Kampala Confidential

As loyal readers of our rice cooker mishaps may have anticipated, one of the most exciting aspects of having a real apartment here in Kampala is having a real kitchen. Making oatmeal using our plug-in kettle and gorging on raw fruits and vegetables worked out well enough in Thailand, especially as we were living in the land of delicious tropical fruits. But it’s also nice to be able to fire up the stove (even if it is an electric one) from time to time and cook something, even if that something is absurdly simple, like an egg.

We haven’t been experimenting with the local cuisine much here, as we did in India; I suppose I’m a bit less inspired by matooke and rice than I was by channa, dal, garam masala, and the mystical powers of the pressure cooker. But our huge Kenya-based grocery chain has locally-source versions of most of the Western-style conveniences we’re accustomed to, and a respectable array of Indian ingredients, thanks to the healthy Desi community here (although no channa to be found yet, oddly enough). Which means we’ve started revisiting many of our favorite recipes, most of which emphasize fresh vegetables, whole grains, and beans (with special thanks to Mark Bittman, who got us on into an almost-vegan-until-dinnertime routine late last summer). And our Indian kitchen experiences taught us a few special tricks, like making chapattis to use as tortillas for Mexican dishes.

We’ve also started baking bread again, using the same recipe we taught P Nik in Mae Hong Son. It’s easy to get whole wheat atta, semolina, and other fun flours here, so we’ll probably branch out and try a few different experiments next week.

Tomato and Coriander Chutneys

When Kenny and I go to Delhi, we like to stay at Saubhag Bed and Breakfast, run by our own adopted Indian auntie, Meera. During our visit last month, I complimented Meera on her delicious tomato chutney, and she promised to send me the recipe. Here it is, with a bonus recipe below for coriander chutney. I haven’t tried either yet (the second will be difficult, as I am mixie-less here in Kampala), but I am hoping to try my hand at the tomato soon.

Meera’s Sweet Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 2 kg tomatoes
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 large onion (80 gm)
  • 7 flakes garlic
  • 1 large piece ginger (30 gm)
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp chili powder (10 gm)
  • Garam Masala (2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp pepper, 4 small pieces cinnamon, 5  cloves)
  • 3 tsp acetic acid (concentrated vinegar)

Instructions

  1. Blanche and peel ripe red tomatoes. Cut into small pieces (I put them into the blender for a few minutes).
  2. Cut onion and garlic very fine, grind ginger
  3. Add sugar to tomatoes. Put in onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on fire.
  4. When chutney turns a little thick, add salt, chili powder, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Cook for a few minutes more. Turn off fire and add acetic acid.
  6. Cool chutney and enjoy!

Meera’s Green Coriander Chutney
Ingredients
 

  • 1 medium bunch coriander leaves
  • 1 small onion
  • 5-6 flakes garlic
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground cumin
  • 3-4 green chilies
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ lemon squeezed
  • Salt to taste

Instructions 

  1. Grind all above
  2. Add one heaped teaspoon plain yogurt if desired

Adiga’s

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In Malleswaram there are a large number of sagar shops where you can get quick, delicious south Indian fare. One of our favorites is Adiga’s, located just around the corner from Sean and Archana’s place.

The main floor is typical of a sagar shop (or “hotel”), if a bit larger than most. You order near the entrance from the cashier, pay, and receive a number of receipts. Each receipt needs to be taken to the appropriate station (e.g. dosa, meals, idly, roti), where a worker will  magically turn your receipt into the dishes listed. At both stages, it’s important to know how to deal with an IndiaQueue. Once you’ve obtained your meal, you grab a section of long, shared countertops and dig in while standing.

On this trip, Archana introduced us to the upstairs “restaurant” part of Adiga’s, which I didn’t even know existed. The upstairs experience is less busy – you are seated at your own table, given a menu, and served by a waiter. The choices are similar, though some smaller items such as roti curry are replaced with larger variations such as dal fry. Prices are higher since portions are bigger and you are getting table service, but it’s a nicer environment to linger in. I enjoyed the experience, though my favorite part of Adiga’s is still the ground floor with its communal feel.

Overall, Adiga’s is a great stop for a quick meal of south Indian favorites. In particular, their roti curry, rava idly, and special dosai are my favorites. I also like stealing a few bites of Sean’s ever-present channa batura.

Happy to be at Adigas
Enjoying an assortment of goodies for lunch

Sean with his channa batura Lauren and her roti curry
Sean with channa batura and south Indian coffee, Lauren with roti curry

Palak Dosa
Palak dosa

Rava idly
Rava idly

Adiga’s
Sampige Road at 15th Cross (+ other branches in the Bangalore area)
Bangalore, India 560003
+91 80 4153 5991

Daily: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Chapattis!

