Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Mar 6, 2017

Tips & Tools: Some Like It Hot!

Well, I really wasn't talking about fiery chilis or spicy heat.

No, no, NO! Not the movie Some Like It Hot (1959) either. Although that is my favorite movie. How could you go wrong with an all star cast (Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon) and Billy Wilder's brilliant script and direction? If you haven't seen it, SEE IT!

Bibi's cooking - FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!
I'm talking about food temperature! When we were first married my Indian husband would complain about the food I served being too hot. "Why so hot!?!" I looked at him absolutely bewildered as I proudly put a piping hot dish on the table. That just boggled my American brain. The objective of getting the food as hot as possible to the table was something that I'd just never questioned about my Western culture. With the exceptions of certain foods like salads and ice cream why are we Westerners so obsessed with our food being served so hot? And why do Indians not want their food served sizzling hot?

Well, duh Bibi. Indians eat with their hands! Nobody wants to stick their hands into scorching hot food. Traditionally, the fingers are used to determine the temperature of the food as well as combining flavors. In fact, there is a Hadith in Islam that warns there is no blessing in food that is too hot. Ayurvedic practices too recommend eating food that is warm or at room temperature for optimal health. 

So where did this Western notion of the hotter the better for certain foods come from? After all we Westerners eat certain foods with our hands. Fried chicken, pizza, french fries, and hamburgers are all eaten commonly with hands and are served hot. A tepid cooked item tends to induce unease in the Western palate. A lukewarm temperature suggests that the food has been languishing, possibly festering, or has at best been poorly reheated. I actually like cold fried chicken and pizza but a congealed burger and fries is truly icky.

Apparently this fetish for piping hot foods began with the 19th century trend of higher social classes' dining styles switching from the service à la française to the service à la russe in Western Europe. The service à la française (literally service in the French style) began in the 17th century and evolved over the next 150 years. A formal dinner served à la française would have a variety of hot and cold dishes all set on the table at one time before the diners arrived. The diners would then seat themselves and enjoy the dishes communally. The great disadvantage of this à la française style of service was that hot foods often became cold before it was even time for the diners to eat. Contrast this to the service à la russe (literally service in the Russian style) in which dishes are brought out sequentially in courses and served individually. Dishes such as roasts served à la russe were prepared in the kitchen then sent out to the table whilst still hot, similar to a Western style restaurant today. And so the rush to get hot food from the kitchen to the table was on! (Service à la russe also gave way to the Western fascination with the esoteric and redundant cutlery you see in the above photo too. No one ever heard of a salad fork or dessert spoon before service à la russe became en vogue.)

I thought it would have more to do with Western cultures preferring their foods served hotter due to colder climates or something more mundane. I am certain fast food commercials in the West have reinforced the notion that hot equates to fresh. It probably doesn't occur to the average Western consumer of such items that their hot food item is hardly fresh at all. In reality it was probably lurking in the walk-in freezer for months previously to being served. Come to think of it, most all foods Westerners eat with their hands are rather informal and cheap foods. Perhaps that's part of the disdain Westerners have about eating with their hands?

Anywho, be sure to serve your Indian guests warm food not sizzling hot. It doesn't matter if your guests are seated at a table, on flimsy plastic chairs at a wedding, or on the floor aside a dastarkhaan. I'm not going to go into the details of how to properly eat with your hands as I still can't do it. Always eat with your right hand even if you are a lefty though. (Although you can use your left hand to pass dishes or to serve or drink water.) If you don't feel comfortable eating with your hands don't feel embarrassed if you need to ask for a spoon, special requests are usually welcomed at an Indian dinner table.

There are some things that are traditionally served quite hot on the Subcontinent though. Momos are a juicy, stuffed dumpling popular in Nepal but often found as a street food all over India now. Freshly steamed momos taste best served piping hot  arranged pleated side up on a warmed plate. Yes, momos are eaten with hands only also. Nobody wants cold or lukewarm momos! 

