mohabhoj


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Rice Medley

photo-1 (1)Rice, chopped vegetables, meat of any kind, shrimp, scrambled eggs, some ginger, garlic, onion and Sriracha and soya sauce is all you need to dish out this rice medley.

The only requirement is that the rice needs to be cooked the day before.

The things I like most about this dish are it’s:

  • time-saving
  • healthy
  • you can play around with the ingredients; add anything you want to or leave out things you don’t like
  • if your refrigerator vegetable compartment needs a quick cleaning this helps out well
  • an easy recipe to use some left over meat
  • it tastes just like Chinese fried-rice


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A spicy start to the Bengali New Year!

It’s that time of the year again — eat, drink and be merry — for Bengalis. I decided to usher in the first day of the month of Baishak, the Bengali New Year, with a dish that Bengalis drool over — Chilli Chicken.

Chilli Chicken

Dishing out an Indo-Chinese speciality, instead of a traditional Bengali recipe, was solely done to pleasure my tastebuds. I had been craving Chilli Chicken for long and the thought of family and friends indulging in a variety of delectable dishes back in Kolkata today, acted as a spur.

Secondly, an authentic Bengali spread sounds no less than a luxury to me these days, for I lack in both time and energy to dish out an exquisite three to four course meal.

So here’s to a spicy start to the New Year!

Chilli Chicken with Garlic Noodles


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Start with Steak…really?!

Saw this Dunkin’ Donuts ad on train today.

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 I guess they forgot to add the note of caution:

…(may) end with a heart attack!

Nutrition facts per serving (one sandwich):

Calories
630
TotalFat
26 g
SaturatedFat
12 g
Cholesterol
255 mg
Sodium
1390mg


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Balachaung — a taste of Myanmar

Burmese cuisine holds a special place in my heart. Why? Well, my father was born in Myanmar (Burma). My grandfather was a doctor and he was posted in Myanmar for a few years. They moved back to India when my dad was eight.

So, my mother had picked up some Burmese recipes from my grandfather, and I remember a dish specially delectable to my palate – “komon cho”. It is a dish made of a variety of vegetables — carrots, cauliflower, beans, cabbage, spring onion — and mutton (goat meat).

Ma prepared this dish only during winter due to the availability of different kinds of vegetables.

I tried to Google the dish but it didn’t show up anywhere during the search. I am thinking it’s safe to assume that my grandfather got the name of the dish and/or pronunciation wrong.

Recently a friend of ours introduced us to a quaint little Burmese restaurant called Yoma in Allston. It serves up some great Burmese dishes, but the one I fell in love with is a Burmese condiment made of dried shrimp called balachaungwhich is generally served with rice dishes.

Just a couple of weeks back we were at Yoma for lunch and I made sure to order some extra to go.

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But next time I visit, I will try and unravel the “komon cho” mystery.


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Curry in a hurry

2006.

Bangalore.

I had invited a couple of friends over for dinner and I was contemplating ways of surprising their taste buds.

As I opened the refrigerator door and stooped down to pick up the pack of boneless chicken thighs, sitting on the lowest rack of the refrigerator, it cried out “I challenge you to dish out a new curry today.”

I wouldn’t have taken up the gauntlet but for the bunch of fresh cilantro resting right next to it.

The food processor was called to action. Ginger, garlic cloves, a medium sized onion, half a cup of yogurt and the whole bunch of cilantro were blended into a marinade in no time.

The chicken pieces were coated in the marinade and set aside for half an hour. A drizzle of oil into the pan and in went the chicken. Fifteen minutes later my “Cilantro Chicken” was ready.

At dinner time I boasted about my new recipe. But I didn’t receive the applause I was fishing for.

After my friends left that day, I Googled “dhania (cilantro) chicken”. A bunch of recipes sprang up on the screen.

 

2011.

Boston.

I was preparing the same cilantro chicken, which I had once claimed to be my brainchild, for friends who were coming over for lunch.

