“Isn’t it to die for?” My friend gushed breathlessly between bites of Kati Roll.
I was meeting her after 10 long years smack dab in the middle of rain-infested New York City, and she’d dragged me to Greenwich Village to taste a popular Bengali import (or export? Import, if you’re anywhere out of West Bengal).
The chicken roll.
Except that the Kati Roll Company is calling it the Kati Roll.
Versions — diluted, exaggerated and almost always awful — of the quintessential roll in various parts of India, do actually go by that name, so I can’t blame them.
Gujarat (and the Indian West Coast in general) has a version, inexplicably known as a Frankie, where the chicken is tomato red in color and amount of spice will produce a hole in your chest. Delhi’s back alleys produce “rolls” that are made of succulent kebabs wrapped in flimsy rumaali roti. Note how the word “roll” is within quotes.
I once also had a Bengali cook at an Indian food stall on Portobello Street make me chicken roll that had a white yogurt-based sauce that brought forth the same kind of emotions that underwear stuck in your butt-crack brings.
“Isn’t this the best chicken roll you’ve had outside of Kolkata?” She gushed again, this time looking directly at me. I nodded vigorously, making sure my mouth was too full to speak and hoped she couldn’t make out how much I wanted to dump that roll on her head.
Continue reading A chicken roll that won’t let you forget
Very rarely would you find a Bengali hauling a bag of squid or octopus home, to have for lunch.
It could be faintly surprising to outsiders considering how religiously we’re devoted to our seafood. No, really. We mummify dead fish, with shiny scales and twinkly eyes and exchange them as gifts at weddings. In case of a death in the family, it is customary to break a 14-day mourning period by eating, that’s right, fish. The bonier the better.
We put fish, fried, braised or steamed, on our plates everyday, at least for one meal. At least. We know and love our seafood as much as we love our Darjeeling and our afternoon naps. We pick the bones out with our fingers, eat them with our hands, suck and chew on the soft fish heads, lick our fingers clean and heave a giant burp out of our full bellies when were done. We are of the seafood.
Are you slowly backing away out of here yet?
If not, then you’re in for a treat.
Continue reading We are of the seafood
It is perfectly understandable that I cannot just come back to this space after two whole years and let a crème caramel wobble under your noses, just like that.
You’ll want an explanation. You’ll want to know why I disappeared. And all that is fair.
But before I tell you how I’ve spent the last two years travelling and eating and starting a new travel venture and getting my heart-broken, I have to tell you about crème caramel.
In case you happen to be a child from the colorful 70s or the padded-shouldered 80s, you will remember crème caramel with the fondness with which you recall the pink of prawn cocktails, or the nauseating cheesy-ness of an au gratin. Or chunks of white bread soaked in warm, sweet milk that mum made on a wintry evening, right before she’d tell you to do your homework.
With its Gallic roots, crème caramel can be quite the charmer. If the inner-thigh quibble is not enough to convince you of its sex appeal, then think of bittersweet caramel mindlessly dribbling down its sides into a wet, sticky pool around that eggy custard. You wield your spoon and the custard surrenders.
Continue reading A caramel worth its salt
So we took a road trip to the beach.
The entire trip lasted about 36 hours from start to finish. There was a big SUV full of tired architects, a big ice-box full of alcohol and a three-hour trip to Digha.
Digha’s one of those touristy beach towns, a stone’s throw away from a big city. That automatically turns it into the destination to go to when you’re looking for a weekend retreat or a quick and budget honeymoon. The roads, if you can call them that, are lined with lodges and hotels to fit your every budgetary need. And if you’re not spoilt with choices in overnight stay, you can even talk a walk on the sandy promenades munching on batter-fried eggplants and haggling with the shopkeeper of that place that sells local jute handicrafts.
Continue reading big beach-goers
When you’re single, envious of your married friends, self un-assured and plummeting towards 30 like nobody’s business, you start making promises to yourself. About your future no less. Yep. You have very little clue where you are in your present, but nevertheless, you make promises about your future. The word you’re looking for is “optimism”.
When it’s late enough in the night and you find yourself tossing and turning on your bed trying to find a cool spot on your pillow, or you’re hungry enough to constantly keep opening up the refrigerator door as if something suitable to eat would magically pop up any second — that’s when those promises show up at the forefront of your mind. And they refuse to go away till either you resort to counting imaginary sheep, or till you’re distracted by something smothered in chocolate or by someone with an invite to the latest bistro (apparently) in town. Oh but I’m rambling.
I made myself a few promises, quite a while ago, notably while eating greasy strands of bacon over the sink at midnight after returning from work. It was cold and damp like most English evenings, the house was as quiet as death and it was a quick dinner after a long day.
Continue reading we do nice things with roast chicken here
I don’t know what to call this.
It is technically not bibimbap, due to the lack of beef or kimchi for that matter. There’s no Chinese fried rice in there; I haven’t used a fluffy omlette and it’s not nearly as colourful as fried rice ought to be. However, it is definitely more colourful than your typical everyday Singaporean chicken rice, so we can’t go there either. No Indian or Thai curry I’ve ever seen came with a sunny on top. I’ve had two bowlfuls of it for dinner almost three hours ago and I still don’t know what to call this.
However, I do know that you need to get your Asian on and make this now. Or the next time you’re craving Chinese take-away.
There is deep satisfaction in making Chinese food. There aren’t too many ingredients as Indian or Thai food demands. There aren’t the fussy bits of rolling or fiddly bits of technique that French food demands. It doesn’t take the kind of time British food normally does.
