Tuesday, November 20, 2007

India using "ghost chili" to repel killer elephants


www.chinaview.cn 2007-11-20 16:54:12

BEIJING, Nov. 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Indian wildlife experts are using ghost chili -- the world's hottest -- to ward off marauding elephants that have been killing people in villages, and destroying homes and crops in a remote northeast region of the country.

Conservationists working on the experimental project in Assam state said they have put up jute fences smeared with automobile grease and bhut jolokia -- certified as the world's hottest chili by the Guinness Book of World Records -- and were using smoke bombs made from the spicy fruit to keep elephants out.

"We fill straw nests with pungent dry chili and attach them to sticks before burning it. The fire ball emits a strong pungent smell that succeeds in driving away elephants," Nandita Hazarika of the Assam Haathi (Elephant) Project told The Associated Press on Monday.

The animals are not expected to eat the chili -- Hazarika said the smell would be enough to repel them and emphasized the measures would not harm the elephants. Northeast India accounts for the world's largest concentration of wild Asiatic elephants; 5,000 are estimated living in Assam alone.

Conservationists say wild elephants increasingly attack human settlements that encroach on their natural habitat. Satellite imagery by India's National Remote Sensing Agency shows that up to 691,880 acres (280,000 hectares) of Assam's forests were cleared from 1996 to 2000.

More than 600 people have been killed by wild elephants in Assam in the past 16 years and villagers have reacted with an anger that has shocked conservationists. In 2001, in Sonitpur district, 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of the state capital of Gauhati, villagers poisoned 19 wild elephants to death after they feasted on crops and trampled houses.

At 1,000,000 Scoville units -- the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness -- the bhut jolokia topped the Red Savina habanero, whose spiciness measured around 580,000 Scoville units.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wall Street Journal on Bisi Bele Bath

The Dish: Bisi Bele Bath

A Lot Goes Into Bangalore's Favorite Meal
October 26, 2007

Comfort food gets a characteristically spicy Indian touch in Bangalore in the form of bisi bele bath, a hearty dish of moist rice and lentils that features a tamarind tang and a slow chili afterburn. Devotees praise it as an all-in-one meal, nutritious but rather heavy thanks to generous helpings of ghee (clarified butter). A typical portion is also studded with carrots, beans, green peas and onions. With more than 30 ingredients, this slow-cooked, aromatic dish is nonetheless routinely described as easy to make. "I started cooking it when I was 8 years old. At that age, it was tough," says Vijayalakshmi Reddy, now a 61-year-old television chef whose Bangalore cooking classes attract the wives of cricketers, actors and politicians. They find bisi bele bath a breeze, Ms. Reddy says.

[Dish photo]

No other dish from India's southern state of Karnataka can rival the fame of bisi bele bath. Much of the credit goes to the Bangalore-based MTR Foods Ltd. (recently acquired by Orkla ASA of Norway), which began producing both a ready-to-microwave version and a spice mix six years ago; the company now sells 60 tons of each a year. But mass-market uniformity hasn't wiped out generations of homemade creative tweaking. "I can't keep track of what is authentic. Each home claims the more 'original' version," says Praveen Anand, executive chef of Dakshin restaurant in Chennai, in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.

The History

Surprisingly, vegetable-heavy bisi bele bath began life vegetable-free. The name literally means "hot rice cooked in sauce" in the local language, Kannada. The late K.T. Achaya, author of "A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food," maintained in the book that the dish is a modern version of a 10th-century preparation called kattogara that combined rice with ghee, salt and garlic. But that theory doesn't convince Venkatesh Bhat, chef at Bangalore's South Indies restaurant, who spent three years in the mid-1990s researching South Indian specialties. Mr. Bhat and others argue that the dish was dreamed up 300 years ago in Mysore Palace, 140 kilometers southwest of Bangalore. It was a lunch item, they say, enlivened with cashew nuts, tamarind, dried coconut, mustard seeds, cloves, cinnamon and turmeric. No vegetables were necessary because the royals who lived in the palace had their pick of many vegetable-based side dishes.

At some stage, though, bisi bele bath escaped the palace walls and found its way to the famed vegetarian eateries of Udupi in western Karnataka. From there, a vegetable-laden version spread throughout the state and bisi bele bath turned into a hearty farmer's meal, consumed mid-morning after a stint in the fields.

The Setting

Today, bisi bele bath appears on the table for late breakfast, lunch and even dinner, although late-night consumption of such a rich dish carries the risk of indigestion. At Bangalore's inexpensive vegetarian joints, customers eat it at top speed, often standing up.

Families trot out their special version of bisi bele bath for visiting relatives until they simply can't eat any more. It's also a popular picnic food.

The Judgment

Inevitably with such a popular dish, no one can quite agree on the correct recipe. Some eateries sprinkle tiny balls of fried chickpea flour, known as boondi, on the dish in order to satisfy the Indian penchant for something crunchy. Others deliver the crunch with a side dish of raita, which offers nuggets of raw onion swimming in yogurt, although bisi bele bath is most commonly eaten on its own. The problem, say some, is that these additions and condiments, along with an overdose of green peas, beans and carrots, can overpower the more delicate spices (in addition to mustard seeds, cloves, cinnamon and turmeric, the dish typically includes curry leaves, coriander leaves and fenugreek seeds). "The flavor of the dish is killed if you add boondi," grumbles Mr. Bhat of South Indies restaurant, who finds green peas equally objectionable. His version emphasizes the soft texture of the dish, and the delayed heat produced by Mangalore chilies. The chef says he only deviates slightly from the palace recipe by adding a few slivers of carrots and beans to make it "a tad nutritious."

