Friday, April 20, 2018

Poila Boishak 2018 - Bengali New Year 2018

Poila Boishak 2018

Clockwise from top left

Bhaja Mug-er Dal e Phool Kopi - Toasted Split Mung Beans with Cauliflower

Toasted Mung Beans with Cauliflower

This lentil dish is a great side dish to add to any festive meal.  Split mung beans are toasted to a golden brown, washed and cooked until soft then combined with stir-fried cauli-florets, ginger paste and garam masala powder. A pinch of sugar and salt to taste season the lentils. It's finally garnished with cilantro, green chilies and of course, ghee.

Dim-er Dalna - Egg Curry

Dim-er Dalna
Eggs in any shape or form are easy to prepare for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Hard boiled eggs and boiled baby potatoes in an onion and tomato sauce are an egg-cellent choice for a dinner entree because they go so well with steamed rice.

The sauce is easy to prepare too, because all it requires is for the onions and garlic to be blanched in boiling water and blended with tomatoes, a green chili and ginger, then stir-fried with spices and the potatoes and combined with the eggs. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Begun Alu Posto - Eggplant & Potatoes in White Poppy Seed Sauce

Begun Alu Posto
Alu Posto is a favourite Bengali preparation and adding eggplants to it makes it creamier and more delicious. Japanese eggplants are practically seedless which makes it a good choice in this dish.

White poppy seeds, soaked in boiling water and ground with salt until thick and creamy is best served for lunch because it induces a restful afternoon nap. I love posto stir-fried with any vegetable. Add shrimp to it for boosted flavour and call it a main dish.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Surimi in Black Bean Sauce

Surimi in Black Bean Sauce
"Surimi seafood, often called “Imitation Crab”, is real seafood made with Wild Alaska Pollock, a mild whitefish related to cod, which is flavored with crab or lobster. To make surimi seafood, Wild Alaska Pollock is finely minced and then blended with other ingredients such as starch, salt, natural crab meat, and egg white. It is then formed, cooked and cut into the various shapes and styles you find at your local grocery store." This description was taken from the Louis Kemp website.

Louis Kemp Crab Delights
I like to have a package of crab delights on hand for busy days when we're too tired to dress up to go out for dinner. My sister-in-law who is a whiz in the kitchen shared a version of this recipe with me, but it was so long ago that the details have become fuzzy. From what I remember, she made it in the microwave oven and it was ready to eat in under 15 minutes.
Lee Kum Kee Chili Black Bean Sauce
For Chinese dishes, I like using Lee Kum Kee sauces. For this recipe, I mixed their Chili Black Bean Sauce with Premium Oyster Sauce and Mirin or rice wine for the sauce. Both the sauces are salted, so no extra salt was required. A sliced onion, minced tomatoes, some sliced garlic and oil combined with the sauce mixture and crab delights were microwaved for 5 minutes, stirred and microwaved for another 2 minutes. This was served over steaming, hot rice for a sumptuous dinner. The leftovers were heated in a skillet the next day for breakfast, a little oil drizzled around the edges and fried with beaten eggs that were left undisturbed to cook without stirring and served garnished with green onions over toast. That's two meals for the price of one package of crab delights.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reshmi Chicken Wings

Reshmi Chicken Wings

These melt-in-the-mouth, fall-off-the-bone chicken wings were marinated overnight in salt & pepper, oil, and Greek yogurt whipped with ginger and garlic pastes. It's a quick and easy dish to serve at lunch or as a starter to a more elaborate Indian meal.
Meijer's Fresh Chicken Wings
They started with a 2 lb. package of chicken wings which were segmented into drummettes and wings. I saved the wing tips for noodle soup later in the week. The wings came out meaty and juicy and were ready to serve in 30 minutes, after being marinated overnight.

The recipe was inspired by one on Facebook which I adapted to my liking. I've added specifics regarding ingredients and oven settings using American weights and measures. 

It's Poila Boishak or the Bengali New Year and these wings were a great starter to our celebration dinner for my husband and me.


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Murgi'r Malai Curry - Creamy Chicken Curry

Murgi'r Malai Curry

Malai Curry refers to anything that is simmered in spices and coconut milk. For those who are allergic or don't like coconut, evaporated milk can be used in its stead. Even when coconut milk is used, a few teaspoons of evaporated milk added towards the end makes the gravy smooth and extra creamy.

