Oriental Fusion

Monday, June 30, 2008

Miracle (the name of the Asian Grocery Shop at the Rhodes Mall) always fascinated me. Rows and rows of strange sauces, pastes, ginseng tea, coloured tapioca pellets, dim sum steamers, all kinds of strange looking tree bark, mushrooms ,seeds and tablets that make up soup ingredients, and an astonishing variety of noodles of all shapes, colors and textures.

After a month at Sydney and trying exotic dishes like Afghan rotis, Tequila & Avocado Pasta, Baklava, and the not so exoticdeep frozen French fries, I decided that it’s high time to try some Chinese.

Its now a well known fact that the Chinese back home (India) is not really Chinese, but something that originated in the back streets of Kolkata’s China Town! Manchurian was not created in Manchuria, but was ginger-garlicked at Kolkata, and tomatoed at Lucknow! Ajinomoto (uggh can't stand the stuff) or Mono Sodium Glutamate has become synonymous with Chinese cuisine in India. Surprisingly, I found that most condiments in Miracle announced 'NO ADDED MSG' on the labels. Indo-chinese is has become a cuisine family in its own right!

After nearly an hour of browsing Miracle, and Harrison's Farm market, here is what my shopping turned out to be...

From Miracle:
Sakata - Japanese rice grain chips Made in Australia. These come in flavours, and I chose plain salted. These taste like papad.

Somen Noodles - fine wheat noodles again from Japan, but this time it was Made in Japan.

Dan Dan Noodle paste - The Asian Gourmet brand Made in Singapore. Ingredients mentioned sesame, sugar, pepper, salt and soy!

Something in Chinese script translating to sauce for Cantonese Stir Fry Coconut Curry Vegetables - This is a brand called Lee Kum Kee and made in Guadong China. The ingredients list looks like the above, but includes coconut powder, onion, garlic, coriander powder in addition!

Sweet Cake - A scary green coloured, delicious smelling rice cake. Looks like 4 small halwa pieces.

From Harris Farms

Bok Choy - This is also called Chinese Cabbage. Tastes good, raw or cooked!

Shii-take mushrooms - Probably the only mushroom that I like! These are good sautéed in butter with salt and pepper

Mung Sprouts - Crisp long delicious sprouts from Mung. Funnily its called 'mung' here and not green gram dal, as one would expect!

Brocolli and Cauliflower.

From Shorty's - This is courtesy Basu.
Sake - A genuine Japanese rice wine called Geikkeikan Sake, which had on the label something like 'honourably serving the Imperial Guests since ...' :-)
Shorty's had Australian Sake too, which, the owner kindly told us, was not as good as the original.
Oh - I too shopped at Shortys and got Australian made genuine English Apple Cider called Pipsqueak. This tasted a lot better than the genuine English Cider imported from London!

I had overdone the stir-fry of bokchoy and dan dan paste. It turned out soggy, but delicious all the same. The shii-take and sprouts saved the day with their crispness! The noodles cooked in 3 minutes. The Cantonese stir-fry with cauliflower and broccoli was good ..close to Kerala coconut curries, but with a twist! The sweet cake was funny. Was looking for a nice halwa texture, but found a pasty one instead! Undoubtedly though the big discovery was the Sake. Its texture and lightness reminded me of gripe water! Such a pleasant accompaniment to our oriental meal. One bottle was gone with one dinner!
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Beer Dosa

Monday, June 23, 2008

This is favourite and had tried it on a hunch! Dosas are very common, but nevertheless very popluar with all . Recipes on dosa making abound, and almost every other Indian food joint will have the plain and masala dosa in their menu. Ask anybody about their favourite South Indian fare, and dosa will be the first dish that they can think of.

However a perfectly good tasty dosa is not as simple to make as it sounds! Getting the batter turn out just right depends on several factors, including the type of rice used, quality of the urad dal, the duration the batter is allowed to fermet, and even on the climate (hot weather and summers are ideal!) Even seasoned 'dosa-makers' can go wrong when the climate does not support a good fermentation. Dosas can be made even if the batter does notr ferment. However in my opinion, such dosas lack character, and taste rather flat. I found that most restaurants and eateries in Delhi and in Kolkata, serve up such dosas, blissfully unaware of the delights of a good batter!

I have made dosas countless times. This time round I had prepared the batter and had left it the whole night to ferment. I went to make the breakfast, only to find it exactly in the same state as the night earlier with only the slightest trace of fermentation. I was cursing the winter, and then my luck, when I heard my husband inviting an uncle to sample some 'out of the world dosas' that I make. A half empty bottle of beer lying in the fridge came to mind, along with vague recollections of my food science class on fermentation and beer. In a flash of inspiration, I poured the beer into the batter and mixed it in. I then proceeded to make the dosas as usual. To my utter delight, they turned out quite beautifully, with just the same amount of small air holes, and the slightly sour (with a trace of bitter though!) taste of a 'well-made-authentic-south-indian-dosa'!
I have tried the same trick many times since then, and to my delight it comes out successfully each and every time!
Here is the recipe for making dosas - the original, as well as the beer varieties!

Plain Dosa
Black Gram Dal (Urad Dal) - 1 cup
Plain rice - 3 cups
Water - enough to make the batter
Beer - 1/2 cup, only if thye batter is not fermented before making the dosas!
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil - two teaspoons per dosa.
Method for making batter
1) Soak the dal and rice in water for at least 3 hours.
2)Grind dal, with enough water in an electric mixer until you get a very thick and smooth paste. Dal is soft and grinds very quickly.
3) Now grind the rice in the mixer, with enough water to make a smooth paste as well.
4) Completely mix the two batters, and leave it in a closed vessel for 10 - 12 hours.
5) Open the vessel and check. If fermentation has taken place the batter would have risen up twice the orginal volume. Eureka ...you can just drink the beer and continue with the recipe.
6) Now if the batter has just slightly risen, or not risen at all, we have to put our trick into effect.
7) Add the beer into the batter and mix.
8) Add some salt to taste.
Method for making the dosa
1) Take a flat non-stick frying pan, and warm it evenly on low flame.
2) Add a teasppon of oil and swirl it around.
3) Increase the flame to high, and then pour in a ladel full of batter and use a circular motion to pull the dough out into a thin broad circle.
4) Check and drizzle some more oil along the sides if required.
5) The high flame would have caused a lot of air bubbles to form and erupt on the surface. This assures you of a great dosa in the making!
6) Lower the flame now, and leave the dosa on for as long as required, until the sides begin to leave the pan. This assures a crisp dosa.
7) Remove and serve with sambhar and chutney.

Some tips
- Dosa batter turns out better in motorised granite wet grinders. These are available in South India and are used for idli, vada and other batters as well. However, the electric mixer ground batters are also very good.
- If you plan a dosa breakfast, soak the dal and rice the previous afternoon and grind at night. I soak at around 4:00pm and grind at 9:00pm. This allows the batter to be ready just in time for breakfast next day.
- If you love your dosa and dont mind some cholesterol, go ahead and use ghee instead of oil. The dosas taste much better, and the colour becomes golden brown!
-Iron griddles (tava)are best for dosas. However it requires a well prepared griddle, and the first few dosas will always become a mess. However gradually the heat is evened out, resulting is great dosas. If you are not adventurous, and don't like wasting batter, I suggest you go with the non-stick pans!
- If you are in South India - just have dosas at any eatery or any home! If you are elsewhere this recipe will beat what you get outside!
- Check my other blog, for great tasting sambhar and chutney recipes from my mom!

READ MORE - Beer Dosa