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!

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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 😛

Ayam Kicap (Soya Sauce Chicken)

17 Aug

Photo courtesy: Fun-Travel-Malaysia.com

Last year, my beautiful friend Freddie and I went on a trip to Malaysia for two weeks. There’s one word to describe that vacation… ‘Magical’. Magical because it marked many firsts of our lives. It was the…

  • First time Freddie and I had been together for so long since our college days (we used to be roomies).
  • First heavy expense since we both started earning.
  • First time I was going on a self-financed trip with a friend.
  • First time I used a credit card online.
  • First time I watched a movie in 3D.
  • First time I went on a night jungle-walk.
  • First time I saw a field mouse in my hotel bedroom.
  • First time I flew Air Asia.
  • First time I rode a jet ski.
  • First time I went so deep into the sea.
  • First time I went inside a bat cave.
  • First time I walked a canopy bridge.

So you see, it was a special time for me. This was the first time I was doing everything on my own expenses…it was an adrenaline rush. Nevertheless, I should clarify that it wasn’t my first time in Malaysia. It wasn’t even my second, or third, or fourth. Long story short… I had been to Malaysia several times before, but this time I experienced a lot of new things.

I still remember, it was our first day in Taman Negara, which is Malay for National Forest, and we had just been on a bus for almost 5 hours and on a boat for another one.

This is where we were:

We were exhausted and absolutely famished. Finally we reached our home for the next two nights. It was a beautiful resort, with a bunch of wooden huts in the wilderness. For us city girls, this was as exciting as it could get. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, with absolute strangers, in what was one of the thickest and oldest rain forests in the world. Now that I think of it, it’s scary; but back then, it was awesome.

Our cabin at Taman Negara

Anyway, after a somewhat dramatic entrance into our motel room (involving fat lizards, my reluctance to touch anything in the room or enter the shower, and freddie pulling our beds AWAY from the walls),  freddie & I cleaned up. We were supposed to be at the Mama Chop Floating Restaurant after dinner. This was our group’s assembling point. Dinner was supposed to be at the resort.

Photo Courtesy: Muffledsolitude.com

So there we were, all set to be fed to the fill, when’ we were greeted by a not-so-appetizing-looking Chicken dish. For a chicken lover like me, that’s saying something, but considering how hungry I was, I could have eaten my friend if I had to. Anyway, the dish was Ayam Kicap… and believe you me, it was amazing. Never before have I tasted something that looked so unappealing yet tasted soooo good.

Photo courtesy: Linapg.blogspot.com

Ayam Kicap (pronounced “Kichaap”) or Soya Sauce Chicken is a purely chicken and onion dish, which, from the looks of it, kinda reminded me of the Bengali dish, Murgh Dopiaza (that means Chicken with Onions). However, the taste is quite different. The dish, like most Malaysian food, is kind of sweet; most prominent flavours being of the rustic, earthy brown sugar, some thick sweet soya sauce, garlic and a bite of vinegar. Onions, in this dish, unlike in Pakistani cuisine, are not halved, finely sliced and fried until golden brown. They are cut into thick onion rings that can withstand the entire cooking process. The chicken, at the end, tastes almost as though it has been caramelised… which is NEVER a bad thing. The dish was accompanied by the staple Malaysian side dishes… nasi goreng (fried rice) and sauteéd vegetables. We thoroughly enjoyed everything on the table, my favourite part being when I would mix some vegetable stock from the sauteéd veggies, with the rice and chicken…and gorge on a mouthful. Though we were in the wild, everything was serene at that moment.

So, while we had much to complain about (in the context of our room), when our group assembled at Mama Chop’s, we had nothing but good things to say about the meal that made up for everything else.

Note to self, must plan a girls-only trip again!

UPDATE: Just remembered, I cooked Ayam Kicap twice after returning to Pakistan. Needless to say, it was great. Will upload recipe and original camera shots soon.

Photo courtesy for un-captioned images: Freddie Kruger

Hyderabadi Khattay Aaloo (Sour Hyderabadi Potatoes)

6 Aug

So, I decided to try the item that I have already reviewed here. And surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad.

— Courtesy: KhanaPakana.com

 

5 large boiled potatoes

(peeled, cut into quarters)

Sour spicy paste
1 large onion chopped
5 green chilies deseeded and chopped
1 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
4 tbsp chaat masala
Freshly squeezed juice of one large lemon

Directions
Heat approximately 5tbp of cooking oil. Golden brown the onions, add the green chilies, cumin powder and chaat masala. Cook with half cup water and reduce. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and keep aside. Carefully add the potatoes and cook til you hear a sizzle. Remove from heat, garnish with freshly-chopped coriander leaves and serve.

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

Pizza Chronicles-Rahat Bakery Islamabad

30 Jul

A city which is mostly known for its bureaucratic and political lifestyle, Islamabad is not very famous when it comes to food. For people like me who belong to Lahore, a culinary journey in the capital city of Pakistan can prove to be quite awkward, especially since food does not seem to be a priority for the residents here.

In recent times though, I was constantly told by my brother, who happened to work in Islamabad for a while, that Rahat Bakery in the Blue Area sells some exotic baked items, which are second to none when it comes to the taste. In particular, he added that the pizza sold by this bakery was finger-licking. When I did some additional research, I discovered that it was one of the foods in Islamabad that were spoken of very highly, and strongly recommended.

It wasn’t until a week back,  that I got the chance to visit Islamabad and taste a pizza that had alluded me for almost two years now. Located in what seemed to be one of the most posh areas of Islamabad, Rahat Bakery stood grand in the blue area and welcomed me in all grandeur. The place is the first “genuine bakery” I have ever visited in Pakistan, and I say that because most of the items sold there were being baked fresh – right before our eyes!

My friends and I ordered the Sausage pizza which was surprisingly not very overly priced. The 13-inch pizza cost us Rs. 795, which compared to a lot of its counterparts in Lahore was relatively economical. One can imagine the popularity of the pizzas served at Rahat by the fact that we had to wait close to 40 minutes to get our hands on our order. Since the bakery itself was overcrowded, we decided to wait for our order outside and spent our time on the stairs chit chatting. After a long wait, when I finally took a bite of the first slice, I knew that the wait was totally worth it. Nothing compares to a piece of freshly baked pizza. Although, the thin crust is not something I am normally fond of, the nice blend of spices and the generous spread of sausages and cheese were a thorough delight. Every bite had a different taste to it and the pleasure of eating it grew by the minute. In my vies, the best thing about it was the simplicity with which the baker had treated the pizza. Very often, we find that pizzas are treated complicatedly in an effort to infuse too many flavours. As a consequence, they end up ruining the entire pizza. This certainly was not the case with the Sausage pizza that i had at the Rahat Bakery. Maybe it’s just me; maybe the 40 minutes of waiting made me devour and relish every bite! However, I don’t think that was entirely the case. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a pizza, that in its most simple form has been filling and delicious.

If you are a genuine pizza lover, if you really believe in tasting simple food and most importantly, if you are planning to visit Islamabad any time soon, do try Rahat Bakery’s pizza and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

 

UPDATE: Directions to Rahat Bakery, Islamabad (A on the map)