Tamarind and Garlic Eggplant Fry

This week was not the most delightful as the kitchen arena was rendered out of commission for nearly the entire length of time. As a result of some stupid pest issues, eating healthy became a trying task as we were forced to eat out while trying not to eat expensively all the time. Food is one of those most beloved subjects that nigh on always has a carte blanche; frugality does not trump healthy and fresh nine times out of ten… unless you are really really reaaaaaaaaally trying to keep all spending down.  No we are not exorbitant spenders. Yes we have very legitimate reasons to want to save some moolah. No I will not be discussing that at the moment. All in good time—trust me, good times are just around the corner—but for now, let’s just leave it at my growing irritation of mounting receipts spent on dining out.

But huzzah! Summon the trumpets and adorn the skies with confetti! We can use our wonderful tiny kitchen once more! And to inaugurate that blissful fact, Mr. G himself decided to cook me up a special treat, incorporating three of my supremely favorite ingredients: Tamarind, Garlic, and Eggplant. Continue reading

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It’s Time We Had a Little Chaat

decked with sevEveryone keeps asking me what amazed/thrilled/amused/enthralled me most about India. The culture? The colors? Extraordinary sites steeped in ancient history? The traffic? Usually I say traffic—I mean, lawlessness barely scratches the surface of describing the bright yellow rickshaws and motorbikes triumphantly steered by sari-clad women.

And oh, the honking. All that melodious, soothing, blaring into the eardrum of your soul honking. Discovering new depths of sound saturation has been crossed off my bucket list, yay.

But naturally food reigned triumphant over all. Despite the family emergencies and various stresses that cropped up while there, food was my saving grace and ever-nurturing companion through thick and thin. And once I uncovered the presence of chaat, my fluttery soul tethered its wings in satiated bliss. You see, as far as I can recall, chaat (a sweet and spicy mixture of yogurt, chutneys, and/or potatoes, garbanzo beans, crispy fried dough/bread/noodles, onions, and so on) has been a coveted treat in my household. Whenever we made a trip to the “Little India” hotspots in southern California (shout out to Cerritos! Holla!) or even to our local Pakistani/Indian vendors (India Sweets & Snacks, I still ponder over your choice in paintings), chaat always found a way into our sights, mouths and tummies. Occasionally in the car ride home too. Continue reading

If Bangkok lived in the suburbs…

… it would probably cry itself to sleep with this as its last meal. Don’t be fooled—the amalgamation of flavors are quite honestly delicious, and I would make this multiple times, especially considering the speed with which it is concocted. That said, I can barely even whisper the connection between this would be-faux-heretical-absurd rendition of pad thai. Hardly even a reimagining, if you will. Nay, I honestly can only call it the pseudo-pad thai of the suburbs.

And why do I say this? Because we are missing: fish sauce, palm sugar, scallions, flat rice noodles (ugh! I’m ashamed to even be sharing this!), to name the key ingredients at least. Nevertheless, I had been craving craving craaaaaaving thai food for ages, but we are on a staunch mission to only eat out once a week as a means of 1) keeping to a stricter healthy regimen and 2) to stimulate smarter economical habits so that I may spend more frivolously should I actually obtain my travel visa in time to visit India with the husband in March. While that is as yet unconfirmed, alas, it doesn’t mean I can’t try to be more wary of spending habits. And thus, the suburban pad thai was born from my kitchen.

But these experiences always remind me that while authentic cuisine is vital to understanding and respecting a culture, playing hickety-spicket with the ingredients is the breeding ground for such classic genres as “Asian fusion,” “Indo-chinese” and “Whatchamacallit” (a personal favorite and frequent guest of our abode).

In truth, I just winged this out of the left side of heaven, and thankfully was blessed with a lovely dinner dish. Continue reading

Pad Thai with Paneer

*Firstly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear sweet husband who puts up with all my shenanigans! You are the inspiration, motivation and guinea pig for this endeavor, so readers should be grateful to him too. :)*

The past 45 minutes were consumed with straining soaked imli (tamarind root) to make my favorite chutney later. While arching my back to alleviate strain and doing leg lifts to glean some form of physical benefit from spending ALL my time in the kitchen this weekend, I remembered a dish I made a few weeks ago, a most delicious if slightly unauthentic pad thai. Don’t misunderstand, I adore abiding by authentic rules and principles when possible, but I’m not going to go buy fish sauce just to make one dish. My sincerest apologies, but my prevailing sentiment is to adjust when necessary.

In fact, I tinkered quite a bit with this dish (was the paneer not a dead giveaway on that point?), not even going to the lengths that I am for the aforementioned chutney; but that of course is for a sublime dish I’m making for Eid-ul-Fitr, the Islamic holiday that follows Ramadan. More on that dish another time though (forgive me for unabashedly grasping for your anticipation). So no, I used a ready-made tamarind paste for this pad thai which can be bought in most grocery stores I presume (I snagged some from my sister-in-law, score!). And of course, I used Paneer (Indian blocks of cheese) rather than tofu. They have a similar firmness but the husband warrants that paneer soaks in more flavor. Since this would hardly be a dish found on the streets of Bangkok, what harm could arise from a bit more tinkering—and thus was born a quick vegetarian pad thai meant to please with ease… and cheese (Oh Alya, did you actually just say that?!? ). Continue reading