27 May 2009

A Local [Af] Fare

Chints came to visit me in Singapore for some R&R. So while I worked during the day, he slept, ate, swam, and protected his skin from sun exposure. I introduced him to my Singapore, and together we discovered some more of Singapore. 

He arrived on Saturday morning. I wanted to sleep some more and he wanted to be out and about. 'Atithi Devo Bhava' and all that bolke I got dressed and took him out for breakfast. I fed him to the gills with Eggs Ben, Waffles, Brek-O-Day, Tea & Coffee @ the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, West Coast Mall. 

Then I took him for a Saturday morning stroll to the  bustling West Coast Market. It's a typical Singapore local market selling fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, flowers, grocery, shoes, shoes, clothes, etc. Being Saturday morning it was pleasantly full of people, noises, and smells. Not the biggest or the best, but it's the closest @ hand and will do very nicely. We inspected all the food stalls, vegetable and fruit stalls, bought flowers, and bookmarked certain places for a revisit. At the end of a happy hour spent browsing and shopping Chints was finally ready to hit the sack. Bwahahaha!

We made our way back home via a short cut and it was hot as only the equator can be! We reached home hot and sweaty, turned on the aircon, turned on the fan, drank grape fruit juice, followed by lime juice, followed by snapple juice and collapsed into bed. We slumbered the whole afternoon away till awoken by the rumble of our stomachs'. Lunch was a rack of Pepper Spare Ribs from Cold Storage [Recommend!] which we washed down with some Merlot. That done, it was back to slumber - Part 2. After all, it is the weekend.

In the evening we made our way to Clarke Quay and Jumbo. First stop, India Pale Ale @ Highlander accompanied by very gamey Venison Sausages (Brahmanical license apparently). 

Then I showed him all around Clarke Quay, all my favourite places, sketching out their pros and cons and checking out all the people. Then we made our way to my favorite Jumbo, where we dined on Kang Kong with Minced Garlic, Egg Rice, and Pepper Crab (Totally Recommend!). As the food took effect, jetlag hit Chints like a ton of bricks. So we quickly went back home and he slept. Again. Well, I did say he came for R&R! 

Sunday was spent cooking. Breakfast @ home consisted of egg, ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches. Then shopping for raw materials in Sheng Shiong and then I started cooking lunch. I made large batches of Peanut Korma, Tomato Chutney, Corn Pulao, Sambar, and Cluster Beans subzi so Chints would have some home food to turn to when hungry. 

We needed to walk off the lunch so I took him to West Coast Park for a walk. We did the marsh walks and the sea front walk, circled the full park and came back home much exercised, read:exhausted.

In the evening we went to Vivo City and browsed around the huge mall and stopped at Marche for dinner. Marche calls itself a Swiss village, has lots of counters serving different items (like a buffet or live food stations) and you only pay for what you eat, so it's not like paying for the whole buffet. We had roasted veggies, marble potatoes in butter, Rosti, Portabello Mushroom Crepe, Focaccia, and Strawberry Yogurt Drink [Recommended!]. Its pricey and not really value for money, okay for once in a while @ best. Nice decor and nice concept, but do we have to pay Euro prices?

Come Monday I was off to work and Chints slept his beauty sleep, ate breakkie, swam, and lazed around. In the evening, we went to Asian Civilization Museum but didn't make it in time. So we took the bum boat ride instead. But before that, we stopped for a sip and a bite at Timbre. I strongly recommend their 2 glasses of beer or wine and a pizza deal, the pizza was thin crust and very good. [Strongly recommend] (Darn! I remember taking pictures, where are they?) The bum boat ride was predictably good, the commentary was on, so we soaked up all the "info" on the various bridges on the Singapore River from Clarke Quay to Marina Bay. [Recommended.]

