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Gautam

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  1. Gautam

    Need Help on Bengali Sweets

    As to novelty names, these are a dime a dozen these days. Traditionally, only a very few types of shondesh ever existed. East Bengal had its unique types, and West Bengal had its. Odisha had its own, Podo Pitha being a very famous variant. It has its own history and is not exactly a shondesh in the Bengali sense but exquisite when made by a master. Then come the set of khirer mishti, which are a another set completely different from chaanar mishti. These are also Bengali sweets, but like pedas and barfis, made of kheer, which is a type of Bengali khoya. Softer, more hydrated. The types are endless and can be made by professionals as well as talented home cooks. So many of these are becoming extinct that it is a matter of personal grief. These things take time, training and enthusiasm. Who will muster up the same in this time of commercialism? Gangajali and Khirer Tokti are 2 exquisite examples and I don't know if I am the very last or the penultimate generation to have enjoyed these. The high quality of clotted cream sweets in Shor bhaja and Shor puria is also now a matter of dreams. Then there are so many other classes, that are "Bengali Sweets" but not found elsewhere in India just quite in these forms. Very similar ones exist India-wide, but little tweaks have been made in Bengal to suit local tastes. So please pardon for strong opinions. These sweets have been part of our very lives, they have defined festivals, important occasions, and even daily routines to an extent difficult to convey if you have not experienced life in the rural Bengal of the 50s and 60s, or even earlier. It is an attempt to express the role these foods played in social and cultural life and why these things were held in such esteem. I don't know much about the south, but perhaps there is a social role for milk pongal, and lots of memories and traditions attached to its preparation and consumption. Namaskar.
  2. Gautam

    Need Help on Bengali Sweets

    But sadly, not one of the Calcutta shops are using PURE DATE PALM GUR. I know this because it is my life's mission to make Khejur Gur into a viable proposition. I have devoted my entire life to this end. Even the WB govt. promoted tubes etc. of Khejur gur are significantly adulterated with cane, and our non-profit can prove this with lab tests. The purest WB govt. approved product, sold at airports, etc. is only 70% Date gur. We challenge any group to prove us wrong. Like pure maple syrup, pure khejur gur is expensive for all manner of reasons. Today, artificial flavorants, BOLEN [ 2 ml/kg chana] are selling like crazy in Calcutta. Who is buying them? And why is so-called "khjeur gur" beiung purchased by these confectioners at less than Rs.150-200 per palla, or 5kg wholesale? Cannot happen! Khejur sap is 8-14% sucrose, and roughly 8-10 kg sap is needed per 1 kg gur of 65Brix, and more for Patali or solid gur. 1 kg sap is sold for Rs.10-20. Do the maths, add in fuel costs for boiling, profits for tapper, middleman, etc. Rs.350-400 is break-even at bare subsistence for nolen gur, and Rs.1200 is the fair-trade price per kg or liter of 65-70 Brix pure nolen. We do this on a purely non-profit basis, and i have not taken a single paisa in my life. In fact, sunk my entire personal fortune into this venture. What a disgrace. Date palm was th life blood of Bengal. It can also become the salvation of Karnataka and much of India. But who will listen? We are building huge temples in Hariharapura, waxing ecstatic over Organic Mandya, but never paying a moment's heed to the crisis engulfing our sweetener economy. The fight between TN and KT over water is irrelevant, it would appear. We are like this only, desi loins huffing and puffing at Chinese dragons. Our loincloths perennially in danger of slipping off? Do loins like us care? Shondesh, prepared by the traditional caste of confectioners, are ALWAYS considered fit for consumption for all religious purposes, by widows and by orthodox brahmins in Bengal. Even the fried pooris and subzi prepared by them lie in a grey area, eaten by some, not by others. Other types of mithai, like lengcha and pantua are probably not OK whereas roshogolla and dahi, probably is. Don't ask me, there is much arcana and local custom as to what is ok and what is not from traditional sweet shops, run by the cowherd caste. Hence the question, UPAVAS shondesh has no relevance. In bengal, we have no fetish about upavas as is found in Maharashtra or some other parts of India. There are NO upavaas menus at all. All shondesh, either made at home, or purchased from the correct traditional source, is suitable for upavas or for reasonably orthodox people. Upavas means Upavas for the orthodox. The most important are the Ekadashi, as in today. And for Pujas, such as Kali Puja, Durga Puja, Saraswati Puja, Shivaratri. Bride, bridegroom for orthodox weddings. Shraddhas, aadya and other sharddhas, e.g. kushundika, nowadays almost extinct in truncated wedding rites. 1. Nirjala upavaas. No water, nothing. This is the preferred type. 2. Milk, water, nothing else. 3. Milk, fruit. 4. Milk, fruit, sweets like shondesh, dahi. 5. Milk, fruit, sweets, and on ekadashi, eating non-grains and some prohibited seeds. This has become ridiculous, with eating seeds like buckwheat, etc. which completely violates the meaning, and heavy foods like the Bengali kheer.
  3. Gautam