After we started our baking experiments with P Nik, a few loaves of bread made their way to my office and the staff ate them up (literally). One of the staff members asked me if I would teach her how to bake bread, but unfortunately the office doesn’t have an oven. I told her that when we were in India we didn’t have an oven either, so we often made rotis, also known as chapattis. She and a few other staff members became extremely excited when I mentioned the word chapattis, as they remembered eating them back in Burma. I promised that I would teach the office staff how to make them at some point.

We’ve recently begun a Monday-night ritual where I stay late at the office after work, Kenny comes over on his bike, and we have a big office dinner together. It’s been fun for me to introduce Kenny to my co-workers and to the delicious food I have been enjoying every day for lunch. This Monday was particularly special because all of the interns had just finished a grueling day of tests and interviews for an advanced school. We decided that a celebration was in order. Fortunately, Kenny had just returned from a Kay Htoe Bo celebration, and had a bottle of rice wine in hand. He offered to make a quick run to the grocery store to grab some flour for chapattis, and the staff started working on a huge pot of veggie curry.

Of course, there’s no atta in this part of the world, so we had to make do with all-purpose flour and its suboptimal gluten content. No matter, I taught one staff member how to make chapatti dough, Kenny taught another how to grill the flattened pancakes, and within an hour the office had been transformed into an efficient chapatti-making operation. Someone went over to a friend’s house to borrow a huge round griddle pan that could accommodate five chapattis at a time, and we became a chapatti factory, churning out  a new batch of hot, delicious flat breads every couple of minutes.

The Burmese curry that was served with the chapattis was delicious, and featured many flavors reminiscent of India. It was a delicious, festive meal, and Kenny and I went home stuffed.

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Dosa Corner

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With all due respect to Khmer food, Phnom Penh seemed like a great place to sample some international fare. We passed by Dosa Corner, in BKK1, during our walk down to Tuol Sleng, and decided that we would return later for dinner to satisfy our growing cravings for South Indian food.

The menu features a huge array of options, including many varieties of dosa that I had never encountered before. Ironically enough, we ordered 3 dishes, and none of them were dosas. Kenny was just dying for an idly, the waiter strongly recommended the kottu parota (a Tamil Nadu specialty), and we decided to round out the meal with a channa masala for some protein (even though we know this is more northern fare).

The kottu parota was good but certainly odd – it tasted like Indian pad see ew! We’re certainly spoiled for idlies after spending 6 weeks living across the street from Veena, but we enjoyed the PP rendition, especially the accompanying chutneys and sambar. The channa masala reminded me of the first channa masala I made when we were in Bangalore – which is not to say that it was bad, but it was very tomato-ey.

Overall, it was not an amazing dinner, but it helped indulge our South Indian nostalgia. It’s worth checking out if you’re in BKK1 and craving a dosa.

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Idlies

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Kottu parota – minced parota with egg, onion, and spices

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Dosa Corner
N. 5E, Pasteur (Street 51)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia 12302
+855 (0)12 673 276

Indian Christmas Eve in Seattle

We mentioned to Mike and Erin that we’ve been making a lot of Indian food lately. Erin said that mother cooks up some great Indian fare as well, so we decided to have an Indian potluck for Christmas eve. Lauren didn’t initially realize that the Arcuris were contributing half the menu, and so asked “will we have enough food?” with the four dishes we were bringing. There were indeed six adults and three children to feed, but they had to contend with:

  • Beef samosas
  • Spicy yellow dal
  • Channa masala
  • Palak paneer
  • Aloo gobi
  • Chicken kadai
  • Curried shrimp
  • Rotis
  • Dahi

It was like having an awesome Indian buffet in your own home; and since we weren’t holding back, chocolate torte for dessert!

Plate of Indian food
The full array of dishes…or so we thought

Lauren and Indian food
Lauren with the bonus curried shrimp – delicious!

Indian Accent

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Before we left Bangalore, our friend Josh recommended we eat at Indian Accent during our stopover in Delhi. Josh has a good track record on recommendations, having referred us to Dunes, Well Garden and La Plage in Goa. He said that it would be a bit of an event, with food best described as “modern Indian fusion.” And so for our final lunch in India, we indulged in a three-hour, multi-course adventure.

Advance warning: what follows is an epic food post, as is only appropriate for such an epic lunch.

Indian Accent is located at The Manor hotel in Friends Colony, which is a newer sub-neighborhood within New Delhi. We entered The Manor and were shown into the restaurant. It felt upscale without being gaudy, with modern, minimalist decor and ample natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows. There was a beautiful courtyard outside where an Indian wedding, with all of its accompanying flowers and bright colors, was taking place.

