Friday, March 23, 2018

Nga Hsi Pyan - Burmese Fish Curry in Red Sauce

Nga Hsi Pyan
The holy trinity or mirepoix in Burmese cooking consists of pureed/pounded onions, garlic and soaked dried red chillies. 'Nga' means fish and 'Sipyan' means 'oil returns'.  So that I don't have to skimp on the oil, I use a healthy oil such as extra-light olive oil in all my cooking.  The other thing to keep in mind is that for the full flavour to develop, this dish must be simmered on low heat for as long as it takes for the liquid to evaporate and oil to resurface.

Any fish can be used in this dish, cut into steaks leaving the bone in, or boneless fish fillets.

Fried Okra Smothered in Toasted Chickpea Flour

Fried Okra Smothered in
Toasted Chickpea Flour
The alkalinity in okra takes some getting used to, if you're trying it for the first time. It's a popular vegetable in India and Burma (or Myanmar as it is now known). There are several techniques to cut down on the alkalinity. 

Keep the okra dry at all times, so wash the pods and dry overnight before cutting or wipe each pod dry before cutting. Toss the cut okra in sufficient amchur (dried mango powder) before cooking. Fry the okra in oil until de-alkalized before seasoning or adding chopped onions and tomatoes. Toss the cooked okra with toasted chickpea flour and toast some more until it turns golden brown.

To add a Burmese flavour to this dish, I seasoned the chickpea flour with dried shrimp powder and seasoned the okra with fish sauce instead of salt, before frying with onions, garlic and tomatoes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Burmese Stir-Fried Spinach & Eggplants

Burmese Spinach & Eggplants
Supermarkets now stock bags and tubs of triple washed spinach which cuts down on prep time. Baby spinach leaves are small enough to leave whole and that cuts down on prep time because they don't need to be chopped.

I fry the eggplant first then add the spinach, cooking it just until wilted.The leaves have to be moved from the bottom of the pan to the top several times because the pan is usually too small to accommodate the entire contents of the bag or tub.
Sorrel is an herb, delicious and tart, that look very much like spinach. If sown in the ground, this vigourous plant will take over just like mint. I've bought it at the farmer's market as seedlings and potted them successfully. They die back in the winter and return in the spring. The tender & tangy greens are edible when they first sprout but become more and more bitter as they mature. 

To emulate the tangy flavour of sorrel and roselle leaves (chin baung ywet in Burmese), I add the juice of a lime just before removing this dish from the stove. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Hsi Hta Min - Burmese Golden Rice

Hsi Hta Min
As in any other fried rice recipe, it is best to use day old rice that has been refrigerated overnight so that the rice absorbs all moisture. I've used Basmati rice, but jasmine or any other long-grain rice would work just as well. Sticky rice makes it even more special.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Burmese Stir-Fried Tofu - ShanTofu Kyet

Shan Tofu Kyet
Shan Tofu Kyet originated in the Shan states of Myanmar or Burma.  Made traditionally with yellow tofu (derived from ground & steamed chickpeas), the more commonly found white soya bean tofu can also be used in this dish. Mashed tofu is stir-fried with fish sauce, fresh tomatoes, minced onions and garlic, and garnished with cilantro and green chilies.

This tofu dish is usually served as a side dish with steamed long-grain rice accompanied by meat or fish and some vegetable soup (hin cho). 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Alu Bhathe - Potato in Rice

Alu Bhathe
Alu (potato) Bhathe (in rice) is comfort food that brings back memories of my childhood. Babies thrive on it and grown-ups relish it. 

Alu Makha
It's obvious I need to visit the Indian market because there's not a drop of mustard oil at home. Fortunately, there's a bottle of kasundi (mustard sauce) in the fridge which worked well to give this mash the hint of mustard it needs. 

Basmati Rice & Russet Potato
Cooked in Microwave Oven
It takes 18 minutes for basmati rice to cook to perfection in the microwave which was perfect for the russet potato as well. The potato can also be cooked in rice in a rice cooker. Just to be on the safe side, I cut the potato in half to make sure it cooked all the way through.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Shahi Palak Murgh - Royal Chicken & Spinach

Chicken & Spinach Fit for a King!
A quick and easy chicken and spinach curry that goes well with steamed rice or chapatis/tortillas. Using Shan's Chicken White Korma masala eliminated the need to come up with a similar blend of spices and flavours. Why waste time reinventing the wheel?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Begun Pora - Roasted Eggplant Salad

Begun Pora
Eggplant is probably the best loved vegetable (or fruit?) in our family. My son, especially, can have it everyday, cooked in countless ways. On this blog alone, I have tagged this vegetable at least 25 times, each recipe unique from the rest.

