Sharmi on the Trot

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Archive for the tag “Prawns”

Review: Dimcha — Marrying Dimsums with Chai

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Green dimsums with beans

I love dimsums. Honestly, anytime is ‘momo time’. My sister, whom I share an apartment with in Delhi, often refuses to go out with me for dinner if I suggest going for dimsums because, let’s face it, when it comes to self control over stuffing my face with dimsums, I lack it completely. Secondly, I may have mentioned earlier how much I adore tea. Little wonder I dedicate a whole shelf in my kitchen to different types of teas from around the world. My favourite thing to buy on my travels to tea-friendly states and countries is – tea of course! So, when I get a chance to go to a place which has laid emphasis on two of my favourite things, it’s little wonder I didn’t do cartwheels. Well, maybe in my head.

Pickled ginger and kiwi coolers

Pickled ginger and kiwi coolers

The Concept

Dimcha, located in Nehru Place inside Epicuria Food Mall, is an interesting concept. Spinning off from the Chinese concept of Yum Cha (going for dimsums, this restaurant offers a wide array of dimsums and teas to accompany them. It’s not a very big place but has a very calm and laid back feel to it. The white and blue checkered floor gives it a very casual look. One can sit inside as well outside, though preferably in the winters. Considering it’s a dimsum place, the tables are laid out with chopsticks and very cute miniature coke bottles with sauce. And I loved their brown plates as I’m a sucker for pretty crockery. The walls are tiled and have popular recipes! The seating is very comfortable and one can see the live counter where chefs are preparing the meals.

The glass window kitchen

The glass window kitchen

Khowsuey soup!

Khowsuey soup!

Deliciousness Served

We started the meal with kiwi and pickled ginger coolers which were refreshing. Then were served two types of soups – Ba Mee and Khowsuey. The Burmese Khowsuey is usually served as a meal in a bowl but in Dimcha, the broth had been made lighter and portions smaller. The Ba Mee broth was spicy and had a good helping of vegetables and noodles. I would definitely recommend trying them if you enjoy spice.

Ba Mee - broth with noodles and veggies

Ba Mee – broth with noodles and veggies

Then came the raw papaya salad, a staple in many South East Asian regions. The crunchy peanuts paired very well with the lime-covered salad. But my favourite starter was the red turnip cake. I’m not a turnip fan at all. I avoid it at all cost. But it was just so delicious that I couldn’t help but ask for a second helping. Soft and subtly flavoured, I know what to order the next time I’m there.

Raw papaya salad

Raw papaya salad

Red turnip cakes, my favourite

Red turnip cakes, my favourite

Dimsums are the real deal at Dimcha. They have specially handcrafted  many on the menu with unusual pairings. Beet skin, carrot skin, prawns, chicken – each dumpling is created to suit every type of taste bud. You don’t like beans, no problem, try the steaming chicken one in Hoisin sauce instead. The beetroot and prawn ones were so succulent that I can’t wait to go back for them!

Mixed vegetable dimsums

Mixed vegetable dimsums

Prawn dimsums

Prawn dimsums

It’s a place I will recommend for dimsum lovers. Try their unique combinations because they really are good!

The crockery is really nice as the colours pop against the brown

The crockery is really nice as the colours pop against the brown

Ambiance: 4/5
Food and beverage: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Epicuria Food Mall, Nehru Place  

Review: Amreli, Hotel Diplomat

Welcome to Amreli

Welcome to Amreli

There’s something charming and gorgeous when you walk into an old building. Maybe it has something to do with nostalgia because the moment I walked into Hotel Diplomat, I was transported to a grandmother’s ancestral home back in Calcutta. The old-fashioned styled house with verandahs and railings nestled amidst greenery makes one feel welcome, makes one feel refreshed. What is so fabulous about Amreli, their restaurant, is that one can choose to sit indoors or outdoors amidst the luscious greenery. I would have loved to sit outdoors but rain played spoilsport. Well, there’s always a next time isn’t it.

The pretty menu

The pretty menu

Interesting concept
Amreli is an interesting concept which has been started by Sidhant Lamba. A cross between a diner and bistro, the 105-seating capacity upscale restaurant is perfect for families, friends or/and a perfect date. From the art hanging on the walls to the chequered flooring, the use of purple and gold on paper table mats with elephant-shaped side plates, Amreli offers a nice sobering ambiance, perfect for an elegant evening. The service was really good as everyone made me feel welcome, right from the time I entered till the time I left.

