Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hsee Kyet Khauk Swe - Burmese Garlic Noodles

Burmese Garlic Noodles
My earliest recollection of Hsee Kyet Khauk Swe is of our school cafetaria that served this occasionally. Two or three of our friends would pool our lunch money to buy food to share family style. Hsee means oil, Kyet means cook and Khauk Swe are egg noodles. These noodles were boiled and stir-fried in oil and a lot of garlic. I added minced chicken and 3 forms of garlic.



Fresh garlic was used up front with sliced onions and browned, and minced chicken. Garlic oil was used as a garnish along with deep fried garlic. Half a head of shredded iceberg lettuce, fish sauce and toasted chickpea flour were some of the other ingredients in this dish.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Banana Nut Bread

Banana Nut Bread
Inspired by a recipe in a Crisco pamphlet which is now online, this is one of the first dessert breads I learned to make.  Over time and many tweaks later, I've perfected the recipe to my taste. 
Freshly Baked
Some ingredients in this recipe are more important than others. For example, I read somewhere that one teaspoon of baking soda (rather than half a teaspoon) produces a darker bread. Also, the recipe calls for a cup of white sugar, but I prefer using dark brown sugar which I believe helps give it a darker appearance. 
The First Slice for Tasting
The original recipe called for three-quarters of a cup of Crisco oil, which I switched to a cup of melted, unsalted butter which is more to my taste. Another change I make is to grease the pan with Pam butter flavoured spray and white granulated sugar in place of flour.  The sugar caramelizes during baking and produces a sweeter crust.

There can never be too many nuts
A happy mistake I made this time is going to be the norm from now on. I forgot to add the walnut pieces until after the batter had been poured into the pan. So I poured them all over the top and used a fork to push some into the batter. It worked better because when the nuts are folded into the batter, they tend to settle on the bottom and often burn. By inserting them right at the end, they remained towards the top which was a lot better.

After resting overnight
It's important to allow the banana nut bread to rest before slicing, but it's so hard not to taste it right away. Slicing it too soon causes the bread to crumble so it needs to be covered loosely with foil or Saran wrap and left on the counter overnight. Make sure not to tighten the foil/wrap so that the bread can dry out and not steam.

Best of all, this entire recipe can be prepared in one bowl by combining all the wet ingredients first and then sifting the flour and other dry ingredients directly into the mixing bowl and folding everything together with the help of a spatula.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ohno Khaukswe - Burmese Chicken Noodle Soup

Ohno Khaukswe
It's been a very exciting month for two reasons. First of all, two sisters who live in India are visiting family in Toronto, Canada and they, along with two brothers and our eldest sister-in-law, drove down to Windsor for lunch. My son who also lives in Toronto was visiting us here in Michigan, so we all met in Windsor at a Chinese restaurant. It was so nice to see my two sisters after 23 years.


Kyauk Kyaw
A school-mate with whom we reconnected as an alumni group on Whatsapp vacationed here with her son, who lives less than five miles away. It turns out her husband was born and spent his childhood in Pegu, Burma. It was an enormous pleasure to have them over for a Khaukswe meal and I also made Kyauk Kyaw, a coconut jelly, for dessert.

Coconut Chicken Soup
There are three parts to the khaukswe recipe of which the soup is the most complex. However, most of the components for this dish are available on supermarket shelves which makes life so much simpler. No longer do we have to scrape the meat out of the coconut and extract the milk, because coconut milk is now available in cans. Deep fried onions or shallots are imported from Holland, and deep fried garlic from Thailand.

Egg Noodles
The second component, fresh egg noodles, are available at Asian markets and come bundled in packages and simply need to be blanched in boiling water and strained. A touch of oil added after they are taken out of the boiling water prevents them from sticking together.