My niece introduced me to the ease with which chicken tenderloin pieces cook, especially in gravy dishes. Simmering them for just 20 minutes is enough to tenderise the chicken so dinner is ready in 30 minutes.

Chicken curry tastes best served with long-grain rice, but any variety of Indian bread goes just as well.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Tilapia Macher Jhal - Tilapia in Mustard Sauce

Tilapia in Mustard Sauce
The simplest of fish curries, this is a favourite among Bengali families. I love tilapia because it's very mild with little or no fishy smell and it's easily available in supermarkets any time of year. Japanese eggplants go very well with fish and cook in no time at all.

While I was cruising around an Asian supermarket, I came across a bottle of "hot dressing oil". Turns out, it's a concentrated combination of mustard oil and wasabi oil. It has a fantastic aroma and made me tear up because it's so pungent. Just 10-12 drops of this oil applied to the fish while it was left to marinate gave it the perfect touch of mustard oil flavour. 

Here's one of the easiest ways to prepare fish curry.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Nga Hsi Pyan - Burmese Fish Curry in Red Sauce

Nga Hsi Pyan
The holy trinity or mirepoix in Burmese cooking consists of pureed/pounded onions, garlic and soaked dried red chillies. 'Nga' means fish and 'Sipyan' means 'oil returns'.  So that I don't have to skimp on the oil, I use a healthy oil such as extra-light olive oil in all my cooking.  The other thing to keep in mind is that for the full flavour to develop, this dish must be simmered on low heat for as long as it takes for the liquid to evaporate and oil to resurface.

Any fish can be used in this dish, cut into steaks leaving the bone in, or boneless fish fillets.

Fried Okra Smothered in Toasted Chickpea Flour

Fried Okra Smothered in
Toasted Chickpea Flour
The alkalinity in okra takes some getting used to, if you're trying it for the first time. It's a popular vegetable in India and Burma (or Myanmar as it is now known). There are several techniques to cut down on the alkalinity. 

Keep the okra dry at all times, so wash the pods and dry overnight before cutting or wipe each pod dry before cutting. Toss the cut okra in sufficient amchur (dried mango powder) before cooking. Fry the okra in oil until de-alkalized before seasoning or adding chopped onions and tomatoes. Toss the cooked okra with toasted chickpea flour and toast some more until it turns golden brown.

To add a Burmese flavour to this dish, I seasoned the chickpea flour with dried shrimp powder and seasoned the okra with fish sauce instead of salt, before frying with onions, garlic and tomatoes.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Burmese Stir-Fried Spinach & Eggplants

Burmese Spinach & Eggplants
Supermarkets now stock bags and tubs of triple washed spinach which cuts down on prep time. Baby spinach leaves are small enough to leave whole and that cuts down on prep time because they don't need to be chopped.

I fry the eggplant first then add the spinach, cooking it just until wilted.The leaves have to be moved from the bottom of the pan to the top several times because the pan is usually too small to accommodate the entire contents of the bag or tub.
Sorrel
Sorrel is an herb, delicious and tart, that look very much like spinach. If sown in the ground, this vigourous plant will take over just like mint. I've bought it at the farmer's market as seedlings and potted them successfully. They die back in the winter and return in the spring. The tender & tangy greens are edible when they first sprout but become more and more bitter as they mature. 

To emulate the tangy flavour of sorrel and roselle leaves (chin baung ywet in Burmese), I add the juice of a lime just before removing this dish from the stove. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Hsi Hta Min - Burmese Golden Rice

Hsi Hta Min
As in any other fried rice recipe, it is best to use day old rice that has been refrigerated overnight so that the rice absorbs all moisture. I've used Basmati rice, but jasmine or any other long-grain rice would work just as well. Sticky rice makes it even more special.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Burmese Stir-Fried Tofu - ShanTofu Kyet

Shan Tofu Kyet
Shan Tofu Kyet originated in the Shan states of Myanmar or Burma.  Made traditionally with yellow tofu (derived from ground & steamed chickpeas), the more commonly found white soya bean tofu can also be used in this dish. Mashed tofu is stir-fried with fish sauce, fresh tomatoes, minced onions and garlic, and garnished with cilantro and green chilies.