Whole Roasted Eggplant
Begun (eggplant) Pora (burnt) gets its name from the way in which this dish is prepared. Using the big globe eggplant, slits are made on the bottom opposite the stalk end, rubbed with oil and baked in a 400*F oven for 30 minutes or so. Turning the eggplant occasionally, it is baked until the skin appears singed and wrinkled and the center is soft when tested for doneness. Alternatively, it can be charred over an open gas flame or placed on an iron skillet on the stovetop and grilled. After it comes to room temperature, the skin is removed and the pulp is hand-mixed with salt and mustard oil along with diced onions, green chilies and cilantro. It is served as a salad or first course in a meal, and is eaten with steamed rice.

Boy or Girl?
Look for a firm, glossy skin and pick the lightest eggplant in the pile. The heavier ones have more seeds and could be bitter to the taste. A good clue to picking a practically seedless eggplant is to check the bellybutton at the bottom. Pick the one with the roundest navel (boy eggplant) as opposed to an elongated navel (girl eggplant). Believe it or not, eggplant(s?) are not gender-neutral and the boy eggplant is better for eating because it has less seeds.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Sambar - Tangy Yellow Split Peas Cooked with Vegetables

Sambar is a South-Indian dish of lentils & vegetables that is usually fiery & spicy and I love it. Hubby, however, can't tolerate spicy food so when I cook this at home it is much milder with the spices toned down several notches, which is why I refer to it as Bengali or simple sambar. This dish is generally made with toor dal or yellow split pigeon peas, and any vegetables you have on hand.

Red Snapper in Mustard & Coconut Sauce

Maacher Jhaal
My most favourite way to prepare fish is to steam it in a mustard gravy, but this was cooked on the stove-top. The ground mustard was mixed with coconut milk which made the gravy thick and creamy.

Any variety of fish can be prepared in this way. I've used red snapper here and in the past have made this with filleted and bone-in tilapia, catfish and shrimp. The shrimp tasted delicious!

Best served with basmati rice, this serves as a main course, accompanied by a vegetable and dal.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Oyster Crackers Snack

Years ago, while I was still a working woman, a co-worker brought in this snack for a potluck. It's so crunchy, delicious, and easy to assemble that I wonder why I don't make it more often.

It needs just 5 ingredients and 20 minutes to bake.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Zucchini Chingri

Zucchini/Lau Chingri
Lau Chingri is a beloved item on the Bengali menu, but lau (or bottle gourd) is  sometimes available only in an Indian market, so instead of lamenting its paucity, a great substitute is to use zucchini which is plentiful at our local super and farmers' markets. This started out with 7 fresh zucchini which reduced down to very little due to the high water content in the vegetables. I like to leave the skin on when cooking zucchini this way so that they don't turn to mush when they're cooked.

This goes well with both hot basmati rice and chapatis. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mung Dal with Spinach

Split Mung Beans with Spinach
This simple preparation for lentils and spinach is a breeze to make and gets dinner on the table in a jiffy.   

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bori Diye Doodh Lau - Bottle Gourd/Chayote Squash Simmered in Milk

Bori Diye Doodh Lau

Doodh Lau (Milk Bottle-Gourd) is a simple way of cooking squash which is suitable for people suffering from stomach ailments. This dish uses no spices and the seeds from the peppers can be removed, if need be. Bottle-gourd is widely available in most parts of India whereas chayote squash is found in the hilly regions, namely Darjeeling, which is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.

Chayote Squash

Lau or Bottle Gourd

Chayote squash, sourced from Mexico (I think), is more readily available in North America and can be found in supermarkets across the US. Lau or bottle-gourd can only be found in the Indian markets and some Asian markets where I live. Both chayote squash and lau have no taste of their own and absorb the taste of the gravy in which they are cooked. Lau tends to break down more easily than chayote squash and reduces to practically nothing because of its high water content. I use chayote squash interchangeably with lau and have cooked it in all the ways that I've seen lau being cooked, most notably with shrimp, in a mustard sauce and in milk and bori.

