Monday, March 23, 2015

Green Mango and Dal Salad



Every so often I celebrate some festival from the Hindu calendar. And by celebrate I mean I cook up a multi-course meal. This weekend is no different. Gudi Padva comes around again, marking the beginning of this year's calendar.  I resurrect my minuscule faux gudi, wish my sis much happiness and begin cooking. 

My thali comes together easily. I start with shrikhand. Yogurt needs a couple of hours to drain off wheybefore it is whipped together with sugar and saffron. I roast eggplants to make bhareet, a cold mash made with chilies and coconut milk. Butternut squash cubes are toasted with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Zucchini and patrel cook till they are mushy. Cauliflower simmers in coconut milk. Thinly slivered, generously spiced, okra are shallow-fried till crisp. Dal, flavored with cumin seeds and curry leaves, bubbles gently. Glenn becomes an expert poori fryer. The kitchen is filled with the enticing aroma of cooked basmati rice. The blender whirs noisily as I grind coconut and cilantro chutney. I rinse the blender and start a salad I used to make a long time ago. 

I first ate green mango salad when I was sixteen. A religious function at a friends house results in my lifelong romance with this deceptively simple salad. It is crunchy, tart, sweet and salty. All in one bite!  The bite comes from uncooked Bengal Gram lentils. Chana dal, as it is called, is usually boiled to make a creamy curry. In this recipe chana dal needs a long soak in water and a quick pulse in a blender or processor. Grated green mango, flaked coconut, cilantro and a bunch of spices give the salad a definite boost in flavor. A short stint in the fridge lets ingredients marry well.


GREEN MANGO AND DAL SALAD
Serves 4-6

3/4 cup Bengal Gram Dal
2 cups Water
1 raw Green Mango
1/4 cup fresh grated Coconut
1/4 cup Cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
3 Curry Leaves


Wash dal in several changes of water. Soak dal in water for 4 hours.




Drain water and pulse dal roughly in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds.

Scrape pulsed dal into a bowl. 

Grate mango, including the outer skin. Add mango to dal.




Add coconut to dal.

Chop cilantro finely and add to bowl.

Season salad with salt and sugar.

Sliver curry leaves.

Heat canola oil in a small cast iron pan.

When it shimmers, add mustard seeds and sliced curry leaves. Wait a few seconds as they splutter and then pour contents of pan onto dal. 








Mix well and chill the salad before serving.




Celebrations are auspicious occasions, perfect moments to gather friends at my table. Col, Keith, Roy, Mary Lou are familiar faces on thali days. Vimal and Noel grace my table for the first time. Assembling the thalis is a lengthy affair. Demolishing the contents are a snap. The meal proceeds convivially as my guests enjoy the repast. Everyone remarks on their favorites. Noel is the only person who has tasted the mango salad before. It takes him back to Belgaum days. A smattering of salad remains. All he needs is a gentle nudge.. And it's gone!





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lemon Pudding




When you have a friendship that goes back 35-40 years you cherish it. You nurture it. You revel in its glory. The four of us have countless escapades to reflect and postulate. We started out as gangly teenagers, living in the moment, walking enthusiastically into our future. Lucky to have a lifetime of vivid memories, we reverently count our blessings.







Madeleine, Christine and Tuki come from three corners of the continent. The weekend is a blur of regurgitated memories, obsessive examination of old photographs, deep analysis or our collective neurosis and the resounding sound of infectious laughter. All this punctuated by long lunches, dinners and plenty of tongue lubricant! I pan fry blackened tilapia with corn pilaf. Crusty roasted pears are stuffed with Gorgonzola. Frankies are rolled in eggy tortillas. Baba Ghanoush forms a smoky spread on crackers. Madeleine quickly puts together a scrumptious shrimp and sausage paella. Meals consist of insane quantities of shrimp and grits, crab cakes and calamari, with a token side of salad! Christine and Tuki take over clean up duty. And every meal has to culminate in dessert. Sweet teeth override dietary restrictions. We nibble delicious pistachio pops. We divide mini sweet potato, key lime and buttermilk pies into equal portions. I make affogato. Madeleine brings an intriguing supari cake! Yes... A cake that's flavored with supari!!!! Delicious to the Indian palate. And I make my favorite lemon pudding.

