Thursday, March 31, 2011

Misal Pav - Hot and Spicy Street Food

This blog was started with the aim of posting some cherished family and regional maharashtrian recipes, both easy and complicated, regular weekday ones or delicacies. But a lot of the stuff we eat at home is so simple and 'automatic' that I think its not a big deal posting it. Like, who wants to see a recipe for alu subji or dal chawal? ( I know thats not true).

Misal Pav or Pav Sample or kolhapuri misal as it is called, is a very popular and ubiquitous street food in western Maharashtra, sometimes termed as 'poor man's food' that is hot and spicy and guaranteed to have smoke coming out of your ears. But it has enough of a wow factor that I feel I should write a post about it. I have been wanting to make this at home for a long time, and the historic India - Pak world cup semi-final provided a perfect opportunity. This dish is assembled with several ingredients, many of them store bought. You just make the 'sample' which is a hot soup or stock kind thing and the Moth or Matki usal. This can be made in advance, and you just heat it up before eating.

The recipe given below is simple, and the biggest challenge for me was to add as much chili or mirchi powder, and the HUGE amount of oil. But in the end, everything balances out really well. There IS some residual heat in the end, and your mouth will be slightly on fire, but that is the whole point of eating this dish, just like a fiery bowl of chili, or it wouldn't really be Misal Pav.

The picture also shows the typical way it is served, in stainless steel plates, because thats how they dish it up in our very own Maharashtra!

Ingredients -

2 cups dry Matki or Moth beans

1-2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp turmeric powder optional

1 Tbsp chopped cilantro

1 lemon juiced

1 medium potato

1 Tbsp jaggery/gur/brown sugar

4 cups+ Farsan or Mixture of choice

salt to taste

1 Tbsp and 1 cup oil

sliced white bread or pav or dinner rolls

For the Masala Paste -

8-10 dry red chillies

3-4 cloves garlic

1 inch piece ginger root

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

1 Tbsp cloves

1 Tbsp cinnamon pieces

2 Tbsp dry coconut powder/flakes unsweetened

1 Tbsp cumin or jeera powder

1 Tbsp coriander or dhania powder

2-3 cups sliced onion

For the garnish

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped tomato

1 cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 lemon quartered

2 Tbsp roasted peanuts optional

Method -

1) Matki or moth beans are crucial here and they need to be sprouted. If you live in India, you can easily get already sprouted matki at any street vendor's or even in a supermarket. In the US, big city stores such as in New Jersey might carry sprouted matki.

It is very easy to make sprouted matki at home. Here is the method and it can be applied for sprouting any beans such as Mung etc.

Soak the beans overnight or more until there is a break in the outer skin. Drain these and wrap in a damp towel or muslin cloth and put in a strainer or colander. Cover and put in a dark place. The seeds sprout in the next 12+ hours. This generally depends on the atmospheric temperature. In colder climates or in winter, it helps if you keep it inside an oven with just the light switched on overnight( the oven is NOT on here).

2) Generally, the matki beans could be part of the 'sample' or the 'soup', and the whole thing is very hot. I am making a milder version of the matki 'usal' and a very hot and spicy 'sample' or 'soup' or 'sauce'. This way everyone can add as many beans as they want, and then only take as much of the hot 'sample' as they can sustain.

3) To make the masala paste - Fry all the masala ingredients in a tsp of oil or spray until they are lightly browned. Fry the coconut very gently until it changes color, taking care to not burn it.

Saute the onions in some oil until they let out all water and are browned.

4) Grind all of the above together to make a thick, smooth paste. This should yield 1 to 2 cups of the paste.

5) Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wok or saute pan. Add jeera or mustard seeds optionally or directly add 2 Tbsp of the masala paste above. Fry to incorporate into oil. Add water as needed to avoid sticking. Fry this until it changes color and is aromatic and the oil starts to leave the sides. This could take 10 mins.

6) Add some turneric and chopped cilantro leaves. Add cubed boiled potato, or if you add raw potato, you will need to fry the potato in this paste until half cooked before you add the matki or beans.

7) Add the matki, add salt and jaggery or brown sugar, 1 tsp cayenne. Mix everything and add a little, maybe half cup water and let it come to a boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the potato is cooked.

8) Keep this aside. This is regular 'matki usal' which can be made anytime and eaten with rice or roti.

9) Now to make the 'sample' - this is the challenging part since you really have to let go and add oil with abandon. Heat about 1 cup of oil in a thick bottomed sauce pan. I recommend a large one so that you have room to add more liquid and also it will contain the splatters.

10) As the oil heats, add all the remaining masala paste, and stir immediately, being very careful to keep your face turned away. You may even switch off the heat for a while during this.

Stir quickly and mix it all in the oil so that it becomes homogenous. You can add a little water at this point to cook the masala. Do Not add water to the hot oil until the paste is well mixed in.

11) Add 1 Tbsp cilantro leaves optionally. Adding a little cilantro or coriander leaf at this point gives a different aroma from that obtained from just a garnish.

12) Fry the paste until it gives out an aroma, and changes color a bit. Add a tsp cayenne pepper and salt to taste.

