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Posts Tagged ‘yonion’

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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Although I love the Breach Candy Sandwich, my recent trips to the Right Place have been awfully disappointing. While it’s still fascinating to observe the efficiency with which the sandwich man makes these triple decker vehicles of (supposed) gastronomical delight, the sorry truth is, these sandwiches no longer taste as good as they look.

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So, I’ll speculate: could it be the chutney that lacks that extra zing? The chaat masala that’s missing its magic? Yeah, yeah, whatever, no one really knows, and nor do they care. Except one kind soul, who told me about a new sandwich shop in South Bombay, which is not really new at all, except that no one ever told me about it, despite knowing my obsession with these sandwiches. Until the day that X casually mentioned, oh, I actually prefer the sandwiches behind Bhavan’s College, I never knew about the sandwich man behind Bhavan’s college. Of course, when I mentioned Bhavan College Sandwich Man to my cousins, they were like, oh yeah, he’s really good, and so is the sandwich man near J.B. Petit (their high school). Hmm okay, thanks for never telling me about these men and letting me suffer through disappointing sandwiches, is what I thought, but…the past is the past, and now let me tell you about this sandwich from behind Bhavan’s, and one from Hill Road in Bandra.

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Unlike outside the Right Place, there is no line stretching to oblivion for a Bhavan’s sandwich. Which I don’t understand, because Bhavan’s Sandwich Man makes better sandwiches, really. Some elements are strange- like the inclusion of BEETS and RADISHES- but they aren’t necessarily bad and I actually like the slight bitter edge from a radish sandwiched inside an otherwise buttery comfortwich.

Bhavan’s Sandwich Man’s chutney is 600% more flavorful and spicy than the Right Place’s chutney. The whole experience is much more satisfying than eating the Breach Candy Sandwich from the Right Place because each sandwich element functions as it should: chutney= spicy and fresh; cheese= salty and gooey; tomatoes= juicy and sweet; onions= strong and stinky. (In contrast, this is one of the main reasons a sandwich from the Right Place is so disappointing nowadays. Not only did the sandwich used to be excellent, but you would think simply that combining these ingredients would naturally produce something delicious. Yet, the Right Place’s sandwich always falls miserably short of tasty. So good thing there is Bhavan’s.) And located right on Chowpatty, but a little in from the main road, it’s a much more convenient place to hop out and eat a finger-lickin-good sandwich than Breach Candy, which is crowded with roly-poly Guju aunties.

Later in the afternoon on the very day of the Bhavan’s revelation, I went to Bandra with my cousin. After poking around Cottons for kurtis, we made our way to Hill Road for some street shopping. But we never actually made it to the street of apparently dizzying fashion and glittery clothes because we decided to have another sandwich instead. Pure gluttony, I know! But hey, I was on vacation.

This sandwich man, who operates on the border of Hill Road, makes a crispy package. We just had a mini sandwich from him, made on regular, small white bread, instead of the gigantic triangles used to make regular Bombay grilled sandwiches, but those few bites were the best of the day. Mr. Hill Road Sandwichwala’s sandwich was so amazing because not only was the chutney spicy and the cheese hot and melty, but he did what no previous sandwich man has done so far- he slathered an extra coating of butter on the top of each sandwich, post-grilling, which had the effect of making the sandwich moister, saltier, and all together more heavenly. I know these foods aren’t for the faint of heart, or health. They shouldn’t be eaten every day. But once a month would be fine, I think; I only get to eat them once a year.

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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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Bhel is a chaat- a streetside snack made of crispy puffed rice, coriander, mango, onion, sev, potatoes and chutney. When eaten, it is supposed to conjure memories of Bombay’s streets and warm sea air, and specifically, of the vendors on Chowpatty beach, their pink and yellow neon lights flashing into the evening as they make and sell bhel in bowls. When my parents were growing up in Bombay, they would spend Sunday evenings on Chowpatty, indulging cravings for their city’s bhel. The water used to make the chutney might have been unfiltered and speckled with imperfections, but perhaps that was the essential ingredient to create the harmonious picture of a whole family sitting crosslegged on a blanket in the sand, scraping up every last coriander leaf and crunchy, sun-colored mango.