Next I took him to Chinatown, where he went to town with his shopping. He bought nearly everything he wanted for everyone from here. As usual, Chinatown is a big hit with everyone I take there. [Strongly Recommend!].  Chinatown  started shutting down before we could decide what we wanted to eat so we took the MRT from Chinatown to HarbourFront and ate a delicious dinner of Veggie Spicy Black Noodle Soup, Pork Dimsum, and Egg Rice @ the Asian Kitchen in Vivo City. [Totally recommend]

Tuesday he visited the botanical gardens and Clarke Quay with other friends. Wednesday we made it well before closing time to Asian Civilization Museum and spent 2 lovely hours there. [Recommend] 

Wednesday we decided we wanted to have local fare. We set off to Clementi Market and browsed all the stalls that were newly put up, from crockery, to furniture, from plants to school bags, these shops sold everything! I heard this is called a Pasar Malam or Midnight Market – the only thing midnight about them I think is that they disappear overnight to another location, otherwise they are on all day. I lost my heart totally to an amazing wooden inlay-worked extendable dining table [Strongly Recommend] and a Chinese Standing Lamp [Strongly Recommend]. Both of these were beyond my budget to I settled with my third Chinese Tea pot, and a few ceramic mini spoons.

For dinner I had Pork Dimsum Soup [Totally Recommend] from the innermost Clementi Food Stall and Chints had Laksa [he says it tasted like warm Arabian Sea with Noodles]. We shared a plate of Kang Kong in Oyster Sauce with a bowl of Rice. [Nice]

Thursday we went to Little India, where I took him to my favorite South Indian Non Veg restaurant, Anandam on Upper Dickson Road. [TOTALLY Recommend]. We ate Pepper Chicken, Biryani Rice and Economic Meals. Awesome bole to, uff! too much and so reasonable. This was followed by shopping @ Sim Lim Square, which was followed by shopping @ Mustafa where Chints bought the cutest Talking Parrot [Recommend]. This bird repeats whatever you say to it, but in a faster and higher pitched voice. We enjoyed ourselves enormously with it; most entertaining and a most worth-it buy.

Friday we went to Orchard, ate @ Food Republic, Wisma Atria. I played it safe and ate Roti Prata with Potato and Daal [Recommend, but the stall staff are RUDE esp if you are brown skinned]. Chints tried the Yong Tao Foo [Gabbu Noodles with Drainage Sauce] and swore that he will make me eat that tomorrow while he dines on lovely Roti Prata. To pacify him we had yummy cookie crunch desert @ Haagen Daz

Then I took him to Arab Street, which was jagmagaoing with people, hookas, food, and music. We got a drink @ a restaurant set outside a shop front and then moved to another cafe opposite a CD shop (who seemed to be the official DJ of Arab Street) to enjoy the cafe's Turkish coffee, tea and shisha and the DJ's Arabic music. [Recommended]

Saturday we partied the night out in Clarke Quay. We started with Tapas Tree [outside: Recommended, inside: Bad Service]. Ate all their food and drank sparingly because of the heat. Then we walked around looking for our next spot, were sorely tempted by the The Tent, Mongolian Grill but were too full just then to do justice to it. So we continued walking and landed up across the bridge and ate a lovely dinner @ A971 Café. Once the stomach was full, we worked it off by dancing in China One. Drank a drink or two and then moved to Rupee Room, where your's truly has danced like no tomorrow. [Recommended: Only if you like Bollywood Music]. Danced like crazy but were driven out by excessive BO of patrons. Wound up the night @ a respectable 4am. 

Sunday we were invited to X'namurty's house for Lunch, which we not only ate but also packed and brought back shamelessly. Anita, you're a great cook ma. Thanks so much. [Recommended]. Their condo in Lakeshore has such huge pool it runs the whole length of the condo!

Sunday night we went back to Clementi Market to cull out the Dimsum Soup place but ended up eating in the Pasar Malaam Maket. The following items were non-stop consumed till we could eat no more:
  • Chicken Rice, Ananas Café
  • Chicken Wings Satay
  • Fritters – Raw banana, Ripe banana, Sweet potato
  • Bird Nest drink
  • Appam Balik – made like appams with peanut power inside with palm sugar
  • Putu Piring – small conical 'puttu' with palm sugar/jaggery stuffing
  • Pork Satay
  • Thai Coconut Jelly [AWESOME!] – tastes like nungoo jelly
  • Ramli Burger – chicken patti wrapped in egg, with tomato sauce, mayo, cheese, and stuffed in a burger bun
Monday Chinti left, and I want to thank him profusely for being such an adventurous foodie, helping me discover more of Singapore, making me laugh non-stop and last but not least, for all the tea. Come back soon da, love raj!

