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Posts Tagged ‘gourmet’

The Diner’s Journal on the NYT asked “notable eaters” to share their foodie wanderlust: on an all-expense paid trip to anywhere in the world, where would they choose to dine? The Times asked Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, who said he’d go to Delhi- to eat both the streetfood and restaurant food at Bukhara. My parents and brother are in Delhi right now and have been telling me about how amazing the roadside chaat tastes. Sitting here in New York at 5 in the morning, awake for the past 3 hours from a terrible whack of jetlag, and dreading the icy, icy air that awaits me on my way to work, I’m highly jealous of all that spicy Delhi chaat my family is eating. It is 3:30 pm there, and I’m sure they’re snacking somewhere.

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[my masi’s famous paneer tikka]

As for me? I would go to Bombay to eat Paneer Tikka. The paneer in India is delicious- creamy, subtle, and soft. Marinated cubes of paneer, their edges charred crispy black, and sprinkled with chaat masala make paneer tikka a vegetarian decadence- but only in India. Trying to replicate the dish here, with substandard paneer, just ends up disappointing.

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[Queens at night]

Sripraphai
64-13 39th Avenue
near 64th street
Queens, NY
(718) 899-9599

I’ve always liked eating Thai but Sripraphai’s chefs transformed a soothing, coconut-rich food into an exciting, eye-opening cuisine. The cooks worked magic on the essential ingredients- the peanut, coconut, lemongrass, red peppers, – until each had a chance to shine. Unlike the Sripraphai’s food, the restaurant’s décor is nothing special. Wooden tables, wooden chairs, large windows, lots of sunlight.

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We started our lunch with a bouncy pile of bean thread salad tangled with matchstick cut slices of tofu. On top sat carrots, green beans, and lacy cilantro. The lemony dressing gave the salad a kick and woke up my taste buds. I was ready for the meal.

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Next, Waq ordered a vegetarian Tom-Yum soup. I don’t really like hot and sour soup, but I’m glad I tried Sripraphai’s. The sourness wasn’t a scrunch up your nose sour, but a more full-bodied, warming sour. (I would imagine lemongrass nectar to taste like this soup.) Flat juicy mushrooms and velvety soft tofu floated in the soup like lily pads; thin pink slices of a spicy ginger and burnished-wood colored peppers added color and bite.

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Anthony and I like to cook dinner for our friends. Our weeks seem less endless when we break them up on Wednesday nights for small dinner gatherings with champagne-cider cocktails and plates of food that we’ve prepared. For me, these meals are a way to create something concrete in just an hour or two, and a way to exercise trying new dishes and practicing old methods. Last week, we made a wonderfully warm winter meal: a butternut squash chickpea salad and zucchini latkes. The salad was easy to make and tasted great. It also looked good- bright orange chunks of squash flecked with grassy green cilantro and festive red onions made an appealingly outdoorsy dish. The onions, cilantro and splashes of lemon juice added a lively kick to the roasted squash and chickpeas. The tahini dressing (ours turned out a little thick) pulled the sharp and sweet together under its nutty cover.

The latkes, hot off the frying pan, were a great accompaniment to the salad. Topped with a dollop of tart apple sauce, these savory Hannukah treats rounded out our comforting winter meal.

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Kinara
473 5th Avenue (and 12th street)
[park slope]
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 499-3777

Today’s subject- good Indian food in a restaurant- has me humming “At Last,” along with my iTunes. Quality Indian food in a restaurant is a rarity, which is unfortunate, because I’m always craving Indian food but loathe to order it because of the inevitable disappointing outcome. However, last week I found a restaurant- Kinara- that serves Indian food above and beyond the typical fare- and now I’m humming. I guess I’ve been looking for a while.

A few weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion at NYU called Found in Translation: An Exploration of How Asian Cuisines Become Part of the American Culinary Landscape. One of the panelists was Maya Kaimal, author of Curried Flavors and Savoring the Spice Coast of India, and founder of Maya Kaimal Fine Foods. The other two panelists were Amy Besa, owner of Cendrillon, a Filipino restaurant I ate purple foods at a while back, and Grace Young, author of The Breath of a Wok, who was hilariously disparaging when describing the state of Chinese food when it first came to America. She also said, “I always travel with a wok.” The panel was moderated by Kathy Gunst, of PRI’s Here and Now.