The restaurant

The restaurant

Comfortable seating

Comfortable seating

Delicious Starters

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Peek-a-boo with the vegetarian dimsums

Amreli offers North Indian, South Indian and Pan Asian cuisines. I decided to try Pan Asian simply because I was craving it the past couple of days. And Chef Neelam made sure I wasn’t disappointed. The Chilli Prawns with coconut, scallion, pepper and onion were perfect as were the platter of vegetarian dim sums. Steamed perfectly, each bite was a delight. The prawns were cooked fine and the hints of chilli absolutely didn’t overpower. The size of the prawns and quantity left me impressed.

Hello there prawns

Hello there prawns

View from the top

View from the top (see the pretty flooring!)

Mains & Sweets
With two starters consumed along with a glass of Old Fashioned (did I mention they have a fabulous cocktail menu? Well, check it out for yourself when you visit!) I asked Chef Neelam for a tasting platter for the mains. The wait for a bit long-ish but when the food came, I wished I had more space in my stomach to eat more. For the vegetarian tasting platter there was Tofu in Sambal Sauce, Mushroom in Black Bean Sauce along with rice and noodles. The non-vegetarian platter had Red Thai Chicken Curry and Balinese Prawn Curry with sticky rice and fried rice. I like vegetarian food but the tofu blew me away. Given a choice I wouldn’t have ordered for it but I’m glad Chef Neelam made it. The softness of the Tofu was perfect with the spicy Sambal sauce. The Red Thai Chicken Curry was perfectly balanced with sticky rice and the prawns stood out on their own. I know what to eat when I go back next!
For dessert, Chef brought out a Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cake and Tiramisu. I would surely recommend the Tiramisu because the taste was great and it was light. The fudge cake tasted nice but it was too heavy for me personally to enjoy after such a decadent meal.

The non-veg platter

The non-veg platter – chicken and prawns

The vegetarian platter

The vegetarian platter – tofu and mushrooms

Close ups, smile please :)

Close ups, smile please 🙂

The light as feather Tiramisu

The light as feather Tiramisu

Decadent Fudge

Decadent Fudge

Would I go back?
Whenever visiting a new restaurant, the last question I ask myself after a meal is would I go back. If I say yes, there are three aspects involved in that decision. One, is the food obviously. Second, the price and third, the ambiance. After visiting Amreli, it was an easy decision for me. The food is definitely worth the money and the ambiance is wonderful. If you find yourself in Chanakyapuri, do go visit.

Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Where: Hotel Diplomat, 9 Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, #011 46050200

Australian Love: The Sydney Edition

I had a dream. I dreamed of a great beach, the waves crashing against the rocks, surfers showing off their new stunts while I jogged along a six kilometer trail as the seagulls called out my name. The jogging bit never actually happened, but going to Bondi beach sure did!

A childhood friend lives in Bondi. We’ve literally grown up together. From school to boys, make up to careers, we’ve discussed everything over the last 24 years. It was only after her constant messages to join WhatsApp did I actually take the plunge! I probably had a jogging dream because she has become such a workout-a-holic!

At Bondi with Minnie!

At Bondi with Minnie!

Having visited Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast this summer on work, I took some days off to jet set to Sydney. And it just so happens that a favourite cousin lives there with his lovely wife. So pretty much my trip was all set really!

With Abhik dada and Atreyi. (Try the gelato in Brava Trattoria, really good)

With Abhik dada and Atreyi. (Try the gelato in Brava Trattoria, really good)

I landed in Sydney early morning and took the subway into the main city. Now, with all its wonderful qualities, I fail to understand why authorities would go out of their way to make it tourist unfriendly. There’s nothing called a daily or weekly pass with which you can travel the city. If you buy one of those passes, you would have to specify the distance and so, your ticket would not be valid if you decide to get down at the next stop. Nevertheless, it didn’t deter me. I was in Sydney for god’s sake!

This time I transformed into a complete tourist. Atreyi (my cousin’s wife) and I went for long walks on the Harbour Bridge but not before trying to walk on the cyclists’ path first! The Opera House is so much bigger than you imagine really. And the seagulls, they somehow don’t like us much. They attacked us as we were digging into our fish and chips! Get this, just us, not anyone else eating with gusto the same fish and chips!

The Harbour bridge

The Harbour bridge

The gorgeous Opera House

The gorgeous Opera House

Then, I visited Minnie at Bondi. Oh my god, I fell in love with the beach! Well, the eye candy isn’t so bad either, just saying! The beach is gorgeous. It was still cold when I visited so a swim was out of the question. But just walking along the sand, the jogging trail, sipping coffee looking over the beach… it’s a different experience altogether. You must visit Bondi if you ever find yourself in Sydney.

The famed fish and chips at Bondi

The famed fish and chips at Bondi

Oh Bondi!

Oh Bondi!