My Mum found this recipe in her Better Homes & Garden Dessert Cookbook. I can still see the splattered page having used the book on many occasions. She made it in ramekins, in casseroles and in Pyrex. It was always a big hit every time she baked it. Not just with home folk, but everyone who took a spoonful. This pudding assembles in a jiffy. The result is a light, fluffy cake layer, that hides creamy lemon custard. Batter separates as it bakes,  creating a layered pudding. Run your spoon through the pudding and you are rewarded with a bite of moist lemon cake along with a schmear of lemon custard. Fresh tasting, light as a feather and seriously addictive.


LEMON PUDDING
Serves 4-6

3 Eggs
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 tablespoon Canola Oil
2 teaspoon Lemon zest
1/2 cup Lemon juice
1/4 cup Flour
1 cup Sugar
A pinch of Kosher Salt


Separate eggs. Beat yolks lightly. Keep whites aside.

Heat milk till it begins to boil. It should be scalding hot.




Add a little hot milk to yolks, beating vigorously so the yolks do not scramble. Slowly add the yolks to hot milk stirring well to incorporate.




Add canola oil to milk.

Mix sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.







Pour hot milk into flour mixture and whisk well to mix.

Beat egg whites till stiff peaks form.




Gently fold egg whites into lemon batter. Use a rubber spatula to turn and fold. Do not over mix. 




Heat oven to 350F.

Scrape batter into a 6"x9" glass baking dish.

Place baking dish in a large pan. 

Pour up to an inch of hot water into the larger pan . 

Bake for 25-30 minutes. The top should be dotted with a few light brown spots.

Serve pudding warm.



NOTES

The pudding could be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving. 

You could use ramekins to make individual portions. This recipe would make 8-10 portions.









We talk about lost loves over coffee. We laugh at our outrageous storied past eating banana chips. We drink snake juice aka vodka and peach schnapps till it becomes a truth serum. We eat copious amounts of food while lamenting our lack of willpower, carb overload and the state of our menopausal bodies. We eat spoonfuls of lemon air. Again and again. No plates needed. Satisfaction comes with sweetness and the desire to be, as Tuki calls us, bosom buddies.















Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chilli Chicken




Indian Chinese is always a favorite with the family. It's spicy, flavorful, going in the opposite direction of  its inspiration, traditional Chinese. Native to the Indian subcontinent, this cuisine absorbs and blends, resulting in a cross breed unlike any other. It has spoilt me for the American corner shop Chinese. Give me Schezhwan or Hunan Chinese to make my taste buds sing. 

It's chilli chicken tonight. As always, this cuisine involves a lot of prep. I mince garlic and ginger. Slice an insane amount of chilies. Small pieces of boneless chicken benefit from a marinade. Seasonings get thrown into a hot wok, filling my senses with memories of family meals at Chinese Room, Flora, Chopsticks and China Garden. Sadly, none of these Bombay restaurants exist anymore. Now the fusion of Indian and Chinese exists in some form all over India, from roadside cafes to myriads of restaurants. Menus feature Moghlai, South Indian and Indo-Chinese creations, all emerging from one kitchen!! 

What irks me about stir frying is that you have to make it just before you eat!! A problem when the meal has several components! I make sweet corn soup. Some cauliflower Manchurian and chicken. Soup is slurped while I finish the rest. 


CHILLI CHICKEN
Serves 4

1 pound skinless boneless Chicken Thighs
1 Egg
1/2 teaspoon Soy Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder
1 tablespoon Flour
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
3-4 tablespoons Canola Oil
6 cloves Garlic
4-6 1 inch slices Ginger
1 Onion
1 Red Pepper
6 Green Chiles
1 cup Chicken Stock
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese Black Vinegar
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
1 tablespoon Water
3 Green Onions


Wash, trim and cut chicken into 1 inch pieces.

Add egg, soy sauce, chile powder, flour, cornstarch and black pepper to chicken. Mix well and keep aside for 1 hour.




Sliver garlic cloves vertically.

Peel and cut onion into broad slices.

Cut red pepper into small pieces.

Slice chiles on a bias into chunks.

Slice green onions on a bias into 1 inch pieces.




Mix chicken stock, soy sauce and vinegar.

Make a slurry of corn starch and water.



Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a nonstick saucepan.

Shallow fry chicken pieces till brown and crusty on one side, then flip and do the same on the other side. You might have to do the frying in two batches. Drain and keep fried chicken aside.







Heat remaining oil in a wok till it shimmers.

Add onion and peppers and stir fry for a few minutes.

Drop in garlic, ginger slices and sliced chiles. Saute.