    Need Help on Bengali Sweets

    Getting back to the matter of "Bengali Sweets", we come next to the sweets that were traditionally made IN BENGAL by Bengalis. Most of these are absolutely UNKNOWN in India. Sadly, with reference to the "Bengali Sweets" evolved in Northern India, we have places like Gupta Bros. or Ganguram's who have insinuated themselves into the fabric of Calcutta, and become trendleaders for the younger generations. That is called natural evolution. They are far from the traditional Bengali sweet makers, who are generally hidebound and dying away. There are some exception, Nakur Ch. Nandi, and some of the older establishments in N. Calcutta having woken up to the possibilities. These are a handful of the "great" traditional confectioners of Shimulia, a particular locality of North Calcutta, famous for a particular type of shondesh, whcih depends on a particular quality of milk, milch breed, and the nature of "paak' which included both the "braying" or finely mashing the chhana against an ebony board at a particular temperature, pressure and moisture content, and also cooking it in a particular way with sugar over heat. Gupta and Ganguram have never mastered this process. Bhim Nag's Babu Shondesh was excellent and Girish could not excel or equal that, and Bhim Nag could not touch some of the latter's signature shondesh. WHY? Beats me. Next door to Bhim Nag was Nobo Keshto Guin, unrivalled for the kancha golla, a seemingly crude paak, but not easily achieved by the bigger names. One could go on. For example, in Muktagacha, Bangladesh, Gopal Pal, patronized by the zamindar Suryakanta Acharya Chaudhuri, in 1824 established his shop that has become a landmark for eponymous MONDA, not equalled anywhere else. Maythai-Monda is a dyadic compound in Bengali literature, deriving from this signal event in its history!! Again, only chaana and sugar, but the paak is a family secret. Nakur, Bhim Nag, even Kalika, each have their specific paaks and paak specialists, and it is very difficult, and indeed impossible for one to do what the other does. Just as KC DAS cannot prepare a proper roshogolla, most mithaiwallahs cannot make a proper shondesh. We can go into details. It is not snobbishness. There are good reasons why certain sauternes fetch astronomical prices and so do some desert wines. I do not drink alcohol, but studied how some of these grapes are grown, something in line with my own field. Then I understood some things, which also translate to the shondesh.
  4. Gautam

    Need Help on Bengali Sweets

    Dear Chetan, This topic arrived in my mailbox, and I could not decide whether it was appropriate for me to reply, since you had asked Srikanth Seshagiri, not me. However, Smt. Srivalli's post left me somewhat bemused and confused and I hope she will forgive me if I write a few words. Times change, ways of eating, thinking, and interpreting traditions change. No one can claim, "I own such and such" with reference to aspects of foodways. That certainly is a repugnant way of approaching anything. However, there are historical and cultural perspectives that allow different ways of approaching a particular topic, especially if that topic is unfamiliar. Change and evolution is wonderful and and foregone in a society as diverse, as youthful and as vibrant as ours is. Yet, keeping in mind the historical roots cannot harm us, can it? It may allow us deeper insights, perhaps? Sometimes modern India is characterized by a desire to hurry past issues, and be content with shallow answers. That is indeed a path, but not everyone's path. Continuing from above, the term "Bengali Sweets" itself has 2 entirely different meanings. One is the meaning applied in northern India to a class of sweets that take their inspiration from sweets originating in colonial Bengal, and more specifically, from Calcutta. Most of these were copied by the trading classes like Marwaris, and other groups with vegetarian leanings. Their cooks brought these back to their native lands, from Rajasthan, to Punjab, to UP and Bihar, in the first round of dissemination. Rasgulla, chamcham and similar items became known as Bengali sweets and enjoyed their own iterations. They were not very similar in texture and quality to the original, just as Haldiram's rasgullas are not at all like the sponge roshogollas refined in Kolkata. 'These sponge roshogollas in turn, evolved from a much heavier sooji/semolina and chhana mix that evolved in Odisha probably contemporaneously with the Gaudiya Vaishnava movement. I hear a lot about the Portuguese teaching us the art of curdling milk, but I have to see a single person who mouth these inanities to profess any competence in the detailed lists of foods elaborated in the MANY, MANY songs and scriptures of the Chaitanya movement. Minute details are offered about the specific types of pickles, kasundi, and the many types of prepared foods sent from Bengal to Odisha, or prepared in Odisha itself. A little bit of educated research into the temple cooking of Odisha would reveal a lot. Sadly, our English-literate classes are so anxious to denigrate the Sanatana Dharma and the achievements of our civilization, and are so shamelessly ignorant of their own languages, Achaya and similar clowns not excepted, that it is a wonder that our ancestors were not taught how to wash their behinds by the Islamic conquerors, or brush their teeth by the Europeans! Hopefully, they had learned to procreate on their own, but that too is in doubt, given the worthless progeny populating the pages of food bloggers today and writing away in English. It is because of this acerbity that I feel it better not to open my mouth on any public forum.
  5. Gautam

    The Journey of Biryani to India.

