Some cool how to cook images:
Image by nimboo
From The NYT
Delhi Snacks Move Up From the Street
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
INDIAN street food is a snack of endless varieties, eaten on the run or on a date, while playing or playing hooky from school. It is served and sometimes entirely prepared on the street. It is eaten while standing, also on the street, usually within whiffing distance of the gutter.
But as incomes rise and ways of eating change, the inevitable has happened. Street food, that emblem of raucous, messy, urban India, is slowly being tamed.
In recent years, it has begun to come indoors, get sterilized, and go upmarket. Most recently, a court order has prompted this city’s government to consider a ban on cooking food outdoors.
Across India, street food can range from the gilauti kebab of Lucknow, skewered lamb so tender that legend says it was invented by a toothless nawab’s cook, to the kathi roll of Calcutta, a deep-fried wrap of grilled meat, raw onion and hot sauce of secret provenance.
The iconic street food of Delhi is chaat, a variety of snacks that are meant to deliver a rave of tastes and sensations to the tongue, from crunchy to soft, tart to hot and sweet. The word is derived from the verb to lick.
A good chaat is a complex assemblage, as pleasure always is, and, by definition, it is not good for you. In Delhi, you can find nearly a dozen different kinds of chaat on the streets. They all involve something fried and starchy, and indulging in chaat requires abandoning all concern for hygiene.
Today, across India, brightly lit fast-food chains offer the standard varieties of chaat. Specialty restaurants self-consciously peddle the nostalgia of the unruly street in the least unruly surroundings of all: the mall. Even at a five-star hotel restaurant called Fire, a slender glass platter of chaat can be sampled, improbably, with a bottle of champagne.
Increasingly in these tamed chaat enclaves, the cooks use gloves for the sake of hygiene. Plastic cups and plates have replaced the cups and plates washed on the side of the road (though to say they are washed is being generous and invariably it is done by children, which is illegal).
The algae-green-colored tamarind juice that is the vital fluid of the type of chaat called pani puri, and that looks exactly like the sort of the thing you should not ingest, is now prepared with mineral water — and advertised as such at some of Delhi’s oldest chaat establishments.
The pani puri, also known as the gol gappa, or phoochka, depending on which part of the country you’re in, is a deep-fried hollow shell that is deftly punctured by the chef’s thumb, stuffed with boiled potato, dunked in the aforementioned green juice, and ferried from the hand that makes to the hand that eats. That intimate public exchange is as central to its pleasure as the hot-sour explosion on the palate.
Not surprisingly, a recent government-sponsored survey of street food vendors across India found “poor knowledge” of food- and water-borne diseases. Most vendors, the study found, threw their trash on the roadside and did not decontaminate water used to clean utensils or serve for drinking. Even more remarkably, the study found that on the hygiene survey, fast-food restaurants did not fare much better.
The pani puri has been repackaged in sterile and unexpected ways. Haldiram’s, an Indian fast-food chain, offers the shells in a sealed plastic bag, which you have to puncture and dunk in juice yourself. A trendy restaurant chain called Punjabi by Nature offers an inventive cocktail built around the pani puri: Two potato-filled shells are served with a shot of vodka infused with green chili and lime, along with a glass of draft beer as chaser.
As in everything in India today, the old co-exists effortlessly with the new.
And so one afternoon under a blazing mid-April sun, devotees of old-style chaat huddled near the acclaimed Prabhu Chaat Bhandar, a grouping of hot stoves propped up on a wooden platform, shaded by four large umbrellas, in a narrow alley of dogs, cars and trash in the heart of the capital.
Shubha Dua, 22, and four college friends had come for one of their regular lunch breaks. They sat squeezed inside a small car, all holding in their hands small foil plates of papri chaat, a blend of crisp wafers, yogurt, tamarind and spice.
They said they chose not to think about the cleanliness of the fingers that had blended their chaat. “We’re not looking over there,” is how Ms. Dua put it. They wouldn’t mind if the alley were a bit cleaner, they said, or if the flies could be kept away. Still, they confessed, they were lured here, week after week. You could customize your chaat to your taste, they said — ask for a bit more heat or a bit more sourness, or adjust the amount of yogurt. The mall chaat, they said, wasn’t the same, or as cheap. Prabhu’s chaats go for about 50 cents a plate.
Naresh Chand Jain, a vendor of betel leaves who came one afternoon for his regular helping, insisted that the pani puri juice at Prabhu’s had the power to cure all stomach ailments. (Prabhu’s pani puris are indeed so perfectly tart and refreshing that his theory seems entirely credible.)
For a contrast, there’s Fire, the cool, posh restaurant at the Park Hotel. The chaat platter comes with five items, all largely traditional fare, but arranged for the contemporary cuisine set, between mounds of thinly sliced cucumbers, carrots and beets, which gives it a deceptive air of healthfulness.
The raj kachori, a large deep-fried shell, is stuffed with two varieties of sprouts, green chilies and dollops of sweetened yogurt. True to tradition, the papri chaat is blended by hand. There are also deep-fried vegetable pakoras; chickpea dumplings in a spiced yogurt sauce called dahi bhalla; and the least successful of all, a deep-fried spinach leaf topped with yogurt and spice.
