Friday, October 20, 2017

Scrambled Tofu & Eggs Akuri

Scrambled Tofu & Eggs Akuri
Eggs Akuri is a common Parsi breakfast dish that is served all over India.
 
Prepped Ingredients
Beaten eggs are combined with diced onions, tomatoes, green chilies and cilantro for a very tasty accompaniment to buttered toast. In Bengali households this style of scrambled eggs are given a bright golden colour with the addition of turmeric powder.

Extra-Firm Tofu
I figured tofu would taste great with the scrambled eggs because of its firm and silky texture. To give it an Indo-Chinese twist, the diced cubes of tofu were tossed in chicken bouillon powder to give the tasteless tofu some punch. After allowing them to sit for 10 minutes, the cubes of tofu were mashed with a fork and soaked in beaten eggs before scrambling.

Chicken Bouillon Powder
No salt was added because the bouillon powder was salty enough.

These scrambled eggs taste great with buttered toast or hot chapatis or even steamed long-grain rice. I can imagine them stuffed inside egg parathas or bread pakoras...the possibilities are endless!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Burmese Fish Ball Sipyan

Burmese Fish Ball Sipyan
Fish balls remind me of the time a group of co-workers and I went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant and I ordered fish ball and watercress soup. A Chinese lady and I were the only ones who had ever heard of fish balls, so it was the source of much amusement and glee for our meat-and-potatoes comrades. 

Fish balls can be made at home, but are readily available in Asian markets here in North America. When made from scratch, all the tastes that make them uniquely Burmese can be added to the fish mixture so that the flavors permeate from the inside out. Using generic fish balls from the market requires that they be simmered long and slow and, for this, the sipyan method works best. 'Sipyan' translates to 'oil returns' which requires a simmering process on medium-low heat that evaporates the liquid until all the oil rises to the surface.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Lau Chingri - Bottle Gourd/Chayote Squash with Shrimp

Lau Chingri
This is a Bengali recipe that traditionally uses bottle gourd, which I often replace with chayote squash because it's more readily available. Zucchini also works well in this recipe.



Friday, September 29, 2017

Burmese KyaukKyaw with Sliced Peaches - Coconut Jello with Peaches

KyaukKyaw with Sliced Peaches
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 on 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.

Serve on its own or with canned fruit cocktail or peaches.




Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tomato Chutney

Tomato Chutney
Our neighbours and friends grow beautiful blemish-free tomatoes during the summer and we are blessed with their bounty. The 6 yr-old boy next door with the help of his friend set up a little table by the curbside, giving away the cutest home-grown cherry tomatoes. They were free, we were told, with the only stipulation that only 8 tomatoes were allowed per person. They provided the ziploc bags and the two boys had the time of their lives, waving down passing cars and neighbours taking a walk.

Another friend invited me over for lunch and filled up a whole bag with plum tomatoes that looked like mini-roma tomatoes. Yet another friend grew regular-size roma tomatoes, so all this bounty resulted in a delicious chutney.

Mum made this chutney on festive occasions which is where the recipe is derived. I used a quarter pound of date jaggery (khejur-er gur in Bengali) which gave the chutney a depth of flavour that is almost impossible to achieve with plain sugar. The jaggery combined with very thin slivers of ginger, diced tomatoes and raisins were all that were needed to make this chutney. 

It was easy to make and basically cooked on medium-low heat with little intervention. Served as an accompaniment to any Indian meal, this chutney gives a festive air to a gathering of friends to celebrate the fall season.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stir-Fried Spinach, Eggplant & Shrimp

Stir-Fried Spinach, Eggplant & Shrimp
Shrimp added to any vegetable dish ramps up the flavour a hundred fold. Here, spinach and eggplant are stir-fried and salad shrimp added just before taking off the stove. Very easy to make, using the simplest of readily available ingredients, this is a must-try recipe for shrimp lovers.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Sujir Payesh with Dried Apricots - Semolina Pudding with Dried Apricots

Sujir Payesh with Dried Apricots
Soft and creamy, this adaptation of a childhood comfort food appeals to young and old alike. Semolina or cream of wheat or suji is a familiar food in the breakfast aisle of the grocery store. The breakfast cereal packages contain semolina in its instant form which is not what is used in this recipe because when it is cooked in this way, it turns to a mushy paste. So visit an Indian market and get unprocessed large grains of semolina in a bag. Kept in a cool, dark place, the bag will last several years if kept in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

The semolina is first toasted in a skillet with butter until golden brown and fragrant. Meanwhile, milk is scalded with raisins & sugar in another pan and the two are combined to produce a smooth and creamy pudding. Just to be different, I decided to use coconut milk instead of regular milk and replaced the raisins with minced, dried apricots. 