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In my experience, Indians, both in India and abroad, are crazy after bhel; it’s a sort of love affair, a special treat that never loses its charm. And although it’s not difficult to make at home, people will persevere in finding it- my aunt, when she was visiting from Chicago, spent her time seeking out a chaat house in New York that served good bhel; she wanted to find a place that could feed her a taste of her home. The tongue responds to something in the spicy sweet mix of chutneys, and the satisfying crunch of the delicate white mumra (puffed rice), and makes people- my brother, my parents, their friends, all salivate. So imagine the excitement in my house on Friday after my aunt called us over for a bhelpuri dinner.

Bhel was born as a Gujarati dish but evolved into a meal that could be tailored for tastes across India. Jains eat their bhel with tomatoes; Bengalis add red pepper and mustard oil to theirs. Bombay style bhel evolved from UP bhel, and it is known to be loved by everyone, regardless of the region they call home.

For you, a photo guide to assembling bhel:

You start with a base of puffed rice, puri, and sev

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Then mix in your potatoes and red onions

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Heap in handfuls of coriander, unripe mango, and lime for fresh tastes; salt and chilli powder according to preference

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Pour on the date and tamarind chutney and the coriander and mint chutney

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Mix

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Top with crushed puris and sev and serve promptly!

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I went to Indian Bread Co. last night for a second dinner. I was stuffed after my first dinner of dumplings but my appetite grew as I sat through this event. Then I remembered that Indian Bread Co. was in the area; I had recently reread the Nirali article on its owner, Nandini Mukherjee. Last night was my first time at this particular kati roll spot and to be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much. The hype over kati rolls seems to focus on Kati Roll, which I’m not a huge fan of anyway, because I think their rolls are unnecessarily oily.

I ordered a Paneer Tikka Masala roll and sat down to wait. Two of the other tables were occupied, but luckily the narrow shop wasn’t too busy. I asked for extra onions and green chilies on the side and when I picked up my roll, it came with a plate of amazingly stinky red onions (how I love love love red onions) and a cup of green, mint chutney. The chutney was obviously not the green chilies I had asked for, nor was it spicy, but it smelled like a minty forest and tasted great.

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I bit into the roll. I expected rubbery, dry paneer. But it was soft, almost creamy. It was fresh! And the masalaed, yogurt based marinade seeped its rich flavors into the small cubes of paneer. It was so unusual that I pulled out a piece, examined it, and passed it to my friend, who was eating an Achari Gosht Roll. He said, “Wow, I’ve never eaten such soft paneer before.” Well, I have! In Bombay, my masi makes paneer tikka at least twice while I’m there. Everytime, I blissfully stuff myself on marinated chunks of the freshest, milkiest paneer, tomatoes, capsicums, and onions (and then spend the subsequent hours with painful stomach aches but I don’t mind because it’s just so good). This paneer tikka reminded me of my masi’s. Other pros:

The paratha was not too dry nor too oily.
The chutney was evenly and liberally distributed throughout the roll.

A con:
The roll was tiny, about half the size of my usual Roomali rolls. The price is high for the size of these rolls but at least I know where to get my paneer fix now. Oh, and they also have stuffed parathas and “naaninis,” both of which don’t sound too appealing, but the “naanwich,” which I think is a pita-style sandwich made of naan and paneer instead of pita and falafel, sounds sort of intriguing.

And then we got chai, which was watery and totally blah. And it had cinnamon! I know Starbucks chai has cinnamon, but I’ve never been able to taste it our chai at home (which I know has no cinnamon) or other South Asian places in the city. For chai, I’d recommend going to Lahore Deli, on Crosby Street (so close to my job); their chai is fragrantly spicy and strongly comforting. Just the other morning, it was grey and drizzling, but the cup of chai I got from Lahore and sipped while walking to work reminded me why I like living in New York.