13) Add one litre plus of water creating a thick slurry. You can actually stretch this by adding even more water, and only the salt needs adjusting. Bring the slurry to a boil and simmer for 10 mins. Your 'sample' is ready. This is going to be very hot, and as it cools, there will be a thick layer of oil on top, since most of the rest is water and the oil floats to the top. You will actually not consume a lot of this oil, since this whole 'sample' or broth is so hot.

14) Now to serve the Misal - this dish is plated as shown in the picture. In a wide small plate, or even a shallow soup plate or cereal bowl, ladle some of the beans or 'matki usal'. Add the Farsan or mixture or hot mix - any brand of choice - on top. This is a dry mixture available in all Indian grocery stores, and several brands are readily available. Buy a milder version rather than a hot one.

15) So we have the bowl with the matki usal and the farsan layer on top. Add about half cup farsan. Ladle some sample on this, enough to wet everything but not until it swims. Garnish with raw chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro and peanuts. Squeeze some lemon juice on top. Place this on a bigger plate. In a smaller bow, ladle some sample, ladling from the bottom up so that you don't get only the oil. Place this on the larger plate. Serve this with sliced white bread, yes white bread or dinner/dollar rolls.

16) If you eat only the sample, you will probably need to call the fire engine, but the way to eat it is to mix everything together, i.e the matki, farsan, onions, tomatoes etc. You can keep adding as much sample as you want to suit your spice tolerance. You can eat the bread in between to cool your tongue or it can also be dipped into the mixture.

17) In the end, the misal is definitely hot and spicy, but enjoyably so, and can be washed down with some ice cold sweet drink, or with loads of ice cream.

This Misal Pav is not only a popular street food but also a part of the cultural heritage of the state of Maharashtra. It is not as complicated as it looks, and the above ingredients can be stretched to make anything from 6-10 servings. You can refrigerate the usal and sample and heat it up just before serving. The other things just have to be assembled.

I hope you try this fiery dish and let me know how you did.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice

Thai food is well known for its fiery nature. Many Thai food novices have exuberantly asked for 'Very spicy' or 'Thai Spicy' food, only to have their mouths burn and then learnt to ask for a much lower spice level. But this rice dish is the exception. This is one dish that I always order 'Spicy', and then it is just right for my palette. The reason is that this is made with loads of good things like pineapple, raisins and cashews which lend it a sweet flavour, and lots of chili flakes which then balance this sweetness with some heat. This dish is slightly sticky due to the fact that its made with pineapple and some juice which makes it moist. There are lots of veggies and tofu that add to the nutritional goodness, and this can be served either with a thai curry of your choice, or even on its own. I have used my favourite vegetables, but you can use what you have on hand. The detailed recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -
2 white or yellow onions
2 carrots
8-10 green beans
1 cup mixed chopped peppers
1 box mushrooms
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cubed tofu
1 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup pineapple juice from can
half cup black raisins
half cup roasted cashew halves/pieces
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger and garlic
1 Tbsp chili flakes
1 Tbsp or more Soy sauce, tamari or liquid aminos
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp white pepper(optional)
Salt to taste
2-3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
2 cups dry rice

Method -
1) Wash and clean the rice and then cook it with double the quantity of water. We want it to be fluffy and not very soft. You can either use jasmine rice or if you are using an Indian variety, the one to go for here is Sona Massorie or Kolam. I do not recommend basmati rice for chinese food.
2) Use a rice cooker for cooking the rice if you have one, or you can also use the microwave. Spread the cooked rice on a big plate or sheet pan, so that any excess moisture will dry up.
3) Chop the vegetables in similar chunks. You can use frozen broccoli florets, or steam and blanch fresh ones. Use red, yellow and orange peppers for a splash of color.
4) Use readymade baked tofu, or just grill the chunks on a non-stick pan so that all the moisture evaporates and they toughen a bit. This will ensure that the cubes do not break when you later fry them along with everything.
5) Use a micro plane or small grater to grate a small piece of ginger and 2 cloves of garlic. This will give a great taste.
6) Use a wok or a wide bottom saute pan. Heat the oil and first add the carrots, then the ginger and garlic and chili flakes. Add the chopped mushrooms and fry until all the water in the mushrooms evaporates. Add the green beans and after a minute, add the peppers. Add the onion at the end.
7) Do not over saute or over fry. We want the veggies to be tender crisp and retain a crunch. Now add the tofu and the pineapple chunks and raisins along with the juice.
8) Add the soy sauce and vinegar and mix well.
9) Add the rice now and use two spatulas to mix everything well without bruising the rice too much.
10) The rice is done when most of the liquid evaporates and it gets a sheen. Add the cashews now and mix in. Garnish with more cashews.
11) Serve hot with a curry or as a one pot meal.

This is a sweet and spicy healthy vegan and vegetarian dish that is simply loaded with vegetables and protein. Edamame is also a good addition here along with or instead of the tofu. This is also a very economical and simple way to have Thai night at home without overwhelming yourself with too many exotic ingredients.