Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Astho Dim-er Malai Curry - Whole Eggs in Coconut Sauce

Astho Dim-er Malai Curry
Fried Whole Eggs
Fried Eggs

Malai Curry is a favourite sauce made with coconut milk that is most commonly combined with shrimpfish or chicken. Today I decided to cook eggs in coconut milk. I've made this before with eggs cut in half, but today they were left whole. The hard-boiled eggs and chunks of potatoes are fried (separately) to a golden-brown colour, then simmered in the coconut sauce. The eggs are shelled and scored across the circumference 4-5 times through the egg white to the egg yolk, so that the sauce can penetrate them to the core.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Alu Gobi Mattar - Potatoes, Cauliflower and Peas Curry

Alu Gobi
There are so many ways to prepare this all-time favourite Indian dish. It's vegetarian, vegan if ghee is omitted and is the perfect side dish to accompany lentils and a non-vegetarian main dish. Alu gobi is versatile enough to be served with either steamed rice or any Indian bread.

In this preparation, I've saved time by dicing onions instead of making a paste and used a whole can of pureed tomatoes to create the gravy. By parboiling the vegetables beforehand, the gravy permeates throughout the dish to tie in all the flavours. A handful of shredded cilantro gives a fresh and aromatic finish to this vegetable side.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Easy Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad Sandwich
It's best to use fresh chicken breasts for a pure white color, but canned or shredded rotisserie chicken also works. To poach fresh chicken breasts, place them in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add cold water so it just covers the chicken. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool before dicing.

Water chestnuts add extra crunch to this salad and can be found in Meijer's Chinese section of the International aisle. They come sliced in 8 ounces (226 gm.) cans.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Mohinga Thoke - Burmese Cold Noodle Salad

Mohinga Thoke 
Prepped Ingredients
An Internet recipe served as the basis for this salad but I made many adjustments to suit my taste. The addition of dark sesame oil (toasted), fried legumes (pei kyaw) and minced green chilies pumped up the heat along with added crunch and flavour. Blanching the shredded cabbage is how I prefer to use it in Burmese salads. My husband and fiercest food critic ate every last crumb on his plate while his eyes watered and his scalp perspired. It was made with just me in mind so the peppers were diced with the seeds intact, but he asked to try it and loved it!

The recipe called for rice vermicelli, but all I had was tapioca vermicelli that had no instructions on the package. My first attempt at cooking these noodles turned to mush, so I soaked the noodles in hot tap water and microwaved on high power at 30 second intervals for a total of 2 minutes with excellent results.

Note: There's no need to add salt because the fish sauce is salty enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ground Chicken and Eggplant Stew

Ground Chicken & Eggplant Stew

I came across a picture of this dish on Facebook, but the recipe had not been added at the time, so this is my take on the dish. Eggplant is a favourite vegetable and combining it with ground chicken sounded too good to pass up. I added diced potatoes because that's what Bengalis do...add potatoes to everything!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Kale & Spinach with Sweet Potatoes

Kale & Spinach with Sweet Potatoes
Frozen cut kale and spinach are stir-fried with diced sweet potatoes. Make sure to soak the sweet potato as soon as the first cut is made to keep it from discoloring. There's no need to add sugar because the diced sweet potatoes impart enough sweetness. Serve as a side dish to an Indian meal accompanied by chapatis or rice. The use of ghee is optional for vegans.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Burmese Kyauk Kyaw - Perfected Technique

Kyauk Kyaw or Coconut Jelly
I've spent most of my adult life trying to achieve the perfect Kyauk Kyaw that has two distinct layers, one translucent and the other opaque. Finally the secret was revealed to me when my sister posted a video of it in Facebook. So thanks to Dany Kao for her instructions for a perfect dessert. The secret is to make this with a 1:5.5 ratio of coconut milk to water. I've modified her recipe to include more specific measurements pertaining to the size of cans and amount of agar-agar.

Agar Agar is a popular dessert ingredient in South East Asian countries where it is used as a substitute for gelatin. Agar agar, a seaweed extract, is a good vegan substitute for gelatin which is derived from animal products. Agar agar comes in several different forms - flakes, strands and powdered.  The powdered form of agar agar is much more potent than the flakes or strands. It takes 1 tablespoon of flakes or strands to thicken 1 cup of water, whereas 1 teaspoon of the powder is sufficient to thicken 1 cup of water.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Bread & Yellow Alu (Potato) Croquettes

Potato Croquettes
In what now seems to be a distant and past life, I was fortunate to be mentored by a gourmet cook who taught me a lot of what I know today about feeding my family. Mum was a huge influence throughout my life but when I left home, the coaching continued as I grew up and had a family of my own.