The Sources

South Indies

With high ceilings, fresh flowers, and Indian classical music gently rippling in the background, this classy venue caters to corporate diners and their foreign guests. Mr. Bhat's palace version of bisi bele bath is available a la carte and sometimes included in the plentiful lunch buffet.

840/A, 100 Foot Rd., Indiranagar. 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. 91-80-4163-6363. Bisi bele bath $2.30, lunch buffet $9.


Plunge into Bangalore's lively old neighborhood of Malleshwaram, where the local Brahmins (the priestly caste) take their vegetarian food very seriously. Fight your way to the cash register, pay in advance and bring the chit to the South Indian counter: You'll be rewarded with a steel plate filled to the brim, and expected to leave within 20 minutes. This version boasts lots of vegetables, and boondi on the side, but no extra ghee, in deference to the "Health is Wealth" sign out front.

3rd Cross, Sampige Road, Malleshwaram. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 91-80-4127-9754. 25 cents.

Mavalli Tiffin Rooms

Going strong since 1924, this Bangalore institution sells about 150 plates of bisi bele bath a day. Customers must cool their heels in the Waiting Hall after giving their names to a barefoot man with a clipboard. Never mind the red plastic chairs, dingy walls and lackadaisical service: Revel in the family hubbub and marvel at the quantities of food ingested here.

14 Lalbagh Rd. 12:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., but often sold out by 5 p.m. 91-80-2222-0022. 55 cents.

--Margot Cohen is a Bangalore-based writer.

Write to Margot Cohen at margot.cohen[at]awsj.com

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pune's finger-licking Maharashtrian cuisine

From Rediff

Pune's finger-licking Maharashtrian cuisine

Archana Pande
October 18, 2007

Pune City can well be considered a foodies' paradise. Gastronomic offerings range from top-of-the-line cuisine to street fare and everything in between, both desi and videsi, vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

A visit to Pune simply must include a typical Maharashtrian meal. Food is always served in a 'thali' -- restaurants have a preset menu that is changed every week. A thali usually includes two vegetables, a dal, salad, rotis, rice, papad and vadas. Some offer more preparations of each type along with a range of steamed or fried farsans. Food is usually eaten by hand (unless you insist on a spoon) and most eateries have special menus on festivals or special occasions, which are advertised in local newspapers.

My tip -- make sure to skip breakfast to do full justice at a Maharashtrian restaurant, even if your dietician advises against it! On the positive side, lunch is available from 11:30 am onwards, so your stomach fire need not burn too long!

I decided to shut my kitchen for the day and check out what some of the popular vegetarian eateries have to offer.

Durvankur, located on Tilak Road attracts the eye from afar with huge hoardings. Negotiating your way through Tilak Road is tricky enough, but trying to find a spot and then park can test one's patience to the extreme. I choose the stairs over the lift to reach the restuarant and reached the second floor out of breath! We luckily secured a table by the large windows, which give you a panoramic view of the city. Tables laden with plates and katori sets await hungry mortals. Once you are seated, be prepared for an attack from a veritable army of waiters, all eager to serve you. Tangy chutneys form colourful palettes that zing the palate. Sweets can be ordered at an extra charge on weekdays. Do try the sitafal rabdi -- thickened milk, sweet with luscious pieces of custard apple.

Shabari Restaurant at Hotel Parichay is another eatery worth its salt. The interior greets you with huge pots and floating flower arrangements. There is a separate air-conditioned hall as well as some open-air seating that is screened off from prying eyes with bamboo curtains. The Sunday lunch menu usually includes 'aloo chee bhajee'. Folks, that's not aloo as in potato but the Marathi term for colococia. Its leaves are used to prepare a delightful broth with groundnuts and fresh coconut -- a tasty preparation to get reluctant kids hooked onto leafy vegetables! Shabari serves jwaree and bajree bhakrees (made from milo/jawar and millet respectively). Both need absolutely no fat when cooking and are the staple diet of interior regions within the state. Packed with nutritious elements and fibre, they are best eaten hot off the griddle with roughly crushed onions and garlic chutney; the crowing glory is a dollop of homemade butter!

Another Maharashtrian food haven, Krishna Dining Hall is prominently located on Law College Road, flanked by Barista caf�, Kobe Sizzlers and Caf� Coffee Day on three sides -- just goes to prove my point of culture fusion in this tradition rich city! Krishna, however, seats fewer people so I had to wait my turn and idled my time under a canopy of old trees watching traffic on this busy road. A short flight of stairs takes us to the hall, which doesn'tt afford you too much space to manoeuvre. There was no elevator, so those with any problems climbing stairs, please take note. The staff is well dressed and polite and the promptly-served food satisfies both the eye and the palate! On this particular day, I was lucky to enjoy the traditional 'walachee usal'. Pulses are an important part of Marathi meals and waal (field beans) is a delicacy. De-skinning waal is tricky but the final bittersweet dish, heavily garnished with coriander and coconut, is worth a mouthful. With a constant stream of incredibly thin and soft fulkas, I just lost count of how many I ate! The best part was unlimited 'taak' or buttermilk. The sumptuous spread was well worth the wait.