If it sounds like I’m dissing all the other cuisines of the world and awarding the trophy to Chinese food…well, I am. Get over it. And you secretly know that I’m right. You secretly know that you love it too.
Continue reading get your Asian on.
It has been a weepy Sunday so far. You know how we feel about Sundays out here. Especially one that comes with a side of soft rain pitter-pattering against the bay windows. The kind that fails to pull you out of bed in time to taste mother-made French toasts (that are rarities in this household) and hence you end up losing all the egg-y goodness to your brother, who then proceeds to strut around the house boasting of a belly full of fried bread.
Continue reading sunday and other things.
It’s the middle of May and I’m here today to talk about Christmas.
Yes, I’m 5 months and a whole season too late, but this is how we roll over here. So, here’s a picture.
If you’ve guessed bread pudding, then you’re right. A large vat of messy, melt-y, boozy chocolate bread pudding with crusty bits at the edges.I made my first last Christmas and this one a couple of days back. We’ve been high on alcohol and carbohydrates (and episodes of Game of Thrones) for the last 36 hours.
My mother, though not much of an enthusiast in the kitchen, is a hostess to her bones. She doesn’t even need a reason to call up a handful of people in a moment’s notice for an impromptu dinner party and have them show up for a guaranteed good time. Continue reading best eaten cold.
The best way to do this would be to start with a photo.
More than four months this time and I’ve more to tell you than ever. This is the seventh time I’ve tried sitting at my laptop trying to force a post out of myself. And all I’ve learnt is that when you own a food blog you cannot, and more importantly, should not, force a post. A post that includes a November trip to New York. A post that includes some things that we’ve been feasted on lately. A post with a random photo of an empty dinner plate after a very satisfying Chinese meal. A post that talks of succulent chicken drumsticks drenched in marmalade and coriander.
Someone once told me that New York was magical during Christmas. Somewhere near the end of 2011, a few days before I started this blog, I came across and almost fell for (almost) a charming young man, who at the time was living in New Jersey. We exchanged a few emails, the contents of which concentrated mostly on the magic that is New York City. There were the occasional jokes and teasing remarks that you would expect to find signalling the beginning of any high-school romance surreptitiously drenched in pink soda pops. But mostly, NYC stole the show. Back then, I knew I had to start saving for it. And I did. Only, I didn’t actually know when I’d be making the actual trip or whether I’d be making it t all.
Continue reading whatever’s been happening. also coriander marmalade chicken.
Anywho, we made it. The bananas and I. We made it right into, and you may want to sit down for this, my first banana bread.
Yes, I know. I’ve been missing a lot in my life. I’ve missed out on boyfriend-made mix tapes, I’ve missed love at first sight, I’ve missed out on the last five bikini seasons and up until last week, I’d been missing out on banana bread. Mix tapes and bikinis I can make peace with but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed about the love-at-first-sight thing.
But a bit of bad news first, dear reader: It is not empty yet. That bag of coconut dust is not. Empty. Yet.
I dump cupfuls of it into baked goods and curries. My friends have started to greet my cupcakes with a tired “Does that have more coconut in it?” A couple of days back when I offered a spoonful of coconut crusted chicken to one of my friends, she actually semi-cringed. She loves coconut. She literally inhaled that cake I made three weeks back. And the chicken was definitely drool-worthy. And she cringed, only slightly though, before opening her mouth.
Continue reading the banana bread bandwagon.
Well, Ok. Not just a towel.
You also need two metal saucepans, a spoonful of yogurt and milk. But I can assure you that the towel is the MVP here.
Before we get down to how most households in India make their own yogurts everyday, let me tell you that yogurt is not what I planned to write about today. Putting up a photograph of gestating bananas in the freezer is only perfectly acceptable when you follow it with a story of banana bread. But you’ll have to settle for yogurt instead because considering how easy this is, I think you need it more than you need banana bread.
I grew up watching my grandmother do it. My mother does a potful of it everyday. My neighbour makes more than potfuls of it everyday. My aunts even do the sweet versions. Mishti doi that Bengal is famous for. And so far, the most I’ve done on the yogurt front is to buy the conjoined packs of flavoured yogurt-cups from the supermarket. Its a bit of work that we here take for granted. It’s not special or wonder-worthy. Like coconut cake. It’s not something to write home about, like roast chicken. It’s like putting on your pants in the morning and going to work. Everyone does it. Like routine. Homemade yogurt is routine.
Continue reading homemade yogurt. all you need is a towel.
Hello you. Look, the sun came out!
And here are a few things that are good right now:
Laura’s The First Mess. I’m sure you’ve been there, but her caponata panzanella makes me want to take a nose-dive into her food, face first and spread-eagle.
You love food? How about fashion? Yes? Now how about this?
Here’s a bit of genius. A ludicrously green juice out of kale, cucumber, eggplants (for God’s sake!), apples and pineapples.
Floral meringue sandwiches. Is it weird that I want lip-glosses in those colours?
I could trade in my Moleskins for these with their hologram-style covers. Could you?
Davide Luciano and Claudia Ficca’s series on Meals Interrupted. A way to look at food, when a meal’s been unexpectedly cut-off in the middle. Every photo somehow makes you think of what the diners did or did not before and after their meal was interrupted. Were they enjoying it? Were they enjoying each other’s companies? Did they make plans to meet up again? Did they see it coming?
And y’all! Look at what I have in the freezer. Over ripe bananas can only mean one thing.