Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chinese Breakfast on the Street

This morning I woke up seriously early, at 5.30am. The motivation was that strong! We were going to try out the breakfast sold on the street at Poddar Court, somewhere beyond Esplanade in Kolkata. I looked on good old Google and found that we had to go to Sun Yat Sen Street. This turned out to be a little beyond Benticnk Street which, I was told, is full of shoe shops.

Well, we found Poddar Court quite easily and looked for the Chinese vendors. There were a bare handful and I saw more luchi torkari (puri and potato sabzi) sellers than the Chinese guys. However, the few that were there made our morning.

The first thing I saw was a tray laden with glistening pink and white fresh pork sausages. I immediately bought some.

Then as I glanced around to see what all was on offer, Dada walked up tome with a plate full of fish momos.

The sausage seller agreed to keep my parcel while I sampled the goodies from the others. The fish momos were quite nice. Not spectacular but nice. 

We wandered over and checked out one seller who seemed to be doing brisk business. We tried the Pork fried momos. He offered us steamed fish momos too but we'd already tried those from someone else. This quite offended the fellow and he very sulkily commented that his were made with 'pure' onions, and were the real thing. We tried them out to appease him and they were quite nice too though I will admit, they were different. 

The street is quite messy and the stalls are all higgledy piggledy sharing space with a tea stall, vegetable vendors and even flower sellers. One one side was a lady selling soup with rice dumplings. The was even a table where you could stand and enjoy the soup. The table was provided with a caddy of soup spoons, forks, chopsticks and little steel saucers for the garlic sauce.

The soup was lovely! Hot, mild broth with tender green garlic shoots, and two delicious rice dumplings that were flavoured with fish and pork. Just perfect for a nippy morning.

By now we were quite stuffed so we looked around to see what else there was and keep it in mind for next time. There was this one man selling Pork rolls and pork chops. No, not the pork chops you'd imagine but the typical bengali potato covered chops made with pork! A marriage of Chinese and Bengali cuisine, no doubt. He also had these interesting flat large puris studded with decent sized whole prawns. We will try these out next time.

 On the opposite side of the road was a vegetable vendor selling a variety of leafy greens - mustard greens, radish greens, Kolmi shaak, methi leaves, green garlic, bok choy and Chinese lettuce. And there were flower sellers too with a medley of colours making the morning bright and cheerful.

And of course we brought some goodies home..
Here's one. This is the size of the dinner plate and is stuffed with rice. We shall find out just how it is at lunch today.

If you're in Kolkata and are up for an adventurous and delicious breakfast check out Poddar Court very early one morning. Everything's gone by 8am so come in early! You can eat like a king without spending even Rs.100 here.

Oh, and Merry Christmas to you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

At home with Moni

So here I am back in Kolkata again. This is my fifth trip here in less than two years and I am beginning to enjoy being here so often. Now most people look forward to going home to their mother's house, especially for all the good food that their mum will cook. Unfortunately my mother hates cooking... and the irony is that she's a great cook. Anyway, since I have just arrived she has enthusiastically shopped and is all set to cook a whole lot of goodies.

My visit here has begun with her signature manghshor jhol. Every Bengali Mom has her own version that her children weep with joy over..and Moni (that's what we call my mum, short for Manisha) made this Bong classic for me. The epitome of comfort food and mother's love all rolled into one, manghshor jhol is one of my all time favourite dishes. And it was simply superb! Mama was sent to the particular mutton shop in Jagu bajar to buy the mutton, mashi brought it over to our house in Dhakuria and Moni marinated it the day before I was to arrive. She cooked it in the morning and I feasted on it at night.

This morning I asked Moni to cook some veggies in the typical Bengali style. So she made Shaak Ghonto. This is essentially palak or spinach cooked with a medley of vegetables. Brinjal, radish, potato and raw banana or plantain along with the spinach were cooked with ginger and 'mouri' or saunf paste. As with most Bengali dishes, a dash of sugar makes an appearance and this dish is finished with milk. Bori or daal vadi is fried and then crushed and sprinkled on top of the finished preparation. The resulting ghanto was simply superb!