Chai or milky tea must always be served scalding hot. No matter if the weather is oppressively humid, swelteringly torrid, or blisteringly broiling. Your chai must be served positively burn-your-mouth and cauterize-your-tonsils HOT! We Americans like our coffee served about the same temperature as molten lava too. Be forewarned the majority of times your chai will be pre-sugared to syrupy sweetness. Actually it's becoming fashionable to serve sweeteners on the side so that guests may adjust it to their tastes. But it better be HOT!

So always remember, some like it hot!!!

Please be doing the needful,

Nov 28, 2016

Happy Holidaze....

A whopping 14 inch poinsettia flower atop the neighbors' 8 foot high tree. (Yes, poinsettias are trees here!)

Oh, it's that most wonderful time of the year! I'm certain there were some INTERESTING family chats over Thanksgiving dinner in America after this year's election. I hope you survived Black Friday. I know when I lived in the US I'd go into self imposed exile from Black Friday until mid January as the frenzied holiday shopping put me in a less than festive mood. Thank Allah for internet shopping, eh?

In other news, it was my husband and my blog's birthday last week on the 25th too. Above you see the coconut tres leches cake I made hubby for his birthday. (It had to be a sheet cake as it needed to travel so pardon the awkward crop.) And yes, over 90,000 views and 188 posts later I'm still blogging!

I've had a lot of fun learning about blogging and food photography. I'm sure my readers are very happy to see my photography progress from the atrocity you may witness above. (Really, Bibi, what were you thinking? Could that photo be any more over exposed and over saturated? What's up with that angle? The dish looks like it's tipping over! The yellow's dialed up to near oblivion! The focus is on the garnish fergawd's sake! ) To the less atrocious photo you see below-

Yay! I've improved. If you peruse the internets you'll see a lot of abandoned blogs. Apparently bloggers who continuously improve are less likely to give up blogging. It doesn't seem to matter how slowly you improve, as long as you IMPROVE. A lot of food bloggers leave the photos from their early posts to show how much they've progressed in the quality of their photography. Eh, I don't know. Some of my early stuff I think I need to reshoot (and have) because the photos are so bad no one would ever try the recipe! And those recipes are really good! Plus, the idea of this blog was to put my recipes in writing with attractive photos so I can publish them in a book for my relatives and friends later on. I'm really liking photography, maybe someday I'll get a REAL camera instead of just using my smartphone? 

In other news, India's demonetization scheme is still a mess. Tourists in India are now only allowed to exchange 5,000INR a week. (That's a meager $73USD!) To add to the fiasco the federal banking authority of Nepal declared last Friday that Nepalis should not accept the new Indian 2,000 or 500 INR notes as they have not determined if they are legal or not yet. So I wouldn't advise visiting India for quite a while! If you're not carrying Indian rupees though- Nepal's not having problems so come and visit! 

Here's a 4 pm local traffic jam at our crossroads involving a tourist bus, a school bus, six buffalo, and a truck unloading gas cylinders. Last year at this time there was an ongoing political border blockade between Nepal and India so you would have seen hardly ANY vehicles as petrol was scarce. The gas cylinders you see in the above photo were being rationed as a result of the blockade too. What few gas cylinders that got through the blockade were rationed and therefore chained together with name tags on them. This year there's no rationing and no problems! You'll be happy to know those water buffalos eked their way between the oncoming school bus and the tourist bus.

Just so you don't think it's all rocks and livestock roaming the streets here - this is one of our local 5 star properties, the Himalayan Front HotelThe hotel is nestled in the perfect location of Sarangkot with magnificent mountain views from every luxurious room. There's plenty to do if you tire of lounging around the pool! Hiking, paragliding, zip flying, birdwatching, souvenir shopping, or a cultural tour of the local village are all just minutes away.

Just look at that view! Amazing, huh? 

That's all the news that's fit to spit around here, stay sane during these Happy Holidaze!

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