Friday, December 19, 2014

Revisting some old recipes

Some recipes are tried once and forgotten. Some are regulars that get made over and over again. Some make an appearance every now and then till a much better recipe takes over.

I have 2 recipes here that were posted a long time ago.

The first one is Vaangi Bhath which I tried again after a long time. It tasted good but the Basmati rice I was using was a new brand which required a lot more water than what I normally use. So it took a while for the rice to cook and that posed some problems. Here is the line for Vangi Bhath or Kathrikkai Sadam.

The second recipe is a favorite that keeps getting cooked over and over again,
Raw banana roast with some powdered spices makes it a perfect side dish for dal or any bland curries or even as a snack. Here is the link.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Vietnamese style Fish Curry with Rice Noodles

There was this good Vietnamese restaurant (for those of you who live in the area) called Taste of Saigon which we used to frequent for all special occasions. As with everything we stopped going there and when I noticed it it has been 10 years or so. Recently I looked up the location to go there again and all I saw was this news. After all this time all I can remember was the food was very good but one specific food memory is of Vermicelli Fish Curry. Though they called it Vermicelli it was more like rice noodles. A brothy fish curry with rice noodles.

I have been making this recipe in my head for a while now until I finally settled on making it last weekend. I was also ready to use the earthen ware pot my friend had given me. My mom successfully uses it to often to make fish curries. Nothing like cooking fish curry in a mud pot.

The curry itself is very simple. Keep handy either home made or store bought curry powder and coconut milk. I used meat masala powder which is the latest curry powder I am using. Chicken Masala Powder, Chicken Masala Powder or just plain curry powder are all variations of the ground spices. I use them interchangeably. As for you vegetarians be assured that meat masala powder or chicken masala powder does not mean they carry any sort of meat or chicken in them. Be assured they as vegetarian as they come. Meat or chicken just means it can be added to meat or chicken dishes.

The rest of the ingredients minus the fish are what anyone would normally have around the house.

Vietnamese fish curry would have benefited greatly in the aroma department by the addition of lemon grass. I usually do not have these and my nearest international market did not have it either. Use it if you have it and there is no great harm done by skipping it.

Heat oil and add the seasonings. Add the shallots and saute till translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the spice powders - turmeric, chili and curry powder and mix. Add in the chopped tomatoes.
Add the tamarind pulp and let it come to a boil.
Reduce the heat and salt and add in the coconut milk while continuing to stir. Reduce the heat and let it simmer in low heat till the required consistency is reached.
Add the fish pieces and let it cook for 8-10 minutes by which the fish should be cooked. Add the coriander leaves and let cook for a couple of minutes more and turn off the heat.
Cook the noodles. Add the fish curry to the bowl first and then topped with the noodles.
Sprinkle coriander leaves and coarsely crushed peanuts.

As for the noodles or just plain steamed rice? This is a personal preference.

Vietnamese style Fish Curry with Rice Noodles
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Baking Time:35 minutes
  1. 8 Hake loins - fish (I used frozen, use any firm white fleshed fish) (see note:)
  2. 1/2 cup of chopped shallots or red onion
  3. lemon grass pounded about 4-5 1 inch pieces (I did not use them)
  4. 1/4 cup of finely chopped tomatoes
  5. 6-8 sliced or whole garlic cloves
  6. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
  7. 1 heaped tbsp of curry powder
  8. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder
  9. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  10. 1 1/2 cups of thick coconut milk (use lighter or as little as you want)
  11. 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp from a small lime sized ball of tamarind
  12. salt to taste
  13. 2 handful of coriander leaves (one handful for garnish while serving)
  14. 3 tbsp of coarsely pounded roasted peanuts for garnish
  15. seasonings: cumin seeds, mustard seeds
  16. 2 tsp of oil
  1. Wash the fish and cut them into bite sized pieces and set aside.
  2. In the pot heat oil and add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop add the shallots and saute till they turn translucent.
  3. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes more. Add the pounded lemon grass at this time also.
  4. Add the turmeric, chili and the curry powders and mix it in.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for 3-4 minutes till it starts to turn mushy.
  6. Add in the tamarind pulp and let it come to a boil about 4 minutes or so.
  7. Now reduce the heat and salt and the coconut milk while continuing to stir and let it simmer in low heat till the gravy reaches a thick consistency (about 8 minutes) (see note:)
  8. Add the fish pieces and let it simmer for another 8-10 minutes. The fish should be cooked by this time.
  9. Add the coriander leaves simmer for a couple of minutes more and turn of the heat.
  10. Note:
  11. It is preferable to use de-boned fish rather than fish with bones.
  12. When cooking fish be aware that when fish is added to the curry it leaves water which makes the curry watery so it is important to cook the gravy first to a consistency thicker than required then add the fish.
  13. Cooking the curry for a long time will either make it rubbery or completely dissolve in the curry.
Cooking the noodles
  1. Cook the rice noodles as per the directions, rinse in cold water. Drain and set aside.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Food Coloring In Murukku! Really!!

Nothing has bothered me in recent days as this one has. Murukku as a snack is benign as they come. So while I have the tendency to scan the ingredients list in most other snacks like cookies and chips and other junk food I have never given even a cursory glance at ingredients on any Indian snack especially something like Murukku.

What is the worst that a murukku can have? It usually has rice flour, chick pea flour and some spices like red chilies, sesame/cumin seeds and salt. So I pick a packet of bright orange colored 'Madras spicy murukku' as it was called with visions of some extra spicy muruikku.

I open the packet and take a bite into one of them and it was the worst tasting murukku I had in a long time. Of all the different varieties I had to pick this one. I turn to the back to check the ingredients and that in itself was a revelation. Rice Powder - not rice flour?. Chick pea flour and Bengal Gram Flour - I thought both were same and also wheat flour. No wonder the murukku tasted like glue paste. Unfortunately if the murukku had tasted fine I would not have even bothered to look at the ingredients list. The next action I took is to dump the whole thing in the trash.

To add insult to injury the thing that bothered me most was the FD&C Red No.40 and FD&C Yellow No.5. My blind trust of Indian snacks or just wanting to trust it perhaps?. I deserve this. What makes Indian food manufacturers any different from the others? Their greed for profits is perhaps equivalent to others. Nobody is in the food business out of charity or benevolence. So it is our duty as consumers to check out what we put in out mouths.

The reason I am outraged is there is absolutely no reason to add food coloring to murukku is there? Is Red Food Coloring Dangerous?? Read and decide for yourself.

As for me I do not want petroleum based dyes in my food. Yes it is approved by the FDA and is perhaps used in all of the foods that we come in contact with. But I take severe exception to the fact that is included in murukku or any Indian snack for that matter. The red chili powder is enough to give it the color it deserves.

A food like Falooda or Rose milk or a quite few of the bright colored barfis all have food coloring and we know it.

Who distributes this fantastic food? A company called Babco Foods! The funny thing is Madras Spicy Murukku is a Kerala Product!!

What about Palm Oil?
One other ingredient that should also bother us more than the food coloring is the refined Palm oil. In a lot of Indians early onset of heart disease is linked to Palm Oil. Palm oil is cheaper than other oil so lots of people use this oil. While most plant based oils are better than animal fat but palm oil is an exception. Palm Oil Health Hazards.

The unfortunate thing is no snack that you see in the Indian store be it biscuits, cookies, spicy snacks will be free of Palm Oil. So the onus is to avoid them altogether or limit the consumption of these things. Better yet make them at home.

How about you? You ask?
Well I buy the savory snacks like as mentioned above murukku, mixtures and such. As for cookies and biscuits I am happy with the American kind usually there is no palm oil.

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