Yellow Alu
The basis for this appetizer is the leftover Yellow Alu I made yesterday.  Replacing the potatoes with spiced ground lamb creates a delicious non-vegetarian croquette. I like to use Japanese panko crumbs to roll these in because they remain crisp and absorb little to no oil. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Crepes Stuffed with Yellow Alu and Served with Sambhar

Masala 'Dosa' with Sambhar
We are so fortunate in North America to have foods from all over the world available to us in our local supermarkets. It's a delight to walk up and down the aisles to pick and choose what we'd like to have today or this week.

Melissa's French Crepes
These delicate, faintly sweet crepes come ten to a package, each separated from the next by wax paper which makes them very easy to roll with filling of my choice. They are versatile and sets my mind racing with ideas such as Crepes Suzette, a French dessert in which crepes are folded in triangles and doused in a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter, orange zest and Grand Marnier or orange Curacao liqueur, served flambé. Then there's Patishapta, a popular Bengali dessert of thin crepes stuffed with a delectable filling of coconut and gur or jaggery. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Eggplant & Pork in Oyster Sauce

Eggplant & Pork in Oyster Sauce
For a quick and easy main dish with an Asian flair, few dishes can beat this eggplant and pork stir-fry. A combination of oyster sauce, chili-garlic sauce, balsamic vinegar and fish sauce form the base for ground pork that is browned along with diced onions and garlic. Bite-sized pieces of Japanese eggplant are added at the tail end so that they retain their texture and don't disintegrate.

Chinese and Thai restaurants have a form of this recipe on their menus. My problem is that they always seem to over-salt the dish, so I prefer to replicate it at home so I can control the amount of salt that is added. In fact, no salt was added in this recipe because the different sauces are salty to begin with. Adjust the salt at the end of the cooking cycle to suit your taste.

A trick to break down the ground pork with little effort is to hand-mix it with 1/2 tsp. salt and 2 Tbsp. oil and set aside for 15 minutes. The oil acts to separate the nodules of ground meat which makes it easier to brown.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Faluda - Rose Syrup Flavoured Milky Beverage Topped with Jello

Faluda is layered dessert in a glass that originated in Iran. It's a multi-textured summer drink which the Parsis, who migrated to India from Iran, introduced to the Indian people who in turn took it with them to Burma. It is an integral part of the menus at ice cream parlours and restaurants which serve variations of this sweet beverage. The closest comparison I can think of is milk shake pumped up with nuts, seeds and very thin spaghetti.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Burmese Stir-Fried Cabbage with Scrambled Eggs

Cabbage with Scrambled Eggs
Weekends were very special when we were growing up, made even more festive by Mum's cooking. She was a consummate cook of Indian, Burmese and Asian cuisines and passed on her love for cooking to all eight of us. We were curious and eager to try all kinds of food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. 

Being a single mother of eight and a professor in a women's college meant that she was not able to spend as much time in the kitchen as she would have liked. Evenings and weekends were festive affairs because visitors dropped by unannounced, tea and snacks were constantly being served and meals were prepared by Mum with a lot of help from all of us and the hired help. There were occasions when her Thai students who lived at the hostel would arrive with all the necessary ingredients to prepare a feast for all of us. They were so happy to have a kitchen that was open to them so they could enjoy their cuisine, which they missed terribly.

This stir-fried cabbage dish is one that I associate with Mum's loving and nurturing nature. Cabbage is totally tasteless on its own, but is transformed when stir-fried until crisp, flavoured with the zing of black pepper powder and the umami of fish sauce. Add eggs into the mix and it assumes an unforgettable contrast in texture from the crispness of the cabbage to the creaminess of the scrambled eggs.

This is served as a side dish to accompany any Asian meal and is best suited to be had with hot, steamed long-grain rice.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Cucumber and Onion Salad with Dill

Cucumber and Onion Salad with Dill
Fresh herbs in the supermarket come in big bundles so I made a stir-fry using eggplant and potatoes and flavoured it with dill and used the rest of the bundle for this salad. 

My love for dill began in Toronto in the late 1970s at the home of a girl who was born and raised in Iran. She invited us over for a fabulous dinner, and the one item that stood out that I remember to this day was a pulao she made with steamed Basmati rice that she mixed, by hand, with salt, dill and olive oil.

Recently we went to a French-inspired Vietnamese restaurant and ordered grilled Tilapia flavoured with turmeric and dill. It's an outstanding dish unlike anything I've had before.