Pour stock mixture and let it come to a boil.




Drizzle the cornstarch slurry slowly stirring all the time so it doesn't lump up.

Let the sauce boil for a minute and then add fried chicken.





Drop green onions into sauce, stir and serve chicken.




Dinner gets done in a flurry of woks and saucepans. Chopsticks clickety clack as we pick our way through the meal. I do not envy the one who is to wash up as there are mounds of pans and woks. No complaints though, just happy eaters!!




Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chickpea and Swiss Chard Ribbolita




Since the weather outside is frightful the aroma in my kitchen should be delightful. A hearty soup bubbling on the fire will achieve poetic justice. I read an Ottolenghi soup recipe but as usual I am missing several key ingredients. Not despairing, I rearrange items according to the contents of the fridge. I have several leafy greens, heeding nutritional advice. A big bunch of Swiss chard is my go to veggie this week. I use it in pancakes, with butternut squash in a quick saute and now, slivered, adds a wonderful green dimension to soup. 

Onions, garlic, celery and carrots glisten with a thin coating of olive oil. My trusty bags of homegrown frozen tomatoes provide ample flavor. Splashes of Marsala offer a quirky taste. Fresh herbs like thyme and parsley give a peppery taste to the broth. I rinse a can of chickpeas and add them to the bubbling broth. A huge heap of slivered Swiss chard goes in next. Ribbolita is usually thickened with peasant bread. But I love the tangy taste of sourdough.  I toast  and dice some slices. These go in last. A quick stir and soup is served.


CHICKPEA AND SWISS CHARD RIBBOLITA 
Serves 4


2 tablespoons Olive oil
I Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1 large rib Celery
1 Carrot
1/2 cup Parsley
1/4 cup Marsala
2 tablespoons Tomato Puree
5-6 sprigs Thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
2 large Tomatoes
1 can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
5-6 leaves Swiss Chard
4 cups Water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
2 large slices Sourdough Bread


Chop onion into small pieces.

Slice garlic, celery and carrots into small chunks.

Heat olive oil in a deep saucepan or Dutch oven.

Drop onion and garlic into oil and saute for a few minutes till onion is translucent.

Add celery and carrot. Saute. 




Tomato puree and Marsala goes in and gets stirred for a few minutes.




Chop parsley roughly. Add to vegetables.

Remove thyme leaves off the stems and add to saute.

Rough chop tomatoes and add to saute along with oregano. Let tomatoes cook till they become pulpy.




At this point add water, rinsed chickpeas and seasonings. Let soup come to a low boil.

Wash and cut Swiss chard into thin slivers. Add to bubbling soup.




Let soup bubble on a medium flame for 10 minutes.

Crisp up sourdough bread either over an open flame or in a toaster. Cut into 1 inch pieces.




Add bread to soup, cook for a few minutes and serve the soup piping hot.








This unending winter heaps it's snowy powder on us once again. I look out at a pristine white backyard. Then I look down at my soup bowl with its delightful shades of tomato red, chickpea beige, carrot orange and chard green. Everyone is 'bowled' over by my hearty ribbolita!











Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pork Stew with Poblano and Black Beans



Every week for the past  thirty odd years I wait with a frisson of excitement for the Food section of the New York Times. This section fires my culinary landscape, thrills the gourmet in me, transports me to restaurant kitchens I will never visit and provides me with a burgeoning stack of clipped recipes. For those of us from the cave man days....yes....we clip and paste!!!

My heart flutters a little on Wednesdays. I happily discover another keeper in this week's paper. A parade of culinary geniuses have contributed their expertise in the section called A Good Appetite. The most recent, Melissa Clark has been inventing and reinventing recipes for a few years. They are contemporary and innovative. Her techniques are uncomplicated. Her commentary is insightful and informative. Her palate is sophisticated, yet surprisingly simple. So I wade enthusiastically into her recipe for green chorizo. 

The recipe calls for ground pork, to me a better option than ground beef or lamb. It's gets its green color from a paste of poblano chiles and garlic. The trouble with me is I like to change it up a bit. Go in another direction. I add more garlic and poblanos. I leave out the serrano chile. I cut down the amount of black beans and tomatoes. And it still smells amazing, bubbling away on the stove. 