    To continue, how is it not possible to understand the constant, and very close interaction between Iran and that ancient India? Do you realize that citrus from the SAME HIMALAYAN FOOTHILLS, including Assam, went to Iran, and became a celebrated ritual fruit for the Jews? Where do you suppose the word "magic" comes from and how is it related to this topic? Do you realize how powerfully even later sufis were influenced by the Indic sphere of influence? Why not read the Gospel of St. John with some attention? As an IT expert, what have you done to grow your knowledge of Panini's Shiva Sutrani? Please read On the Architecture of Panini's Grammar | Paul Kiparsky - Academia.edu http://www.academia.edu/3082019/On_the_Architecture_of_Paninis_Grammar When Indians are so contemptuous and ignorant of their own heritage, why handle such people with kid gloves? Eevry last thing we know, including cleaning our bums, had to have originated from elsewhere, eh? What a miracle we also did not have to learn reproduction from our holy mentors in Central Asia, or did we? Perhaps that lies behind the degraded individuals, degraded in mind and morals, that come out of modern Bangabhumi! What about eggplant, cucumber, a host of legumes, including mung, and the very term khichari, mash-khichari, today widely found in Central Asian languages? Not one of these came from India, and Indians were such dumb asses that they could not figure out how to cook with self-evident combinations until they had been raped, desecrated, and crushed into subjugation? Read Nala's Story and try to grasp the sophistication of the food scene being described. I have not found a single food writer from India even latch on to this extraordinary primary source, the vaantaabhojis, eaters of regurgitated rubbish, literally, vomit-eaters. So, Iran probably got its long-grained basmati via India, and its plump bulu-type rices from the Turkish lands, with an origin in China. Biryani, in Iran, Syria, balochistan has not a thing to do with rice. Special earth ovens are constructed and racks of fowl, or whole sheep are inserted, covered and carefully cooked. They are then hung up, and pieces, as preferred by customers, or consumers, are cut off and refried in its own residual grease on the spot. ALWAYS served with wheaten bread. THis is BIRYAAN, meaning, fried [meat]. How on earth does this dish become the forerunner of the palAnna type dish we know today? Let me tell you how: I inherited a knife from my great-grandfather, except my grandad changed the blade and my father the handle! That is how contrived and plainly idiotic tour de force is employed to make biriyani a gift from conqueror. The Indian mind is never so happy as when licking the boots of powerful masters. So it would have to take Mughals, to create meat and rice dishes, eh? No possibility of having some cooked meats in gravy, well known in ancient India, to be mixed in with some cooked or parcooked rice, eh? How many times have you fried up remnants of a mutton curry or korma, or chicken, or shrimp, with some leftover rice? if you had that intelligence and creativity, why deny the same for your distant forefathers? For a group who were havily into legumes and wheat dough, how extraordinarily difficult would it be to wrap lentil mash, or even meat, a highly popular food [read the Rksamhita, ever?] into a sheet of flattened dough and either boil, steam and fry it? DO we need to be taught how to brush our teeth with those with no such history? Have you read the works of Chinese pilgrims to India, and of the Tibetans? They have much of interest on how food was cooked, how personal hygiene maintained. No pieces of brick or rock, changed in type from summer to winter, ever figured here. So why not do what devout chelas do, adopt the gurvaamnaya in toto? Why leave out the rocks, eh? I find it beyond disgusting that such garbage should be repeatedly endless, so that falsehood become the gospel truth. Indians were worthless filth, and had to be civilized by waves of conquerors, eh? I rather admire the Bhojpuri batman who resigned his job [an apocryphal tale, I suppose] when he was outraged by his boss wanting "sauce"! Arre yaar, aaj saas ko mang rahein hain, kya kal jodu ko bhi mangwayenge? Not like our present craven crowd, happy to surrender not just saas, and jodu, but their entire body and soul to the service of evil. Try to study the different paths of evolution of Mughal and Afghan cuisines, in your own Bangabhumi. Try to think, try to reason, and not communicate garbage through unstudied enthusiasm. If I ask you what were the crucial differences, how they exist currently in Bangabhumi, and why is Bangabhumi being brought up in the context of Mughal and Afghan cooking, what would you reply? When you can make thoughtful presentations of these topics to a wide and well-informed audience, only then has such expositions validity. I am a mere Hindu fascist, so please ignore whatever this sub-human has to say.
  6. Gautam

    The Journey of Biryani to India.