Indian Accent outdoor wedding

We sat down and our waitress Priya introduced herself and the menu. As we started reading through the menu, Priya brought out a complimentary dish of blue cheese naan. The chewy naan and pungent blue cheese were a great combination, and they were served with a cashew and coconut chutney that offset the blue cheese with a touch of sweetness. A tasty start, and we hadn’t even ordered yet!

Blue cheese naan
Blue cheese naan with cashew and coconut chutney

While you can order a la carte, the focus at Indian Accent is on the tasting menus. They have vegetarian and non-vegetarian tasting menus, each of which are twelve dishes strong, with the option of a “light” tasting menu that has a mere six courses. Both tasting menus looked amazing, so we ordered one of each type of light tasting menu and split a five-glass wine pairing.

As we were lingering over our first glass of wine, a crisp and slightly sweet Riesling meant for the first course, Priya brought us an amuse bouche (I guess the blue cheese naan didn’t count). Pani puri is usually filled with potato, some onion, and some flavored water. Indian Accent’s version uses dry-ice, which makes for a great visual,  and was filled with coconut and wasabi green peas.

Pani puri
Upscale pani puri on dry ice with wasabi green peas

After the multiple teasers, it was time for the first course. Lauren had puchkas served with two naturally flavored waters – pomegranate with cinnamon, and mint with cumin. Puchkas are Bengal’s version of pani puri, and as you might expect they were similar to the amuse bouche, though the waters provided some different flavors.

I had a chicken tikka salad, which was served cold with khakra, which is a popular Gujarati snack whose taste is roughly approximated by spicy tortilla chips.

Puchkas
Wholemeal and semolina puchkas, masala cous cous, two waters

Chicken tikka salad
Chicken tikka salad and khakra mille fueille

The second course had the least Indian influence of the meal. Lauren’s panko crusted bharwan mirch tasted a lot like an upscale jalapeno popper. The tandoori salmon was not very different from broiled salmon, though the passion fruit chutney was a nice touch. The wine for the second course was a terrible sauvignon blanc that was the one big misfire of the pairings.

Indian jalapeno popper Tandoori Scottish salmon
Panko crusted bharwan mirch, goat cheese mousse, chilli aam papad chutney
Tandoori Scottish salmon, dill leaves, passion fruit chutney

Fortunately we had some time before the main course, while we were served quality glasses of chardonnay and shiraz as our pairings. When the main courses arrived, they were a feast in and of themselves. My red snapper molly tasted like skate wing – silky smooth and served in a light Kerala-style curry. Lauren’s masala morels were another strong fusion entree, served with crisp water chestnuts, fresh asparagus, and a hat-shaped dosa. Along with our entrees were a collection of side dishes, including naan, dal, couscous, and a raita with pomegranate and avocado. Simply delicious!

Lauren with masala morels and paper roast dosai
Lauren enjoying masala morels, water chestnut, asparagus, paper roast dosai

Rice coated red snapper molly
Rice coated red snapper molly, local greens and pine nut poriyal

Naan with dips
Anaar and avocado raita, dal, naan

At this point in the meal, we were quite full (and more than a little tipsy). The staff did a good job of pacing the meal and giving us time before dessert, and we are fortunate enough to be equipped with separate dessert stomachs. Lauren had the coconut and jaggery brulee, which was creamy with a crisp sugary top. It was served with ruby grapefruit pops, which was a fancy description for small pieces of grapefruit on a stick. I had three delicious ice creams, my favorite being the spiced chocolate. And just in case we didn’t have enough sugar on the table, rather than wine, dessert was paired with a Bailey’s martini.

Enjoying a chocolate martini and ice cream
Enjoying a Bailey’s martini and trio of spiced chocolate, coconut/jaggery, and vanilla bean ice creams

Overall we had a fantastic time at Indian Accent. The food was both inventive and delicious, the service and ambiance were top-notch, and at less than $40 per person for the aforementioned food and wine feast, it’s a steal by Western standards. If you want to celebrate while in Delhi, make yourself a reservation at Indian Accent and arrive hungry!

Indian Accent
The Manor, 77 Friend’s Colony (West)
New Delhi, India 110065
+91 11-2692 5151

Daily: Lunch, Dinner

Veena Stores

Rating:

A block from Sean and Archana’s place is a little South Indian food stall, Veena Idly.  Sean took us there on our first morning in Bangalore. I remember enjoying it, but my memories of that breakfast were quite hazy due to our exhausting travel day.

