Book Review- The Mainland China Cookbook

 

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What if you can just relive the taste of your favorite recipes from your favorite restaurant right at your home? Sounds a good idea? Sounded to me, and I ordered The Mainland China Cookbook by Anjan Chatterjee. You can buy the book on Flipkart (disclaimer: aff).

Why a Chinese cookbook review on a Bengali food blog?

Chinese cuisine is of great interest to many Bengali food lovers. And the other reason is because of the author. Anjan Chatterjee, who is a Bong foodie and runs Specialty Group of fine-dining restaurants throughout the Indian sub-continent. What started with a single Bombay restaurant (Only Fish), has proliferated into 7 brands across several cities now – Mainland China, Oh! Calcutta, Sigree, Haka, Flame & Grill, Shack and Machaan

The author, Anjan Chatterjee

Anjan Chatterjee is India’s most successful restaurateur, as Vir Sanghvi introduces him in his writing. Born and brought up in Kolkata, Mr. Chatterjee runs 52 restaurants all over India. The Mainland China Cookbook as he mentions in his interview to The Telegraph, “…was a dream of mine to give them(Chinese food lovers) a treat that they can take back home.” .

What the book offers

The book is neatly divided into a number of categories according to the course of the meal. From starters and soups to chicken and meat, from noodles and rice to pancakes – this book has it all. The book starts with a prologue of the author’s journey to the oriental land in search of this thousand year old cooking style. There are recipes from the different parts of China – Peking, Sichuan, Canton and Sanghai. Whether you ask for the most common Chinese dish in India – chili chicken or that not-so-common king prawns Hubei style – you name it you get. It seems the entire Mainland China menu is delivered through this book.

I liked the entire idea of this book. To me it’s absolutely unique. Rather I have never seen a restaurant giving away their signature dishes to the common public. The recipes are mentioned in very simple language stressing on stir and deep fried dishes (a happy finding for all of you who don’t have a microwave or baking oven at home).

As Mr. Chatterjee claims in his book, the Chinese cuisine follows the principle of yin and yang, or the balance in the food. So is the book balanced with a wonderful collection of photographs of the prepared dishes by acclaimed food photographer, Anshika Verma. There is also a list of stores and shops in major Indian cities where you can buy the raw materials to prepare these lip smacking Mainland China signature dishes.

Not so rosy areas

The only glitch in the book was the use of metric measurements rather than the usual measures of cups and spoons in using the ingredients. It was a refreshing change, but not so practical. Also there are only four recipes in the dessert section. Though the author had a justification for that, saying that the “Chinese repertoire of dessert is not so wide”.

Leaving apart these little glitches, I would say the book is worth a collectible in your cookbook library. So, Go Get The Mainland China CookBook

This post is on its way to Divya’s “Show me Your” cookbook event.

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Lotiya Shutki

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The Ghoti Bangal rivalry dates back probably from the day the partition of India, or probably even before that. The competition extends cuisine to sports. The chingri bhalo na ilish bhalo (whether prawns are better than hilsa or vice versa) fight will probably never end.

For the uninitiated, here is a little background. If you know about Ghoti-Bangal bonhomie (or rather, the lack of it) already, skip the next two paras. Those who originally hailed from present Bangladesh are the Bangal brigade, while those who lived in West Bengal belong to the Ghoti section. Bengalis take the Ghoti-Bangal fight so seriously that the price of hilsa or prawns depends on the winning of East Bengal (representing Bangals) or Mohun Bagan (the Ghoti team) football clubs on the day of match. Imagine the irony being, at present several team members in both the teams are not even of Indian origin.

When we talk about Ghoti and Bangal, we just can’t stop without bringing into account the style they cook. I am a Bangal, and so I am generally biased towards the Eastern sideJ, ok, at least for the cooking part of it. The richness of spices among the Bangal cuisine is somehow missed in the Ghoti style, which rely on mainly the sweet taste of the curry. While frying and gravies are the main essence of the Eastern style of cooking, boiling, roasting demands the attention from the Ghoti brigade.

All said and heard, there is one particular dish which even many Bangals fear to consume, leave apart the Ghotis – it’s none other than the Shutki, the dry fish curry. This dry fish curry is mainly had by the Bangals who originally hailed from Chittagong, a coastal district of Bangladesh. Many fishes are cleaned and dried in the sun, but the most popular being the Bombay duck or loitta.