The third and final component are the garnishes, which clockwise from top left corner comprise lime wedges, minced cilantro, chopped boiled eggs, deep fried onions/shallots, sliced fresh onions, minced green onions, fried rice noodles, and toasted chickpea powder. Off to the side are chili-garlic oil and toasted chili flakes, not pictured here.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Meatballs Stroganoff

Meatballs Stroganoff
Grandboy's Day on Thursdays today, so I asked whether he prefers meatballs and spaghetti in a red or white sauce and he picked "white". Here is the stroganoff we had for dinner tonight. It was really easy to assemble depending on whether you like to prepare everything from scratch or go the semi-homemade route.

I like to use Italian meatballs from the freezer section of our supermarket unless I'm making an Indian dish. Italian meatballs served my purpose today. The other semi-homemade ingredient in this dish is Cream of Mushroom soup. If you prefer to make your own, a recipe is provided below.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Kofta Alu Biryani - Meatball & Potato Biryani

Kofta Alu Biryani
Bengali meals almost always include a rice dish as a staple which is why pulaos and biryanis are such a favourite side. Biryani is a layered dish of rice and meat or seafood, cooked in a saucepan with a well-fitting lid. Pulao is more like a fried rice. 

After our grandchildren arrived, I was re-introduced to meatballs and spaghetti, so our freezer is always stocked with Italian meatballs. They go from a frozen state to soft and bouncy balls by simmering in hot, chicken stock for 10 minutes. After draining, the remaining stock is reserved for cooking the rice.

Whole baby potatoes are a must for this biryani, but I've also used chunks of russet/baking potatoes. The other necessary ingredient is Shan's Pulao/Biryani spice mix. This is available in Indian markets and there's no way I could reproduce the combination of spices in my kitchen.

This biryani goes well with a raita (salad dressed with yogurt dressing) or the fresher pico de gallo style of salad comprising cucumber, tomatoes and onions dressed with lime and salt.




Thursday, July 05, 2018

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
The simplest and easiest macaroons you could make, they took just 2 ingredients and 15 minutes to bake. The recipe was posted on the internet and seemed like the macaroons would be unbearably sweet, but they were perfect! An ice-cream scoop makes them uniform but I didn't have one. I must put it on my shopping list for the next time.

A friend suggested that a couple drops of almond extract pumps up the action, but that was after I'd made them, so I'm adding it as an optional ingredient. It's important to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat to avoid a sticky mess. 

Remember that evaporated milk and condensed milk are not interchangeable.  Evaporated milk is unsweetened and not as thick as condensed milk; look for condensed milk when shopping for this recipe.

Store leftover macaroons in Ziploc bags in the refrigerator or freezer. They travel well and are suitable for picnics, potlucks or as a special treat in lunch bags. They're moist, chewy and totally satisfying!


Friday, June 29, 2018

Doi Begun - Eggplants in Yogurt Sauce

Doi Begun
Our nephew's wife first introduced us to this delectable dish and generously shared her recipe with me. It's the perfect semi-dry curry that goes well either with rice or chapatis/tortillas. Bengalis are natural-born lovers of begun and would gladly have this vegetable with every meal, if possible, which explains the myriad ways we have found for cooking with begun.

When cooked, eggplants soften turning creamy in the center. Greek yogurt combined with coconut milk makes a smooth and creamy sauce made even more delicious with a pungent touch of mustard paste and tang that is provided by the tomatoes. Green chilies serve to spice up this dish so use as much as you can handle.

If eggplants are not your thing, substitute them for thick slices of tofu or fish (for non-vegetarians), and use this same sauce to mound over a hot and steamy bed of rice. It makes for a delicious and satisfying meal that is hard to forget!


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Murgh Makhani - Butter Chicken



Use bone-in chicken pieces or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. The packaged butter chicken masala worked so well that it's now a staple in my pantry. If it's not available in an Indian market or the international aisle of your supermarket, try the recipe below.

Butter chicken goes well with hot rice or chapatis. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Green Beans Shorshe Bata - Green Beans in Mustard Sauce

Green Beans Shorshe Bata

A super speedy alternative to making mustard paste at home is to use hot mustard powder dissolved in water that is served in Chinese restaurants. The traditional method is to soak black mustard seeds in water overnight and grind it to a smooth paste the next day. 