Hotel Shreyas, tucked away in a quite bylane of Apte Road, offers some creature comforts like air conditioning along with delectable fare. As I had reached early, the place was relatively empty and peaceful so I could enjoy the piped music. Eight pairs of eyes kept a sharp eye on my plate, keen to refill it at a moment's notice! Typical 'amti' (sweet-sour tur dal preparation) are best enjoyed here, accompanied by both 'puri' and 'poli'. Ghee is generously served with rice, so be sure to indicate your preference well in time or scrap your calorie counter for the day! They offer 'modak' every day for lunch (chargeable extra of course) and at dinnertime only on 'Sankashti chaturthi' -- the fourth day after the full moon each month. This steamed sweet is said to be the favourite of Lord Ganesha and needs great skill in preparation. The fresh fig-shaped modak has a soft covering made of rice flour. Split it and drench the coconut-jaggery stuffing with ghee before devouring it. Don't be ashamed if you are tempted to lick your fingers as you scrape the last bits off your plate. Shreyas also hosts a two-day Marathi food fest during Ganeshotsav each year, which features rare recipes from the interior regions. A beautifully packed 'masala paan' (betel nut leaf) completes the meal as we drag ourselves out.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Roads like JM Road and FC Road have several streetside vendors and restaurants at every step. Roadside eateries spring up every morning in student or office areas selling homemade Maharashtrian snacks. The kande pohe pohe (pressed rice snack with onion) and misal-pav (a spicy sprouted pulse curry with local buns) here are God-sent, especially for those in a hurry. Khichadi made from sago is especially delicious and widely available on Thursdays from these vendors.

This is just a snapshot of some excellent Maharashtrian cuisine available in Pune and it's a good way to familiarise yourself with our beautiful city!


Asha Dining Hall on Apte Road: Simple homely fare that does not burn a hole in the wallet.

Rate: Rs 45 per head, sweets charged extra.
Phone: 25532424


Rate: Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday Rs100,

Thursday/Saturday & Sunday: Rs110 with unlimited sweets

Phone: 25531511

Durvankur on Tilak Road:

Rate: Rs 70 on weekdays (sweets charged extra)
Rs 100 on Sundays (inclusive of sweets)
Phone: 24435980

Shreyas on Apte Road:

Rate: Rs 100 (sweets charged extra)

Phone: 25532023

Valet parking available.

Krishna Dining Hall, Law College Road:

Rate: Rs 110 (sweet charged extra)

(Rates and phone numbers as of October 2007).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Top 10 Food Movies

From Epilog

Top 10 Food Movies

by James Oliver Cury
on 10/08/07 at 07:06 PM


It's been a weird year for food movies. Ratatouille was universally praised, No Reservations globally ignored, and now I hear about a Zen chef from fellow blogger Amy Sherman. Here are some of my favorites...and I'm assuming that wine movies like Sideways and Mondovino don't count.

Top 10 Food Movies
(in random order)

1) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
2) Delicatessen
3) Like Water for Chocolate
4) My Dinner with Andre
5) Babette's Feast
6) Tampopo
7) The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover
8) Big Night
9) Chocolat
10) Eat Drink Man Woman

Click below for #11 and #12...did I forget any classics?

11) Fried Green Tomatoes
12) Ratatouille

My favourite : Penelope Cruz's "Woman on Top"

Friday, October 05, 2007

Kerala Beef Chilli Fry

Kerala Beef Chilli Fry and methi nu dhal today.

Half kg meat - Tweaked the recipe a bit (as usual) - was polished off in under 10 minutes by 2 people smile.gif

For those who have been following my cribs about lack of ingredients in Egypt..... I have found a small shop (1.5 hours drive away) selling Thai birds eye chillies. happydance.gif happydance.gif happydance.gif The chilli fry was a celebration of the spice that has re-entered our life smile.gif beer3.gif happydance.gif thumbup.gif

Changes :
I skipped the tomatoes.
Substituted coconut flakes (dessicated) for fresh which isn't available here right now.
Cooked the veal with the masala rather than pre cooking. I felt it absorbed the flavour better.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Railway mutton and vindaloo

From The Hindu Business Line

The distinct flavours of Anglo-Indian food, which is amongst the earliest instances of fusion food.

The Railway mutton curry is a direct throwback to the British Raj, when travelling by train was considered aristocratic.

Bridget Kumar

Nina Varghese

There is a growing interest in fusion food, both Indian and global. The average desi is increasingly travelling overseas and discovering other cultures and food.

People are eating out more often and willing to experiment with different cuisines ranging from pan Asian to Balti and Cajun to Anglo-Indian. Strangely enough, Anglo-Indian food, which has been around for a long time, has not got its due as a forerunn er of all fusion foods.

In recent years, with the influx of more foreigners who crave food which is less spicy, there has been a revival of sorts. Five-star hotels have some of these specialities on their menu and once in a while there is also a food festival to celebrate Anglo-Indian cuisine. Of course, many favourite dishes have always been available at clubs, those relics of the colonial age, across the country.

Unusual blend

Anglo-Indian food is an amalgamation of western and Indian cuisine and perhaps the first example of fusion food in the world, says Bridget Kumar, author of five cookbooks on Anglo-Indian cuisine. What sets it apart is the unusual blend of western and Indian tastes. The food is mostly prepared using milder spices like pepper, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and so on. Condiments like chillies, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and garlic are also used but in moderation. Yoghurt and milk are used in some dishes to offset the extra pungency, she says.

“This cuisine evolved over many years as a result of reinterpreting western cuisine by using ingredients and cooking techniques from all over the Indian sub-continent. Thus a completely new cuisine came into existence making it truly “Anglo” and “Indian” in nature, which was neither too bland nor too spicy, but with a distinctive flavour of its own and comfortably straddling both cultures,” explains Bridget.

The cuisine was also a direct reflection of the multi-cultural and hybrid heritage of this community, she says. Its carte du jour includes, with élan, a spicy Indian curry on one hand and a turkey roast on the other.

The Anglo-Indian community was known for its sense of humour and fun. Bridget says many of the dishes have rhyming, alliterative names like Doldol, Kalkal, Ding-ding and Posthole to mention a few. The food is a true reflection of both worlds where the curry is given as much importance as the cutlet.

