Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Raw Mango Rice

Today I shall start off directly with my recipe for raw mango rice. Hey, it is a lazy summer afternoon and sunny too! So here we go:


1. The Rice: 

Before starting on the raw mango chutney, I have rice (plain simple white rice) cooked and ready, so that by the time the chutney is done, the rice will have cooled off. And then I can mix the two together. Alternately, if I have left over rice, I just use that. Good way to utilize leftover rice!  

2. The Chutney:

1. 1 Raw Mango: You want to make sure that the fruit is nice and hard without any soft spots. The key to good raw mango chutney is the sour factor. A really good raw mango will be SOUR and that's what we want. If the raw mango is hard, it usually is sour and that's a good thing!

Raw Mango
2. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)- if you don't have it, no worries, you can skip this

3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

4. Salt to taste

5. Pinch of Turmeric

6. Red Chilli powder

7. Rasam powder- again, if you don't have this, OK to skip

8. A little handful of peanuts

9. 1 tablespoon cooking oil

10. A couple green chillies


1. I cut the mango into cubes (need not be perfect cubes-- it is going into the food processor anyways). If it is a good quality raw mango, like the one I got this time, as soon as you cut it, you will smell the sourness- yes, that is right- you can actually smell that sourness. And like I mentioned earlier, we want that raw mango to be sour. Then I put these cubes into my food processor and chop it up fine.

Raw Mango ready to go into the food processor

Look at that tiny seed! Tender!

Finely chopped- ready to be transformed into chutney
Now that the most important step has been taken care of, the rest is pretty simple.

2. I get my pan going on the stove with about a tablespoon of oil. Then I splutter some mustard seeds and some fenugreek seeds. Fenugreek seeds act as the cooling agent in this hot and spicy chutney. It's all about balance, you see! I also add a tiny handful of peanuts and roast them until brown.

3. Then I add the finely chopped raw mango into this along with a couple slit green chillies.

Finely chopped raw mango+green chillies+peanuts+mustard+fenugreek seeds
4. Then I add a pinch of turmeric, salt to taste, some red chilli powder as well as a teaspoon of rasam powder. I have found that adding some rasam powder to this chutney elevates the taste by quite a bit. If you don't have rasam powder, that is fine. The red chilli powder should work well. And then I fry everything up.

Almost ready!
After about 2-4 minutes of frying, the chutney is ready. There is no need to FRY that much really- because you don't want to "cook" the mango. The raw mango has to to stay, well, raw. That's where lies all the fun, you see!

At this point, the chutney is ready to be consumed. You can make raw mango chutney sandwiches-- pretty yummy! You can eat it with rotis or paranthas. Or you can mix it with some plain rice and there, you have your raw mango rice!

That's exactly what I do--- I take the cooled rice (scroll up to see "The Rice") and mix it up with this chutney and ta-da- Raw Mango Rice is ready to be enjoyed!

Raw Mango Rice in the pan

Mmm, Delicious!
This dish has a complex flavor profile-- sour/tang from the raw mango bits, hot and spicy from the red chilli and rasam powders, a hint of bitter from the fenugreek seeds and of course, the great crunch from the peanuts. One spoonful of this rice into your mouth and your taste buds are going to have a party!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chung-King Chicken- FAIL!

Quick weekend report: Saturday we went for a little picnic plus hike to Wallace Falls. Didn't really hike that much, thanks to the daughter and the husband. The daughter wore her silly converse shoes that of course aren't that great for hiking. And the husband--- well, he drank so much water that within barely 15 minutes of hiking, he had to rush back to answer nature's call! So there, so much for our hiking expedition!

Sunday evening I decided to whip up some veg fried rice- hey, when I don't know what to cook, the first thing that usually comes to my mind is fried rice. Then I thought, hmm, how about something to accompany that fried rice? Aha! Chung King chicken--- my style! Chung King chicken is one of our favorite dishes to order at Sichuanese restaurant. Very flavorful and HOT as in spicy hot!

Now I didn't have chicken, nor those special Sichuanese pepper corns. However, I had this packet of popcorn chicken in the freezer- the kind that you bake or simply heat up in the microwave and eat. Oh yeah, this Mama knew exactly what to do! ;) 

How convenient!

I took:

1. A couple handfuls of the frozen popcorn chicken, arranged evenly on a microwave-safe plate.

2. 1 medium onion, sliced up thin.

3. 9-12 dry red chillies (later I realized that I could have used more because those red chillies were very mild).

4. 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds.

5. 5-6 teaspoons of oil (the restaurant dish is way more oily).

6. 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

7. Salt and Pepper to taste.

What I did:

1. The first and foremost step: I m-waved the popcorn chicken per the package instructions for 3.5 minutes. And let it sit.

2. Meanwhile I took some oil in my pan, got the heat going and then added the sesame seeds and red chillies to the hot oil. Gave it a quick fry for about 2-3 minutes--- the red chillies don't take very long to darken and you don't want to burn them. Plus the sesame seeds tend to "fly" around...... so gotta be careful.

Sesame seeds+red chillies
3. Next I threw in the sliced onion and sauteed it until it turned golden brown--- that took about 3  minutes (yes!). 