This tofu dish is usually served as a side dish with steamed long-grain rice accompanied by meat or fish and some vegetable soup (hin cho). 


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Alu Bhathe - Potato in Rice

Alu Bhathe
Alu (potato) Bhathe (in rice) is comfort food that brings back memories of my childhood. Babies thrive on it and grown-ups relish it. 



Alu Makha
It's obvious I need to visit the Indian market because there's not a drop of mustard oil at home. Fortunately, there's a bottle of kasundi (mustard sauce) in the fridge which worked well to give this mash the hint of mustard it needs. 

Basmati Rice & Russet Potato
Cooked in Microwave Oven
It takes 18 minutes for basmati rice to cook to perfection in the microwave which was perfect for the russet potato as well. The potato can also be cooked in rice in a rice cooker. Just to be on the safe side, I cut the potato in half to make sure it cooked all the way through.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Shahi Palak Murgh - Royal Chicken & Spinach


Chicken & Spinach Fit for a King!
A quick and easy chicken and spinach curry that goes well with steamed rice or chapatis/tortillas. Using Shan's Chicken White Korma masala eliminated the need to come up with a similar blend of spices and flavours. Why waste time reinventing the wheel?


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Begun Pora - Roasted Eggplant Salad

Begun Pora
Eggplant is probably the best loved vegetable (or fruit?) in our family. My son, especially, can have it everyday, cooked in countless ways. On this blog alone, I have tagged this vegetable at least 25 times, each recipe unique from the rest.

Whole Roasted Eggplant
Begun (eggplant) Pora (burnt) gets its name from the way in which this dish is prepared. Using the big globe eggplant, slits are made on the bottom opposite the stalk end, rubbed with oil and baked in a 400*F oven for 30 minutes or so. Turning the eggplant occasionally, it is baked until the skin appears singed and wrinkled and the center is soft when tested for doneness. Alternatively, it can be charred over an open gas flame or placed on an iron skillet on the stovetop and grilled. After it comes to room temperature, the skin is removed and the pulp is hand-mixed with salt and mustard oil along with diced onions, green chilies and cilantro. It is served as a salad or first course in a meal, and is eaten with steamed rice.

Boy or Girl?
Look for a firm, glossy skin and pick the lightest eggplant in the pile. The heavier ones have more seeds and could be bitter to the taste. A good clue to picking a practically seedless eggplant is to check the bellybutton at the bottom. Pick the one with the roundest navel (boy eggplant) as opposed to an elongated navel (girl eggplant). Believe it or not, eggplant(s?) are not gender-neutral and the boy eggplant is better for eating because it has less seeds.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Sambar - Tangy Yellow Split Peas Cooked with Vegetables

Sambar
Sambar is a South-Indian dish of lentils & vegetables that is usually fiery & spicy and I love it. Hubby, however, can't tolerate spicy food so when I cook this at home it is much milder with the spices toned down several notches, which is why I refer to it as Bengali or simple sambar. This dish is generally made with toor dal or yellow split pigeon peas, and any vegetables you have on hand.

Red Snapper in Mustard & Coconut Sauce

Maacher Jhaal
My most favourite way to prepare fish is to steam it in a mustard gravy, but this was cooked on the stove-top. The ground mustard was mixed with coconut milk which made the gravy thick and creamy.

Any variety of fish can be prepared in this way. I've used red snapper here and in the past have made this with filleted and bone-in tilapia, catfish and shrimp. The shrimp tasted delicious!

Best served with basmati rice, this serves as a main course, accompanied by a vegetable and dal.


Thursday, February 01, 2018

Oyster Crackers Snack



Years ago, while I was still a working woman, a co-worker brought in this snack for a potluck. It's so crunchy, delicious, and easy to assemble that I wonder why I don't make it more often.


It needs just 5 ingredients and 20 minutes to bake.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Zucchini Chingri

Zucchini/Lau Chingri
Lau Chingri is a beloved item on the Bengali menu, but lau (or bottle gourd) is  sometimes available only in an Indian market, so instead of lamenting its paucity, a great substitute is to use zucchini which is plentiful at our local super and farmers' markets. This started out with 7 fresh zucchini which reduced down to very little due to the high water content in the vegetables. I like to leave the skin on when cooking zucchini this way so that they don't turn to mush when they're cooked.

