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The Tale of Two Cities

31 Dec

Wow! Seems like forever since I last wrote on here. But A LOT has happened since my last post. I quit my job, got married and moved to a new city. If you didn’t already know, I am originally from Karachi. My new family, however, is based in Lahore. And let me tell you one thing… Karachi and Lahore are as different as chalk and cheese. While Karachi is mostly about making money, Lahore is about making food. People here, think from their tummies; and I don’t blame them… the food in Lahore is like the city itself. It is historical, it’s flavorsome, it’s full of color, culture and calories (lol!).

Foodies revving up to be fed at the scenic food street, interestingly laid out in the infamous Anarkali

Being a foodie, it wasn’t difficult for me to make the transition. As newly-weds, my husband and I were invited to lunches and dinners left, right and center; and while my clothes were complaining…. i definitely wasn’t. So far I have gotten to taste some really good food, ranging from Chinese to Barbecue, Continental and, of course, the local specialties… the curries. Of course my inability to digest mutton (mainly because of my dislike for the  meat) is somewhat limiting, but I have come to enjoy some amazing vegetarian dishes, some well-cooked beef-based cuisine, some insanely-good fried fish, and of course, the love of my life… Chicken.

One of the best things about moving to Lahore is being able to enjoy food in it’s entirety. Discovering the ingredients, absorbing the way it’s cooked and savoring all the flavors it has to offer. So stay tuned as I chronicle the adventures of my taste-buds, as I familiarize them to everything Lahore has to offer.

Rotiboy Coffee Bun

23 Aug

The Rotiboy Coffee Bun (Photo courtesy: Freddie)

Yes, it’s official. I’m still reeling from the fact that I am no longer in Malaysia *sigh*. Nevertheless, I think it’s only fair to share with the world, the fond memories I have of the people, food and culture of Malaysia.

There are four food smells that always work up your appetite, when you’re in Malaysia.

1. Famous Amos Cookies
2. J Co. Donuts
3. Saint Cinnamon Classic Chocolate Cinnabons
4. Rotiboy’s “downright-amazing-and-freshly-baked” Coffee Buns.

If you travelled to Malaysia and didn’t try EACH of these… you need a solid refund!

Nevertheless, today I’m going to talk about Rotiboy’s Coffee Buns. Available at all the Rotiboy outlets perforating Kaula Lumpur, my favourite outlet was the one at the magnificent Petronas Towers Shopping Mall… Suria KLCC. Petronas Towers… you might’ve heard of them. If not…here they are…on the map.

I still remember, as soon as you enter KLCC, you’re welcomed by the heavenly smell of coffee. For someone who gets migranes because of coffee, it’s bad news. But this smell is different. It’s the smell of fresh coffee, sugar, cream and butter. And of course, my favourite smell in the world… freshly baked bread. If I were given the chance, I’d love to set up my very own business of baked goodies…I’m guessing that’s what heaven would smell like. Anyway, I remember, on my way back from work, I’d queue up for 30 minutes, to grab two coffee buns, which used to be for approximately RM2.0 each, which is like less than a dollar. I’d watch the “rotiboys and rotigirls” work behind counters, envying them for being able to put smiles on so many faces.

The bun itself is quite big, albeit light and fluffy. Ond bite into the deep brown bun, and you’d break through the fragile yet crisp surface. The bun, as dark as it is on the outside, is almost a light tone of nude on the inside. It’s so fluffy that you can almost press the entire bun within the palm of you hand. But if you do so, how else would you enjoy it’s light, yet absolutely divine texture. The wafer-thin crust, the soft interior that smells like butter yet tastes like coffee *sigh*!

Rotiboy Coffee Bun is one of the best baked items found in Malaysia. The Buttermilk Boy is another favourite. Those who’ve tried it will nod in agreement…and those who haven’t…well…tsk tsk.

RECIPE: Ais Kacang (Malaysian shaved ice)

18 Aug

Photo credit: ecofrenone.wordpress.com

For this recipe, it’s an absolute must that you have an ice shaving machine.

You need:

As much shaved ice as you want :P. But please make sure it’s made from clean water.