11 May 2009

Gugi the Cook Strikes Again!

And so the cooking continues. It's a lovely rainy day and I continued my cooking spree. Today I made the following:
  • Baingan Fry
  • Peanut Korma
  • Tomato Chutney

Baigan Fry is the simplest thing in the world to make. Well that's true for cooking as well I suppose. As long as you don't mind chopping and grinding and sauce making, and have a store of patience, cookings easy as falling off a buttered log.  

Baingan Fry 
(baingan/brinjal/egg plant/aubergine)  
The way my mom makes it, I think.

  1. Take 2 baingans (medium sized), wash them, chop off the stem parts (off with their heads!), and cut them up into cubes of any size you want. The theory is the smaller the better.
  2. Heat oil in a kadhai/vessel/saute pan on meduim high flame.
  3. Once hot add mustard seeds/rai. Allow the rai to splutter, hold a lid close to the top of the pan and contain the splutters.
  4. Now turn down the heat to lowest and add the following:
     - Hing
     - Curry patta
     - Haldi
     - Dry red chilli
     - Chilli powder
     - Cumin powder
     - Coriander powder
     - Amchur or Tamarind powder
     - Salt to taste

  5. Mix all this up and increase the flame to medium high again. Give it a good browning and allow the fragrance of all the spices to permeate the air around you. Hmmm...
  6. Now toss in the chopped baingan and give it a good mix up so all the spice powders coat the baingan pieces.
  7. Add 1/4 cup of water to the kadhai, cover it, lower the heat to medium low and cook till the baingan is done. Check and add more water as needed. Don't add too much or it'll all turn to mush.
  8. Once the baingan is done, take off the lid, dry up any residual moisture by turning on the heat to highest and stir frying the baingan.
  9. If you want your baingan to be crispy, then add some more oil to the vessel and let the baingan roast in the open pan.
Tomato Pachadi/Raita
My mom's recipe

  1. Take 3 medium sized tomatoes and blanch (add to boiling water) them in hot water till the skin comes off.
  2. Remove the skin, and chop up the tomatoes.
  3. In a tempering spoon (huge spoon/tiny pan), add 2 tsps oil.
  4. Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, curry leaves, hing (asofesita), green chillies, dried red chillies.
  5. Let it all sizzle and crackle and become fragrant.
  6. The moment it becomes all fragrant, turn off the heat and pour it tempering on the chopped tomatoes.
  7. Add curd or thick buttermilk to the tomatoes and you are ready to spoon the raita! 

Peanut Korma
Insipred from Chitra Amma's Kitchen blog.

The only changes I made were to use groundnuts/peanuts instead of avare kaalu, adding a tomato and cooking everything in a pressure cooker. I had to cook it for 15 whistles or so 'cause the peanuts took forever to cook. If you are one of those lucky people with a farm, or get your produce straight from a farm, you'd have to cook it much less.

P.S. - Add chopped coriander/cilantro on top of everything, it's a très Indian thing to do.

10 May 2009

Gugi the Cook

And it’s yet another long weekend! So post the partying, eating out, reading, shopping and other such crucial holiday activities, I found myself with some time on hand. Hmm.. what shall I do after doing everything that has to be done during a long weekend? Ah! My much neglected hobby - cooking! 

    The next question was, what do I cook? I sat down to think about this and even before I could sit I knew what I wanted to cook - my Momma's food. So, I made the following dishes, in my mom's Iyengar style:
    • Parupu Korambu/Sambar
    • Beans Karamedu/Subzi
    • Simple Cabbage Leaf Subzi
    • Pooshnika/White Pumpkin Kootu
    Here are the recipes, if you want to try them.