    Please allow me to offer an alternative to your account since I feel very strongly about this subject, specifically to transfer the credit for Indian cooking styles, to external influences. You are MOST WELCOME to question my conclusions, AFTER you have done the necessary homework as I have. Perhaps I am repeating material already written by me in earlier times, but so be it. Like you, I, too, have spent an enormous amount of time to research this topic. :Let us start with the origins of rice, aromatic rice, and the etymology of rice/meat dishes, culminating in "biryani" as we now know it. Rice might have been domesticated in both the Indic and the Sinic centers of plant domestication. This is an area of professional interest for me, and you may read or contact Prof. Susan McCouch at Cornell University, to verify or dispute my assertions. Some say that the origins of the aromatic gene, in rice, had a single origin in the Chinese center, while others will dispute that. However, there is little doubt that in India, the fragrance or aroma gene is most pronounced in rices that have evolved along the arc of the Himalayas from Assam, through UP to Dehra Dun and Jammu. All other aromatic rices in India are thought to have derived from these northern sources. The basmati or aroma gene presents itself in 3 types of rices in India: the long grained basmati, the medium grained basmati, and the mini-grained basmati In Assam we have the esteemed KETAKI, in Bangabhumi, the Sitabhog, Gobindobhog, Kalojeere, all mini types, in UP the medium grained Vishnubhog, and the long grained in the Dun Valley and Jammu. Each of these types have given rise to their own cooking methods and regional preferences. In East Bengal, to this day, the preferred biryani rice, called polao chaul, is the small/mini grained type, despite its greater stickiness. In Rarhi cooking, this same min basmati is cooked into ritual chitranna or gRtodona by first soaking, drying on cloth, and then gently sauteeing in ghee, along with whole spices. Note that NO onion or garlic enters this ritual cookery. In the UP region, we have the Vishnu bhog cooked with ripe mango and creamy fluids of choice to create a version of the kacchi-kacchi biryani, which has an ancient history in India. Simply because Achaya cannot understand classical references well enough, or is an unspeakable fool, along with Vir Sanghvi, in many or most of his conclusions is NOT my fault. I am a vaidika, steeped in the language and culture of Bharatvarsha. Please refer to the tale of Raja Nala. In earlier times, upon awakening, Raja Nala, Yudhisthira, Mother Janaki and Sri Krishna Vasudeva were the 4 names that were prAtaH smaraNiiya; to be recalled in a conscious manner. This includes the apprehension, prajnanam, of their works and deeds, caritam. Nala Raja had taken a keen interest in a particular type of cookery, when yet a king. He had learned from his palace cook the fine and difficult art of cooking "kacchi-Kacchi biryani" where raw meats, etc. were placed all together in the same pot and made ot come out perfect. When enslaved, Nala used his cooking skills to ingratiate himself with higher and higher levels of officials, until at last he landed himself in the court of the very ruler who had usurped his throne, and recovered his just title. Please carefully read the Nalopakhyan in the Mahabharata, and hopefully, in a translation created by worthwhile scholars, not Debroy!! You appear to be a bangasantana, and probably can access the many fine Bangala translations, or even go to the Original, and try to understand what is being said. In Bangala, we say, Porer mukhe jhAl khaowa keno?" Why taste the pungency of something hot via the mouth of another, when your own mouth should suffice. You will undoubtedly have experienced enough Sanskrit pedagogy in life to know that polao, pilaf, pilau, etc. all derive from the Sanskrit, even Vedic, pala + anna = palAnna; pala = meat, anna = food, but here briihi and shAlii dhAnya, rice, transplanted rice!! Would you be so obtuse as Achaya and such idiots to conclude that the very meat-loving ancestors of ours were so stupid and craven that they could not think to cook together, rice, meat, other grains, ghee, all in the same pot? The very term haviShyAnna, which you might today observe upon the death of near relatives, clearly indicates rice, ghee and a few selected vegetables to be cooked TOGETHER IN THE SAME POT, and eaten for ritual events. So, it these clownish ancestors of ours, who composed some of the world's earliest spiritual literature, were just some ragged binch of kaffirs, who did not know which way was up? How degraded and mentally do y your fellow modern Bangalis need to be, to become so craven and so utterly ignorant? Do you seriously understand that one of the FIRST RICES reaching Iran was the java-type tropical ecotype of Oryza japonica, which should more correctly be termed Oryza sinensis. These were fat, shortish grains to this day preferred in the polos of Central Asia, across which this rice migrated towards Iran. But Iran had very ancient connections with its sister culture in India, sharing language and much else. Note that the major center of gravity of Aryan culture was AFGHANISTAN, very gradually moving east towards the Ganga, and then, Bangabhumi, Assam, etc. Please carefully read the Mahabharata where you will find out who those ancient KAAMBOJAs were, and who it was that Srimat Bhishma was referring to when he was reading out his list of places from which they would need to procure different elements of their fighting forces. From Afghanistan, came the horse riders, from the Shakas [Scythians] came the bowmen, well-known even during Alexander's invasion, and the Kambojas were fierce warriors, the easternmost of the iranian tribes that bordered the Indo-Iranian lands. Do you appreciate that the common lingua franca was just called bhAShA, with its regional variants that can still be traced today from those earliest times? That the mother of the Prophet Zarathushtra was named RbhA, a vedic seer, or rShi? Do you appreciate that those familiar with the Vedic language, termed chandas, easily can read and understand the OLD PERSIAN in which the earliest Zoroastrian scriptures were composed? DO you realize the cognates between ZARD and HARI, golden, radiant, bright green, effulgent with radiance? Zhairi <-> Hari, Zhairi -> Zard. How would you like someone completely illiterate in IT lecturing you about what IT should be, become, etc.? Insufferable, no? That is how I feel when I read Achaya, the sole fool, writing about Indian food history. Did you know that some while, our Lalua, snapped, yeh IT-FiTi kya bakwas hai? I.e. he did not know the term IT, so that very fact made it bakwas. You can check the public record on this. That is how I feel when people spout off about biryani, sambusak, paneer, yoghurt and the rest.
  7. Gautam

