

Thanks for the excellent post; I trust you'll fill us in on Singapore eventually--I'm really looking forward to hearing about the cuisine there as it is a complete mystery to me.

YOur post raises a couple of questions:

1.  Are the Kwalitys channa related anyway to chola?  The description sounds remarkably similar to the brown colored punjabi style chickpeas that I'm quite fond of, but the name kind of throws me.

2.  I'd love some more information on the mushroom tikkas.  On my admitedly limited experience in India, I haven't seen a wide utilization (in fact, hardly any) of mushrooms; most of my indian relatives can't stand mushrooms.  So, I'm curious, what kind of mushrooms were used. Moreover, being a gujrati, I'm not sure exactly what the traditional tikka preparation is--most of the time I expereince tikka, it's chicken tikka.  Where tikka simply mean normal tandoori chicken made with small pieces of breast that have no bones.  Thus, I'd appreciate a description of the dish, and how exactly it differs (if at all) from the traditional tikka preparation.

Finally, I'm a bit intruiged by the notion of youghurt in uupma.  I believe in my family we use raava and water along with onions cilantro, cashews raisins green chilis and cilantro.  I'm wondering what kind of change in the flavor is caused by the youghurt?  Is it merely an extra creaminess?  That would feel a bit out of character from the Indian food that I'm used to.

Due to your high marks, I will try to check out Khyber again the next time I'm in Mumbai.  I was quite young the last time I was there.  I insited on eating a hamburger, and subsequently got sick to my stomach.  I think it's time to forgive them, though I'm still a bit leery of eating meat prepared in restaurants while in India.

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1)   Kwalitys Channas are the very dark cholas you often find in Punjabi style restaurants.  But the real Kwalitys channas are made without too many ingredients.  In fact they are almost black and made with a lot of dried and roasted spices.  A melange of Amchoor (mango powder), Anaardaana (pomegranate seeds), kaala zeera (black cumin seeds), kaala namak (black salt), kaali mirchi (black peppercorns), strangely enough some versions of this recipe have curry leaves added to it and of course red chile powder.  The chickpeas are soaked overnight with a muslin tied infusion of tea leaves to add color and they are cooked with this bag of tea leaves as well.  This leaves the chickpeas with a dark color.  The spices are roasted carefully till dark but not charred and then ground.  The end result is a very dark dish of chickpeas that is sour, spicy and tasty.  Lots of chilled onion rings and freshly fried puffy bhaturas (deep fried poori like bread) to go with it.  I am yet to come across an authentic or even close rendering of it in NYC.  In Delhi these are now common fare in most of the Bengali Sweet like chaat houses.  

2)    Mushroom Tikkas are made with large white mushrooms (most commonly seen in grocery stores).  The tikkas are made like the usual chicken tikkas.  The only difference is that instead of fillets of chicken you have large chunks of mushrooms.  A great appetiser for a vegetarian that likes foods more chewy.

Mushrooms are made quite a lot in northern India.  They are avoided in vegetarian homes for people associate them with meat.  Do not ask me why.. I have heard a hundred different answers.  In fact in my own home, till I was 13, we never ate mushrooms.  But then, my sister got a taste for them and I became lucky for that.  We never stopped eating them after that and now have many recipes in our household using them.  And these are age old recipes.  In fact in Srinagar Club or what used to be called that they made the best Open Toast Mushroom Sandwiches.  These were toasts topped with a spicy preparations of Karahi Mushrooms and it is heaven tasted at every crunchy bite.  Our friend Bindiya whose family fled Srinagar would make  these as evening snacks.  It was nostalgia for her and a feast for the senses for me and our other friends.  In my cook book I will have at least 2-3 recipes with mushrooms.  In my kitchen at home, I make them in innumerable ways.  All Indian and all recipes I learned at home from Panditji, a very conservative Indian chef.  Mind you my father never eats mushrooms. He finds t hem meaty and enjoys looking at us eat them but cannot even fathom tasting one.

