From Chennai with Love: Pavakkai (bitter gourd) chips dusted with hing and pepper
At home, I keep Indian salty snacks at the ready when sipping a refreshing brew. But when I go out, I’m stuck with the usual over-salted nuts and bland, fried bar snacks. Even Indians—who enjoy their salty snacks with milky, sugary chai—seem unaware of this potentially brilliant pairing.
Would it be weird to smuggle in some chana jor garam the next time I head out for a pint? Not if everyone’s doing it. Beer-swilling spice lovers, unite…and let the Indian bar food smuggling begin! (more…)
A small army of mithai awaits hungry Diwali revelers at Maharajah Sweets.
If you have never experienced the pre-Diwali rush in New York’s South Asian sweets shops, you have two more days to partake of mountains of sugary, nutty, dairy-rich mithai (sweets, in Hindi).
In North India, Diwali (aka, the Hindu “festival of lights”) is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil in the Ramayan, a famous Hindu epic. Families gather to share special meals, clay lamps (diyas in Hindi) and firecrackers are ablaze everywhere, and countless boxes of sweets are exchanged. (more…)
Gaajar burfi, a carrot-based Indian sweet from Maharaja Sweets in Jackson Heights.
Sweets made with milk, nuts, lentils, and spices are an important part of religious festivals in India. Later this week, Hindus will observe Raksha Bandhan–or Rakhi, for short–a Hindu festival celebrating relationships between brothers and sisters.
The sweets (mittai, in Hindi) eaten at Rakhi represent the sweetness of the bond between siblings. On the morning of Rakhi (Aug. 21) a sister ties a decorative red thread on her brother’s wrist, signifying her hope for his well-being. In return, a brother gives his sister gifts of sweets and money, signifying his promise to always protect and care for her.
Laddoo, jalebi, gulab jamun, and rasgulla are especially popular, but I prefer less common Indian sweets like milk cake, gaajar burfi (made with carrot), and anjeer burfi (made with fig). You can find all of these at Maharajah Sweets on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens—my go-to source for Indian sweets in New York City. (more…)
Grilled over coals until the sweet kernels are nicely blackened and then rubbed with lime juice and a potent mixture of spices, corn on the cob (bhutta in Hindi) is a popular street food in India. It’s an irresistible combination of sweet, tangy, smoky, and salty-spicy flavors. (We love you, elotes, but bhutta is better!)
Like most New Yorkers, I have neither a grill—nor a place to cook outside. (Fire on a fire escape, anyone?) Instead, I grill corn on the cob over the gas range in my kitchen. (more…)
In the United States special offers and seasonal items at McDonald’s are limited to bizarre items like Shamrock Shakes and the dreaded McRib. Sure there have been new burgers, notably the McDLT, which I happened to like. Around the world, though the special offers are quite special indeed. And the commercials, as you’ll see below, are hilarious.
1. In India, the McAloo Tiki is presented as a panacea.
It’s like a reversal of Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me. After a visit with the doctor our bespectacled hero is prescribed the fast-food cure. He enters McDonald’s sweating and swooning. After a few bites he gamely declares, “I’m loving it.”
2. I have no idea what’s in the McBangkok.
I do know that in Indonesia it’s penawaran terbatas,or a limited time offer. It looks way cooler than the McRib. Nobody ever rode an elephant to Mickey D’s to get a preformed ersatz pork rib sandwich.
3. Just for kicks here’s a recent Big Mac commercial from China. It features various bright, shiny young businessmen going decisively about their day all set to dynamic music. The tagline: “100% man, 100% pure beef, Big Mac.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel especially manly after eating a Big Mac, I usually feel ripped off and kind of sick.