    10 Handy Tips To Make Perfect Biryani

    Some, or even many, would question your advice to fry the rice and then cook it in liquid. Such procedures might be followed for a range of pulaos, common to West Bengal, but not anywhere else that I know of! Are you sure you are really able to cook biryani, from raw meat + raw, soaked rice all in one pot together, to raw meat layered with rice, or with cooked korma layered with almost-cooked rice? Each of these 3 styles have particular names, and none of them is cooked as per your prescriptions of the "perfect biryani"? Even the Awadhi "biryani" so popular in Kolkata is prepared from a stew of meat and almost-cooked plain rice. I am sorry that what you cook will not ever qualify for a "biryani" [North Indian] in my book. It is probably delicious in its own right, but for various classes of biryani, the art is in manipulating fat, water, heat, and much else to arrive at a perfect product. In southern India, various preparations are termed "biriyani" which is their privilege. In Dindigul, for example, the local red rice is cooked and piled high with a tasty mutton curry. That is what Dindigul biryani is. Different types of cooking techniques appear all over the south, including clever variations on kormas, and such, that require a far more restricted and defined set of rules, when prepared in the context of the Ganga valley.
  8. This is especially delicious when accompanied by the fairly fluid Rarhi khichuri, plus some other batter-dipped vegetables: eggplant, thin slices of ripe pumpkin, and a number of other greens like Basella leaves, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis [Shefalika, Harshringar] leaves, and the slightly bitter young foliage of several cucurbits.
  9. Gautam

    Biryanis and Pulaos

    Namaskar Don, I was being mildly facetious, referring to the pressure killer being the greatest killer of flavors ever invented. Not true as all broad generaliztions are usually worng, but it is true in specific cases, as Musaji has thoughtfully explained. I was taking a sly poke at the Indian mania for pressure cookers and pressure cooking. I do think this trend started some time in the mid-60s, when these devices and fuel shortages hit us in India at the same time. I was born in 1960, just in time for some of the worst years in India's agriculture and rural food situation, and the lines, Oh my!! The Janata kerosene stoves favored in those days by timid bangalis, over the pumped stoves of their more adventurous neighbors, are a story in themselves. the daily rituals of getting them cleaned, primed and started, and the pungent smell of kerosene hanging heavy in the small, enclosed kitchens of those days! Pressure cooking made a lot of sense then, given the weak flame of these stoves. Gas, whether piped or in cylinders, was a major luxury reserved for the very few, e.g. the same with telephones and cars. Getting back to biryanis, the choice of meats then available was not large. Ideally, there was something called gram-fed mutton, a castrate male goat, preferably of the Barbary breed, the Jamnapari being too coarse in muscle fiber, the Black Bengal type reserved for the Bengali butchers and the "desi" dishes, as it were. Some sheep were also used for the biryani meat and pasande, since these animals fattened a bit better on the sparse pastures than goats did. Fat is of the essence in some of these dishes, and the Black Bengal is very lean. So, the gram-fed carcass ideally has a dressed weight of say 13-14 kg, and a bit heavier, 16-18 kg when caterers or professional are using them for large gatherings, and is not too old, not more than 2 years, with a good layer of subcutaneous fat, all over the body, and well-marbled in the shoulder cuts and neck. Only some breeds fatten up well, and reamin tender for the biryani process, especially the kacchi-kacchi and kacchi-pakki process. I tried the former all by myself with different grades of meat and basmati rice, and made very satisfactory progress even with minimal use of fat and no fried onions. In this respect, I have a story to relate, just in case anyone is ever interested. It deals with the origin of this particular style, and involves rigorous research, unlike so-called experts like Vir Sanghvi or Achaya, who is no expert at all. Repeating nonsense and untruths in fashionable suits an enormous number of times in a fake accent makes things true for a huge number of Indians with completely empty heads, especially journalists writing in the English press. So what has all this to do with pressure cookers? Tenderizing meat for biryanis to the texture preferred by Don. ' Someone mentioned meat falling off the bones. That is called meat that is ruined, by me. At that point, most types of fat has been rendered out, the meat is stringy, and all juices and collagen have been wrung out of the meat into the broth. The Spanish have a term, ROPA VIEJAS, old clothers, old ropes, old fibers, and I think this descriptions says it all. ROPAS, indeed. If you cannot cut the meat into 1/4 inch slices with a straight-bladed knife, while warmish-hot, without it falling apart, for my taste, you have cooked it too much. Also, fat comes in many different tissues. Fat is enclosed by membranes and yet tougher layers of tissue that hold the cells in groups. Some like the fat as soft as custard, while others, especially in biryani, want and need the fat cells to be tender but burst like perfectly ripened grapes when bitten down upon, a lascivious "crunch" releasing the unctuous inner secrets. It is like making love, there has to be a bit of give and take, some playful resistance, not lying supine like custard, eh? Biryani is about textures, layering of flavors, very delicately on upon the other, like the finest silk handkerchiefs upon muslin lawn. That is why Hyderabadi biryani, with lemon/lime, cilantro, fresh, and the stridency of fresh green chilies, or hot red pepper, is an abomination, as is Memoni biryani, which adds heat and smokiness, quite unnecessary. kababs, by definition, are burnt and scorched meats, and the Persian biryani originally began purely as cooked meat, but there are 2 completely different strands, say even 3 in biryani, and the kacchi-kacchi, has naught to do with aggressive flavors.Textures, tenderness, and things done just right. Pressure cookers blur nuances. Just like hotel cooks and cooking, it is great for everyday fixes and for feeding people who will not or cannot raise a fuss. You can take everyday cuts, and pressure cook them with just onion, whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed ginger, cassia leaf, whole black peppercorn, no salt. Please, my 2 cents for good meat: No thigh or raan meat, don't waste putt or loin, and good cutlets, destroying it in pressure cooking. Goat and sheep lower parts of the chest, seena, all the shanks and trotters, bong or the long bone in the hind legs, the chine bone, tail, ears, tongue, head, neck, and the 2 shoulders cut into big chunks can be gently pressure cooked but not until they disintegrate. Fat can be chilled and removed, or skimmed. Excellent broth is made in the pressure cooker, its chief merit. This meat can be made into a curry of ones taste, and Keralite or South Indian biryani of excellent quality can be made from this meat, sauteed onions, and heaven knows what other abominations, like curry patta and tomato. In Dindigul, mutton curry is ladled over thick red rice and called biryani. A very plump Rajeev Shukla is a big boss of our Cricket authority! Something I have never understood, perhaps because I am too dense to understand physics. I am told that it is the elevated pressure/ superheated steam that is the effectively and quickly cooks food in the pressure cooker. Yet, the sworn Indian practice is to RELEASE this very steam at frequent intervals, called whistles, which allow the pressure to drop. Is this not wasting heat, venting the very agent that is supposed to be doing the cooking? Are we not supposed to bring it up to cooking pressure and watch the time instead? The common argument given is that Indians are too stupid, cannot tell the time, Indians have no timekeeping devices!! How insulting. All Indians with pressure cookers, at least in the 60s, were savvy enough to tell the time, had at least one clock close enough to their kitchens and enough keen timekeeping sense in their brains to estimate 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever needed, to within 2-4 minutes by instinct alone. I have seen this myself, not once, but hundreds of times. Daily wage laborers would break off within minutes at 12 and 2 p.m. when their work was done, with no clock or watch even close to them, no other signal than their minds. Even plogh oxen would stop dead at 10 am for breakfast, having started work at 6 am sharp. Even people who could not read the English numerals on a clock face could accurately read the time in their mother tongues from the dial. So Indians are too stupid to tell pressure cooking time except by whistles? What price for convenience? Whose convenience? Which clown started that canard? Who spread that widely? How did this whistle idiocy take root and how much fuel has it wasted, and led to a peculiarly wasteful design that continues to this day? Can you see why a stupid so and so like me, refrains from ever commenting on an august site like Gourmet India? !!!
  10. Gautam

