This blog is dedicated to Mum, my greatest mentor. It is a compilation of simple recipes - Bengali, Indian, Burmese and Continental, among others. All of these recipes have been tested in my kitchen. Most use everyday ingredients found at your local market, but some use specialty ingredients available at Asian and/or Indian markets. Comments are welcome and members are invited to send in any recipes they would like to share.
Thayet Thee (mango) Thoke (hand-mixed salad) is a common accompaniment to a Burmese meal during the mango season which runs April through June. Look for unripe mangoes that have a dark-green peel and are hard to the touch.
They are sour, slightly sweet and crunchy, and are ideal in a salad.
Strange to say, we hardly ever cooked Burmese food at home while we lived in Burma because our neighbours were only too willing to share their meals with us. One couple, in particular, did not have any children so we were always welcome in their home. Street vendors, selling all kinds of snacks or meals, shouted their wares through our neighbourhoods from early morning throughout the day until late into the night. So we ate and learned to love Burmese food through their wares.
Because the mangoes are so flavourful, very little else is needed in this salad. Typical salad ingredients are deep fried onions, deep fried garlic and chili flakes, roasted chickpea flour, raw thinly sliced onions, a spicy oil such as chili oil or wasabi oil, cilantro and green chilies.
Serve each ingredient separately, like in a salad bar, and mix individual portions as needed. This salad should be eaten as soon as possible after combining the ingredients to maintain their structural integrity.
This is likely to become a favourite vegetable dish in our home because it's so simple and takes no time at all to put together. It's composed of pre-sliced mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers, and seasoned simply with some salt, ginger and garlic paste and black peppercorns that are ground to a powder along with mouri/fennel seeds.
A vegetarian couple a while back spent a week with us. Any longer than that would have caused me to eat heads because I was craving non-veg food so badly! But I picked up a few tips and tricks about cooking vegetables, particularly mushrooms. Because they shed so much water, the trick to cooking mushrooms, I was told, is to fry them first in nothing but oil until al dente. More oil is then added to fry the onions and other vegetables and salt should be added at the very end. This produces a dry stir-fry that is delicious served with steamed rice. It can be had with a variety of Indian breads, too.
Tok (sour) Maach (fish) takes me back to my childhood in Burma, where this dish was prepared by my mother using Topshe Maach/Mango Fish and green mangoes. Mum would slice the flesh of the green mango and immerse the slices in the gravy to create a tart and lip-smacking Tok Maach.
This Tok Maach I made was inspired by a recipe I found in a food group on Facebook called Flavours from Undivided Bengal. What caught my attention in this recipe was that the mango slices were blended to a paste rather than leaving them whole. The resulting gravy was thick and full of flavour. For those of you who don't have access to Facebook, I have reproduced the recipe with my adaptations and adjustments.
Any white fish is suitable, although rui maach/grass carp or a whole fish like topshe/mango fish taste the best. Serve with hot, steamed rice for a comforting meal.
This dish is commonly served at roadside eateries that are frequented mostly by truck drivers along the highways in India. These roadside eateries are called 'dhabas'. I fell in love with it while living in Defense Colony in New Delhi where I was introduced to a 'dhaba' at the corner of our street. To give her a day off, our help would get food from the 'dhaba' once a week. Our favourite items were Keema Alu Matar, Baingan Bhartha and Dal Makhani, accompanied by Naan/Romali Roti. This keema dish was also a favourite during our adolescence spent in Darjeeling. Any kind of keema/ground meat can be used, such as chicken, lamb or beef. I tried Everest meat masala powder for the first time today and was pleased with the robust flavour it imparted to the minced meat. Another unusual ingredient used today is mace. Mace is a spice consisting of the dried and lacy covering of the nutmeg fruit of a tropical evergreen tree. It has a slightly warm taste and a fragrance similar to that of nutmeg. The most laborious part in the preparation of this dish was browning the ground meat. The rest was easy because it was made in the pressure cooker, using just one pot.
Posto (the Bengali name for white poppy seeds) dishes are a common item at Bengali tables. The poppy seeds are soaked in boiling water, cooled and blended with green chilies and salt until smooth and creamy. This sauce is used in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The general procedure is to temper the oil with nigella seeds (kalo jeera) and green chilies, add the vegetables or hard-boiled eggs in this case, simmer them with ginger until cooked and add the posto before taking off the stove.
A word of caution for anyone who has a drug test coming up, I have been told that consuming any food containing poppy seeds (black poppy seed muffins, for example) may affect the results of the drug test.
The next time homemade meatballs are on the menu, reserve 10-12 meatballs for this appetizer, especially if you have young children around. These 'porcupines' are kid-friendly because they're bite-sized and small enough to hold in their little hands. The porcupine quills are formed by rolling the meatballs in long-grain rice and steaming them. These were steamed in a rice cooker at the base of which egg-drop soup bubbled happily. They're ready when the grains of rice begin to stick out of the meatballs, resembling porcupine quills. This could take a while so be patient. Serve with a drop of Sriracha sauce or ketchup, as shown above, or make a dip as described below. These are great for starters and could also be served at a potluck or picnic because they're convenient to transport and eat.
Ghoti refers to the people of West Bengal. Kalai/urad dal is good for controlling diabetes because of its alkaline nature. This ginger and 5 spice perfumed dal was a popular dish prepared in my sister's 'shoshur bari' or in-laws' home. During one of our frequent phone calls, she gave me this recipe or rather what I remember of her instructions.