I find cooking vegetables extremely tedious, especially with all the precise cutting and chopping involved. But Moni cut everything meticulously into tiny squares and patiently cooked this beautiful medley of vegetables. She might say she doesn't like to cook but I think I disagree :)

Well, I'm here for two weeks and I have lots to look forward to, that's for sure!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chicken Curry in a Big Hurry

I'm a great devotee of short cuts, ready marinades, spice mixes and marinades that make cooking quicker. I love to cook and if I can cook something quickly, there's nothing I like better!

So there I was on a Sunday morning, not really in the mood to cook something elaborate but I wanted a good lunch nonetheless. So it was one of my favourite dishes that I opted to make. I always have the ingredients for this in stock and it took me about half an hour to put it together. This chicken curry needs just a few ingredients and is really easy to throw together.

1 Chicken, cut into pieces
2 pkts Knorr Punjabi Chicken Curry masala
1 pkt Dabur Coconut Milk

2 onions sliced
2 potatoes, cut into fat chips


Marinate the chicken in the masala from one packet of the Knorr PCC masala. Add water to make a paste and coat the pieces well. Let it sit for a bit if you have the time or cook it straight away. of course, waiting is always better.

Heat oil in your wok or large pan. Fry the potatoes till they redden nicely. Add in the sliced onions. Stir and fry till the onions are pink. Dunk in the marinated chicken pieces and cook it all well. Let the pieces sear nicely and then simmer for a bit.Add the second packet of the Knorr PCC masala. Mix the chicken and the onions and potatoes well and let them all cook a bit. Say 5 minutes, undisturbed and covered. Add very little salt as most of these ready mixes have salt in them already.

Snip open your tetrapak of Dabur Coconut Milk and pour it in. Stir it well and add half a cup of water if needed. Stir it nicely and let it come to a boil. Simmer again covered. Leave it alone for another 10 minutes or so. Once the chicken pieces are cooked through and the potatoes are done, it's ready to serve.

Add some fresh chopped coriander leaves for an extra punch. Serve with plain hot rice if there's lots of gravy or have it with rotis, parathas or bread.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pickled Pink! Parsi Prawn Pickle

I had been planning to make a batch of Prawn Pickle for a while..a few months, in fact. I've also been meaning to get back to writing this blog again. So here I am today, fulfilling two goals in one day!
Prawn Pickle by Katy Dalal
This pickle is tangy and sweet and has a nice bite to it too. With vinegar, red chillies and jaggery melding together their distinctive flavours and the prawns showcasing it all, this is one of my favourite pickes.
4 cups Prawns, shelled, deveined, and washed
curry leaves
8 - 10 Green Chillies
2 tsp salt
2 cups Kolah's Sugarcane vinegar
Make a paste in 1/2 cup vinegar with:
16 dried red Kashmiri chillies
2 whole pods Garlic
3 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp Methi or Fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric pwd
1/5 tsp Badisaunf
1 & 1/2 cup jaggery
2 cups oil
Take a largeish saucepan and heat 2 cups vinegar. Put in the prawns with the green chillies, curry leaves and salt. Bring to a boil and cook till the prawns are nearly done. Leave aside to cool.
Heat the 2 cups of oil in a large karhai or wok or pot. Make sure you really use two cups...this is a pickle! Once the oil is nice and hot put in the ground masala paste. Stir the paste to mix well into the oil. Be careful here because the masala takes time to separate and meld with the oil. Don't stir too vigorously or you might splatter hot oil on yourself. Mix thoroughly till all the paste is combined and is frying nicely. Once the oil separates and the whole spice mix is giving out its wonderful aroma add the jaggery. You might want to adjust the amount of jaggery according to how sweet you like the pickle to be. Blend it in well.
Ladle the prawns into this mix without the vinegar. Just use a slotted spoon. Stir and mix it all in well. Pour in the vinegar a little at a time, maybe half a cup, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil adding vinegar to make a sufficient amount of 'gravy'. Cook for about five minutes checking that the prawns are cooked.
Your Prawn Pickle is ready!
Cool it really well and decant into clean glass bottles.
This recipe is from my Mom in law's first cook book Jamva Chaloji. I learned to love food and to respect fresh ingredients from her and I also learned to eat well and enjoy good food. She, and hubby introduced me to a world of great food and many different cuisines. I wish she was here cheering me on as I discover more food things every day...