Now, I visited on the weekdays. We crib in Delhi how everything shuts by 11-12 and there’s no place you can go for a late night drink, but guess what. People are asleep by 10 there so shops shut at 6! The only place which caters to ‘late eater’ would be Darling Harbour which my friend Daniel took me to. Funny story how we met – on the train to Padua from Milan. He offered to help us with the backpacks and then, we spent the day together in Venice. He’s wonderful really.

Daniel is too tall!

Daniel is too tall!

Sexy salmon and prawns at Darling Harbour!

Sexy salmon and prawns at Darling Harbour!

Now let me warn you dieters, Australia is not a place to be in if losing weight is your goal. I love my meat but even for vegetarians, the food is so delicious that you end up eating more than your tummy can hold! The health conscious Aussies are really big on fresh produce and quality meat. If you like cooking, you won’t leave a grocers shop while your eyes light up looking at the fresh food for sale. No wonder television producers back home have suddenly gone big on Australian cooking shows. Matt, Gary and George have become household names while Boys’ Weekend, Masterchef Australia and My Kitchen Rules have thousands of Indian viewers. (No worries, I got to cook salmon, prawns in chilli-butter and a plum tomato salad for my cousins one evening)

Breakfast! I wish this was an everyday affair!

Breakfast! I wish this was an everyday affair!

It’ been a few months and I still haven’t managed to lose the extra pounds I packed on there, but I can’t wait to go back. Especially since Minnie and Atreyi have bonded and keeps sending me pictures on WhatsApp to make me jealous! Don’t worry Australia, I’ll be back soon, and that’s a promise.

Sydney, all lit up

Sydney, all lit up

PS: Don’t be under the impression that Australia is cheap. It’s not. It’s one of the most expensive continents I’ve been to. To give you an average idea, a fish and chips meal would be nothing short of A$12 while a Darling Harbour dinner would come to A$50 ahead. While transport in Sydney via subs is not very expensive, commuting to the airports will pinch your pockets by an extra A$10-12 dollars over the regular fare.

The fishy tale

Bengalis love their food. And their fish. Well most of them anyway.

I never did quite develop a taste for river or sea water fish till the time I actually left home. Till then, I would make a face (at times) when fish in various curries or fried options were presented for lunch or dinner. But it was only after I began fending for myself did I realise, ‘hey, it’s not too bad after all.’ Why you ask. First, it has magical properties I tell you. After a lot of over eating if you stick to fish for a couple of days, people keep asking ‘have you lost weight?’ Well, it could be metabolism, but hey don’t puncture my bubble. Second, its fast and easy to cook. It takes less than half the time when cooking meat or even chicken. In curries, pan fried or deep fried, it takes only minutes to have a simple yet tasty dinner on the table.

Jokes about Bengalis and their love of fish is found everywhere, on all types of social media to bedtime stories. In fact, their deep understanding of the fish transcends all boundaries. Even epic romances turn pale in comparison. Even friends living abroad ask me for fish recipes thinking I know all about the slimy creatures. Honestly, I don’t.

Fish markets are really not my cup of tea. I would rather prefer going to a grocery store and buying a pack of frozen goodness than get up early in the morning just to get the freshest piece of fish for dinner. I remember the Sunday ritual with my father. He would go to the market, I would tag along just for the ice cream treat at the end of it all. He had a routine. First the non edible items, then the veggies, next came the meat and at the end of it all the fish. Back then, I was clueless. Looking at the various fish stalls, I couldn’t make out a Hilsa from a Rohu. The one thing I did understand were prawns. Delicious and rich in flavour, you really can’t go wrong cooking them. (To my dismay when I found out they were crustaceans during a biology class, I was heartbroken. I thought I finally found a type of fish I liked!) 

I’m yet to come across a cuisine which does not use prawns, lobsters or shrimps. Be it Mexican, French or Thai, prawns are prevalent but flavours change. One day you have them coated in garlic butter, the next in black pepper sauce. 

Bengalis love them prawns. And they have devised a fantastic way to way to eat them in the form of a malai curry with steaming rice. Now, my mother makes a mean prawn malai curry with raving reviews. Craving the creamy, coconutty prawn dish but without actually wanting to go through all the processes, every time I try a short cut. To be honest, it doesn’t actually turn out to be an authentic malai curry but comes pretty darn close to it!