For the syrups
Go nuts with as many concentrates as you like, as long as the favours go well together. My suggestions are :

  • Rooh Afza
  • Ice cream soda juice concentrate
  • Condensed milk

The best part:

  • Coursely pureed mango bits
  • Canned, unflavoured red beans
  • Canned sweet corn, cream-style
  • Different flavour grass jelly, cut into small pieces (I would suggest that you don’t substitute grass jelly with normal jelly. The latter has very solid flavours, unlike those in grass jelly, which has more mild flavours that don’t overpower the ABC)
  • Vanilla flavoured ice cream
  • Roasted and chopped peanuts
  • Finely sliced and roasted bananas

Method:

Just throw everything as you like and eat as soon as you can, without getting a brain-freeze :P! Also, don’t churn the ice and the toppings/syrups together… it’s not a stew!

Ais Kacang/ABC

18 Aug

When I was living in Malaysia, one of my many guilty pleasures was the infamous coolant, Ais Kacang (pronounced “Kachaang”), which is Bahasa Indonesia or Bahasa Melayu for Ice Beans. Many people recognise it as flavoured shaved ice, but unlike the shaved ice available in Pakistan (or gola ganda), Ais Kacang is a revelation to most foreigners.

One of the first things that hit you when you eat anything in Malaysia, is that the food here is ALWAYS sweet. Even it’s Nasi Biryani (or as we Pakistanis plainly call it, Biryani), there is a hint of sweetness in it. This is of course, because the local palate is accustomed to sweet food, which, considering my unhealthy and positively abysmal craving for sweets, is not a bad thing. The second culinary shock that we Pakistanis would receive is the fact that Malays like to have Red Beans as dessert. For my Malaysian friends, of course, I was the shock-bearer when I told them that we have red bean curry. I’m guessing they haven’t heard of the traditional full English breakfast either (which is also my favourite, minus the beans… which I am allergic to).

Anyway, coming back to Ais Kacang… so yeah, I first found out about Ais Kacang on my second trip to Malaysia in 2006. After spending many hours trying to figure out the public transport system, my mom, my sister and I found ourselves in Mid-Valley, now one of my favourite malls in Malaysia (mainly because I have such bitter-sweet memories of the place). For those who have never been to Malaysia, but intend to go there, it’s pretty easy on the map:

On the top floor of the mall, is the food court, which served me my very first Ais Kacang. Initially, it looked to me like regular shaved ice, with various toppings thrown in together. But to my delight, there’s so much more to an Ais Kacang than mere shaved ice, and flavoured concentrates. Buried at the bottom of the bowl is a spectrum of interesting flavours that only the culinary daredevils would experiment with in Pakistan. There is the bright yellow of the creamy sweet corn, the deep purple of the cincau (pronounced “chin-chaw”), which I now know is grass jelly. Add to that some pureed mango pulp, nata de coco, red beans and peanuts. The shaved ice above is topped off with heaped spoonfuls of what lies beneath it, as well as some ice cream, multi-coloured concentrates and condensed milk.

Yes, I know… it sounds like a dieter’s disaster, but I think it’s such a comforting sight to see such colours and flavours brought together in such harmony… that a bowl of ABC is extremely difficult to pass. It’s like a work of art that you can see, smell and taste. Perhaps, I will soon upload Here’s a recipe for those interested.

For those who haven’t been to Malaysia… I don’t want to sound all dark and everything, but it’s one of the places you simply must visit at least once before you die. The beauty of Malaysia, can never be truly captured in a blog. You have to see it, and be surrounded by it, to believe it.

UPDATE: Yes, am still allergic to red beans… but that doesn’t stop me from having ABC. I delegate a family member/friend to finish the bean-y bit 😛

Feefo’s Arabic Paratha

4 Aug

Ramzan is definitely that month of the year when Karachiites remember their love for food. If it were possible, this would be the time when the streets of Burnes Road would drip with oil, and the month that doctors would unquestionably associate with heart problems among majority of the people. Yes, Ramzan is when everyone – rich or poor – indulges in deep fried, fat-laden and heart-attack inducing food. Though this essentially defeats the purpose of the month – living with modesty, developing compassion for the poor & exercising abstinence – food served this time of the year is unparalleled. Not in terms of quality, but in terms of spirit.

Every year, for 30 days, I see Karachiites less savage-like than they usually are. This is evident from the fact that when driving in the wild traffic at Sharah-e-Faisal, instead of shouting generational curses at the bikers who overtake them from the left, these relatively-sedated people just shut their eyes and pray for patience. Magical, isn’t it.