One gentleman who loved to have this with heated tortillas for breakfast once told me that the semolina, sugar and butter should be used in a 1:1 ratio and the milk to semolina ratio should be 2:1. I admit this tastes heavenly, but not so good for diabetics or people with high cholestrerol levels, so I toned it down significantly. A hint of cardamom powder gives this pudding a decadent touch.

Phulkopi Diye Bhaja Mooger Dal - Toasted Mung Bean Lentils with Cauliflower


Toasted Mung Bean Lentils
With Cauliflower
Split mung bean lentils taste quite different when they are toasted in a dry pan until light brown. The lentils are cooked until soft and mashable, then combined with cauli-florets that are stir-fried separately. Tomatoes add a tangy note and green chilies add a tongue-tingling heat. This dal pairs well as a side dish with tortillas or hot rice.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dim'er Korma - Eggs in Onion Gravy

Dim'er Korma
Taking the definition from Wikipedia, korma is a dish originating in the Indian subcontinent, consisting of meat or vegetables braised with yogurt/cream and spices to produce a thick sauce or glaze. I used evaporated milk instead of cream and cooked the eggs and potatoes long and slow over a low flame. Onions that are grated or blended into a paste tend to take a long time to cook enough to remove it's strong aroma. I read that blanching onions before blending takes care of this problem. A thick sauce is produced by adding simmering water when making the gravy. Somehow, cold water or broth added to simmering spices thins out the gravy, so make sure to keep a simmering cup or two of water/broth close at hand.

To make perfect hard-boiled eggs, bring the eggs to a rolling boil over medium heat, cover the saucepan and simmer for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the saucepan for another ten minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse under cold water then fill the saucepan with cold water and leave the eggs to cool down completely. They'll be easy to peel with no blemishes at all. Slit the eggs vertically four or five times to make sure the gravy penetrates to the core. Lightly fry the eggs until golden brown before releasing them into the gravy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bottle Gourd with Fish Heads - Lau'er Muro Ghonto



Lau'er Muro Ghonto
A friend of Hubby's enjoys fishing and brought me some of his catch. We got into a discussion of how the fish he catches is cleaned. He catches salmon and trout that are pretty big in size. Fish is my protein of choice and he was quite surprised to hear that the head is the most tasty part of the fish. He throws the heads away, so I begged him to save a couple for me the next time he went fishing.

Today he dropped by with six big heads. So I'm all set for the next month. Can't believe I don't have to go to the Asian store and pay for my next fish head. These heads are so fresh which I could tell by the bright red color of the gills. It took me a fair amount of time to clean the heads, discarding the mouth, fins and gills.

Fish head or muro in Bengali is prepared with a number of different vegetables, such as spinach, potatoes, eggplant, cabbage and even in pilaf with cauliflower. Bottle gourd (chayote squash is a good substitute) also pairs well with them, so I spent this afternoon making Lau'er Muro Ghonto. Regardless of how big the squash is, it amounts to practically nothing once it is cooked and it releases its juices.

Enjoy!


Salmon Cooked with Onions & Tomatoes in a Mustard Gravy

Salmon Maacher Jhaal
Daddy loved fishing, although he didn't get much time for his hobby. He worked as a family physician at his clinic from Monday through Saturday and half-day on Sunday. I remember the time when, from one of his fishing expeditions, he brought home a sea turtle and laid it on the kitchen floor. We were fascinated by this sea creature, but strangely enough, I can't remember what happened to it. We didn't have it for dinner, I don't think.

When I was living in California, my aunt and I met a family from Burma and Mr. Fenton also loved to fish. His favorite fishing spot was Puddingstone Reservoir and he would return home with loads of blue gill which he would drop off at my place to clean. Blue gill tastes a lot like climbing perch (Bengalis call it koi maach). The taste of fresh caught fish just can't be beat.

Here in Michigan, Hubby has re-connected with a friend from work who has been fishing since he was a young boy. He goes fishing in the St. Clair river and showed me a picture of the salmon he caught a couple of days before. His question was whether we'd like some fresh salmon or smoked, so I asked for a little of both. The smoked salmon was outstanding and I marvelled at how well he had cleaned the fish. There was not a scale in sight and believe me, they were miniscule.