Once while browsing through one of the very popular Bengali restaurants in Bangalore, I came over a Shutki preparation, but just below it was a little phrase written in bold and italics – “Not for the weak at heart” – yes of course this very preparation is not for the faint hearted. The pungent smell of the dry fish along with the hot and spicy gravy makes this typical Bengali recipe a class of its own.

Ingredients:

  • 200 gms of Dry Bombay Duck (Shutki)
  • 1 cup potato, peeled and chopped into 1 inch square
  • 1 cup pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 1 inch square
  • ½ cup julienned onion
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 10 -12 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 4 tablespoon of mustard oil
  • Salt to taste

Preparation:

  • Roast the dry fish for a minute or two to get rid off the sand
  • Keep the roasted fish in lukewarm water with ½ teaspoon salt for about 15min
  • Cut the fish into 2 inch long pieces, discard the head and tail
  • Heat the mustard oil in a wok
  • Sauté the julienned onions, garlic cloves till the onions turn transparent
  • Throw in the ginger-garlic paste
  • Add the potatoes, pumpkin and fish along with the powdered spices and salt
  • Cook till the vegetables soften
  • Serve hot with warm rice and enjoy this Chittagong specialty

Hot Tips – If you roast the fish for long the flesh will come out of the fish. So, just roast it for a minute or two. Don’t pour hot water to the roasted fish; it will make the pieces gooey.

Further Reading – Bombay Duck Fritters, Chanchchra

This post goes to Sujana’s first blog event “Celebrating Regional Cuisine”

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Guest Post: Rasogolla (Rasgulla)

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Once upon a time there lived a Bengali who loved sweets. Does it seem to be starting of some fairy tale from Thakurmar Jhuli? I’m not trying to tell you any stories here, but I’m sure if you want to share your thoughts for Bengali and our love for sweets, I can very well start like this.  Sweets in Bengali diet seem to be indispensible. Be it a piece of sandesh and a spoonful of misti doi at the end of the meal or the huge platter of sweets for any social ceremonies. Bengalis can not be complete without sweets.

When we thought of conducting a poll at Cook Like a Bong FaceBook page on which is the best Sweet shop in Kolkata, we actually couldn’t come to a conclusion. With so many comments (of course thanks to all the sweet loving enthusiasts for their valuable comments), but each had a name for a different shop. Starting from Nakur, Bhim Nag and Putiram to Ganguram, Sen Mahashay, Mithai and many more.

Even though these days’ people are calorie conscious and stay away from gorging on those extra calories, but still can you just think of letting go a chance to bite on some white and mushy rasgulla (rasogolla)?

Rasgullas are soft white balls made with farmer’s cheese (chana) dipped in sugar syrup.  Khirmohon, as it was earlier called in Orissa (the actual birth place of this sweet elixir), rasgulla first appeared in the sweets shops of Kolkata during the mid of 19th century. Even though controversies prevail, Nabin Das is said to be the “Rasogolla Columbus” of Bengal who introduced this sweet to the residents of Bengal. Rasgulla was in vogue in Orissa since centuries, but it gained popularity in Bengal and has now become one of the most sought after sweets. Be it presented in a clay pot (handi) or in cans – rasogolla remains in the heart of all Bengalis and I just can’t forget that song “Ami Kolkatar rasogolla….”. If you are not satisfied with only rasogolla, then you can have a taste of a derivative of this Bengali sweet, rasomalai also called rasogolla payes.

If you are just craving to have some of these then here’s the recipe for this coveted Bengali dessert from a special guest, Sohini Biswas. Sohini is a regular contributor to the Cook Like a Bong Facebook page and we thought of publishing this Bengali sweet recipe from her kitchen.

Ingredients:

For the Gollas:

2 litre of Full Fat Cow’s Milk (will make about 24 Rosogollas)
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon Semolina/Sooji
1 tablespoon Plain Flour/Maida
1 teaspoon Sugar
Muslin Cloth/Fine strainer

For the Sugar Syrup:

5 cups Water
3 – 4 cups Granulated Sugar (depending on whether u have a sweet tooth or not!)
½ teaspoon Crushed Green Cardamom
2 teaspoon Rose water
1 small pinch Saffron

Method:

For the Gollas:

  • Heat the milk in a deep bottomed sauce pan and bring to boil.
  • Add the lemon juice slowly to curdle the milk.
  • Once the milk is fully curdled and the green whey has been released. Place the muslin cloth on a strainer and slowly drain the whey out.
  • Keep the paneer under cool running water for a few seconds (this will remove any smell of lime).
  • Tie the ends of the cloth and hang for an hour. In a large bowl start kneading the paneer.
  • Add the semolina and flour and knead for about 5-10 mins till the dough is soft and smooth.
  • Divide into equal sized round smooth balls (keep an eye on the size of the balls as they will get bigger-about double the original size!!). Make sure the balls are crack free.