The chaat maker’s signature lies in his sonth, a sweet tamarind chutney whose recipe he is likely to zealously guard (Fire’s exceptionally tasty sonth incorporates dry ginger powder from the desert state of Rajasthan), and his masala, a spice mixture that in this kitchen can take up everything from rock salt and roasted cumin to crushed pomegranates and dried mango powder.
The perfect chaat, said Fire’s executive chef, Bakshish Dean, must “thrill” the brain. Here, it is not a cheap thrill; a chaat platter for two, spectacularly garnished with fenugreek sprouts, can set you back roughly , or easily five times the Indian daily minimum wage.
A more modest version of domesticated chaat can be found at City Square, one of dozens of new malls that have lately mushroomed across Delhi. One of the mall’s sit-down restaurants, Khaaja Chowk, exploits street kitsch in its décor but produces workaday chaats that taste exactly like what they are: food made in the mall. Upstairs, in a food court crammed with purveyors of pizza and nachos, as well as mutton sheekh kebab, is a place that calls itself Street Foods of India and promises the roadside snacks of Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar, in the west.
Neelima Chadha, out shopping one Saturday, was unimpressed with what she called the “refined” taste of air-conditioned mall chaat. “If you want street food you go to the street,” was her verdict. She dug instead into a platter of fried bread and vegetables.
Street foods in the mall do not immediately threaten the street food of Delhi, but the roadside vendors may well have to change the way they do business. A court order earlier this year directed the city to ban the cooking of food outdoors, though not the sale of precooked foods. The city has yet to issue final rules, but it is likely to usher in changes to chaat-making.
The chaat makers along Chandni Chowk, in the tourist-filled old walled city, for instance, fry their potatoes outside, though most of the chaat fixings do not require cooking.
Those who would be most affected by the proposed ban are those for whom street food is the stuff of sustenance, not leisure. The daily meals for the city’s rickshaw pullers, porters, construction workers and the like are all made outside. Rice and curries are prepared in giant vats, fresh bread is baked in clay ovens all under the shade of a tree or a sooty tarpaulin. Because there is little or no overhead — for example, the cost of indoor kitchens or refrigerators — the food is exceptionally cheap. A full meal costs roughly 25 cents.
“Every day, they are passing new laws,” said Kamal Yadav, 16, who runs his family’s open-air lunch counter near Chandni Chowk. “Where will the poor go to eat?”
Not far away, in the heart of Parantha Wali Gali in Hindi — literally “the alley of the maker of parantha,” a fried flatbread — an old Delhi hand was mulling new possibilities.
Rajesh Sharma, who manages his family’s 117-year-old restaurant, said people who drive around in air-conditioned cars “can’t digest these paranthas.” Business, he said, had begun to slow down in the alley, heavy with flies and the smell of the ghee — clarified butter — he uses to fry the bread.
He said he had begun negotiating for a stall at a new mall across town.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Sharma, someone had beaten him to it. In the food court next to Street Foods of India there is already a stall that borrowed its name from this alley. “Parawthe Wali Gali,” it called itself.
SOME of the foods sold at street stalls in India are also available at the following places in the New York area:
BENGALI SWEET HOUSE 836 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, (201) 798-9241, and other locations; www.bengalisweet.com.
BOMBAY TALKIE 189 Ninth Avenue (21st Street), (212) 242-1900.
CHOWPATTY 1349 Oak Tree Road, Iselin, N.J., (732) 283-9020; chowpattyfoods.com.
DELHI PALACE 37-33 74th Street (37th Avenue), Jackson Heights, Queens, (718) 507-0666.
DIMPLE 11 West 30th Street, (212) 643-9464.
MAHARAJA 73-10 37th Avenue (73rd Street), Jackson Heights, Queens, (718) 505-2680.
MASALA BOLLYWOOD 108 Lexington Avenue (27th Street), Murray Hill; (212) 679-1284.
RAJBHOG 72-27 37th Avenue (72nd Street), Jackson Heights, Queens, (718) 458-8512, and other locations; rajbhog.com.
SATKAR 806 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, (201) 963-6309.
SHALIMAR RESTAURANT 1335 Oak Tree Road, Iselin, N.J., (732) 283-3350.
SUKHADIA’S 17 West 45th Street, (212) 395-7300, and other locations; sukhadia.com.
Fresh Chocolate Chip Cookies
Image by Rachel Ford James
My cookie recipes change every time I make them (it’s fun when you realize how to modify recipes), but here’s the recipe for this actual batch:
Rachel’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
Preheat oven to 375°.
In a large bowl, cream together:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 to 2 cups white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 oz semi-sweet/dark chocolate (one bag, or half a bag and some chopped up chocolate)
1/2 cup pecans/walnuts
1/3 cup craisins/dried cherries
substitute 3/4 cup M&Ms for 3/4 cup of chocolate
Scoop out small balls of dough and drop onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8-14 minutes, until cooked but still soft. Cool on wire racks.
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