Indian Bread Company is at 194 Bleecker Street, between 6th Avenue and Macdougal, New York, NY. (212) 228-1909.
Paneer Tikka Masala Roll: $4.50
Chai: $1.50

Lahore Deli is at 132 Crosby Street, New York, NY. (212) 965-1777. Chai: $ 1.50

Related posts: Roomali is so much better than Kati Roll, 12 tastes of Bombay, Kati Roll, Brimful of Chat

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Batata Powa (or poha, as it’s called in Hindi) is a Gujarati dish made of fluffy flattened rice (powa) and potatoes (batata). Light, lemony and flecked with shredded coconut and tiny black mustard seeds, this dish is ideal for a simple and savory weekend lunch; in India, it’s often eaten for breakfast.

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Batata powa is colored a pretty yellow with the addition of little turmeric, or haldi. A few weeks ago, my father lent me The Garden of Life: An Introduction to the Healing Plants of India, by Naveen Patnaik. The book, which is fascinating AND beautifully illustrated, explains the medicinal benefits of various spices, herbs, and roots used in India, according to the principles of Ayurveda. About turmeric, it says that in addition to its coloring properties, the root also provides relief when suffering from gastric disorders. According to a comment left on the blog Sepia Mutiny, when they were discussing the Ayurvedic properties of turmeric, it is also a great hangover cure; maybe this explains why the only time I crave heavy Indian food is after a night of partying.

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[Powa, or flattened rice, on the left. Neem, or curry leaves, and cashews, on the right. ]

Ingredients:

1/2 pound of powa (flattened rice). Powa/poha is readily available at Indian grocery stores.
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 medium tomato, diced
1 large onion or 2 smaller onions, diced
1 cup shredded coconut
2 boiled potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 inch ginger, shredded
1 long green chili, sliced into thin rounds
juice from 2 limes
1 rounded tsp. black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. asofetida
1/2 tsp. turmeric
8 tsp. sugar
1 handful of curry leaves
3/4 cup peanut/vegetable/safflower oil

Wash the powa thoroughly in very cold water about 3-4 times. Place in a colander to let water drain out. Do not squeeze the powa, which will be inflated from the washing.

When the water has drained out, place powa in a large bowl, and gently mix with the tomatoes, cilantro, coconut, ginger, sugar, and lime. Add salt to taste. Set aside. The mix should look something like a snowy garden of vegetables and fluffy rice:

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Heat a large pot over medium heat, and add the oil and mustard seeds. Cover pot with lid until mustard starts to pop and sputter, about two minutes.

Add the curry leaves, green chili, asofetida and onions. Cook the onions on medium heat for one minute; then turn heat to low and let them cook until they become translucent. Add salt to taste.

Add the potatoes and turmeric and stir. Pour in the flattened rice mixture, stir once and cover pot with lid for 2 minutes, over low heat. Turn stove off. Serve with chutney.

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Eating the scallion pancakes at Mr. Wonton is like being in a wonderful dream. Open the little take out box and discover six fresh, crispy wedges with soft, scallion stuffed layers, steaming and waiting for you to gobble them up. They are neither too oily nor too dry and tasteless, but instead, pristinely perfect and piping hot. I’ll add a picture soon, as I’m pretty sure I’m going to get them for dinner tonight: these six pancake wedges are just $3.05, which makes them a wonderful “cheap-eats” option for those of us living on a budget (me).

I haven’t tried the other food here yet, but plan on it, since it’s across the street from where I live.

Mr. Wonton is in Park Slope, at 73 7th avenue (and Berkeley Place), Brooklyn NY 11217. Tel: 718-398-7088.

Scallion Pancake Recipe
[from Saveur, December 2000]

3 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening
2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 cups chopped scallions
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
vegetable oil

1. Put flour in a bowl and add 1 1/4 cups boiling water, stirring with a fork until dough holds together. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead together until smooth. Cover with plastic and set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Divide dough into 12 pieces, shape into balls, and cover with plastic. Working with 1 ball at a time, roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface into a 5″ round. Brush with a thin film of shortening. Sprinkle with a little sesame oil, some scallions, and salt and pepper. Roll dough into a cylinder, coil it into a circle, and tuck end underneath. Roll into a 5″ round. Repeat process with the remaining dough.

3. Heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil in a medium skillet. Fry cakes, one at a time, until blistered and golden, about two minutes per side. Add more vegetable oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.

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