    My mom's recipe:
    1. In a pressure cooker take 1/2 cup toovar/toor dal/ tovaram parupu and wash/rinse it. 3 times thorough wash/rinse is what I go with.
    2. Once the daal is clean, add 1-1.5 cups of clean (needless to say) water to it and a pinch of turmeric.
    3. Put this on the stove, fix on the pressure cooker lid, fit in the weight (don't forget the weight) and cook the dal till its mushy fine, about 5-7 whistles.
    4. After 5 whistles, remove from heat, let the pressure go down, open and see if its all mushy. If not, put it back on for a few more whistles. If done, take a masher or a ladle and swirl and make it a smoothish paste.
    5. Next chop up 1 tomato, as many chilies as you like, and any veggie you want to add to the sambar. 
      Potatoes, pumpkin, beans, brinjal, carrots, any squash, capsicum are all excellent options. (I do not mention onions 'cause I don't like it in my sambar and I did say these ware a Iyengar recipes)
    6. Wash some curry leaves/kari patta and coriander leaves/ dhania patta and keep them handy.
    7. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of dry tam to 2 cups of water. You can also mix one lemon sized round of real tamarind to 2 cups of hot water and strain out the liquid.
    8. Put on a stove a paatram/cooking vessel, turn on the heat to medium high, and add 1 tablespoon cooking oil.
    9. Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds/rai/sarson. Wait till it splutters. Holding a lid near the top of the vessel helps contain the splutter.
    10. Now turn down the heat to low and add hing/perunkayam, 2 dry red chillies, 2-3 tablespoons sambar powder, the veggies, the tamarind water and salt to taste.
    11. Turn up the heat to medium and cook till the veggies are cooked through.
    12. Once the veggies are almost done, add the mushy toor dal, curry leaves, jaggery/sugar, and dhania patta/coriander leaves.
    13. Boil for another 5 minutes or so and voila!
    Serve with steamed rice and ghee. 
    Accompaniments: raita/pachadi, applaam. 

    Beans karamedu i.e. subzi
    Mom's recipe
    1. Chop up (French) beans into small pieces. If the beans and tender slightly bigger pieces are not bad, if isn’t too tender, I'd advice you to go for a fine chop.
    2. Add 1 tsp of oil in a kadai/cooking vessel and keep on a medium high stove.
    3. Add kadugu/rai/mustard seeds, allow them all to splutter.
    4. Add a pinch of powdered hing/asafetida/perunkayam.
    5. Add 2 broken dried red chilles to the kadai.
    6. Add the chopped beans, salt to taste, sprinkle 1/2 cup of water and put a lid on it.
    7. In about 10 minutes the beans will be done through, sprinkle grated coconut on it for an authentic Iyengar touch.
    Super simple steamed cabbage
    Hemu's mom's recipe (not an Iyengar recipe)

    1. Take out all your anger on the leaves of a cabbage and tear them to pieces.
    2. Take a deep breath. Exhale.
    3. Put a vessel on medium high heat, add oil, rai/mustard seeds.
    4. Once the seeds have spluttered, add a pinch of turmeric/haldi.
    5. Add a slit chilly or two (optional).
    6. Add some grated, or chopped ginger (non optional, this is what helps you digest the cabbage leaf).
    7. Add the cabbage. Mix it around.
    8. Sprinkle a tablespoon or 2 of water (cabbage releases water so watch out), add salt to taste, put a lid on it and say in 5-7 minutes, you are done with this veggie.
    9. If there is residual water, remove the lid, turn on the heat to high and stir the leaves around, personally I love the water, it keeps the veggie moist.
    Simplest pooshnika/ white pumpkin kootu
    Mommy's recipe
    1. Chop up some white pumpkin. Discard the seeds and the skin.
    2. Put the pumpkin in a vessel with just enough water to cover it (it needs very little water), salt, and a pinch of turmeric powder. Cover the vessel and put it on medium high heat on the stove.
      Alternately, you can cook the pumpkin in the microwave. In a microwave bowl add the chopped white pumpkin with with some water, salt, and the pinch of turmeric. Cover it with a lid and cook till the pumpkin gets cooked (it'll kinda get translucent).
    3. In a small mixer grinder (popularly called mixie in India), add some fresh coconut, jeera/cumin seeds, and green/red chilli to taste (say 1-2). Grind to a smooth paste with some water.
    4. Add this ground paste to the cooked pumpkim and mix well.
    5. In a tempering spoon or pan (any small pan will do) add 2 tsps oil, rai/mustard seeds, a few curry leaves. And once all the spluttering is done, pour this into the veggie mixture.
    6. Give it all a stir or two and you can eat this hot or cold.
    Now I'll go keep some rice and wait for dinner time.