Sona Mung Bori
Bori are lentil dumplings that are spiced heavily in North India, but more delicately in West Bengal. Made from mung beans, Bengali bori are small and round with a pointed crest. They are dry and hard because they are traditionally formed by hand and dried in the sun. I like to fry them to a golden brown and soak them in boiling hot water and left to soak until ready to use. I drain the bori and save the water for flavouring the lau or chayote squash. 
Plain milk can be used to make the gravy for doodh-lau, but I prefer to use the shelf-stable variety called evaporated milk, from which 60% of water has been removed from fresh milk. It differs from sweetened condensed milk which contains added sugar.

Squash Simmered in Milk

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mum's Green Beans & Potatoes

Mum's Green Beans
Over the Christmas holidays we lunched at Burger King once and returned home with french fries by the bucket full. Since it goes against all my principles to throw them away, I decided to use them in Mum's Green Beans. 

Mum's Original Recipe
I've made these green beans often because I love the flavour of black pepper in combination with an overabundance of sliced onions and tomatoes. The french fries were fully cooked, nice and crispy, so they were added towards the end of the cooking process. They are also liberally salted, so no salt was added to the green beans. The crispiness of the green beans and the eventual soft texture of the fries were an interesting combination that tasted really good.

Ready to Eat!
Mum's Green Beans serve as a side dish to a Bengali meal that usually consists of a meat/fish/seafood main dish, a vegetable side and lentils. Extras include a tomato chutney, something fried such as Begun Bhaja, a salad or raita and hot, steamed basmati rice served with a dollop of ghee, or chapatis (tortillas). A variety of desserts round out the meal, my favourite being Bhapa Doi or Steamed Yogurt.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Alu Potol Posto - Potatoes & Pointed Gourd in White Poppy Seed Gravy

Alu Potol Posto
Potol used to be available only on the Indian subcontinent but is now available year-round in the Indian markets of North America. I remember guests visiting us in Rangoon, Burma, from India would bring potol with them. It was such a treat for us!
Decades later in India, my son returned from a shopping trip with his paternal grandfather, and recounted his adventures at the open-air market. He proudly declared that they had brought back 'pot-holes' from the market. He giggled hysterically as he watched me figure out that he was talking about potols. His favourite pasttime is to twist Bengali words into English words, often times with hilarious results.

Alu Posto is a favourite side dish served with Bengali meals. Alu Potol Posto can be eaten with hot, steamed basmati rice or with chapatis or parathas.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Gajar (Carrot) Halwa

Gajar ka Halwa
Carrots are naturally sweet, so this dessert needs just a little added sugar. To get all the Indian flavours, Gits Kulfi Mix added at the end works wonders. I've also used Gits Rasmalai Mix with good results. Make your own at home by combining Carnation Instant Dry Milk with sugar to taste, cardamom powder, ground almonds and a few drops of Kewra Essence (extract from pandanus flowers) or 2 teaspoons of rose water.

Deem Ruti or Anda Pau or Egg Sandwiches

Deem Ruti 
Making breakfast for a crowd can be daunting. Over the holidays we had a full house which was a lot of fun. Even though I was well-prepared to make several breakfasts, lunches and dinners, the weather did not cooperate. Temperatures were frigid and windows were iced in place and we hate the smell of stale food in the house, so we ate out a lot - a whole lot!

The Stuffing Inside
King's Hawaiian Rolls are fluffy, portion-sized with a slight sweetness that we all love, but reserve for the holidays. These bite-sized sandwiches are sold as snacks by street vendors in all the metropolitan cities in India. We love our omelettes with minced onions and tomatoes and green chilies which makes a delightful filling for the sandwiches. I went a step further and added slices of provolone cheese and sliced chicken to the mix.