These green beans were blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, then stir-fried with diced potatoes and mustard sauce. Mustard powder needs to dissolve in water and set aside for at least 15 minutes to achieve maximum pungency. It's an easy side dish to serve with steamed rice or chapatis/tortillas.


2018 Father's Day Dinner

2018 Father's Day Dinner

Clockwise from top left:
Steamed Rice
Easy Tilapia & Cauliflower in Coconut Gravy
Masur Dal with Pickled Radish
Ghoogni - Chickpeas in Cream Sauce


Saturday, June 09, 2018

Pumpkin Amish Friendship Bread


Pumpkin Friendship Bread
A Mother's Day gift of Amish Friendship Bread starter batter began my fascination with a century-old tradition. I was given a 1 gallon Ziploc bag containing a cup of the batter along with written instructions for multiplying it four fold so it could be shared among friends. Using that bag of batter and nursing it over 10 days produced four 1 gallon bags of starter batter. 

The first 3 or 4 times of making this yeasty batter, I was able to find enough friends and neighbours willing to try it, but later I just froze the bags and used them up one at a time to make different flavours of friendship bread. The starter batter freezes indefinitely, so it's easy to make these sweet breads at a moment's notice.

There's always a can of pumpkin puree in the pantry after Thanksgiving. Following the recipe for Banana Walnut Friendship Bread and using a can of pumpkin puree in place of mashed bananas, produces a lovely bread without using a store-bought pumpkin bread mix.

Enjoy this bread for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Phool Kopir Ghonto - Cauliflower, Potatoes & Rice

Phool Kopir Ghonto
The difference between Phool Kopir Ghonto & Phool Kopir Pulao, in my humble opinion, lies in the ratio of cauliflower to rice. In a Ghonto, the ratio of cauliflower to rice is 2:1, and in a Pulao the ratio is 1:2. By adjusting the amount of gravy, it can be served wet or dry. This is a vegan and vegetarian dish that can be served on auspicious occasions.

I first had Phool Kopir Ghonto at my sister's place. She follows a vegetarian diet one day a week and has a amazing repertoire of vegetarian dishes. This dish has stuck in my memory and even though I haven't followed her recipe exactly, it tasted wonderful!


Friday, May 25, 2018

Burmese Chet-Tha Chin Paung - Roselle Leaves with Chicken

Chin Paung Chicken
Chin Paung Ywet or roselle leaves have a lovely tang. When roselle leaves are not available, sorrel can be substituted. Both have a tangy, citrusy flavour that taste great in their uncooked forms in salads and sauces.

Roselle Leaves

Sorrel Leaves
Even though they don't look anything like each other, they taste almost the same and can be cooked with shrimp, chicken or any meat. The greens tend to turn black when heat is applied to them, so I like to mix them with regular chopped spinach to cut back on the tang and to make them look green and vibrant.
Gongura Pickle
A touch of gongura pickle, available in Indian markets, gives this dish a punch of added flavour. Gongura is the South Indian name for roselle leaves.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Astho Kalai Dal - Whole Black Lentils

Astho Kalai Dal
Astho Kalai Dal which simply refers to whole black lentils, are richer than lentils that are served daily, because the black lentils have not been hulled and contain much more fiber than the hulled and split lentils. Whole lentils don't break down completely, leaving a watery residue so to make it thick and creamy, channa dal is cooked along with the urad dal. It's a popular dish among truckers who dine at truck stops or 'dhabasall over India. 

The lentils are soaked for half an hour and pressure cooked  with onions, ginger and a variety of spices. In spite of using only half a stick of butter, these lentils were creamy and delicious. They go well with hot, steamed rice or with a variety of Indian breads.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Laksa Khauk Swe - Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup

Clockwise from top left
Laksa Paste
 Ohno Khauk Swe in the Bowl
 and Garnishes
A member of our Burmese food group on Facebook posted the recipe for Singaporean Laksa and suggested we could use it to make Ohno Khauk Swe. So I tried it today and was pleasantly surprised how well it worked! This Burmese chicken noodle soup is usually a time-consuming process because of the curry paste that's made from scratch and stir-fried and simmered for close to an hour. Laksa paste saved a lot of time because it's already cooked and makes it a great option for entertaining unexpected guests.