PORK STEW WITH POBLANO CHILES AND BLACK BEANS
Serves 4 

1 pound ground Pork
1 teaspoon whole Black Peppercorns
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
1 small dried Bay Leaf
4 Cloves
2 Poblano Chiles
10 cloves Garlic, unpeeled
1/2 cup Parsley
1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon Canola Oil
1 medium Onion
1/2 cup Cilantro Stems
1 cup cooked Black Beans
1 large Tomato
1/2-3/4 cup Water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Cilantro to garnish

Place pork in a bowl.

Heat a cast iron pan over a high flame for a few minutes.

Add peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, oregano, bay leaf and cloves and toast till spices are aromatic and slightly singed.

Transfer to a spice grinder and whizz to a fine powder.

Return cast iron pan to a high flame.

Throw in garlic cloves with their skin on. 

Add poblano chiles to pan. They will sizzle and pop.


Turn chiles and garlic from time to time till they are soft, about 8-10 minutes.

Set aside to cool.

Peel garlic and drop into the bowl of a food processor.

Slice poblanos in half and remove seeds. Chop the chiles into 1inch pieces and add to processor bowl.



Add sherry vinegar, parsley and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and purée. The paste should have some texture and not be completely smooth.




Add paste to pork along with ground spices. Mix well and let pork sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. Let it come to room temperature before using.




Heat canola oil in a deep saucepan over a high flame.

Cut onion into rough chunks and add to oil. Sauté for a few minutes till translucent.

Add chorizo and roughly chopped cilantro stems. Stir occasionally for a few minutes till all the water has dried up.



Cut tomato in chunks and add to pork.

Add black beans, water and salt and let meat come to boil. 




Lower flame to medium and let the meat cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serve hot with tortillas or rice.




The aroma of braising pork anoints the kitchen. My olfactory senses are assaulted by sharp chiles, cilantro and of course browned meat. The combination has the same power as the Pied Piper's tune. My men are quickly drawn to the table. I heat tortillas along with a rice pilaf. It is a simple but tongue-tingling dinner. Thank you Melissa Clark for once again taking me down a road I would've never thought to travel.












Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Oven Roasted Tri-Tip Steak




The comfort of my kitchen calls like a siren song. I ease back into my domain effortlessly. Reaching for a familiar knife, making a pot of espresso, hands holding my mug of hot tea...all these daily rituals bring solace to my heart. Nothing like absence as the old adage says!!!

I find tri-tip at the store! Joy! I like this cut of beef. Popular in California, the triangular shapes cooks well. Holds up to a spicy rub. And since my grill is icebound, sizzles aromatically in the oven. I use Geets' rub recipe. She has made this for us a couple of times. Love it, love it. Her rub is a gritty mix of coffee grounds, spices, garlic and onion. Steak is massaged and marinated. An overnight stint in the fridge as I have the time. I let it rest before it roasts. A burning hot cast iron pan is the secret to crusty roast beef. USE YOUR VENT!!! Sear the meat and send the smoking pan into a hot oven. Voila...30 minutes later, a perfectly cooked medium-rare piece of beef!!!


OVEN ROASTED TRI-TIP STEAK
Serves 4

1 2 lb Tri-Tip
1 tablespoon Olive oil

Rub
2 tablespoons Coffee grounds
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Chile powder
1 tablespoon Ancho Chile powder
1 tablespoon Oregano
2 teaspoons Garlic powder
1 teaspoon Onion powder
2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt



Combine all the spices for the rub. 



Liberally sprinkle the Tri-tip with the rub. Store any leftover rub in a jar for future use.

Massage spices into the meat.



Marinate overnight or for at least 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 425F.

Place a cast iron pan on a high flame. Let the pan heat for 5 minutes or so.  


Drizzle olive oil over steak.

Sear the steak in hot pan for 2 minutes on each side. 




Place pan in oven and let meat roast 30 minutes uncovered for medium-rare, 35-40 minutes for medium. 




Remove from oven and place steak on a cutting board to rest for 5-7 minutes. Cover loosely with foil.

Slice thinly and serve with your choice of vegetables and sides



Steak knives emerge from their wood container. The cast iron pan has worked it's magic as I see a crusty, dark brown slab of meat emerge from the oven. A short rest and it's the moment of truth. We slice into medium-rare pieces of flavorsome meat. Smashed potatoes and roasted carrots pair seamlessly with steak. Once again I am happily reunited with my hearth and home. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Seefood Diet -Part 2




My ma-in-law says she eats to live. I beg to differ as my reasons are quite the opposite. Everyday is a chance to step into a new adventure, be it food, philosophy or plain practicality. With these adages in mind I pick up my fork in Pune. Prassy feeds me many morsels. Sitaphul kheer that has me in paroxysms of pleasure. Each spoonful is savored and relished. I eat bowlfuls and then move on to a plate of fresh sitaphuls. Then again I know I will not get to eat the fruit for a long time. She doles out a ghee flavored red carrot halwa, which reminds me of Mum's winter predilection with this dessert. We only ate gajar halwa in January to March as these large red carrots are cultivated around this time of the year. And by large, I mean carrots that are 15 to 18 long!!