But this time it had to be ‘my cilantro chicken’. So I dry roasted a bunch of whole spices – black and green cardamom, cinnamon, clove, star anise, mace – and put them in a grinder. I sprinkled the powdered spices over the curry just a couple of minutes before turning off the gas burner.

And I named it “Curry in a hurry”.


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Tandoori Night

Our weekends have become synonymous with eating out and I revel in the weekend breaks I get from cooking. It’s this little trick that helps me enthusiastically partake in my culinary adventures during the remaining five days of the week.

But there was something different about this weekend. There was no take out, delivery or dining out!!

Why? Even I asked myself the same question but it’s all quiet on the answer front.

So, to commemorate the occasion I decided to dish out something tantalizing for the last meal of the day before the mundane Monday kicked in. And I was struck by the idea of a tandoori night.

The tandoor part of the tandoori chicken would be taken care of by my oven. But I would have to take care of the bird part. A quick trip to the grocery store and my kitchen welcomed some new visitors–a whole chicken and some seasonal vegetables.

Now these visitors had to be looked after real good. The pampering started with marinating the chicken, rubbing it all over with tandoori masala, adobo seasoning, butter and salt. I couldn’t help but envy the chicken for enjoying a nice spa treatment. Out of spite I shoved in halved lemons and garlic heads in the chicken’s cavity! And the prepped up bird was perched on the makeshift roasting pan-the baking tray, to hit the sauna for an hour and half.

Out from the ‘tandoor’ the chicken was greeted by rice pilaf—cooked rice mixed with vegetables sautéed in a GENEROUS dollop of butter.

We sat down for dinner and enjoyed a scrumptious meal….well a picture speaks a thousand words!


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Wrap ‘n’ Roll

Kerosene smell floats in the air as the stove is turned on. The wind keeps teasing the fire intermittently. A generous amount of dough is scooped out of the humongous ball of mother dough and rolled out into a perfectly round paratha; eggs are cracked and beat up in seconds. The paratha gets a quick sear on the crackling hot tava (pan) and is set aside to rest. The tava is then drizzled with a generous amount of oil, luring the eggs towards it. The scorching tava devours the bubbles at no time revealing a perfect omelette. The pre-heated paratha is placed over the omelette and pressed down with a spatula to marry them together. It is then flipped egg-side up, slided to the counter where its center is decked with julienned onions and cucumbers, a sprinkle of green chili pieces, and a drizzle of tomato and chili sauce. Finally it’s rolled up and wrapped in wax paper.

That’s how egg rolls are served at roadside mobile food stalls in Kolkata. A quick bite leaves you mesmerized, so does the showmanship of the cook dishing out multiple rolls at a time. The cling-clang sound of his steel spatula working against the aluminium tava blackened with use, is music to the ears of a foodie. Every move makes your stomach growl with excitement and anticipation of savoring the finished product.

But my love affair with egg rolls from roadside stalls had an abrupt ending. One night on my way back home I caught a dog sleeping soundly on the counter of one of the stalls I frequented, the same counter on which the parathas for the rollswill be rolled out the next day!

Fast food chains like Shiraz and Rahamania came to my rescue. They might not have been a healthier alternative but at least I knew these stores had shutters!

Here I found a new love in ‘double egg double chicken’ roll; chicken adding a touch of sophistication to the otherwise humble roll.

Today I am miles away from home; but at times I experience sudden bursts of craving for them. To satiate my urge I heat up ready-made parathas bought from a local Indian grocer. Caramelized onions and pan seared bite-sized chicken pieces marinated with tandoori masala serve as filling. All that’s left to prepare is the double egg omelette.
And I am just a wrap away from enjoying a guilt-free roll!


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Bhoj (banquet)

Picture a dinner plate decked with a dome shaped jumbo scoop of white fluffy long- grained rice. A trio of vegetable fry (potato, eggplant and bitter gourd) lazing near the periphery of the rice bed serves as sentry. Basking in self-glory are seven mid-sized color coordinated bowls, stretching out to form an arc around the plate. Lentil soup with fish head, mixed vegetables, two different kinds of fish curry, and mutton drenched in gravy are heaped in order. The last two bowls nestling dry fruit chutney and rice pudding smugly await their turn to tantalize your sweet tooth.