Dimer Dhokar Dalna - Steamed Egg Cakes in Tomato & Onion Gravy

Dimer Dhokar Dalna
An interesting variation to Egg Curry, eggs beaten with turmeric powder, salt, minced onions, tomatoes and green chilies are steamed in the microwave oven and cooked in a tomato-based gravy.

Dhoka, which means fake or deceptive in Bengali, refers to the vegetarian substitute for meat served on auspicious occasions. Dhokar Dalna is generally made with lentil cakes in gravy. The lentil cake method is tedious and time-consuming requiring soaking the lentils overnight, blending them the next day and cooking the paste until all liquid evaporates, then cutting the cake in cubes and frying the cubes until browned. In the process, a lot of oil is used and a lot of effort expended. 

Dimer Dhoka is much simpler to make, although it would not be considered a vegetarian dish. It doesn't require as much preparation and uses a lot less oil.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thursdate Meatball Stroganoff

Meatball Stroganoff
Thursdays are Grand-boy's day, nicknamed Thursdate in our home. One of our three grandsons is picked up at 4 pm., has dinner and spends the evening with us and gets dropped home at 8 pm. It's our favourite day of the week and the grand-boys enjoy it even more. The dilemma for me is to come up with a kid-friendly dinner such as spaghetti & meatballs, fajitas, taco salad, et al.

This meatball stroganoff was popular when our own boys were growing up and it was delegated to hubby to make the meatballs from scratch. The aroma of garlicky mushrooms and browning meatballs simmering in mushroom soup and sour cream would cause neighbours to drop by for a taste test. But that was many moons ago and became a distant memory until today. 

I hope Grand-Boy #2 likes it as much as I do.


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Panch Mishali Tarkari - 5 Vegetables in Coconut Cream

Panch Mishali Tarkari
Gather together all the vegetables you can find, including bits and pieces in the fridge, to compose this simple and satisfying stew. I used a sweet potato, an eggplant, pui shaak with data (malabar spinach), chayote squash and potatoes, but any five or more vegetables will do. After all, who's counting?

Coconut milk makes it extra special by imparting a creamy quality to the vegetables.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Toasted Mung Dal with Hilsa Head

Ilish Muro
Maacher muro or fish head adds an enormous amount of flavour, also known as umami, to anything to which it is added. Umami, in my opinion, is that robust taste that is tough to satisfy; it makes the epicure crave more of the same. Hilsa or Ilish heaps on the flavour manyfold. There are a myriad ways to prepare fish head and since I have so many of them in my freezer, I plan to serve them up in all the known ways. 

I have blogged about a few of these ways - Fish Head PilafSquash with Fish Head and Bottle Gourd with Fish Heads. Toasted mung bean lentils serves as a creamy base for fish heads. The whole head is pan-fried to a golden brown crisp before immersing in the lentils to finish cooking.

Served with a steaming bowl of Basmati rice, I need nothing more than some peace and quiet so I can focus on removing the bones which is a huge part of enjoying this dish.


Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Pressure-Cooked Doi Ilish

Doi Ilish
It's not easy to get Ilish Maach, a.k.a hilsa, here unless there is a Bangladeshi market in the neighbourhood or at least within driving distance. I was so happy when Alladin opened up around the corner in a strip mall. First of all, they are my source for Balachaung-in-a box, better balachaung than I can make at home. A couple of days ago, I went there to replenish my stock of balachaung and casually inquired if they had Ilish Maach. I've watched a few videos on pressure cooking ilish that causes the bones to soften sufficiently that scaredy cats can enjoy this lovely fish.

The videos make it look pretty simple - all that's required is a pressure cooker and the ingredients for Doi Maach or fish cooked in yogurt gravy. The store owner was a friendly soul from Chittagong who was happy to clean and cut the ilish I picked out. 

