Boom!

This weekend Uncle Shawn introduced Gloria to a new game that has quickly become her favorite pastime. He took sets of blocks (or yogurt containers, or anything else around the house) and stacked them up tall. We’ve done this many times for Gloria in the past, and Glor-zilla knew to come over and knock the tower down. However, when she did so Shawn would exclaim “Boom!” and Gloria would giggle uncontrollably. It was super cute, and one evening we caught the process on video. First Lauren caught this exchange:

Then, as is wont to happen lately, Gloria saw Lauren video-taping and grabbed the phone from her. She then replayed the video, and reenacted the destruction. I was lucky enough to take this meta-video of that new game.

Turkey-less in Thailand

Tonight we had Thanksgiving dinner with our Burmese friends in Mae Hong Son. It was their first time celebrating Thanksgiving (they hadn’t even heard of the holiday until we mentioned it last week), and they were honored to be involved. The menu was quite different from our Thanksgiving in India, as there are no turkeys to be had in these parts. Our main course was “snake” in banana leaves, which took the better part of the day to prepare. We also had a side of papaya pancakes and the full set of accoutrements (including lots of chilies, of course). For dessert we had a ridiculous cake we picked up from a new bakery in town. The sweet shop owners asked if we wanted any writing on the cake (they usually do birthday cakes), so we acquiesced to a “Happy Thanksgiving” flourish.

After our food was all prepared, our Burmese friends asked us if we were going to give a speech before dinner or if we had any traditions on this holiday. So we went upstairs, sat around in a circle, and talked about thanks. Lauren gave a brief history of Thanksgiving and then many of us around the circle talked about what we were thankful for. One of our Burmese friends was thankful that we introduced them to Thanksgiving and shared our holiday with them. We’re thankful that we were able to share Thanksgiving with our small but growing family, and our adopted family here in Mae Hong Son.

Our Burmese Thanksgiving spread
Special Mae Hong Son Thanksgiving dinner

Dessert
Our festive dessert

Pressure Cooker Pumpkin Puree

As Kenny mentioned, our culinary experiments in India have often led us to source many of the constituent ingredients of our recipes the old-fashioned way. The dishes we prepared for Thanksgiving were no exception, and I was determined that the absence of canned pumpkin puree at our local grocery store was not going to prevent us from eating delicious pumpkin waffles for dessert (we don’t have an oven, so no pies for us, but we did discover Archana’s waffle iron a few days ago). We acquired a beautiful pumpkin from the local produce market in Malleshwaram and resolved to make the puree ourselves.

Of course most pumpkin puree recipes on the interwebs (including this one, which I used for inspiration) involve the use of an oven, which we don’t have. But my time in India has firmly convinced me that there’s pretty much no culinary problem that a pressure cooker can’t solve. Conveniently enough, Sean and Kenny had just purchased a 12L pressure cooker for the turkey, which was just perfect for the pumpkin.

First I cut it in half and removed the stringy stuff and the seeds (which I put aside for delicious toasted garam masala pumpkin seeds later). Then I hacked it up into smaller pieces, and into the pressure cooker it went, with about 3 cups of water. About 20 minutes later I had the “meltingly soft” pumpkin that every recipe demands. After it cooled, it went into the food processor, and then we mixed up the waffle batter. The end result was delicious, and further cemented my belief in the magical powers of the pressure cooker.

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Bisected pumpkin

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All cleaned up and ready for the pressure cooker

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In it goes!

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Delicious pumpkin waffles, garnished with ice cream, cinnamon, and red Kerala bananas (my favorite!)

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Garam masala pumpkin seeds

Vada Channa Stuffing

After perusing a few Thanksgiving stuffing recipes and feeling completely uninspired, Kenny and I decided to attempt an Indian stuffing. Here’s what we came up with. The end result actually tasted remarkably like a Thanksgiving stuffing, but with some Indian flavor.

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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of gobi (cauliflower)
  • 1/4 kg lady fingers (okra)
  • 2 small red onions
  • 1 package of MTR Channa Masala (or you can be less lazy than us and make it yourself; we were running out of time with all of our other Thanksgiving prep and decided to take a delicious shortcut)
  • 12 small vadas (we got frozen ones; fresh vadas from a local shop would probably be better)
  • 2 eggs
  • Coconut oil

Instructions
In a large skillet, warm 1 tbsp coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion, cauliflower, and okra, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Crumble the vadas into a large bowl. Add sauteed vegetables to the crumbs. Stir in the beaten eggs and mix well. Then add the channa and mix well.

Transfer the mixture to a large pot, and cook covered on medium heat for about an hour (even better,  use an oven if you have one). Cut into pieces and garnish with curry leaves to serve.

Pressure Cooker Turkey

Sean really wanted to have turkey at Thanksgiving dinner this year, so we spent some time brainstorming viable cooking options in this oven-free city. Our final candidate list included grilling (we’d need to acquire a very large grill), my father’s tried and true trash-can method, or just treat it like many Indian dishes and pressure cook the bird. For cost and safety reasons we dismissed the otherwise compelling Southern favorite option of deep-fried turkey.

First stop: Metro (the Indian version of Costco) to acquire a turkey. Metro had two types of turkeys: local or imported. While the imported turkeys were certainly more plump, something felt wrong (in addition to the 3x price tag) about using an imported turkey. So we picked up a seven kilo local turkey, from which they kindly removed the head and feet at our request.

After also acquiring the requisite Heritage Wine for the evening, we trolled the aisles looking for an appropriately sized cooking implement. The closest thing we found to a metal trashcan was a large cylindrical metal bowl which was (a) quite pricey and (b) probably still too short to adequately hold our turkey. As there were no grills to come by, our decision was easy: one 12 liter pressure cooker it was.

We put together a marinade of local ingredients, and used it to pressure cook the turkey. On the plus side, it was enormously efficient – the turkey was fully cooked in about an hour and a half, a fraction of the time it would have taken in the oven. On the other hand, it tasted a little, well, chewy. Whether this was from the cooking method, the lack of marinade injection or the texture of a local turkey we will never know.

Turkey chefs
The turkey chefs ready for business

Turkey marinade
The turkey marinade: Kingfisher, apple-pear juice, onions, curry leaves, green chilies, and other good stuff

Marinating the turkey
We thought about injecting the turkey with our marinade, but settled on the more standard “let-soak” method

MY turkey
‘Zis turkey will be ‘ze finest in Malleswaram

Turkey in the pressure cooker
Fortunately we opted for the local turkey; I don’t think the imported one would have fit into our pressure cooker

Special India-Edition Thanksgiving Menu

We don’t have an oven, and can’t find cranberries. Sean is researching turkey options; it looks like we may be able to get one, but if we do we’ll need to get a big pot and cook it on the stove (or trash-can style!) If we don’t get one, we may try a turkey art project instead.

Here are our current menu thoughts:

Drinks

  • Cranberry Juice and Vodka
  • Mulled Heritage Wine
  • Cider?

Food

  • Green Beans with Almonds
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Cranberry Salsa (or variant, maybe with grapes or pomegranate seeds?)
  • Stuffing (cooked on the stove)
  • Pumpkin Waffles with vanilla ice cream (and dried cranberries if we can find them)