Topped and Fried
Once the bottoms of the buns are smothered with the eggs, cheese and chicken, the buns are covered with the top halves and fried in butter. The little snack-sized buns are then segmented and served with ketchup or a variety of chutneys like tamarind or mint chutney, or sweet chili sauce.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Salmon Maacher Pulao - Fish Pilaf

Fish Pilaf
A complete one-dish meal, this pilaf combines salmon, cauliflower and potatoes with rice for a flavour-filled dish. Fish pilaf needs a strong tasting fish such as ilish or salmon. Both kinds of fish are fatty, omega-3 rich varieties that impart the required flavour to the mild flavours of the rest of the ingredients. It's best to use bone-in fish to maximize on taste so fish heads would also work here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mixed Berries Jam

Mixed Berries Jam
This was a great way to use up those frozen berries stashed in the deep interior of the freezer. They're supposed to be used in smoothies, so I have no idea how they got in the freezer because we're not 'smoothie types'. 
Frozen Berries (48 Oz./3 Lb.)
Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are what were listed on the package and all of them are rich in pectin so I decided to make jam. It turned out to be the easiest ever to make with the simple addition of some sugar to the package of berries.
No Additional Pectin Needed
Amazing how good just 2 ingredients can taste! It took about an hour to cook this jam and the test is simple to make sure it's reached jam consistency - a dollop of the berries on a little plate placed in the refrigerator to cool stays in place without running when it's tilted. It needs minimal baby/jam sitting, but must be stirred frequently to prevent scorching.

15 Oz. of Jam
Since it will be consumed in a short time, it was transferred to a clean salsa jar and refrigerated after it came to room temperature. Perfect on toast or English muffins, I've also had it on waffles, pancakes and as a condiment for Honeybaked ham.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saag Chicken

Saag Chicken
This dish was inspired by a post in Facebook that recommended that the chicken be cooked in the usual way and then simmered with spinach that is blanched and blended with tomatoes and green chilies. It worked out really well with minimal effort.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
The grand-boys were delighted with these ice cream cone cupcakes which were  inspired by an idea on the Betty Crocker website. A chocolate cake mix was used to fill each cone halfway. Most children like to show off their creativity, and allowing them to frost and decorate their own ice cream cupcake makes it fun for everyone. 

Baked Cones in a Muffin Pan
It's important to find flat-bottomed medium sized ice cream cones. A muffin pan makes a great baking pan and foil was used to fill the gaps in the muffin cups to keep the cones straight while baking. The fear of the cones burning was completely misplaced. It was so amazing that they didn't even deepen in colour.

The Cones Filled in Nicely
The cake reached all the way to the bottom. It's fool-proof and almost impossible to make a mistake with this dessert.

Topped with
Ice Cream & Sprinkles
One option is to top the cone with ice cream. Serving ice cream in this way is mess-free and holes poked in the cake allowed the ice cream to seep all the way through to the bottom, so it's good to the last crumb. Another option is to pipe icing on each cupcake. In that case I would pour more batter into the cones because icing would stay more firmly in place.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Maacher Muro Diye Bhaja Mooger Dal - Fish Head in Toasted Split Mung Bean Lentils

Maacher Muro Diye Bhaja Mooger Dal
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. 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 Pilaf, Squash 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 before enjoying this dish.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Irish Oatmeal Pilaf

Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal Pilaf
During a phone call to my sister-in-law about a month ago, she suggested I try this pilaf for lunch. Admittedly, it didn't sound very appealing because porridge is porridge and nothing like pilaf. It was a good thing I decided to try it anyway.

McCann's Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Steel-cut oatmeal is available in the British/UK section of the international aisle of the grocery store. Because of how long it takes to cook, this type of oats is given a wide berth, but after wrapping my mind around pilaf, I decided to treat it just like rice. This tactic worked well and the pilaf tasted amazingly good!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Maacher Deem Bhaja - Fried Fish Roe

Maacher Deem Bhaja
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning with an incredible feeling of being blessed beyond imagination. This feeling persists as hot water pours out of the taps and I find a comfortable spot to enjoy my iced coffee with an almond biscotti. Our stress-free life in the most comfortable place in the world is just one of the ways in which we benefit from growing older. Going away on vacation is very exciting, but the best part is returning home. There is no place on earth I'd rather be than exactly where I am today.

In my recent blogs, I've mentioned Hubby's ex-colleague & fisherman who has been supplying us with fresh fish. His last batch included an enormous amount of fish roe which to a Bengali is as precious as gold. In its fried form fried roe is served as a starter but the fried nuggets are also cooked in mustard gravy or any fish gravy. They have to be pan-fried first in any case, so here is how fish roe is prepared, using just five simple ingredients.