This salad can be paired with biryani, pulao or grilled meat, fish or seafood. It would also taste great in a sandwich. I found the recipe on the Epicurious website.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani
Biryani is a delicious and wholesome combination of rice, layered with meat or vegetables and potatoes, cooked with aromatic spices and garnished with deep fried onions. Making a traditional biryani is a long and complicated process which was beyond my comprehension until my brother who is a wonderful cook, allowed me to watch him produce outstanding results using a very simple process. I came back home after that weekend in Toronto and tried it without the same success.

Chicken Biryani Plated
My brother cooks the chicken on the stovetop, cooks the rice in a rice cooker and pours the chicken and all its juices over the rice and sets the biryani aside until dinnertime. His biryani tastes simply awesome, but I was not able to replicate it. 

My way is to cook chicken and potatoes in a big saucepan, cover the top with Greek yogurt, top it with rice that has been soaked and strained well, add chicken broth in proportion to the rice, bring it to a boil and then cover and simmer it over low heat for 25 minutes. It sounds complicated, but is really easy to do.

Varieties of Ready-Made Birista

Birista or deep fried onions are an essential garnish for both pulaos and biryanis. They're easy to make but is a tedious and long process. Much easier to pick up a bottle or package of birista at the oriental markets.
Shan Pilau Biryani Mix

Recipe on back of package
The recipe that follows was inspired by the recipe on the back of the spice mix with a few modifications which were made to simplify the process. 

Simple Salad
Serve this biryani with a simple salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green chilies, salt and lime juice. Or accompany the biryani with one of the following raitas.

Fuji Apple Raita
Tzatziki or Cucumber Raita

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tzatziki Meatloaf Rollup

We  recently had gyros-in-a-kit which came with a serving of tzatziki. Just take a look at the nutrition facts for tzatziki...there isn't a better and more delicious condiment for those of us who are watching our carb intake! By making it at home, I was able to cut down the calories per serving to 18 calories, sodium to 20 mg., cholesterol to 2 mg., total carbs to 1.5 g and sugars to 0 g. This I did by using fat-free Chobani Greek yogurt.
Chobani Greek Yogurt

But what is tzatziki, you ask? It's a staple in Turkish, Greek and other Mediterranean cuisine, made simply by combining yogurt with garlic and cucumber, along with a few other seasonings. In Indian cuisine, it's called cucumber raita. The rich and creamy texture of tzatziki is perfect for dipping raw vegetables, to serve alongside biryani or pulao, grilled meats like kebabs or to use as a sandwich spread. 

Clockwise from top left:
Tortilla layered with lettuce & tzatziki
Slice of meatloaf
Tzatziki Meatloaf Rollup
For lunch today we had meatloaf sandwiches for which flour tortillas were lined with lettuce, slathered with tzatziki and topped with a slice of meatloaf. It's the best sandwich I've had in a long, long time.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Burmese Stewed Eggplant - Khayan Thee Hin

A form of sipyan, this eggplant dish is so much easier to prepare because everything is combined in a skillet and left to cook on its own.  Out of sheer habit, I scraped the bottom of the pan to make sure it wasn't sticking, but that was not necessary at all. Once the tomatoes cooked down, the cooking liquids covered the eggplant pieces which then stewed in the resulting juices. The bulk of the flavour and umami was imparted by a combination of peanuts, shrimp paste and dried shrimp powder.

Here are several options for vegans. To achieve umami flavour without using fish-/seafood-based sauces, would be to use mushroom sauce and dried shiitake mushrooms. Mushroom sauce is used by vegans to replace oyster sauce and the soaking liquid from dried shiitake mushrooms both impart strong umami flavour. More difficult to come by is dried konbu or kelp (seaweed) which is used to make konbu dashi. A third option would be to use Ajinomoto or MSG.

Serve this as a side over a mound of steamed rice, preferably coconut rice or Ohn Htamin.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Singapore Rice Noodles with Asparagus & Chicken

Singapore Noodles
This is one of my favourite dishes to order at a Chinese restaurant. It's made with thin rice noodles (Mei Fun) which are available in the international aisle of our local supermarket. 

Spiced Apple Cider

The Brew
After a festive meal is prepared, this is a wonderful brew to put on the stove to fill your home with the aroma of apples, oranges and spices. Have it hot on a cold wintry or rainy day, or chilled on a hot and humid day. 

Spiced Apple Cider
The recipe contains 5 simple ingredients, all of which are available in any supermarket. If oranges are not in season, replace them with slices of one lemon or lime. And make sure to set the spiced orange segments aside after draining the cider for dessert, topped with ice cream or brandy.

Spiced Orange Segments
The remnants after straining the cider can be simmered with water to serve as a potpouri to welcome your guests.