So the fresh piece of salmon brings me right back to this blog. I cut the fillet into cubes and cooked it the way Bengalis love their fish - in mustard gravy. Salmon reminds me of Ilish (or Hilsa) and they both have similar spawning habits. Both species of fish live in the sea or ocean, but make their way back to the river in which they were born and swim against the current to spawn. Just like Ilish, Salmon is an oily fish and is full of flavor.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Asian Vermicelli Chicken Salad

Asian Vermicelli Chicken Salad
A light & fresh salad that is perfect for the hot days of August, this glass noodle salad is versatile and so tasty! 


Chopped Fresh Ingredients &
Rotisserie Chicken
Combine any variety of fresh, salad ingredients along with a protein, whip up an Asian dressing and it's ready to eat in less than 15 minutes. On the cutting mat clockwise from top left are rotisserie chicken, green onions, romaine lettuce, glass noodles with shredded lime leaves sprinkled on top, English seedless cucumbers, beefsteak tomatoes, sliced onions and wedges of lime. Before serving, the salad is garnished with crunchy ramen noodles (omit for gluten-free diets) and sliced almonds.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ghoogni or Channa Masala - Curried Chickpeas

Ghoogni
Ghoogni served with light and puffy luchis are a favorite snack among Bengali households. A mild hint of sour taste from tamarind pulp in a thick onion and tomato gravy makes it perfect for an accompaniment to luchis. I generally have it with tortillas because they are readily available and less work than making luchis. 

Soaking dried chickpeas overnight can be substituted with a can of already cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans in the Western hemisphere. I find that russet potatoes are a good addition. Remember that Bengalis love their potatoes and we add them to any and everything!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quick & Easy Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani
Fluff with a fork to reveal the
pretty orange hue of the saffron
Here is a really quick & easy way to make biryani which is served on festive occasions. Our cause for celebration was to break a fast from eating bland food because Hubby was suffering from a digestive ailment. If you've read my past posts on the subject, they will seem labor-intensive - see Chicken Biryani and 

Served with Shrimp Curry
Choto Alu'r Dum
We had this biryani with Shrimp Curry and Alu Dum, but it tastes great accompanied by a salad or raita.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Orange Marmalade

Orange Marmalade
There are so many blessings in my life, not the least of which is my big sister, Rene. Our telephone conversations always end up on the topic of food and she's a fountain of information and wisdom on the subject. Mandarin oranges are in season in the summer in Darjeeling, India. I grew up and went to school there and one of my fondest memories was of Mum making orange marmalade. Mandarin oranges were sold in big baskets for a very cheap price and they had to be consumed in a short time so they didn't spoil.

Marmlade Using Just Two Ingredients
So, during one of our marathon calls between Rene and me, these memories surfaced and we reminisced about the steps Mum went through to make marmalade. We would have to peel all the oranges, remove the skin around each segment and collect just the pulp. The peels were set aside to make the rinds in the jam and the orange pulp with sugar was cooked on the stovetop until they reached jam consistency. The result was a clear jelly-like marmarlade with strips of rind floating in suspension.

Fast & Easy Marmalade
That's when Rene mentioned watching a food show that reduced the tedium to nil by introducing the food processor. This process produces a marmalade that is thick and rustic and oh so flavorful! The aroma that permeates through our home is heavenly! The pith just under the peel is usually removed because it's so bitter, but that's what I love about marmalade so I leave it in.

A No-Fail Method
Once I tried this no-fail method of making marmalade, I've never looked back. It's quick and easy, aromatic and full of flavor. Use it on toasted bread, English muffins or waffles. I've also wrapped cream cheese and marmalade in crescent dough to make a marmalade danish. Yumm! 


Monday, July 24, 2017

Burmese Htamin Let Thoke - Hand-Tossed Noodle & Rice Salad

Burmese Htamin Let Thoke
Also known as Let Thoke Sone or A-Thoke, this carb-rich salad is a popular street food in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Htamin (rice) Let (hand) Thoke (tossed/mixed), like many other Burmese hand-tossed salads, is made from 12 or more ingredients, most of which are readily available in your local supermarkets. Specialty items like deep-fried onions and garlic can be made from scratch, but is a laborious process. Asian markets stock those along with spicy shrimp floss for which I like to use Balachaung as a substitute. Tamarind paste also is available in Asian and Indian markets.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dilled Tilapia