For some reason, we didn’t make it back to Veena until yesterday. I’m not sure why, as we talked about going a bunch. Maybe it’s the same reason that Floridians never use the pool in their backyard. One day while driving to work, we even ad-libbed a jingle for Veena. I think it went something like this (it changed a bit every time):

Veena Idly, for all your idly needs
Veena Idly, hooray for you and me
Veena Idly, for all your idly needs
I want some Veena Idly! (and vada too!)

However, we did have our final two Bangalore breakfasts at Veena, and they were fantastic. The menu is similar to many other south Indian breakfast stalls, but the execution was far above the competition. Someone said they have a special high-end idly steamer. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that I love it.

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Idly/vada, the classic south Indian breakfast served with amazing coconut chutney

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Chow chow bath. There are two sections, sweet and a savory. You are supposed to get a little of each part in each bite.

Veena Idly Archana and her idly vada

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Veena Idly
No. 183, 15th Cross, Margosa Road
Malleshwaram, Bangalore, India 560 055
+91 23344838

Daily: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel Fanoos

Rating:

Hotel Fanoos is a hole-in-the-wall establishment in Johnson Market, a Muslim quarter of town, serving up delicious grilled meats from the tandoor, rotis, and shwarmas for rock-bottom prices. Sean took us on a walk over there one evening recently when we were working late in the Babajob office. I had been keeping a mostly veg diet, but breaking it with mouth-watering shwarma and bright green chicken hariyali kebab was so good I knew it had to be right. The roomali rotis were paper-thin and the hariyali was spicy, juicy, and delicious. The kebabs were not quite as tasty as those at Khan Chacha, but certainly the best I’d tried in South India so far.

Two weeks later, we were working late in the office again and craving kebabs fresh out of the tandoor. We made the 15-minute walk over, and again ordered our favorites: chicken hariyali, roomali roti, and chicken shwarma. While we waited for our order, Sean ventured through the service area upstairs to wash his hands, and when he rejoined us had a look of disgust on his face that I will not forget. Per his warning, I did not go check it out myself.

When our shwarmas arrived, we were all quite hungry and didn’t inspect them too closely before we started devouring them. Admittedly, we had all noticed that the shwarma spit was almost bare, and that our sandwiches were made with some of the dregs lying at the bottom. It hadn’t occurred to us until we had each finished about half a sandwich that these strips of chicken would be raw. But indeed they were quite undercooked.

At this point, we had mostly lost our appetites. We nibbled on the hariyali kebabs and rotis that we had ordered but didn’t feel inspired to finish them. We each took a precautionary Cipro tablet that night and swore that we wouldn’t darken Fanoos’s door again. Everyone was fine the next morning, so we congratulated ourselves on conquering Fanoos and thanked the Cipro for whatever role it may have played in our success. After all that, the truth is I’ll probably be back, but I’ll stick to the grilled items and pass on the shwarma.

Bottom line: this place serves mouth-wateringly delicious kebabs, but it certainly comes with risks, even for well-conditioned stomachs like ours. I generally have no problem eating street food, or even the raw vegetables and chutneys that everyone warned me about, but I don’t mess around with raw chicken. If you stick to anything cooked in the tandoor, you’re probably fine, and if you must try a shwarma just make sure there’s more than the dregs left on the spit.

We have no branches
They have no branches

Hotel Fanoos menu
The huge menu of dirt-cheap deliciousness

Hanging chicken
Kebabs ready for the tandoor

Roomali roti and chicken hariyali
Delicous roomali roti and chicken hariyali kebab

Kenny at the Chicken CounterSean and Lauren eating shwarma
Happy, unsuspecting customers dining on shwarmas at the chicken counter

Hotel Fanoos
17 Hosur Rd, Johnson Market
Bangalore, India
+91 55362712

Ketan

Rating:

Next door to the Dunes is a cute little family-run guesthouse and vegetarian restaurant called Ketan. At Rs100 (about $2), their vegetarian thali is the most expensive, but also one of the most delicious, I’ve had in India. It’s also large enough that Kenny and I can share one for lunch or dinner if we order a couple of extra chapatis.

We dined at Ketan three times during our week in Goa, and each time the thali featured a different combination of vegetables and curries. My favorite thali items were the dal and the delicious pumpkin sabji. Everything was a winner though, including cabbage, beets, and gobi curry.

There was always a very cute little boy running around the restaurant and sharing his toys with the guests. He looked great in my sunglasses. His older brother, Ketan, apparently inspired the guesthouse/restaurant’s name. We also befriended Keshav, who I believe was the patriarch of the family. He gave us a ride down to Anjuna for the weekly market, and also offered a good rate on a taxi to the airport at the end of our week.

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Ketan
Junes Wada, Mandrem Beach, Goa
+91-832-2247943
+91-942-1257616
ketanguest@yahoo.co.in