Interesting history

Taste of Anglo-India: Mince ball curry with devil chutney

The history behind these dishes is also interesting. She says that the very popular vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese word Vinha De Alhos, from the two main ingredients, Vinho meaning wine or wine vinegar and Alhos or garlic. Originally a vinegar-and-garlic based watery stew made with pork or meat in Portugal, the addition of spices and chillies however soon turned it into one of the spiciest and most popular curry dish es the world over.

Grandma’s Country Captain Chicken was a very popular dish since colonial times as it was very easy to prepare. In those days, free range poultry was used and it would take at least two hours to cook over a firewood oven.

Similarly, the Railway Mutton Curry is a direct throwback to the days of the British Raj, when travelling by train was considered aristocratic. This very popular and slightly spicy dish was served in railway refreshment rooms and on long-distance trains with bread or dinner rolls. The curry was not too spicy, keeping in mind delicate British palates and was also popular with the Railway staff. The vinegar or tamarind juice used in its preparation would ensure that the curry would keep for a few days.

The Dak Bungalow Curry was another famous dish during colonial times. The recipe varied with each cook at the different dak bungalows depending on the local availability of ingredients during wartime.

The Mulligatawny Soup today bears little resemblance to the original meligu thani or pepper water in Tamil.

When the British introduced vegetables like cabbage, beetroot, carrot and beans, this too was adapted for Indian palates. In many places in India these vegetables are still called English vegetables. Anglo-Indian cuisine also includes a range of wines, sweets, pastries, jams and chutneys. It has also been marginally influenced by different regions. For instance, in Kerala, a little more coconut is added while in West Bengal mustard oil would be used. However, by and large the actual cuisine has remained the same over several generations. The methods of cooking and the ingredients have been handed down from generation to generation through practice and word of mouth.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Why We Grill - An open letter to America's barbecue widows

Dear Ladies,

Soon you will notice the constant plumes of hickory-scented smoke out your window that herald another grilling season, the time of year when we men polish up the barbecues, whip out the tongs and get cooking. Thankfully, some of you have spent the spring embracing this, and looking forward to attending and enjoying every backyard barbecue you can find and perhaps even taking up the tongs yourselves. Others of you are less enthusiastic, already dreading the hot dogs, greasy pork ribs, T-bone steaks, crispy chicken wings and barbecue sauce-stained sun dresses that will soon be in abundance. Dinners out will soon be replaced with the refrain: "But honey, it's a nice evening. Let's barbecue."

Worrying, of course, is fruitless.

At some point—weeks or months out, depending on your tolerance level—you will become so exasperated with our endless grilling and barbecuing that you may want to beat us with our own marinated drumsticks. Please refrain. Not only are drumsticks terrible things to waste, but cooking meat outdoors is something we have to do. It's in our blood. It is a part of our man-DNA.

Our need to grill dates back eons, when our hearty cavemen forbears, known among grilling scholars as homo erectus barbacoas, grew tired of dining on raw meat—what we now call steak tartare—night after endless night. So they retreated into their cave-workshops, discovered fire, strapped on simple tool belts and invented primitive grills which they used to cook saber-toothed cat ribs and Wooly Mammoth thighs.

These early grilling endeavors resulted in delicious dinners for their families (we know this from early cave paintings featuring mothers, fathers and children next to grills, pointing to their bellies and smiling). But there were important side benefits to grilling, too. As they cooked, the men of homo erectus barbocoas learned the art of conversational speech, gathering around their hibachis and discussing the news of the day. Grilling became an important pastime for us, intimately connected with early bonding experiences and our identities as men; nothing less, in fact, than our very survival as a species.

Of course, you say, there have been many advances since those happy cave-dwelling days. Things have changed. We now have 60-inch plasma TV screens, wide-bodied jets and microwavable macaroni and cheese. Thanks to science, we have antibiotics to ward off disease and light beer to minimize our calorie intake. Most of us no longer hunt for our dinners, beyond brief forays to the butcher section of the grocery store.

While we're generally happy about these advances, there is a part of us that has become alienated from our ancestors, that yearns to run wild in the primordial forest, to hunt wild beasts with bamboo spears, to make fire and cook up a bison leg now and again. So profound is this need that even those vegetarians among us—men who have consciously sought to distance themselves from their carnivore instincts—still yearn to grill items like "veggie burgers" and "tofu dogs," items that conspicuously resemble meat.

So, barbecuing, you see, allows us to express this repressed yearning—the instinctual urge that Sigmund Freud so aptly called men's "Q Complex." It links us to a simpler time. Making that connection is healthy. It's good for us.

If only it were so simple. By now, you have probably discovered that the major backyard-appliance manufacturers have recognized this need in men. This is another complicated issue, and we must again ask for your patience and understanding. We men are now manipulated into purchasing larger and ever more dynamic barbecues than the ones we already own. When we make pilgrimages, as we call them, to the big-box home improvement stores, we are confronted with a dizzying array of styles to choose from.

There are sleek, shiny stainless-steel models with half a dozen burners and electronic igniters. Some come equipped with an infrared, rear-mounted rotisserie burner. Others feature 700-square-inches of prime cooking area and can produce temperatures exceeding 500 degrees—500 degrees! Needless to say, choosing a grill is nothing short of overwhelming for us.

It doesn't get any easier when we head to the barbecue sauce aisle in the grocery store, either. How to choose among so many flavors and sauce makers? (Note their names, such as Bull's-Eye, cleverly designed to appeal to us at our basest "hunt-that-animal" level.)

Grilling and barbecuing are, in a way, symbols of our postmodern condition. We men yearn to return to a simpler time, before cooking meat became so impossibly complicated. We have no hope of success, and yet we must try. It is the perfect expression of who we are.

All we ask of you is that you allow us this seemingly frivolous pleasure, at least for the summer months. Look at it this way: At least the men in your lives know how to cook.

