Archive | October, 2011

Deepavali Delights

20 Oct

A little idli snowperson (idli-person)?

Last Saturday, I went back to Bayan Indah, my favorite cooking school/B&B in the kampung, for their Deepavali Highlights class. Sure, it’s easier just to go down to the mamak, but I thought it would behoove me to learn how to get my hands (and mouth) on delicacies like idli and th(d)osai without calling up for takeaway. And who better to learn from than a Brahmin chef, who also happens to be the mother-in-law of one of my fellow book clubbers?

The menu for this class: lamb shank varuval (a dry curry, usually made with goat), sambar (a soupy lentil curry), two kinds of rassam (sort of an Indian hot-and-sour soup), rice pilaf, coconut and coriander chutneys, two sweets, murukku, vadai (which I had been calling “onion donuts” until now), and, most intriguing to me, idli and thosai. And we were given a sari-tying demo by Rakesh Nair, sari-tier to the  (Bollywood) stars. Phew! No wonder we were there for five hours.

Rakesh setting a world record by tying a sari in under a minute

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9 Oct

First, an off-topic comment: I felt like it would be remiss to post without a mention of Steve Jobs’ passing, which has affected me to a surprising degree. I was/am a Mac baby: the first computer I ever used was the Macintosh my dad brought home in 1985 (I think; I was only five or six at the time, so my memory is a bit hazy), and I’ve owned nothing but Macs since. (Tom had PCs, and I would use them, but they were always his computers.) Even during Apple’s long years in the desert, before Steve Jobs’ return, I was obstinately a Mac user. Why? Let’s just say, when I sat down in front of that computer as a kindergartner, I was playing games and drawing in about five minutes. Twenty-odd years later, when I was showing my 97-year-old grandmother photos on my iPad, she instinctively reached out and started swiping the screen.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled food programming. Today we’re going to talk about a beverage that Jobs — who found inspiration in both meditation and psychotropics — might have appreciated: kava.

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SOK’s Autumn Vacation, Part One: Pig Ears and Haute Dogs

5 Oct

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a whole month since my last post! Vacationing is hard work. And what did SOK do on summer autumn vacation? Why, eat New Things, of course.

Much of my time in Hawaii was spent fulfilling filial obligations like being my mom’s lunch date. (It’s a hard life.) My mom was keen on having xiao long bao, and has recently become hooked on the Yelp app, which is how we ended up having dim sum at a nearly empty Shanghainese restaurant at a strip mall in Kalihi. (Note for my non-Hawaii-resident readers: Kalihi is one of the quasi-industrial, non-gentrified parts of Honolulu. Let’s just say that this is the scene that Lost filmed in Kalihi, if you get my drift.) As I’ve written before, Shanghai dim sum is a bit different from the dim sum we’re familiar with in the US, so there were lots of unusual items on the menu, like . . .

Maybe you can't make a silk purse, but you can make a mean salad.

. . . Pigs’ ears. I’ve actually had pig ear before, but in fried form. Here, the ears are boiled until tender and then sliced thinly, making them much more recognizably ear-like.The results were actually pretty tasty, with that crunchy-chewy-jelly texture that seems to be prized in Chinese cuisine. (I have to admit, though, we ended up taking a good bit of this home, and it tasted a lot better doctored up with more herbs and lemon juice.)

In the spirit of the occasion, I also introduced my mom simultaneously to durian and bubble tea. I’m not sure how my mom had managed to live in a state with the largest Asian population in the US for over a decade and avoided bubble tea, but there you go.

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