    Please name the spices in the Picture

    Regarding the non-adoption of aromatics, there are severe dietary restrictions regarding these within various sections of the hierarchs that administered to the Tamil rulers who spread their influence up the Indian coast [Gangaikonda refers to conquest in the Gangetic plain!!], through the present coastline of Bangladesh and into the Arakan, right into the Srivijaya, Javanese kingdoms. It is instructive to understand the reach of the Tamil kingdoms via direct and tributary controls and to study the types of plants and staple foods that lay behind the "mother" civilization. To this day, the major spices of the Javanese kingdoms, i.e. cloves, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon of various forms, cardamom of various types, cubeb peppers, and tropical camphor etc. remain outside the dietary pale of a large section of Vaishnava Brahmanas, as do all types of palm sugars. This last is pretty puzzling, given that the borassus palm is the mother plant buttressing the Tamil civilization. The reasons are not hard to find, the rapid fermentation of the palm sap and the abuse to which it has been put. Like the Jewish dietary laws which appear to be strange for a pastoral people, discarding the hindquarters of an animal for religious reasons, these seemingly contrary regulations have arisen for social reasons. Piper chaba is an interesting source of piquancy and heat that has fallen out of favor in the Behgal region. Along with ginger, the twigs of this pepper ground to a paste, where the traditional sources of "hotness" when there were no chillies in India. Piper chaba is still used in this manner in several districts of East Bengal, e.g. Jessore. The leaves of this vine are used as wild and pungent paan by villagers, especially during the rainy season. I have grown and used this "paan" in our village, along with many others. It is a dark green vigorous vine scrambling up the rough bark of mango trees, Used with great effect for medicinal poultices, wilted over a flame, and bandaged over skin infections and boils, with fresh mustard oil! Hill tribes of Bangladesh and the areas contiguous to these regions in India also enjoy this type of paan! Diet is a tricky issue in India, with progressively fewer restrictions away from the priesthood, just as with the observant Jews. Indeed, various vegetables, fruit, dals, and fish are unacceptable, as also the milk of various species. Hence, aromatics also fall into these classes, for their known bioactive. It is not for the non-experimental nature but precisely because of closely studied experiments over many generations that have led to these strictures. It has become a fashion to criticise, demonise and otherwise trivialize traditional Hindu customs, which I find most troubling, with the use of loaded terms that would attract instant protest if used in the context of other cultures and ethnic groups. I hope this type of facile characterization or amateur theorizing will be kept to a minimum.
  11. Gautam

