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Souring Agents

Suvir Saran

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Suvir - I forgot that I am also using pomegrante concentrate/syrup as a souring agent.


I have only ever seen the pomegranate concentrate in bottles and tasted it in certain Middle eastern dishes. It find it more sweet than sour. And also used often for coloring.

I simply used dried seeds that are crushed. They are not sweet and amazingly sour. Most Indian stores will sell them as Anaardana. Try them, they are easy to use and would never make a dish too sweet or dark.

Different brands of pomegrante concentrate vary greatly in flavour, sweetness, colour and sourness. I mostly use Iranian brands as they tend to have a more fruity flavour and more sweet/sour balance then the Turkish versions I have tasted. In Persain cooking, the dark colour from the concentrate is highly prized. Unfortunately it does burn easily, which is how I ruined a meal recently, I busy drinking cocktails, not enough attention being paid to the cooking.

Strangely, it is quite nice when used to make caper sauce (a hot brown butter vinegette) to go with boiled salt beef.

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How lovely-barberries in rice pudding.

I'm going to try that.

We have a Kurdish friend staying with us at the moment and he puts barberries in saffron pilaf. Very pretty.

Recipe Please! :biggrin:

It sounds amazing...

My friend Kalil soaks his rice (basmati) in cold water for at least one hour but over night if possible.

Drain the rice and fry it in butter with a sprinkle of saffron, some salt and some barberries.

Cook as per absorbtion method, with a clean teatowel wrapped around the lid of the pan to absorb the condensation from the steam.

Sorry about the lack of measurements, but this is just from watching Kalil cook dinner.

He learnt from his mum, and doesn't seem to measure anything.

How sad; a house full of condiments and no food.

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  • 1 year later...

Interesting thread on souring agents. Indian dishes are most often associated with spiciness, but in fact I think its the souring agents that can be the really distinctive factors. Certainly I think communities tend to have their own souring agents which they cling to as points of distinction.

So, for example, on the West coast an in particular in Goa, fairly similar ingredients and styles of cooking are distinguished by the souring agent of kokam, which would be used by Hindus, and vinegar, which would be used by Christians. And different types of vinegar, as Suvir notes, are used by different communities. Anardana is a _very_ north Indian spice - I never saw it in a kitchen until I was in London staying with a friend of Pakistani origin.

Barberries, by the way, are used in dishes made by the Irani community in Bombay, made up, as their name suggests, of immigrants from Iran who came at the turn of the last century. Bombay's economy was booming then, lead in particular by Parsi entrepreneurs and they used their new prosperity to bring over people from Persia, the homeland they had fled centuries back, to work as servants for them.

Some of these people were poor Zoroastrians like the Parsis, some were Muslims, but since their connections to Persia were much more recent than those of the Parsis, they stiff used ingredients like barberries that the Parsis had given up. Not far from my office there's an excellent restaurant called Britannia which makes Parsi and Irani dishes for lunch including an absolutely amazing chicken berry pulao where the berries are barberries imported from Iran.


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For meat dishes (especially goat meat aka mutton), I use Yougurt most of the time. Sometimes I use tomatoes. For veggies, I almost always use tomatoes.

Also use tamarind (concentrate is what I use) for some dishes, especially as the main ingredient in the "sauce" to be used on chaats.

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Pardon me if I butt in Suvir, but I have this info in my head.

Barberries are known as Zareshk/Zarishth or as my Mom & her tribe refer to them, Jireesh. They look like red raisins and the taste is not unlike dried anardana.

The last time when I went tracking them( I often do these hot pursuits when something evades me!), I managed to buy them in the Iranian market in old Dubai. Now I just ask friends to bring it from there. I also discovered some good Iranian caviar there at a ridiculous price but it was without a CITES certificate so I dont order that anymore.

Apart from the pulao I add barberries in dolmas.

Sumac, Ive been led to believe, is not totally unknown in Indian cuisine but I've only come across a specimen recently. Will let you know after doing some more cross referencing with the sample, which incidentally is from Afghanistan.

I fry by the heat of my pans. ~ Suresh Hinduja


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Sumac, Ive been led to believe, is not totally unknown in Indian cuisine but I've only come across a specimen recently.

I've also just been given a bagfull by a friend who's came from Istanbul and knew my liking for odd ingredients. If you come up with any ideas for using it, let me know,


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  • 9 months later...

Digging up this thread to ask a question on amchur. I was replenishing my stock the other day - standard Everest brand packet - when I realised I didn't know much about it. Does anyone know if any particular kind of mango is used to make amchur or will any mango do? How ripe or raw does the mango have to be? Is it just the flesh that's dried or the skin as well?

Amchur is a spice I am only just getting to know and its an interesting one. There's a fruity edge to the sourness that I find quite attractive. What recipes do people have that bring out this aspect of amchur well? And has anyone tried using amchur in non-Indian dishes? I imagine it might be possible to substitute it for some middle Eastern spices like sumac or dried lemons - it wouldn't be the same, but might give interesting differences?

Do cuisines outside India use an amchur type spice? Mangoes, as we now know thanks to the extensive mango thread that came up in defiance of Mongo's protests, are grown all over the place like in Mexico or Hawaii or the Philippines. Has anyone come across mangos used as a souring agent there?


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I know barberries, an Iranian aunt doles out a share to me everytime she gets them. I saute them with onion and scatter over pulav.

I also use the dried limes (from the same source). Adam could you share some recipes for both of these ingredients?

Vikram Amchur is the powdered form of peeled kairis. I dont know if it has to be a specific species however as I recall my grandma used to dry odd bits of Pickling mangoes (bits cut from close to the stone that were not attractive enought for the pickle) and then grind them into a powder. Amchoor spoils fast.

In our family it is traditional to use the summer months to put down pickles and preserves and spices for the coming year. When I was little i often accompanied my grandmother to the family home in Ahemdabad (where our family originates from), for a whole month in the summer. This is when she would get masallas and pickles made for the rest of the year. I am told she made some 100 different pickles, sadly the recipes have gone with her. along with the tradition of annual pickling etc. I try to follow the tradition at my tiny scale by doing a bit of the pickling etc. in that month but it is nowhere near the way she did it.

Another Gujerati aunt in Ahemdabad (yes i am truly blessed!) is now my source for all of the masallas. Haldi, Red Chilli Powder, Dhaniya Jeera Powder and dried mango, both salty and sweet. (the sweet ones are nice to chew on). Another thing she sends me is the diced, dried and spiced stones of the mango. These aromatic masallas have a very distinct aroma compared to the packaged ones. I feel liek they smell of the sun that they have been dried in...


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