Jim Benning is a Southern California-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. He co-edits the online travel magazine World Hum www.worldhum.com

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Quest for Sicilian Granita

Found this floating around. Sorry, I do not know the original source. If you do, please tell me & I will credit it after verification.

Quest for Sicilian Granita

By Phil Torre
If you have never been to Sicily, you have never had granita. Granita is Italian ice, but it is nothing like the Italian ice you find here in America. They are completely different, from the taste to the consistency. Some of my fondest memories of my visits to Sicily are of sitting in the café in the morning and having a Granita di Limone and brioche for breakfast. That’s right I said for breakfast. In the summer in Sicily, granita and gelato are breakfast foods. That's what I call paradise!
This summer I decided to take on the daunting task of trying to approximate Sicilian granita starting with my favorite flavor, lemon. When I say approximate I do mean just that, I wasn't going to kid myself into thinking that I could get it exactly the way it is in Sicily. The only way you can get true Sicilian granita is by going to the island itself. There are just too many variables involved, starting with the lemons. You can pick a lemon off a tree in Sicily and eat it like an apple. They are much sweeter than any lemons you can get here.
My first thoughts went to trying to achieve the right consistency. You could never serve true granita in the paper cups for people to eat like an ice cream cone that Italian pastry shops in the states serve ices in. Granita is way too wet; it must be served in glass and eaten with a spoon.
I decided that I was going to try two methods. My Mother told me that my Aunt in Sicily makes her own granita, by freezing it and then using a hand blender to crush it up. I was going to try this method, in addition to my own idea, which is using my ice cream machine.

I thought that trying to get the flavor down was going to be harder. I had several formulas I was going to try. First, I went with the most basic method: water, sugar, and lemon juice. Later I would try adding grated lemon zest to the mixture to see if it helped. Finally, I was going to try spooning out all of the pulp from the lemons and puréeing that for the mixture. All along I would be adjusting the sugar until I got as close to the real thing as possible.

I placed 4 cups of water and 1-1/2 cups of sugar in a pot over low heat and stirred until the sugar dissolved. Then I added ¾ cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice and stirred well. Normally, if I am making ice cream I make the custard and chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours before trying to freeze it in the ice cream machine. But, since I didn’t want the granita to freeze too much I figured it was ok to just let it get to room temperature. That was my first mistake.

I was ready to freeze, so I got the machine going and start pouring in the mixture. I poured it all in and my first thought was I filled it too high. That was my second mistake. “No way is this going to freeze,” I thought. Well, I was right. So I had to go into salvage mode. I transferred the mixture to a container, covered it and placed it in the freezer. I figured in the morning I could try my Aunt’s method with the hand blender. Then I could have granita for breakfast, just like in Sicily.
Undaunted, I wasn’t ready to give up on the ice cream machine method just yet. I still had lemons, so I halved the recipe. Actually I halved the sugar and water, but I only cut down the lemon juice by ¼ cup. Then I put it in the refrigerator to chill overnight and I would continue the next day.
In the morning I took the granita out of the freezer and broke out the hand blender. This was a little harder than I thought it would be, but once I got some of it broken up it got easier. I mixed it up until it was nice and slushy and scooped it out. It wasn’t bad for my first try. The consistency was close to what I am trying to achieve(although it was closer to the Italian Ices you get here in the New York area than true Sicilian granita), but it was a little too sweet.
When I tried the ice cream machine method that night I got much better results. I could tell right away that it was going to work. I was pretty happy with the morning’s results with the hand blender, but this was close to perfect. Little chunks of soft ice sitting with just a little bit of liquid in the bottom of the cup. This one was a little more lemony than the first, which I like better also.

I didn’t finish all of the granita, so I transferred it to a container, covered and placed it in the freezer. The next morning when I took it out to have my Sicilian style breakfast, I discovered the flaw in the ice cream machine method. The granita was a block of solid ice and impossible to scoop or scrape out. The one made with the hand blender, on the other hand, retains its consistency better when sitting in the freezer and is always relatively easy to serve.

So, which method do I recommend? I say there is room for both. If you are making the granita for dessert after a dinner party and will most likely be serving all of it immediately, use the ice ceam machine. If you are making a big batch to keep handy in the freezer for refreshing snack on hot days or a breakfast alla Sicilia, use the hand blender.

I continued to experiment with the formula, adding the lemon zest, the pulp, adjusting the sugar, etc. To my surprise I found that the best combination was the second one I tried. So there you have my valiant attempt to duplicate something that is essentially impossible to duplicate. That doesn’t mean that it is not worth making, because it is still a delicious and refreshing snack.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Koreans Share Their Secret for Chicken With a Crunch

Found this floating on the web. Please let me know if you know the source.

Koreans Share Their Secret for Chicken With a Crunch

WHEN Joe McPherson moved to Seoul in 2002, he thought he was leaving fried chicken behind. “I grew up watching Popeyes training videos,” Mr. McPherson said. His father managed a Popeyes franchise near Atlanta and fried chicken was a constant presence in his life.
“Living in the South, you think you know fried chicken,” he said. But in Seoul, he said, “there is a mom-and-pop chicken place literally on every corner.” Many Asian cooking traditions include deep-fried chicken, but the popular cult of crunchy, spicy, perfectly nongreasy chicken — the apotheosis of the Korean style — is a recent development.

In the New York area, Korean-style fried chicken places have just begun to appear, reproducing the delicate crust, addictive seasoning and moist meat Koreans are devoted to.
“Food in Korea is very trendy,” said Myung J. Chung, an owner of the Manhattan franchise of Bon Chon Chicken, a karaoke-and-chicken lounge that opened in December. “Other trends last two or three years, but fried chicken has lasted for 20 years,” he said.