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Bao Noodle
391 Second Avenue
(between 22nd and 23rd)
New York, NY
(212) 725-7770

Bao Noodle’s unassuming front opens into a mini-hall, replete with comforting splendor. The high ceilings and dim lighting create an aura of warmth, which is echoed in the delicately flavored but wholesome Vietnamese food.

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We started our dinner with a side of grilled eggplant. A smattering of crunchy scallions topped the vegetable’s slippery, burnished slices, adding a sharp crunch to the dish. The side of garlic dipping sauce was mild enough to not overwhelm the soft sweetness of the eggplant.

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Next up was a bowl of spring rolls on a bed of rice vermicelli and veggies. This was my first time eating noodles mixed with spring rolls, but now it’s one of my new favorite meals. Bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro, and juicy carrots topped the finespun white vermicelli. I poured the accompanying soy-garlic sauce over everything, and tossed the vegetables and spring rolls with the noodles. The rolls were fried to golden perfection, and biting into one was like hitting a jackpot of concentrated deliciousness amidst already tasty noodles and refreshing slivers of veggies. The whole dish was similar to eating a warm, fresh, and filling salad…with noodles instead of lettuce.

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For dessert, we ordered an aromatic panna cotta. A pale, pretty green, the panna cotta was ethereally creamy, melting in my mouth and leaving behind a taste of pure content.

grilled eggplant: $4.95; vegetable spring rolls on rice vermicelli: $6.95; panna cotta: I don’t remember but not very expensive.

http://www.baonoodles.com

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For my family, Thanksgiving is an invitation to indulge in cheese and wine. Ever since my brother and I got older and we stopped going to family friends’ houses to nibble on the sides- mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pies- we’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving at our house with pots of creamy fondue, burners of bubbling raclette, and platters full of vegetables.

My brother herbed up some goat cheese

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And we set out our sides: roasted pumpkin and sliced daikon (and green chilis)

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We offered a variety of cheeses to melt on the raclette grill: sheep’s goat cheese, truffle cheese, mustard seed and ale, raclette, harissa, and caramelized onion

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And an assortment of vegetables (on which we pour bubbling cheese):

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The full spread

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We’ve been having the same meal every year, but each Thanksgiving, our guests vary slightly. This year, my grandmother and her sister were visiting from India, in addition to my cousin’s grandfather’s brother. It was…how shall we say… a slightly older crowd. Last year, I was in India during Thanksgiving but my brother held down the fort by holding a “Kids’ Thanksgiving” with more wine than usual. I was pretty jealous. But this year’s was indulgent enough to suit my taste for excess. We finished our meal with a Ginger Pear Upside-Down Cake, which was good but maybe a little heavy on the molasses and a little lacking on the ginger. Oh well, we ate it anyway.

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And then we watched old family videos and laughed at ourselves from fifteen years ago.

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Diwali is this Friday(!) and celebrations are already beginning. This past weekend, I went to the Diwali Dhamaka show at Hopkins and then to my aunt and uncle’s house for an early Diwali lunch.

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[a diya]

Minal Fui had made quite a spread. My favorite parts of the meal included the mango lassi and the puran puri, two items I usually don’t enjoy because they are generally too sweet.

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[mango lassi]

My dadi had brought this puran puri from India. Puran puri is roti (Indian flatbread) stuffed with a sweet paste made either of tuwar daal (Gujarati) or channa daal (Maharastrian), cardamom, nutmeg, and saffron.

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[puris, ghee, and Maharastrian puran puri]

Gujarati puran puri’s roti tightly seals in a substantial layer of sweet pasty filling. Traditionally, you are supposed to pour swirls of golden ghee on top of your puri before eating it. Thick sweet paste, slippery ghee; this is usually too overwhelming for me to enjoy. However, Maharastrian puran puri’s roti is delicately flaky, and pastry-like and just barely covers a less-pasty, more crumbly channa daal filling. With these puris, the ghee is a necessary enhancement, similar to melting butter on top of cinnamon toast- it just tastes that much better.

*”Diwali, Diwali, ane vali hai” means Diwali is coming! My friend Sapna and I danced to this song when we were about 5 or 6 years old. The video is hilarious because we are each performing our own version of the dance on stage. The video also shows that Sapna’s dancing talent and my lack of talent was evident from the age of 6.

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[The dancers before another Diwali performance (Happy Diwali Hai). From left to right: Supna, Nikita, Maeghan, Janaki, Sapna, Janki. I was abnormally tall till about 7th grade.]

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