Dilled Tilapia
The tilapia fillets that were defrosted today were too thin to withstand a gravy, so they were chopped into little cubes and quickly stir-fried with potatoes. Dried dill weed is not often used in my kitchen, but was a great substitute for cilantro which I did not have. This stir-fry was quick & easy to prepare and tasted quite awesome.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Burmese Eggplant & Fried Anchovies in Coconut Sauce

Khayun Thee
Japanese eggplant are my favourite because they are practically seedless. It's only recently that this type of eggplant is being stocked at our local supermarket. Hubby usually does our regular grocery shopping, but it's my pleasure to shop at the Asian markets. We have Indian, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean markets within 5 miles of our home. Each market has something different and unique to offer foodies like me, like these Korean fried anchovies.

Korean Fried Anchovies
The anchovies are fried with chili powder and packed in oil. Stir-fried eggplant takes on a whole new flavour when they are cooked with anchovies. The dish could be cooked until dry and served with hot rice.

Dry Fried Eggplant & Anchovies
A slight twist was introduced today to add a cup of coconut milk to the pan just before removing from the heat. This left a little gravy that is always welcome when anything is eaten with rice.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Muttar Keema Gobi - Shredded Cabbage with Minced Meat & Peas

Shredded Cabbage with Minced Meat & Peas
This is another dish inspired by Mum. She would take a whole cabbage, remove the core and stuff it with spiced, seasoned and browned ground meat. The cabbage would then be bound with kitchen twine so it wouldn't fall apart and browned on top of the stove. From the frying pan, the bound cabbage would be transferred to the pressure cooker with a wee bit of water, brought up to full pressure and cooked over medium-low heat for about half an hour. The yummiest stuffed cabbage there ever was!

I deconstructed it and made a stir-fried, shredded cabbage with ground sausage meat. The longer the cabbage is cooked, the sweeter it tastes, so take the time to simmer and stir till the cabbage turns golden brown.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Effortless Balachaung

Store-bought Balachaung
Less than half a mile from our home, a tiny grocery store opened its doors a couple of years ago. It's stuck at the end of the strip mall and beckons passersby with its flashing lights strung around the perimeter of its windows. It has a magical name - Alladin Spices & Groceries. From the name it's a good guess that it's an Indian store - in particular, a Bangladeshi store. When it first opened, Prasun & I ventured in, but we weren't terribly impressed because it was cramped and dingy and they were still stocking their shelves. Besides, the products didn't look too interesting. No kasundi available, for example, so not truly a Bengali store.

Two years later, I needed to buy red lentils, also known as masuri dal. I was reluctant to travel 5 miles to Patel Bros. and decided to pick it up at Alladin. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the store appeared much bigger and brighter. The bag of lentils I needed was close enough to the entrance that I could have made a quick exit, but decided instead to give the store another look-over. Kasundi on the shelf (yay!) and even though I couldn't understand the lingo uttered by the stock boys, words like 'balti' and 'kumurehsah' makes me believe they were speaking chydgah, a dialect from Chittagong. The inventory was much more varied and as I walked around the back of the store, came across this gem.

Balachaung in a Package!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Adraki Gobi - Cauiflower in Ginger Sauce

Adraki Gobi
My sister and her daughter 'fast' one day every week. It's not a total fast, they just stick to vegetarian cuisine that has no onion or garlic. This cauliflower dish would be ideal for them because it is flavoured simply with ginger and tomatoes.
Fresh, minced ginger would be perfect, to get that strong ginger taste, but I often resort to using ginger paste for convenience.

No water was used in this recipe to keep the cauliflower dry. To make it saucy, add half a cup of hot water at the end and bring everything back to a boil. I added a diced russet potato to suit my Bengali palate, but it may be omitted if you wish.

Serve Adraki Gobi as a side dish especially if you are catering to a vegan and/or vegetarian guest.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chicken Do Pyaza - Chicken in Onion Sauce

Chicken Do Pyaza
I modified my Butter Chicken recipe to create this Chicken Do Pyaza which translates to Chicken 2 Onions. It gets its name from the two types of onions that are used. The chicken is first stir-fried with minced onions and at the end is combined with deep-fried onions or birista.

Butter Chicken Sauce
Half a package of this off-the-shelf butter chicken sauce was the perfect gravy to use in this dish. One and a half pounds of boneless & skinless chicken thighs were cubed and marinated in paprika, the juice of one lime and salt. The pieces were then stir-fried until golden brown, the sauce added and the whole thing simmered over medium-low heat for half an hour. The fried onions were then added and stirred into the sauce to make it thick and glossy. 