1/2 gallon apple cider
6 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup brown or coconut sugar
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 navel or 2 mandarin oranges, sliced

  1.  Place all ingredients in a large stainless steel saucepan.
  2.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves.
  3.  Lower heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4.  Strain spiced cider and serve hot or chilled overnight in the refrigerator.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Fish

Maach Diye Bandha Kopi
Cabbage cooked with fish bones and head is very tasty, but it takes some skill to safely remove the bones. In this case, I've taken pieces of filleted fish that flake too easily and fall apart when added to a gravy and used them to flavour the cabbage. Stir-frying cabbage until golden brown makes it much sweeter so that no sugar is needed. This side dish goes well with either steamed rice or any form of Indian bread.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Alu Posto - Bengali Baby Potatoes in Poppy Seed Sauce

Alu Posto
A favourite at the Bengali table, Alu Posto is surprisingly easy to make. White poppy seeds are soaked in boiling water for an hour or as long as it takes to come to room temperature. This softens the seeds sufficiently to blend to a smooth paste. 
Variety of Baby Potatoes
Microwaved for a quick three minutes, these little potatoes cook just enough to be easy to peel. The dish comes together very quickly and is so delicious!

Stir-Fried Baby Potatoes

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Peppermint Kisses

Peppermint Kisses

It was my turn today to take goodies to our 52-member quilt guild meeting. I decided on these Peppermint Kisses that are the easiest, most refreshing and delicious cookie dessert made in under 10 minutes using just 5 ingredients. 

A Tray of Kisses Ready for Transporting
They made his eyes sparkle with surprise and delight, as my candid food critic at home gave his stamp of approval to these delicate morsels, comparing them to Bengali sandesh. A popular milk dessert on the Bengali table, sandesh is made from homemade cottage cheese following a lengthy and tedious process.

A Lone Kiss
In contrast, Peppermint Kisses need no cooking or baking. Four of the five ingredients are simply combined thoroughly, formed into balls the size of quarters and finished with Hershey's peppermint kisses. Just make sure all ingredients are brought to room temperature before assembling. What could be simpler!

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Chicken Razaila

Chicken Razaila
Mum's Razaila was always delectable. She made it with bone-in chicken pieces that were fried until golden brown and then marinated in whipped yogurt. Her chicken razaila was succulent and delicious! 

Mine is a lazy (wo)man's shortcut that still tastes very good. It involves massaging the yogurt marinade into the chicken and setting it aside for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. I prefer using Greek yogurt so that there is less chance that it will curdle during the cooking process. Adding a teaspoonful of cornstarch to the yogurt will thicken the gravy as the chicken simmers. Greek yogurt should be brought to room temperature before marinating.

A surprising twist to the traditional razaila recipe is to add ground white pepper. It adds a spicy heat and the white pepper keeps the gravy light-coloured and creamy.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Chicken & Broccoli Lo Mein

Chicken & Broccoli Lo Mein
Any noodle dish, whether in the form of a soup or stir-fried is so comforting, especially during these cold winters. Today we had a lo mein with chicken & broccoli that was drenched in a garlic-soy sauce which was poured over and tossed with a package of Ajinomoto Vegetable Chow Mein. Delicious!

If you're making your own there's no need to add sauce to your noodles. Use this sauce instead.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tuna, Chickpeas & Potato Salad

Tuna, Chickpeas & Potato Salad
Tuna salad, potato salad and chickpeas/garbanzo beans individually are among my favourite foods. Here, all three were combined with red and orange rainbow peppers to produce a refreshing salad when it's chilled and served for lunch. The dressing is composed of yogurt, mixed with ranch dressing and the salad is garnished with green onions.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Maach er Malai Curry - Fish Cooked in Coconut Milk

Use any white fish steaks or pieces in this delicious coconut milk gravy which tastes best served on a bed of steamed Basmati rice. I've used catfish, rock cod and telapia fish, all with excellent results. 

Freshly grated coconut tied in muslin cloth and squeezed to extract the milk works the best, but in the Western hemisphere, canned coconut milk is most readily available and makes a good substitute for fresh coconut. If coconut milk is not available, unsweetened evaporated (not condensed) milk can be used as a substitute.

This same process can also be used with chicken legs and thighs for another variation of malai curry, which is also true for shrimp, which is especially delectable. 

The fish I used today came from a membership supermarket (Costco/Sam's Club) in a 3 lb. fresh pack. I sliced them up, divided them between 3 Ziploc bags, seasoned them with turmeric powder and salt and froze them for later use. Thawed in the sink, it makes life much easier when it comes time to cook.