Drooling already?! Half of the Bengali population around the globe is actually going to savor this elaborate spread today to mark the beginning of the first day of the month of Baishak or the Bengali New Year.

I belong to the other half. Gulping down dinner tucked away in the couch, eyes glued to the blaring television, will mark the end of my first day of the year.

Therefore, to add a pinch of novelty to the otherwise mundane weekly dinner spread, I decided to fry maacher chop (fish croquettes). This way I won’t be confronting guilt the day after, taunting me as to how I would have to wait another year before I get a chance to make up for my gastronomical loss.

Maacher chop happens to be one of my favorites. Making this delicacy serves three purposes. One, it automatically pushes the party button in my head, two, it helps me sweep up the peti (belly) pieces of the fish which we both otherwise dislike and three, it weaves in an aura of nostalgia.

I confess making it is not a breeze but the labor that goes into preparing this tastebud stimulating snack is worth the trouble.

Here’s my recipe just in case you feel like undertaking this adventure. Enjoy these heavenly ‘crispy outside and fishy inside’ bites!

Have a sumptuous New Year. Subho Noboborsho!!


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A fishy tale

I can travel for miles to buy fish, labor for hours to scale fish and feel like a magician while cooking fish. Yes, you got it right I am a Bengali. I shamelessly admit that the sight of my freezer suffocating with a variety of fish, has the same effect on me as a spa therapy has on a stressed out soul. The assurance it lends, that I can have a meal of rice accompanied by fish whenever I please, makes my day.

As a child I remember accompanying my father to the fish market every Sunday. The fishy smell, the glittering fish scale strewn alleys and the “50 Rs/kg” cries of the fishmongers still linger on my mind. To my surprise I found myself shopping for fish in malls, all packed and ready to hit the scorching oil, after I moved to Bangalore. Now in the US, a Bangladeshi store called Foodland, located in Cambridge, satiates my love for fish. Once a month I coax my husband into driving me 30 miles each way in return of the promise to cook him his favorite doi maach (fish in yogurt curry).

The fish haven located at the basement of the store is lined with large, once white freezers crammed with the prize. Once I pick my fish, big enough to last a month, the man behind the counter cuts the fish into precise pieces with an electric knife. During the long drive back home I usually contemplate about different fish curry recipes to match up to the month long cooking marathon.

The daunting scaling process begins once I reach home, with me bent over the kitchen sink armed with a quarter (25cent coin) as my scaling gadget. Cries of my husband voicing his disbelief as to how I can labor for hours over a fish fades in the background as memories of fishmongers scaling their catch with fifty paisa coins rush in my mind, lighting up my face with a smile.

Back at home, in Kolkata, having fish for lunch and dinner, is a ritual, unless some near or dear ones happen to pass away. Then you are expected to go into mourning, marked by the beginning of a gruelling eleven-day-long vegetarian diet, I believe meant to reassure the departed that you still care. I remember one such instance. It was a Sunday, my father returned from the bazaar bragging about his catch, Pabda maach. My mom knew this called for pabda maacher kalo jeera jhol (a light fish curry prepared with kalonji seeds) for lunch.

We sat down for lunch and my sister stooped over the bowl of fish curry to get the largest piece before I could reach for it when the dining room resounded with that ominous telephone call. It was my Aunt informing us about the demise of my father’s distant octogenarian uncle. My sister and I had never seen this grandfather of ours. She looked at me helplessly and at the fish for one last time. We knew right away how dearly we would miss the fish curry and braced ourselves to brave the 11-day ordeal. We secretly envied and cursed our maid who would get to pack our share home. The fish preparation was promptly replaced with dal (lentil soup) and alu bhaja (fried potatoes). My father returned to the table with a sigh. Till date I wonder whether the sigh was really meant for his long forgotten uncle!