How the Malai Curry is made:

In a very small yet compact herb chopper (a life saver from crying while chopping onions) put in one big onion, three cloves of garlic, an inch of garlic and two green chillies. After a quick blitz, add the mixture to a pan with heated vegetable oil (four tablespoons). Add in a bay leaf too if you like the smell. Once the mixture is well sauteed, add a table spoon each of turmeric, coriander powder and cumin powder. Once spices have been cooked, add in 200 ml of coconut milk. Add a tea spoon of sugar and salt at this stage. (Sometimes I even add a chopped tomato at this stage just to experiment). Once the gravy is slightly thick, add in 250 grams of de-veined prawns or shrimps as per what you like. If you’re in the mood for a richer taste, add about 100ml of cream. I always use chopped coriander as a garnish once the prawns are cooked to perfection which takes about 10 minutes. I used a handful of curry leaves instead of coriander this time and it tasted just as good!

Try it with steaming rice and you won’t be disappointed.

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Food for thought: Part One

Spring rolls are awesome aren’t they? Whether crispy or simply soaked in water, they tingle your tastebuds, making you want more. Hell, I’m salivating as I write!

Now, you could order them in whenever you want, but they taste the best when made at home. Trust me on this. I’ve tried numerous restaurants and takeaways. Yet, when I make them at home, my family goes crazy, fighting for the last piece on the plate. And with your choice of serving sauce (personal favourite is sweet chilly), they are ready to be relished. 

Looking back, it’s funny how I took to cooking really. Spending the first 24 years of my life at home, I grew up on my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. Coming from a Bengali household, my family was surprisingly very un-Bong if I could use that term. Sure, we would have the regular slightly-sweetened dals or lentils, the gorgeously tender mutton curries, but rice was never a staple. In fact, from a young age my sister and I were encouraged to broaden our tastebuds. To try all sorts of cuisines available. While one day the dining table had traditional food, chicken au gratin and meatloaf would replace them the next night. Or if one was craving frankfurters from Cold Storage, just a simple soup and mash accompanied the slightly-browned sausages.

Now, sure I would try my hand at baking a few odd cakes here and there or make a prawn linguine once in a while. It was only when I left home that I realised the potential of having my own kitchen. Sure the Anthony Bourdains and Nigella Lawsons molded my thoughts but once I began cooking on a regular basis I realised how important it was not to get stuck in a routine. How to learn to experiment with different herbs, spices and even cuts of meat.

Like the spring rolls I mentioned earlier. I knew the concept of creating them, but until I actually made them I could never truly say home-made ones are the best.

Let me take this opportunity to say I’m terrible with measurements. Like really. I always go by as Bengalis call it ‘Andaaj’. That is when cooking, going by the feel. I’ve heard Italians cook the same way. Hell, unless you bake, cooking should have a variety. One day the salt might be less but the next day, you’ll get it just right.

The first ingredient for homemade spring rolls is rice paper (Let’s face it, unless you know the technique of making it with beaten eggs on an unnaturally high flame, rice paper serves the purpose just fine) Now the fun bit. The filling can be anything! You can try prawns, chicken, pork, beef, eggs. Whatever you fancy.

What I did two days ago was use prawns, eggs, carrots and onions.

I first put a tablespoon of shrimp paste into the wok which was on high heat. Let me warn you, it gives off a strong smell and it would be wiser to keep your kitchen windows shut to deter determined cats sniffing the air, but the depth of flavour it gives to what you cook in them is fabulous. Then tumble in the raw medium-sized prawns (de-veined of course. Who wants to eat poo?) Roughly, a tablespoon of paste to 250 grams of prawns. Sautee them till they are cooked and then keep them in a separate bowl.

Then in the same pan I added a dash of vegetable oil, threw in two spring onions and three cloves of garlic both finely chopped. Once they had become soft, I added one small carrot (peeled and finely chopped). Just for flavour, I added a hint of oyster sauce and voila, my filling was complete! Unless you like your food very salty, you don’t need to add salt while cooking the filling. Of course you must tumble the prawns back in for about half a minute at the end when you feel the vegetables have cooked, just so the delicious flavours get integrated.

Now the second bit. Take a bowl of water and in it, dip each rice paper individually till you feel them go soft. Then you take one out, dry it with a napkin, stuff in your filling and roll into a home-made spring roll! Advice, do not soak all the papers together because once they go soft, it will be difficult to take them apart. For the amount of stuffing I cooked, I can easily make 12-14 rolls.

I had earlier made an omelet which I simply cut into thin strips, adding one to each roll before rolling. (Tongue twister? Ok not really good with the jokes!)

I do apologise for the photograph because the rice paper I had used this time let me down rather badly. So much so that my young sister, who is brilliant at taking photographs, had to admit defeat at being unable to crop, edit whatever she does with her computer, to make food look beautiful.

Anyway, I serve my spring rolls with sweet chilly sauce and they taste absolutely delicious.  It can be lunch, dinner or even party snacks. But do try it. Image

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