For the Syrup and the Rosogollas:

  • Heat water and sugar in a wide mouth stock pot.
  • Add the rose water and cardamom powder after the water starts boiling and the sugar is dissolved.
  • Lower the heat and add the balls one at a time.
  • Cover the pot and cook on lowest flame for about 40-45 mins.
  • Remove lid and add the saffron strands and cook for another 5 mins.
  • Take the pan off heat and let it sit for 5 mins. Garnish with roughly chopped pistachios and serve warm.
    Can be refridgerated upto 5 days in an airtight container.

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Cooking with Seeds – Poppy: Event Round-up Addendum

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In addition to the entries listed for the Cooking with Seeds – Poppy event, here’s some more.

Biscuits with dates from Jayasri of Samayal Arai

Aloo Posto (Potatoes in Poppy Seeds Paste) from Arundhati of  My Saffron Kitchen

White Vegetable Korma from Denny of  Oh Taste n See

And, last but not the least an entry from a non-blogger friend, Subit Datta. I am writing the recipe for Papaya with Poppy Seeds here.

1. Grate a small papaya.

2. Make two tablespoon poppy seeds into paste with 1/2 green chillies.

3. Heat  one and a half tablespoon vegetable oil in a non-stick pan.

4. Put in 1/2 teaspoon onion seeds (kalojeerey).

5. Add grated papaya. Add salt. Cover and cook.

6. Add poppy seed paste. Keep stirring till dry.

7. Garnish with green chillies.

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Cooking with Seeds – Poppy: Event Round-Up

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Poppy is one of the oldest recorded spices in the world. It’s used in various culinary and medicinal purposes. It is obtained from the poppy opium (Papaver somniferum) plant. As mentioned in the wiki page of poppy seeds, the plant had been grown by the Sumerians. Poppy has also been mentioned in Egyptian papyrus scrolls as early as 1550 B.C.

Poppy was at first used as a sedative and then as a spice. But, this kidney shaped seed with its unmatched taste and aroma has stolen the hearts of thousands of foodies across the world. So, when I got to host the Cooking with Seeds event, the brain child of Priya of Priya’s Easy and Tasty Recipes, I chose poppy.

Poppy is extensively used in Bengali cuisine. Starting from stir fried poppy paste with a little garlic and salt to the famous alu-posto and dim posto sorse. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish poppy finds its place everywhere in Bengali preparation.

I have categorized the entries into four different classes depending on the type of the dish and without further ado here’s the list. Hope you enjoy it.


Vegetarian:

Nithu Bala of Nithu’s Kitchen
Beetroot Kurma

Priya of Priya’s Easy and Tasty Recipes
Sprouted Kala Channa Kurma,
Bittergourd Masala,
Broad Beans & Potato Stir fry,
Banana Blossom Dumplings Gravy

Roshan of Roshan’s Cucina
Green Pea Kurma

Pavanisrikanth  of FoodLovers
Aloo Kurma

Sangeetha of Sangi’s food world
Potato pakoda kuruma

Preethi Ram of Preethi’s Culinary
Navratna Kurma

Non – Vegetarian:

Roshan of Roshan’s Cucina
(Tomato Pilaf with) Mughlai Chicken

Nandini of Nandini’s Food Page
Fish Kurma
Egg Masala

Desserts:

Sangeetha of Sangi’s food world
Poppy seed Almond Basundi

Priya of Priya’s Easy and Tasty Recipes
Poppy Seeds Kheer

Jaya of Tamalapaku
Pala Poli

Nandini of Nandini’s Food Page
Bottlegourd and Moong Dal Payasam/Kheer

Miscellaneous:

Ayantika Ghosh of Eat Drink n Rock
Jam filled poppy seed cookies

Priya of Priya’s Easy and Tasty Recipes
Poppyseeds & Quinoa Spice Powder

Gayathri of Gayathri’s Cook Spot
Poppy Seeds Dinner Rolls

Tanvi of Sinfully Spicy
Bengali Beet Chops

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