    Reheating Biryani: Question

    Congratulations on the baby's arrival on so auspicious a day. We have a saying in India that 2.5 days, or let us make that 3 days [ don't ask me about the half, Indians are such a PITA about some things, Bangalis about all!! ] are auspicious for all beginnings: Vasant Panchami, aka Saraswati Puja for Bangalis, Vijaya Dashami of the Akal Bodhan, i.e. Sharadiya Durga Puja [ the main one, Sakal Bodhan, actually being in the Spring!], and Akshaya TritiiyA. So, baby Arjun, meaning "winner, conqueror", is set for great things in life! Hope his Mukhe Bhaat went off swimmingly! That was quite an elaborate menu for just the 2 of you to execute for 50 people! Especially frying up the Chicken 65 and serving it hot, while attending to all the many other needs of the guests and their kids! How was the food received by the MN half, the Indian stuff? Regarding heating up biryani, although it is very late, I understand the turkey roaster to be a sort of large slow cooker [more or less]. It can itself be used as a steamer, to heat up pans of biryani covered in tinfoil, and resting on racks over hot water. However, in this case, it was used as the steamer itself to give dum to the mass of the biryani, if I understand you correctly, and the whole thing stored aseptically without opening. I would suspect that if you have a low setting of 225 or 250 F, then WITHOUT OPENING the biryani from the previous aseptic seal and letting in germs, setting it on this low setting for about a couple of hours or however long ti takes to heat up your quantity to gently steaming state, would be adequate. Only then open, and satisfy your curiosity. I am sure that you have done several runs with the turkey roaster and biryani and had become comfortable with its parameters before venturing to cook for 50 people with it. So, you would not have the urgent compulsion to peek and break the aseptic seal, and just leave well enough alone. Well, Baby A will have enjoyed frolicking in his first MN summer, eating berries and playing with Mom and Dad! Last winter he was totally out of it, but now he will sort of have his first taste of the Great White North!! Let's see what he makes of it! Where did all the strawberries go, Mom? All the leaves? What is this white stuff? We already have had our first snow and you must have had yours as well? Stay warm and have fun. Start your Christmas cakes now!! Oh, BTW peeps, I was gobsmacked coming across a Youtube demo for making Gulab Jamuns out of WHITE bread! These Indians, whatever will they do next?!! Our wild Wonder bread would seem to be the perfect medium, and hey, we have Half and Half for kneading the stuff which the poor lady had no access to. So we can improve on such marvels of ingenuity [or horror!], especially since we have easier access to saffron threads, and powdered cardamom that can be added to the kneaded dough, to say nothing of good quality rose water. The gulab in Gulab jamun has to come from somewhere, right? In this vein, Alpana Habib has a very quick and easy Four Minute Roshomalai. The Bangla-speaking Piyush can access her Youtube channel with great profit, and translate. Her vegetarian dishes are particularly nice, and some of them very authentic as well. This would probably be the best Bangla food channel online today, in my opinion. There are a few other Bangladeshi cooking channels, also good, but much narrower in scope. Sm. Habib's production values, personality and choice of dishes, takes her ahead. Of course, you need to sift through her menu choices to filter out many dishes that are not to your liking.
  12. Waiting for your next article sirji

  13. Gautam

    Pink Poppadum with Suresh Hinduja

    I believe in English literature there is something called a literary conceit. Having named a gourmet restaurant the somewhat frivolous-sounding "Pink Poppadum" the powers-that-be should extend the equivalent of this literary conceit into "pink food" because India and loud pink colors go together in certain people's minds, especially those who have been affected by Rajasthan. Occasionally, and tastefully, there can be a shock and awe effect created by importing the Kathmandu foible of adding pink to ordinary puris [why none can discern in their home ground!!], though perhaps with a better choice of hue and tone. Pink can turn up in lemonade, a long-accepted convention in the US, and certainly our keora  water, roof-afzah, grapefruit, grape and pomegranate drinks have pink shades. Sangria-type wine coolers can be made with a pinkish hue and rose wines that go well with Indian food are another pink drink.   Pink should not be underestimated as a selling point, if someone has indeed chosen that color as the lead for a name.  For special occasions, tastefully-themed and sparingly used pink in food and decorations can yield excellent added value. What do you all think?
  14. Gautam