By happy coincidence I bump into an old college friend, Vaman.  he invites us for a home cooked meal of cauliflower, fried fish, freshly made phulkas, dal and rice. I appreciate the simple version of a Maharashtrian thali more than he will know. Another dear friend crosses my path. Jyothi and I go back some thirty odd years when we worked together at Contemporary Arts & Crafts. I carry with me her zest for life, her zany sense of humor, but most of all her ability to laugh at herself! We share stories, her memory being sharper than mine! Being from the south she promises me filter coffee. I watch as she expertly froths the coffee. I take a foamy, milky sip. Among coffee notes is a sharp ginger flavor, that increases with each sip! I figure that she has tried a new version of madras coffee. Jyo too sips hers, with a confounded expression. We query about the taste. Realization dawns as she figures the coffee thermos she uses regularly houses her strongly flavored ginger tea!!! This reason is cause for much merriment as a tiger really cannot change his stripes!!! What I cherish is after all these years that Jyo is still Jyo! 




The week begins with a series of invites from my sister's friends. Falguni, treats us to dinner at La Plasir. This tiny 6 table bistro serves amped up French/Italian small plates. We share a delectable fresh fig and buffalo Mozzerella salad. Indian inspired ratatouille comes rolled in hearty whole wheat crepes. Pasta Aglio Olio swims in chile flecked butter. We ooh and aah as we share plates. Another friend Reena, dishes up a typical Maharashtrian meal, served with a most intriguing garlic tarka dal. Atul and Aarti invite us to their house for an evening where art and food feed heart and soul. Puneri hospitality at its best!!!!

We make a few incursions into South East Asian cuisine. Sun Moi satisfies  the Indian Chinese palate, with crisp, coriander chile coated prawns, not once but twice. A really tiny Vietnamese restaurant makes us sit crossed legged on not so plump cushions. A large meal of pho, pork bun noodles and really fresh summer rolls leaves us struggling to get off the floor!! Cafe Maroo, a Korean surprise, offers us a large beef repertoire in spite of a severe shortage of beef in the state.

I crave home-cooked food, so Prassy parades her repertoire. Pomfret fry. Mutton curry. Methi bhaji. Batata vada. Bheja fry. Crab curry. Stir fried prawns. Melt in your mouth dahi vadas. Paani puri. Ragda pattice. Hot jalebis with rabdi. Freshly made chappatis painted with ghee. And that piece de resistance, sitaphul kheer. I feel and look like that thanksgiving bird. Dog walking is the mandatory form of exercise!!!

We cook together a few times. I make squid ink pasta, zucchini pancakes and stir fried veggies. A meager contribution after my sister's Herculean effort.

I am sad leaving this place where I am coddled and cosseted. The warmth of family envelops and binds me to my sister. I know I will be back sooner than later.









Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Seefood diet-Part 1




These words from Virginia Woolf has become my undoing. I haven't indulged in my favorite pastime for a few weeks now. Instead I have diligently followed the above mantra.  I am halfway across the world in India, where I have been wined and dined, always with an amazing amount of love and affection and always accompanied with many a culinary delight. I truly wish I could paint you the panoramic version of the many scrumptious meals I have consumed. But you will have to settle for this abbreviated mouthwatering verbiage.