This goes well with both hot basmati rice and chapatis. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mung Dal with Spinach

Split Mung Beans with Spinach
This simple preparation for lentils and spinach is a breeze to make and gets dinner on the table in a jiffy.   


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bori Diye Doodh Lau - Bottle Gourd/Chayote Squash Simmered in Milk

Bori Diye Doodh Lau

Doodh Lau (Milk Bottle-Gourd) is a simple way of cooking squash which is suitable for people suffering from stomach ailments. This dish uses no spices and the seeds from the peppers can be removed, if need be. Bottle-gourd is widely available in most parts of India whereas chayote squash is found in the hilly regions, namely Darjeeling, which is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.

Chayote Squash



Lau or Bottle Gourd

Chayote squash, sourced from Mexico (I think), is more readily available in North America and can be found in supermarkets across the US. Lau or bottle-gourd can only be found in the Indian markets and some Asian markets where I live. Both chayote squash and lau have no taste of their own and absorb the taste of the gravy in which they are cooked. Lau tends to break down more easily than chayote squash and reduces to practically nothing because of its high water content. I use chayote squash interchangeably with lau and have cooked it in all the ways that I've seen lau being cooked, most notably with shrimp, in a mustard sauce and in milk and bori.

Sona Mung Bori
Bori are lentil dumplings that are spiced heavily in North India, but more delicately in West Bengal. Made from mung beans, Bengali bori are small and round with a pointed crest. They are dry and hard because they are traditionally formed by hand and dried in the sun. I like to fry them to a golden brown and soak them in boiling hot water and left to soak until ready to use. I drain the bori and save the water for flavouring the lau or chayote squash. 
Plain milk can be used to make the gravy for doodh-lau, but I prefer to use the shelf-stable variety called evaporated milk, from which 60% of water has been removed from fresh milk. It differs from sweetened condensed milk which contains added sugar.


Squash Simmered in Milk


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mum's Green Beans & Potatoes

Mum's Green Beans
Over the Christmas holidays we lunched at Burger King once and returned home with french fries by the bucket full. Since it goes against all my principles to throw them away, I decided to use them in Mum's Green Beans. 

Mum's Original Recipe
I've made these green beans often because I love the flavour of black pepper in combination with an overabundance of sliced onions and tomatoes. The french fries were fully cooked, nice and crispy, so they were added towards the end of the cooking process. They are also liberally salted, so no salt was added to the green beans. The crispiness of the green beans and the eventual soft texture of the fries were an interesting combination that tasted really good.

Ready to Eat!
Mum's Green Beans serve as a side dish to a Bengali meal that usually consists of a meat/fish/seafood main dish, a vegetable side and lentils. Extras include a tomato chutney, something fried such as Begun Bhaja, a salad or raita and hot, steamed basmati rice served with a dollop of ghee, or chapatis (tortillas). A variety of desserts round out the meal, my favourite being Bhapa Doi or Steamed Yogurt.


Sunday, January 07, 2018

Alu Potol Posto - Potatoes & Pointed Gourd in White Poppy Seed Gravy

Alu Potol Posto
Potol used to be available only on the Indian subcontinent but is now available year-round in the Indian markets of North America. I remember guests visiting us in Rangoon, Burma, from India would bring potol with them. It was such a treat for us!
Potol
Decades later in India, my son returned from a shopping trip with his paternal grandfather, and recounted his adventures at the open-air market. He proudly declared that they had brought back 'pot-holes' from the market. He giggled hysterically as he watched me figure out that he was talking about potols. His favourite pasttime is to twist Bengali words into English words, often times with hilarious results.

Alu Posto is a favourite side dish served with Bengali meals. Alu Potol Posto can be eaten with hot, steamed basmati rice or with chapatis or parathas.


Thursday, January 04, 2018

Gajar (Carrot) Halwa

Gajar ka Halwa
Carrots are naturally sweet, so this dessert needs just a little added sugar. To get all the Indian flavours, Gits Kulfi Mix added at the end works wonders. I've also used Gits Rasmalai Mix with good results. Make your own at home by combining Carnation Instant Dry Milk with sugar to taste, cardamom powder, ground almonds and a few drops of Kewra Essence (extract from pandanus flowers) or 2 teaspoons of rose water.