    Foodways of west bengal

    Guess what? Discovered jarred Palmyra palm pulp, i.e. ripe taal pulp, used in bengal for taal kheer and taal-er bodA,  mentioned in this thread, at the Temple of Thai website. No idea of how good this is! Previously, I have discovered to my dismayed that canned palm fruit is not tadgola but the much coarser immature fruit of the Nypa palm. These taste quite horrible to those who are expecting the cans to yield some sort of tadgola [or taalshansh in bangla]. At least they do to me!   Now my search is on to find either ripe Woodapple/Elephant apple Fresh OR the UNSWEETENED pulp in jars. The sweetened pulp is found in Sri Lankan groceries, because they make all manner of cold drinks, jams, etc.   In the Bengal I know, we do just ONE wonderful thing with the ripe fruit: mash it up with some excellent cane jaggery, smahed up aromatic thai green chillies, excellent mustard oil and sea salt, to a dark, seedy, mush.   We call this chutney and the younger age groups, and women in particular love to lick this off their fingers, giving real meaning to the chaatnaa in chutney! It should be hot, sweet, sour, pungent and a bit salty,all at once, plus the inimitable aroma of the fruit! Not for sophisticated, high-class people, but for laughing village belles, a most fitting accessory to bring out their dimples, amidst much laughter with their equally cute companions. We get ripe fruit all the year round and check each day to see if one has fallen to the ground!   One not-so-nice aspects of impermanence is to miss those sunlit late afternoons when the retreating monsoons have washed lower Bengal with a sudden shower, and the lengthening rays of a setting sun are casting long shadows under billowing dark and white clouds, a light breeze, the scent of the rice plants waving in the breeze, and these lovely trees swaying in concert to the waves of green rice. Underneath, a group of young girls, making this simple chutney, in the halves of the woodapple shells, eating and laughing in youthful exuberance. Such small things that made them happy! Little pond snails saling on by, as if sharing in their joy! The entire universe lit up by a golden green glow. "Caturdike dekhi Ami Rai hemo rUp".
  15. Gautam

    Biryanis and Pulaos

    Chef Hemantji,   You must not ever have seen what is the Lucknow "biryani" [pulao, which is the biryani there], or some of the most famous of the Calcutta biryani styles, which I assure you are AS "authentic" as any biryani you have ever tasted in south India, or any other. This is a subject I have devoted a considerable fraction of my life, as you and some others may know! For example, many I know would mock the overly pretentious for claiming anything, because as Sureshji emphasizes, styles change from place to place, and tastes and perception are entirely subjective. The famous Dindigul "biryani" might appear as an excellent dish of red rice and curry to many, but who will challenge their rght to name it "Dindigul biryani", just as  none will challenge you for believing that anything you make or know has to be the absolute best anywhere!!     BUT, as @hearme1002 observes, IN THE REALM of RESTAURANT cooking, ala carte orders in a particular type of restaurant places different demands than the type of Indian restaurant that specializes in "biryani" cooked in large quantity, where customers are accustomed to taking out or eating that item somewhat lukewarm without too much fuss, because their expectations have been trained by tradition. Not so the modern sit-down restaurant that requires a higher order of service and presentation, and quite different time scales, and exigencies of fitting many menu items into a pattern of dinner or lunch service. Nor are they dealing with speacialist cooks but ordianary line cooks, who may be leaving or coming, with high turnover rates. So, I, as a restaurant owner, am into my bottom line, just as you, as your pickle and paste business are most definitely in your bottom line, and not into pleasing some imaginary god of authenticity. Otherwise, you would have kept your long-ago promise of sending out your pastes for taste tests by GI members in the USA butt hat promise, like your khasta kachori recipe, has never been fulfilled, since your bottom line has to come first. Just like the restaurant owner here, and rightly so. Your family and personal interest has to precede any other issues!   So, I have seen very famous restaurant function exactly as Sri/Smt. hearme1002 suugest. In fact, a very renowned place has all these small clay handis, sufficient for one or 2 servings, and they are filled in the bottom by a cooked korma, topped wth rice, and steamed individually as orders come in. Not much difference with the system suggested, since the pots are small enough to absorb het quickly and be at the table in 20-25 minutes.   BUT if faster service is required, and it often is, then only the type of system described by our friend here is useful. Do you know the systems used by Bangladeshi curry houses in Britain? Do you realize that in a recent exhibition in Calcutta by Tommy Miah and others, these Curry House curries and dishes were favored over their Indian counterparts by Bengalis for exactly the same reasons the Britons love them? Fats, sugar, salt, heat, in the right proportions? Do you understand clearly the changes taking place India-wide, where so called "inauthentic" dishes are supplanting totally the authentic dishes?   There remain NO practitioners of the authentic dishes anymore of my style of cookery, because the rural and religious infrastructure necessary simply does not exist. I have seen the kitchens of certain Bengali restaurants, and they are certainly turing out something, but NOT the authentic panoply of cuisine and eating style that marks the eating habit of MY cuisine. Why that is so is a discussion for another venue. Similar destruction and extinction is occurring everywhere where vegetarian cookery is concerned and you would want us seriously to believe that your Ambur pastes and jarred this or that are going to preserve "authenticity"? You are going to say that with a straight face to me on this site, Dada?
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