I start my Bombay journey with a eye-popping meal at Masala Library. We sit down to a succession of small plates. Our meal is launched with an amusing bouche of molecular gastronomy....an air bubble filled with thandai!! Dried mushroom and truffle chai follows, poured table side. An exquisite thair sadam or yogurt rice, with chili coated plantain chips comes with a melt in your mouth curry leaf spiced fried prawn, nestled into the cool rice. I am transported to Kerala in a bite. Crispy, spicy, cool, I marvel at the perfect marriage. An explosion of southern flavors echo with each bite. I do not want these mouthfuls to end. I look in askance at the next course. The delightfully presented chicken tikka doesn't fail to delight. Across the table my sister slices a peanut coated masala scallop, cooked perfectly. G tucks into a large pork rib, covered with a bhoot jolokia chile. The spiciest chile in the world sets his mouth is on fire. Ours too as we nibble from each other's plates. Masala coated lamb chops and duck wings in a spice laden plum sauce amaze our taste buds. All of are treated to patra-ni-macchi, a small square of fish blanketed in coriander sauce. The fish swims in a rasam like broth flavored with the same sauce. One mouthful satisfies a whole range of emotions!! At this point I would like to walk away from the table replete. I cannot as the main courses arrive with much fanfare. We cover all proteins. Fish moilee, duck legs and laal maas are plated with maa ki daal, mini dahi vadas, fresh kulchas and rice. We look upon in horror and fascination as I know I would like to eat a few spoonfuls of dessert. I raise my fork valiantly and eat small bites. At this time the concept of small plates is long gone!!! Desserts wow. A ras malai tower teeters as we chip away at it. The crunch of jalebi caviar and rabdi amuses the palate. The check comes with pan flavored cotton candy. Jiggs Kalra elevates the ordinary and treats us to an extraordinary feast of the eyes and senses. 



Another delicious meal is eaten at Pancharatna in the heart of Pune. We are there to attend my niece's wedding.The celebration starts at Ayesha's Roce with chili fry spring rolls, batter coated Chinese style fried mushrooms, kismoor or dried shrimp salad, sannas (yeasted rice cakes) and fish curry. I am afraid to fill my plate for fear that the dress I have brought for the wedding, will not fit!! Though it is a fleeting fear.

The wedding passes in a flurry of feasting and fun. We are off to Penang to eat roti canai in its native land. Penang is familiar and different. Walking past colonial buildings reminds us happily of Goa. Our hotel is a hidden gem, literally, tucked away behind a row of ginger blossoms. Our friend and Penang resident Sharmila, guides us to the right places. I tick items off my mental check list as we dip into curry and roti at 10 at Line Clear. 


She lives in Penang so we see the island through a local's eyes, walking through wet markets, bakeries, and fruit stands. We eat the same way too, mounds of rice with fish head curry. Penang Hill draws us up in the funicular just as the sun sets. We watch as dusk turns into night, a spectacle of twinkling lights spreading below us. Dinner is a ridiculously cheap meal. Beef rendang, chicken kapitan curry, murtabak, roti jala, huge plates of rice and drinks come to a princely amount of $6. The food is fresh, tasty and cheap cheap cheap!!! We do not miss out on the coconut sorbet and kit kat ice cream at Safe Room. We have fallen in love with this small island paradise, where the street food is fabulous and people are all smiles. We are loathe to leave.

 



Onward to Kuala Lumpur where Vic, Carla and Leah are the perfect hosts!!!




Confirmed foodies like us, they steer us in the right direction. Their neighborhood is filled with mom and pop restaurants. Satays and mee rebus engage and enchant. Blazing hot Thai food sends our taste buds spinning. Bite size pandan pastry and coconut pancakes filled with gula jawa are the perfect sweet ending. The banana leaf set meal at Ravi's is a gastronomic delight. Vegetables, fried bitter gourd, cucumber pachadi, an immense mound of puffy white rice, fish curry, chicken curry, sambhar, rasam, a heap of papads that G makes quick inroads into, mango pickle, lime pickle, fried chilies, a fried pomfret... Should I stop??!!!!!! All this costs $1.50! I am startled and surprised by the cost of restaurant food in Malaysia. Not only is it cheap, but retains it's home grown tastes. No hint of artificial or fortified flavors. This devout chicken hater has eaten chicken at almost every meal in Malaysia with gusto and relish!! 


We end the trip by introducing the family to ABC...yes that's what the Malays call shave ice covered in coconut milk, sugar syrup, corn, adzuki beans, pandan jelly, palm nuts and topped with ice cream!!! As revolting as that sounds, do not be put off!!! It is cool, refreshing and absolutely addictive. The Texans are converts!!!


Back in Bombay, the feasting continues. Tom Collins and gin balls at the Radio Club. Fresh sugarcane juice and sev puri at Willingdon Club. Crisp fried bombay ducks and prawns at Highway Gomantak. Chili chicken rolls and lemon tarts at Theobroma. It's a wonder my clothes still fit!!!  Now I'm off to Pune to be spoilt rotten by my sis Prasanna!! Look for more foodcentricities in part 2 of the Seefood diet!