Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bengali Shingara -- not a samosa

There are samosas,the unique conical shaped Indian pies(in lack of a better word) made with pastry dough and stuffed with spiced potatoes, peas or mince meat and fried in hot oil, and then there are shingaras, the Bengali version of the same. Now don't you go and offend a Bengali, by saying that a shingara is same as samosa but only smaller. Never say that!

Bengalis are very possessive about their shingara, a popular snack served with steaming cups of tea, be it Darjeeling tea served in fancy china or sweetened bha(n)rer cha served in earthenware cups. While many upscale Bengali mashimas will look down upon aloor chop or telebhaja from the street, they will not blink a eye when offered these small triangle shaped delights from the neighborhood Kalika Mishtanno Bhandar, stuffed with potatoes-cauliflowers-sweet pea(the aloo phulkopir shingara being the favorite) in winter or potatoes and peanuts at other times of the year.

Growing up in Bihar, I was more familiar with the larger samosas from the stores, which I of course loved. The Bangali Shingara was something that was home made. Come winter, my Mother would be up in arms, steaming potatoes and cauliflowers, making conical structures from dough, like magic and frying up hot, hot shingaras. They were delicious and you could have as many of them. They were home made after all.

Potato-peas filling for shingara

Later, when we moved to this small town in Bengal, the shingara war was won by the local sweet-maker, Shotu, who fried batches of perfect shingara and made heavenly cream-chops in his shack like store known famously as "Shotu'r Dokan"!

Shotu'r shingara showed up at snack time, in our house, almost two or three times a week. Every afternoon around 5 in the evening,a huge black kadhai filled with oil would be put on the coal stove, at his store; mounds and mounds of alabaster white dough made of maida would be rolled into circular discs on glistening wooden boards; they were then stuffed and sealed in the blink of an eye; and suspended in the hot oil where they would be fried to flaky golden brown perfection.

My mother still made shingaras on some Sundays. Unlike me, she is one who fries stuff just because she wants to and not needs to. I mean, if I got perfect shingaras hot off the oil from a store, 2 miles away, I would have never made them at home.

Heck, I don't make them even when I don't get it at any store in my driving radius. We make do with samosas from the Indian stores, but I don't really like their stuffing. We love the Chicken samosas from Trader Joe's but there covering leaves a lot to desire. Sometimes for parties, we get the frozen samosas from the Indian stores, Swad or some such brand. They are ok. But honestly, none of them is a shingara.
There is my favorite Bengali caterer who does make great shingaras, with fried peanuts et al but he makes them only when there is a large order and that does not happen very often.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

KaanchaLonka Dhonepata Baked Fish

The weather has been amazingly warm for February in the last few days. Being from a warm country, I am not very fond of snowy winters, but such high temperatures scare me. With the new administration, there is little thought being given to global warming though it stares us in the face and even my 8 year old understands the impact it can have. If the EPA is not allowed to do the job it should, it is ultimately we, the humans who lose out in the long run.

We went snow tubing this past weekend. It was sunny and warm and the snow had turned to slush in parts. No one even needed a gloves or a cap.  The kids had a whole lot of fun but in a couple of decades we might have to do this whole snow world in a controlled environment indoors.

Now to this Green Chili Coriander Fish baked in the oven which is  much loved in our home. Big Sis is happiest when dinner is this particular fish dish and rice. It is also so easy to make that I don't have to do any prep work if the ingredients are at hand.

Surprisingly, this fish was inspired by a Lemon-Coriander Fish not from any Michelin starred restaurant but my Etihaad flight last year. I have not seen anyone else take their in-flight dinner so seriously, that too an in-flight dinner devoured in company of absolute strangers in a tight economy seat. But I had honestly liked the fish they had served with couscous.

It had uplifted my spirits even even when I was missing all the tyangra jhal charchari and golda chingri that I was leaving behind. As much as I like my golda chingri kalia, I know that it is not what I will rustle up for a weeknight dinner. For that, inspiration has to come from elsewhere. In this case, it was at 40,000 ft high!

Soon after I came home,I searched up the recipe and then tweaked it enough to make it kick-ass Bengali. Few green chilies will do that for you!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Thai Red Curry with Shrimp -- comfort food

Thai food is comfort food for us. Well at least for the two adults and the teen. Little Sis does not like Thai food!

Don't ask me how this is possible but the more I see my kids, the more I want to get their DNA checked. I don't know where they carry these traits from. So anyway for a long time all that Little Sis would eat at our favorite Thai place was their jasmine rice with a little bowl of ketchup+hot sauce on the side. I was okay with it as long as there was no impediment to my pad thai. As she grew older and became an active member in voting "Where do we go out for dinner on Saturdays?", she also became a vociferous opponent of our favorite Thai place. Imagine the horror. Instead of a nice bowl of Tom Yum soup we were being subjected to mac n cheese, how so ever gourmet it may be.

Only recently she has taken an infinitesimal amount of liking for Tom Yum soup which she eats with a side of jasmine rice. As long as she does not vote out our Thai place, I really don't care.

Now, since making a Thai Red curry is something which has a huge ROI, with little work to do and a huge return on flavor, I make a Thai red curry at home often. Little Sis does not eat it but Big Sis slurps it up. It really is a pretty simple dish to make if you have these two ingredients. Thai Red Curry Paste and a Can of coconut milk. I like the Maesri brand of red curry paste and have not tried other kinds.

To make a Chicken Thai Red Curry follow this recipe

Today we will make Shrimp Thai red Curry

Shrimp Thai Red Curry

Start off with 1 lb of fresh or frozen raw shrimp. If you are buying fresh shrimp, buy the ones without the head. Clean the shrimp which means take out the black thread like thingy on the back of the shrimp and rinse in running water. Toss the shrimp in salt and keep aside

Fry 1 small onion, chopped in pieces, cool and make a paste

Heat canola or vegetable oil in a wide pan

Saute the shrimp lightly until they change their raw coloring. Take out and keep aside

To the same oil add 2 cloves of garlic minced. If you have Thai Basil leaves, add about 3-4 of them too.

Once you get a beautiful flavor, add the Onion paste and fry for a minute

Add 1 red bell pepper and 1 green bell pepper chopped in medium sized strips. Saute for 2 minutes

When the Pepper turns soft add 2-3 tbsp of the Red Curry Paste. Saute and cook with sprinkle of water for the next 2-3 minutes

If you have bamboo shoots,add 1/2 a can of bamboo shoots. Saute

Add 1 can of Coconut Milk + 1/2 Cup of water. Mix well and adjust for salt. Let the gravy come to a simmer. I usually let it simmer at low-medium heat for 6-8 minutes as I see it helps the flavors to blend well.

Add 1 tsp sugar and cook to desired consistency. By this time the gravy will have a beautiful color.

Now add the cooked shrimp and let the gravy simmer for 2 more minutes.

At the very end add the Lime Zest or Kafir Lime Leaves. Serve with rice.

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