Platters of fried chicken are a hugely popular bar food in South Korea — like chicken wings in the United States, they are downed with beer or soju, after work or after dinner, rarely eaten as a meal.

“Some places have a very thin, crisp skin; some places have more garlicky, sticky sauces; some advertise that they are healthy because they fry in 100 percent olive oil,” said Mr. McPherson, an English teacher, who writes a food blog called zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal.

“Suddenly there will be a long line outside one chicken place, for no apparent reason, and then the next week, it’s somewhere else.”

Even Korea’s corner bars and fast-food chicken chains are preoccupied with the quality, freshness and integrity of their product.

With Korean-style chicken outlets opening recently in New York, New Jersey and California, fried chicken has begun to complete its round-trip flight from the States to Seoul.

“I really think we make it better than the original,” said Young Jin, who opened a friendly little chicken joint called Unidentified Flying Chickens in Jackson Heights last month. “We use fresh, not frozen, chicken, always fried to order, no trans fats, no heat lamps.”

In Korea, chickens are much smaller, so the whole chicken is fried and served, hacked up into bite-size pieces. But the large breasts and thighs of American chickens are a challenge to cook evenly.

According to Mr. Jin and others, that’s why the Korean-style chicken places here serve mostly wings (true connoisseurs can specify either the upper “arm” or the “wing”) and small drumsticks. The chicken is typically seasoned only after it is fried, with either a sweetish garlic-soy glaze or a hotter red-pepper sauce that brings the dish into Buffalo wing territory.

But do not look for blue cheese and celery sticks, or even biscuits and gravy. The typical accompaniment to Korean fried chicken is cubes of pickled radish and plenty of beer or soju; the combination produces an irresistible repetition of salt and spice, cold and hot, briny and sweet, crunchy and tender.

“People — even Americans — say the combination is really addictive,” said Ryan Jhun, Mr. Chung’s brother-in-law and business partner. Mr. Jhun spent a month training with the founder of Bon Chon to master the chain’s frying method, which produces characteristically light and crunchy pieces. Bon Chon, Bon Bon and Unidentified Flying Chickens all base their technique on the one developed by Kyochon, one of the most popular Korean chains. Although none of the chicken fryers interviewed would describe the method in its entirety, its outline is clear.

(Warning: partisans of Southern-fried chicken will find much that is blasphemous in the following.)
For crunch, American-style fried chicken relies on a thick, well-seasoned crust, often made even thicker by soaking the chicken pieces beforehand in buttermilk. When that crust is nubbly and evenly browned, and the chicken meat is cooked through, the chicken is sublime. But too often, the flesh is still raw when the crust is cooked, or the skin never cooks all the way through, leaving a flabby layer of skin between the meat and the crust.

Korean-style fried chicken is radically different, reflecting an Asian frying technique that renders out the fat in the skin, transforming it into a thin, crackly and almost transparent crust. (Chinese cooks call this “paper fried chicken.”) The chicken is unseasoned, barely dredged in very fine flour and then dipped into a thin batter before going into the fryer. The oil temperature is a relatively low 350 degrees, and the chicken is cooked in two separate stages.
After 10 minutes, the chicken is removed from the oil, shaken vigorously in a wire strainer and allowed to cool for two minutes. This slows the cooking process, preventing the crust from getting too brown before the meat cooks through. It also shaves off all those crusty nubs and crags that American cooks strive for.

After 10 more minutes in the fryer, the chicken is smooth, compact, golden-brown, and done. Then, it’s served plain (with a small dish of salt and pepper for seasoning) or lightly painted with sauce. When it’s done correctly, the sauce is absorbed into the crust, adding savor without making it soggy.

Last week, I tasted chicken from four different Korean-style spots, and arrived at a rule of thumb that the best chicken had the least sauce (although chicken with no sauce at all was weirdly bland). The chain Cheogajip was more heavy-handed with the sauce than the others, making their chicken too sticky and sweet. But all the other chicken was at least tasty and even delicious, remaining crisp through the day and when reheated the next morning. The sauces at Unidentified Flying Chickens, which Mr. Jin makes from scratch and is still developing, had the most rounded flavors.

Mr. Jin sees his new store, located in a neighborhood that is more Latino than Asian, as the cradle of a multicultural empire devoted to one thing: perfect fried chicken.

“You wouldn’t go to a soft tofu store and expect to find great kalbi,” he said, referring to the grilled, sweet-and-salty short ribs that are another Korean favorite. “When you make only one thing, and you make people wait for 20 minutes to get it, it had better be good.”

A Sampler
Here are places to try Korean-style fried chicken in New York City. Seating is often limited. All chicken is fried to order, so for takeout or delivery, call at least 30 minutes ahead.
BON CHON CHICKEN 314 Fifth Avenue (32nd Street), second floor, (212) 221-2222; and 157-18 Northern Boulevard (157th Street), Queens, (718) 321-3818.
BON BON CHICKEN 98 Chambers Street (Church Street), (212) 227-2375, opening in March.
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING CHICKENS 71-22 Roosevelt Avenue (71st Street), Queens, (718) 205-6662.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Nihari a la Mexican style

From Hindu Business Line

Asif Noorani

On the trail of a century-old hakeem's concoction that straddles the Indo-Pak divide with gourmet relish...

Of all the Pakistani cities, Karachi is inarguably the most cosmopolitan. Nowhere is this better reflected than in the cuisine it offers. One can find niche restaurants that serve from Korean and Japanese to French and Mexican, not to speak of the many Chinese restaurants. Not all of them are run by the Chinese. A recently opened eatery closed down when the owner migrated to Canada. The Pakistani chef opened the new restaurant and looked for a Chinese to merely man the counter. He failed to find one but the restaurant is doing well!