4.  And then I threw in the popcorn chicken into this, followed by a tablespoon of soy sauce. Also added some salt and freshly ground black pepper and stirred everything up. Voila! My "Chung King chicken" was ready! Looked pretty good, as you can see in the picture:

The shortest-cut to Chung King Chicken!
The Result:

So with much enthusiasm, I served my awesome "Chung King" (popcorn) chicken along with veg fried rice.

Comment #1: "This is like eating chicken nuggets from McDonalds!"
Translation:  Pretty bland, no flavor.

Comment #2: "Hmm, something's missing."
Translation: Pretty bland, no flavor.

Comment #3: "It is good. I love popcorn chicken!"
Translation: Chung King Chicken, you say? FAIL!

The Chef's Comment: Hmm, this didn't turn out that great after all......
Translation: Gosh! This short-cut was sheer disaster!

To Sum Up: Guess short-cuts don't necessarily work always!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stuffed "Karela" (Bitter Melon)

I know, I know- most of you hate the poor bitter melon/bitter gourd. It is a shame, really, that people despise it so much. Well, if you are like me and if not love, but at least like this infamous vegetable (actually a fruit), then congratulations, you are in my list of THE Elite Bitter Melon Lovers! *Applause*

I remember my mom used to make this awesome stuffed "karela" (karela is the hindi word for bitter gourd/bitter melon) preparation wherein she would stuff each karela with this ridiculously tasty mixture of onions, tomatoes and spices and tie up each karela with cord so as to hold the stuffing in and then fry it. Before serving, she would untie the cord from all of the karelas and then we would eat with rotis (Indian bread). Then, with the years and awareness about how you shouldn't eat too much of fried food, she started baking those stuffed karelas rather than frying them. They were equally delicious. The good thing was that all four of us, i.e. my parents, my brother and I, loved karela. 

Now, in my family, sadly, only I love karela! The husband and the kids, like most of the world, simply hate it. Therefore, I don't cook it very often. And as far as I know, not many of our friends like it either. In fact, the last time I cooked this dish for a party was about 7 or 8 years ago and but for four people, including  me, everybody avoided the gorgeous stuffed karela, which BTW, was pretty darn tasty. Therefore for a party, I usually end up cooking the same old standard dishes that everybody eats, because not everybody is adventurous when it comes to eating a variety of vegetables........oh well, enough with the ranting, I suppose!

The Needs:

1. Bitter melon (bitter gourd)- I pick up the Chinese bitter melon now a days, rather than the Indian bitter gourd, because there's no pre-preparation to be done. Because the latter is way more bitter than the former, it requires to be first marinated in some salt, lemon juice and turmeric and then you gotta squeeze out all the extra bitterness and even then, there is no guarantee.......so well, I'd rather skip all that and go straight to the cooking part.

2. 1 medium onion- finely chopped

3. 2 tomatoes or alternately 1-2 tablespoon tomato paste

4. 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed up

5. 1/2 inch ginger piece- grated

6. Salt to taste

7. Turmeric powder- a pinch

8. Red chilli powder- per taste

9. Dry mango powder (Aamchoor)- 1 teaspoon

10. Oil for cooking

11. 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

The beautiful and hated Bitter melon

The Method:

1. I peel the bitter melon (as in the above picture) and then cut into smaller pieces (cylinders). Then I roughly scoop out the insides with a little spoon so as to be able to stuff each cylinder with the filling. I say roughly because I prefer the seeds and some of the "flesh."

Cut into individual pieces

Insides scooped out (I quite like the seeds)

2. I then prepare the filling that is the same onion-tomato-ginger-garlic concoction that I use in majority of my Indian cooking. So fry everything together, add salt, red chilli powder per taste and also a teaspoon or so of aamchoor, i.e. dry mango powder. No garam masala for this one.

The filling

3. Then I stuff each karela cylinder with this filling. Pretty easy to do so with a little spoon.

Stuffed and ready
4. Once the karelas have been stuffed, I pour in 5-6 teaspoons of oil, get the heat going, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds to splutter and then I gently drop the stuffed karelas into this hot oil and then I put the lid on and turn down the stove.

Browning and cooking one side
Lid is on (you can see my hands and camera!)

5. After 5-8 minutes, I remove the lid and then flip the bitter melon cylinders (a pair of tongs usually works well for this purpose) and then cover the lid once again.

Side 1 done

Cooking and browning side 2
 6. After another 5 minutes, I take off the lid. At this point the dish is pretty much done. Towards the end, I keep turning the karelas so as to uniformly brown them on all sides--- takes an extra 2 minutes, that's all. And that's it, stuffed karela is ready to be served! Before serving, I sprinkle some salt over the karelas so that they don't taste bland.

Delicious Stuffed Karela

I like to eat my stuffed karela with roti or plain parantha. If there's dal (lentils) and rice, then I like to eat this as an accompaniment to the dal and rice. Biting into that bitterness and then into that spicy-tangy goodness is delightful--- to me, at least!

I cannot make statements like, "my kids love this" or "my husband is crazy about this," because the fact is that they HATE it. Sad state of affairs indeed! But for now, I celebrate myself and I am proud to be one amongst the very few Elite bitter melon lovers!