Ilish (the closest to an American fish is Shad) is a fatty fish that's rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. It's taste and aroma when cooked is quite spectacular. I decided to follow the instructions in the video so what we had was Doi Ilish or ilish in yogurt gravy.

Cooking the fish for 1.5 hours under pressure was pretty daunting, but there was no reason to worry because there was plenty of gravy left and it didn't stick to the bottom of the pressure cooker. The secret? To use lots of sliced onions as the first layer and to bring it up to pressure and reduce the heat to its lowest setting then forgetting about it for 1.5 hours. 

The videos recommended simmering off the excess gravy for another half an hour after removing the cooker cover, but there was no need to do that because the amount of gravy was perfect! The dish tasted awesome and the best part of this experiment was to watch the hubster/DH eat a whole piece of fish. The bones really did soften, reminiscent of sardines or salmon in the can. 


Friday, April 20, 2018

Poila Boishak 2018 - Bengali New Year 2018

Poila Boishak 2018

Clockwise from top left

Bhaja Mug-er Dal e Phool Kopi - Toasted Split Mung Beans with Cauliflower

Toasted Mung Beans with Cauliflower

This lentil dish is a great side dish to add to any festive meal.  Split mung beans are toasted to a golden brown, washed and cooked until soft then combined with stir-fried cauli-florets, ginger paste and garam masala powder. A pinch of sugar and salt to taste season the lentils. It's finally garnished with cilantro, green chilies and of course, ghee.

Dim-er Dalna - Egg Curry

Dim-er Dalna
Eggs in any shape or form are easy to prepare for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Hard boiled eggs and boiled baby potatoes in an onion and tomato sauce are an egg-cellent choice for a dinner entree because they go so well with steamed rice.

The sauce is easy to prepare too, because all it requires is for the onions and garlic to be blanched in boiling water and blended with tomatoes, a green chili and ginger, then stir-fried with spices and the potatoes and combined with the eggs. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Begun Alu Posto - Eggplant & Potatoes in White Poppy Seed Sauce

Begun Alu Posto
Alu Posto is a favourite Bengali preparation and adding eggplants to it makes it creamier and more delicious. Japanese eggplants are practically seedless which makes it a good choice in this dish.

White poppy seeds, soaked in boiling water and ground with salt until thick and creamy is best served for lunch because it induces a restful afternoon nap. I love posto stir-fried with any vegetable. Add shrimp to it for boosted flavour and call it a main dish.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Surimi in Black Bean Sauce

Surimi in Black Bean Sauce
"Surimi seafood, often called “Imitation Crab”, is real seafood made with Wild Alaska Pollock, a mild whitefish related to cod, which is flavored with crab or lobster. To make surimi seafood, Wild Alaska Pollock is finely minced and then blended with other ingredients such as starch, salt, natural crab meat, and egg white. It is then formed, cooked and cut into the various shapes and styles you find at your local grocery store." This description was taken from the Louis Kemp website.

Louis Kemp Crab Delights
I like to have a package of crab delights on hand for busy days when we're too tired to dress up to go out for dinner. My sister-in-law who is a whiz in the kitchen shared a version of this recipe with me, but it was so long ago that the details have become fuzzy. From what I remember, she made it in the microwave oven and it was ready to eat in under 15 minutes.
Lee Kum Kee Chili Black Bean Sauce
For Chinese dishes, I like using Lee Kum Kee sauces. For this recipe, I mixed their Chili Black Bean Sauce with Premium Oyster Sauce and Mirin or rice wine for the sauce. Both the sauces are salted, so no extra salt was required. A sliced onion, minced tomatoes, some sliced garlic and oil combined with the sauce mixture and crab delights were microwaved for 5 minutes, stirred and microwaved for another 2 minutes. This was served over steaming, hot rice for a sumptuous dinner. The leftovers were heated in a skillet the next day for breakfast, a little oil drizzled around the edges and fried with beaten eggs that were left undisturbed to cook without stirring and served garnished with green onions over toast. That's two meals for the price of one package of crab delights.