Coming back to the food, there is never dearth of fried food in Ramzan. From pakoras (mixture of onion, chillies, coriander and gram flour, cooked mostly in the monsoon season), to potato and brinjal fritters, dahi barey (fried puffs lentil dumplings in spiced yogurt) and jalebi (need to find out English translation)… iftar tables in Pakistan are laden with all the goodies. Arabic parathas, though not conventional occupants of an iftar table, are very tasty. The Arabic paratha is a deep fried flattened bread stuffed with egg & spiced shredded chicken. I know, it sounds incredibly fattening and it is, but it is also very delicious. The best thing about this fried item is its texture. It is crunchy on the outside, and soft, slightly glutinous on the inside. The flavoursome core is of course its strength. Many people substitute egg and chicken with minced beef, but I have my reservations with red meat served on the street. Do try to make this at home… it makes for a great tea-time snack, especially since you can choose to bake the bread instead of frying it.

UPDATE: Directions to Feefo (I THINK it’s behind Music City… this place always confuses me!)

Hyderabadi Khattay Aaloo

3 Aug

Khattay aaloo (sour potatoes) is a Hyderabadi snack which has found its way into Karachi street food. My family is a regular at ‘Hyderabad Colony’, a part of the city famous for its pickles, paapadh (poppadum), bagar-e-baigan (pickled brinjal) and khattay mirch (sour, stuffed jalapenõs). We usually buy the pickles and paapadh from there, but you should know that Hyderabadi food, in general, is extremely exotic. Their blend of spices is something that can put Mexican food to shame, which is another cuisine I love. Anyway, since my dad’s side of the family is from Bangalore, and my mother’s side is from Madras, we have a lot of traditional Indian food (like dosa, idli, saambaar, chaar, upma & wait for it… saltish semolina) served on our table. Also, since my family spent a lot of time in Bangladesh, we have a sweet spot for fish and rice as well. So you see, we have a lot of different kinds of food in our house, so understandably Hyderabadi food is no exception.

That aside, for one particular iftar, my uncle brought us some khattay aaloo, especially since it’s a favourite of mine and my mother’s. This particular one is not necessarily my favourite. He brought this from Cresent in Bahadurabad. I like the one available at the Dhoraji gola gandah junction. Traditionally, khattay aaloo is a dish simply made up of boiled potatoes, roughly cut into quarters. These potatoes are served with a spicy masala, which is what makes all the difference. The masala is made up of a lot of lemon juice, five spice powder, anardana (dried pomergrenate seeds), salt and some other stuff that I think is a secret passed on from one Hyderabadi to another some other things that I added when I made it here. Nevertheless, the sloppy way in which it’s served is that they put two to three boiled potatoes (whole) on a plate, cut it into rough quarters (or more depending on the size of the potatoes), and pour a good amount of the spicy paste onto it. The lemon-based spice, along with the bland potatoes go really well together. As soon as you put the potato in your mouth, there’s a burst of flavours and spices, and as soon as you bite into the boiled potato, you’re welcomed by it’s mild, almost tasteless flesh, which is a perfect contrast to the rich masala on the outside.

Word of caution, do not try this dish if you have a pitiable threshold for spicy food. As great as it sounds, it is dangerously aggressive for a delicate stomach. Also, never eat this on an empty stomach. It spells nothing but a sickening streak of acidity*blech*.

 

UPDATE: For those interested in knowing where Hyderabad Colony in Karachi is, here’s a grab… thanks to HRH Google

Agha’s Chicken Boti Kebab

25 Jul

One of my favourite items from Agha’s Fast Food (near my work place), is their Chicken Boti Kebab. Served with grilled onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and raita, this dish is made up of spicy chicken cubes, barbecued on skewers. Though this photograph is not entirely appetizing (c’mon, it’s weird taking photos of lunch at work!), I think it’s easy to make out the juices at the bottom of the dish. If you squeeze an entire lemon over the chicken cubes, and fold one into a piece of chapati (unleavened flatbread), the juices are the best gravy you could ask for. That’s how I usually eat it. Unlike Chicken Tikka, Chicken Boti is not as spicy. And the fact that it is made up of boneless chicken, means that the cooking time is also considerably less.

One plate of chicken boti kebab from Agha’s costs PKR 160, which is less than USD 2. For a filling meal, that reignites your love for BBQ, that is a very small price to pay. Don’t you say?