Serve this chicken as a main dish with hot, steamed rice or any Indian bread.


Meetha Sev - Sweet Vermicelli Dessert

Meetha Sev
This dessert reminds me of Khan, our cook in Bombay in the early 1970s. He was an excellent cook who went to the market early each morning and based our menu on what was available that day. His food was in the Mughlai style and quite rich. This was his way of preparing toasted vermicelli and was quite unusual for us because we were used to the milky payesh that Bengalis generally make.

Toasted Vermicelli
Toasted vermicelli or sev is available at Indian markets. If it's not available in toasted form, it adds a step to making desserts because it has to be toasted in butter or ghee until golden brown. Coating sev with butter keeps each strand separate and prevents it from becoming mushy.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Easiest Potato Salad

Potato Salad
Summer's just around the corner which makes this the ideal time for backyard bargeques and picnics. Potato Salad is the easiest and most portable of picnic foods that is sure to please all, big and small. I was requested to make a Ranch Potato Salad for my son's Mother's Day BBQ not too long ago. 

Mother's Day Gift
There are few more satisfying stages in life than being a grandmother. We have three gregarious Grand-Boys and the eldest gifted me this plant stand made lovingly by his own two hands. The tulip and leaves are made of foam and the pot holder is made of wood. It holds a live flowering plant and I love it!

So Simple & Easy to Make
The potato salad was so easy to make. Red-skin potatoes were either quartered or halved and boiled just until al-dente. The potatoes were left skin-on and were dropped in boiling water and simmered for exactly 10 minutes. The best way to test for doneness is to stick the tip of a knife into the skin and if the potato falls off the knife without difficulty, they're done.


Just 5 Ingredients
The salad needs just 5 ingredients and requires only a quick toss of the potatoes with the other four ingredients. It was chilled for six hours and tasted perfect served right out of the fridge. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fish in Mustard Sauce - Maacher Sorshe Bata Jhaal

Maacher Jhaal
If time is of the essence and processing mustard seeds seems like a chore, the next best thing is to use Coleman's Mustard Powder, dissolved in some water. This is a fast and easy way to prepare any fish fillets or steaks. I've used fillets of flounder in this recipe, but will avoid it in the future because they just can't help falling apart as they cook. Steaks would probably work a lot better, if your family can handle the bones. Any fish works well, salmon steaks taste lovely, but ilish maach or hilsa cannot be beat. Only problem is that hilsa are not readily available outside India.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Scrambled Eggs, Cabbage & Peas

Scrambled Eggs, Cabbage & Peas
Here's another dish that places Mum's presence front & center in my consciousness. I remember having this with hot rice in Rangoon and more frequently in Darjeeling. It's really simple to make with just a few ingredients and is so delicious! It goes well with rice or tortillas.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Thai Tom Yum Goong - Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup

Thai Hot & Sour Soup

Bowl of Tom Yum
The inspiration for this soup came from a friend on Facebook asking for a Hot & Sour Soup recipe which led me to Closet Cooking. We had it for lunch for lunch today which along with an egg roll each, made for a filling and satisying meal. Because some of the ingredients were missing from my pantry, I had to make some modifications so I've described, below, what I did to reproduce the recipe.

The hot part of this soup came from a combination of minced green chilies and gochujang, a Korean chili paste that I love! The sour aspect came simply from the juice of one lime. I dropped the squeezed out rinds of lime into the soup and fished them out before serving. This made up for the absence of lemon grass. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

White Snapper Tel Jhaal - White Snapper in Hot Tomato Gravy

White Snapper Steaks (Bone-In)
I love bone-in fish which is so much tastier than fillets because the bones are where the flavour is concentrated. Notice the small green chilies used as a garnish. They are very hot and I love to mash them into my rice to release their mind-blowing heat.

White Snapper Fillets
When I cook bone-in fish, I always cook filleted fish for my husband. He can't bear to interrupt his eating with 'fishing' out the bones which ruins his dinner! So, in the two photographs above, the sauce/gravy remains the same, but the cut of fish is different. Notice that for my husband, I have used rings of jalapeno peppers whose heat are more tolerable. They are plainly visible and can be removed easily, if necessary.

This was my first try of white snapper and my only complaint was that the texture was 'meaty', much like mackerel. I prefer the softer texture of river fish.