Uppma is most often made as you say it was made in your home.  Some southerners who have lived in the north use sour yogurt not for the creaminess but to add a wonderful acid taste to the dish. It completely elevates the flavor profile of the otherwise very plain but still delicious dish.  You can try making your recipe with half water and half yogurt, you will be pleasantly surprised.  

In northern Indian cooking yogurt actually is not used for creaminess but for the souring effect that is at once sharp and yet quite subtle.  When Northerners like me want creamy, nothing stops us from using real heavy cream.  We love it and indulge in it with carefree abandon.  Another point to note on yogurt would be the fact that it is used sparingly in the North as a staple for the most part, for milk is not reasonable.  Or at least to the majority that is not very affluent.  But in Punjab and Haryana where milk is abundant yogurt accompanies all meals.  It is eaten plain as a condiment with any meal, in the form of raitas and at the end of meals with some sugar, jaggery or even dried fruits and nuts as a digestive and simple dessert.  The Punjabis believe and rightly so that the bacteria in the yogurt helps keep the biosystem in our stomachs healthy and active for easy digestion.

And thanks Ajay for your kind words.  Singapore will come out eventually.  It was so diverse, so wonderfully exhaustive that I have to make a huge effort to sieve through the many meals I ate and in the many diverse settings before I can start writing.

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Mushrooms are made quite a lot in northern India.  They are avoided in vegetarian homes for people associate them with meat.  Do not ask me why.. I have heard a hundred different answers.  In fact in my own home, till I was 13, we never ate mushrooms.  But then, my sister got a taste for them and I became lucky for that.  We never stopped eating them after that and now have many recipes in our household using them.  And these are age old recipes.  In fact in Srinagar Club or what used to be called that they made the best Open Toast Mushroom Sandwiches.  These were toasts topped with a spicy preparations of Karahi Mushrooms and it is heaven tasted at every crunchy bite.  Our friend Bindiya whose family fled Srinagar would make  these as evening snacks.  It was nostalgia for her and a feast for the senses for me and our other friends.  In my cook book I will have at least 2-3 recipes with mushrooms.  In my kitchen at home, I make them in innumerable ways.  All Indian and all recipes I learned at home from Panditji, a very conservative Indian chef.  Mind you my father never eats mushrooms. He finds t hem meaty and enjoys looking at us eat them but cannot even fathom tasting one.

Suvir, this is very interesting. I have never had any other mushroom than Paris/white button mushrooms in Indian cuisine. But surely there must be very many varities that grow. How many are used and in what ways?

Anything you know or discover would make a wonderful thread.

I know that mushrooms are traditonally considered to be unclean in Indian culture because they are associated with the dead and are "tamasic". Just as garlic/leeks/onions can be considered as giving rise to lust in several Indian religious contexts and are "rajasic".

Mushrooms and the lily family such as shallots are among my favourite foods. Anything that occurs to you or anyone would be of interest.

My thanks.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Button Mushrooms are most common in India.  They can be found in small or large sizes.  And in fact they are considered by most Indians to be the safest mushroom to eat.  There are many stories about food posioning related to mushrooms.  While certainly that can be an issue, I do think some of it comes from the belief that mushrooms are Tamasic as Jinmyo points out.  

Kashmir had a seasonal harvest of Morrel mushrooms.  And these are the prized variety that mushroom eating Indians crave.  They are very expensive.  Short in supply and having dishes with them on a menu brings many compliments to the host.  In fact my partners brother sends us Morrels from their farm in Missouri and I am always transported back to thinking of Kashmir.

While I have seen all other mushrooms we find here in Indian hotels, I am not sure how extensively they are grown or used in India today.  Those in the know, people that love mushrooms certainly know better and enjoy all the kinds one can get.

As for shallots, many Indian chefs prepare making curries with shallots for they have more sugar it is believed and one can use lesser amounts in comparison to onions and get the balance between acid and sweet in sauces.  Shallots are one vegetable that I have seen be larger in India.  Surprising for one normally sees produce there be much smaller in size than what we see in the US markets.

I will also post this in a new thread called Mushrooms in Indian cooking.  Reply to this post on that thread please.  Thanks.

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