Karachi is the only Pakistani city to offer South Indian delicacies like idlis and dosas, and, of course, has enough gourmets to enjoy the fare on offer. Goan cuisine was once served by the Pereira brothers, who ran a bakery and a restaurant. The two fell out and the restaurant dropped shutters. Later the bakery, which sold succulent chicken patties, closed down too. Now one only gets prawn balchao, which is made by a couple of old Goan ladies, but on a limited stage. But Parsi delicacies, such as dhansak, are available in at least two restaurants.

Vegetarian thali, Gujarati style, has been a favourite of Karachites for a long time. Pioneer Coffee House used to serve it on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which used to be meatless days, but it closed down when its proprietor Merchant's children migrated to North America. Merchant was an obliging person. When the noted Indian sports writer Kishore Bhimani, accompanying the Indian cricket team on its 1978 tour, was looking for a vegetarian restaurant, I took him to Pioneer. It was not a meatless day but Merchant said he would improvise a veggie meal for his Indian guest. He needed an hour, enough time for the visitor to look for Pathani chappals and audiocassettes of Munni Begum and Mehdi Hasan. The hot meal was ready when we returned and it came on the house! Incidentally, the Karachi Press Club serves good veggies and daal too. But you have to be a member or a member's guest to enjoy the fare.

Bhimani wrote that Pakistan was a nightmare for vegetarians but Ajmal Noorani's house in Karachi was an oasis. My wife learnt to cook the veggies from her mother-in-law and the party that we held for two Indian and several Pakistani journalists threw up a surprise. One half of the table was served pooris and a wide variety of bhujyas, while the other had Mughlai delicacies. No one touched the otherwise mouth-watering biryani and kebabs. We had to quickly make additional dough for the pooris, which were in great demand.

Nihari mania

But if there is one dish that migrated from Delhi to Karachi and became a roaring success then it is none other than nihari, a curry with lots of red meat, a sprinkling of bheja (brain) and garnished with thin slices of ginger. It was concocted at least a hundred years ago in Delhi by a hakeem. It was called nihari (meaning morning) and was supposed to be taken on winter mornings. Initially the chefs from Delhi who opened nihari restaurants in Karachi after Partition served the dish only in the morning but soon they discovered that there was a lot more demand at night, so they offered it for dinner too and even made arrangements for takeaways. Commercial interests prevailed over principles. They also reduced the chillies in the curry and the move paid off. Now nihari is available round the clock at restaurants that remain open 24x7. Even poor people have it, though without the expensive bheja. One nihari joint in an upmarket area has made arrangements for home delivery too.

A few years ago when I was visiting Delhi, a friend asked me what I wished to have for dinner. I said "Nihari", and the man looked at me in amazement. "You have to come to my house early in the morning to have it, which is when it would be available," he said. I didn't want to further shock the puritan by saying that nihari was available in Karachi — morning, noon and night.

Today nihari is also available in most cities of the US and the people who have helped it cross the seven seas are Karachites, and not Dilliwalas. As a nihari-buff I have tried it in Pakistani restaurants in New York, Houston, San Francisco and Chicago, but found the best in a place called Devon Avenue in downtown Chicago, full of sub-continental restaurants and boutiques. The place is called Sabir Nihari House. One has to wait half-an-hour to get a table. But it's worth the wait.

And you know who cooks the nihari? Many prizes for guessing... he is a Mexican, once an understudy of a Pakistani chef. He is an illegal immigrant and, for all you know, he may some day move back to his country and start a nihari joint there. Mexicans take spicy food and nihari has the potential to tickle their palates.

From Delhi to Mexico City, via Karachi and Chicago. What an exciting journey it would be!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Make Your Burgers Taste Even Better

We all know how to make a hamburger, but some burgers are better than others.

When the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine were working on 'The Best Recipe' (Boston Common Press, $29.95), they wanted to know the secret to making not just a better burger but the best burger.

Here are some tips, from them and from others:

o Use ground chuck, preferably a chuck roast you've cajoled the butcher into grinding for you. Or you can grind it yourself at home in a food processor.

Make sure the meat is cold, cut into small (roughly 3/4 inch) chunks and process in small batches.

It also helps to chill the bowl and the blade in the freezer for 30 minutes.

~ Eighty percent lean meat is best; more fat and the burger will be greasy; less and it won't be as tender and juicy.

~ Season meat before shaping it into patties.

~ If you're planning cheeseburgers, an alternative to a slice of cheese on top is to grate the cheese directly into the raw beef.

~ Divide the meat into (6-ounce) portions, toss it from hand to hand to form a ball and press it into a patty with your fingertips to avoid overworking the meat.

~ The perfect burger has a crisp, flavorful crust and a moist, tender interior.

Grilling and pan-searing, especially in a cast-iron skillet, can produce these qualities as long as the grill rack or pan is hot when you start.

~ Don't press down while the burgers cook. It squeezes out the juice and makes them dry.

~ Don't flip constantly. Once on each side should do it.

~ To avoid burgers with that puffy domed shape that allows condiments to slide off, form a slight depression in the center of each patty.

On the grill, the center will puff up on its own and the burger will be more uniform.

from the "Meat Cookbook," by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly;

article courtesy Mercury News wire services.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Your Astrological Food Profile

Eating is a universal activity. Every sun sign has a different attitude and approach to the business of eating. See if you can recognize yourself and your own unique relationship to food.

Aries: Arians like to be first and they like to stir things up, but their follow-through abilities are suspect. They would do well to prepare something exciting but also quick so they don't abandon the recipe mid-stream. Whatever they want, they want it now, so if you've invited an Arian to dinner, make sure you have plenty of hors-d'oeuvres available as soon as they walk in the door.

Taurus: Taureans are known for their fondness of luxury, sensuality and rich food. They will eat anything but prefer foods that are expensive and decadent. Champagne, caviar, truffles and smoked salmon make Taureans happy and content. They love romantic dinners. The flip side of this self-indulgence is a tendency to gain weight. Taureans must strive to go easy on the good life and go for an occasional walk instead.

Gemini: Variety is very important to Geminis in every area of life and food is no exception. Buffets are a favorite as they offer the opportunity to load up the plate with a little of this and a tad of that. Boredom is anathema to Geminis so dinner must include not only a variety of foods but also stimulating conversation. As cooks, they are the pioneers. They like to experiment. If you are a guest at a Gemini's dinner table, expect the unexpected.

Cancer: You'd think most Cancers were practically born in the kitchen. They are equally at home being the nurturer or nurtured. They love being fed, especially when sick. Bring them homemade soup and toast (that's what Mom did) and they are yours forever. They are equally soothed by feeding others. The only time they become crabby on the subject of food is when there isn't enough.

Leo: Leos, the undisputed kings and queens of the zodiac, are most comfortable in the fanciest restaurant in town. They are more interested in how nicely their food is served than in what they actually eating, though their appetites are huge. Being generous, they love to pick up restaurant tabs and share good food with their loved ones. If going to their house, expect quite a show. It's not that all Leos like to show-off, but it's a rare one that doesn't enjoy an appreciative audience.

Virgo: Some people consider Virgos to be a tiny bit uptight about what they eat. Virgos will tell you they don't care what they eat as long as it is 100% all natural, organic, whole-grain and sugar free. They feel better eating that way. This is really their business, but a problem often arises because they also feel better when you eat that way. Virgos not only want to take care of themselves, they want to take care of you too. Don't fight them. It's impossible. Besides don't you feel better having eaten all that brown rice, tofu and greens?

Libra: Libras are the most gracious hosts and hostesses and look good while doing it. They like nice, beautiful food served in a tranquil, harmonious setting. They enjoy small and lovely embellishments; delicate china, lacy linens and silver trays. If you are the host, be sure to feed them a rich dessert: most Libras have a self-indulgent side and will not decline souffles, cream puffs or Napoleons.

Scorpio: Scorpios tend to be dark, intense and mysterious. They need to eat like the rest of us mere mortals but their willpower and dedication concerning food can be astounding. Once they set their mind to something, whether it's sticking to a Spartan diet or creating a traditional ten-course Moroccan meal, they will succeed. They have few fears, food related or otherwise and can often be found digging into a meal of squid stewed in its own ink or risking their lives by tasting the sometimes poisonous blowfish.

Sagittarius: Sagittariuses, the adventurers of the zodiac will try anything as long as it's exciting. They are the pathfinders in foreign travel and you'll often find them exploring cuisine's of exotic countries or thumbing through obscure cook books. They make enthusiastic, lively dinner guests. They tend to eat a lot, especially when spinning tales during dinner, so be sure there's enough pad Thai or bouillabaisse to go around.

Capricorn: Capricorns are traditional 'meat and potato' men and women. They often appear aloof, a mask for their shyness and uncertainty. They are always grateful for the comforting and familiar. Although they usually amass a nice nest egg during their working lives, it can be difficult for them to splurge on luxuries like nice restaurants. This creates a conflict because they are attracted to the 'good things in life.' Cook them a fancy dinner. Better yet, take them out and spring for the bill. They will be most grateful.

Aquarius: Is it new, different, unusual? If not, Aquarians probably won't notice it. They don't follow trends. They create them. Their eating habits can be erratic, like their schedules. When they eat by themselves, they often consume some downright weird food combinations and can sometimes be found to eat breakfast at dinner time and vice versa.

Pisces: Most of these sensitive souls are vegetarians in their hearts because they feel pain at the thought of killing anything just so they can eat. They are a gentle bunch and prefer dining quietly, perhaps with soothing background music. Like Aquarians they tend to forget to eat at times. If they invite you to dinner, arrive early in case they forget because they went off to help someone.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Street Food : Egypt vs India

When I first considered writing about "Street Food in Cairo" the few people I knew in Cairo had a good laugh & cautioned me that having just arrived in the city I was completely setting myself up for the curse of the Pharaohs. Well, being a desi & with an ability to eat the Pav Bhajis & Paani Puris & Vada Pavs on the streets of India, then the streets of Cairo posed no threat at all, so I was all set to explore Cairo by tasting everything it had to offer. (But I did tuck a strip of lomotil into my wallet to be on the safer side)

There’s such a variety of snacks, meals, quick bites & drinks on offer on the streets of Cairo that it would be impossible to try them all in a few days, but I did manage the highlights.

A good day begins with a good breakfast. A fuul or tamiya sandwich is what is considered ideal. I tried these at ............................

Read the whole post on My Egypt Blog

Friday, January 12, 2007

Cover story on Mumbai's foodscape

Please find link to Rushina's cover story for BTW (By the way) on the growing impact food is having on different fields

With India opening up to foreign trade, Mumbaikars have more money, less free time and a greater exposure to foreign influences. This has had immense impact on what they eat and the way they eat. And restaurants, exotic sections at supermarkets, food sections in dailies and publications, books on food and cooking, food on the TV, Radio and internet, the advent of swish cooking classes and food travel are all registering activity. India [is] shining on the gastronomic scene and nowhere is this fact more obvious than in Mumbai. Read more

http://mumbaionaplatter.blogspot.com/2006/12/mumbai-on-platter.html#links Mumbai on the platter

A Perfect Bite
Rushina's Blog n food http://a-perfect-bite.blogspot.com/
Rushina's published works http://rushina-mushaw-ghildiyal.blogspot.com/
Rushina's blog on Food in Mumbai http://mumbaionaplatter.blogspot.com/


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