Tag Archives: Gordon Ramsey

Dhal v Dal

Phonetic Ph*k Up: Dhal V Dal
Phonetic Faux Pas: Dhal V Dal

There seems to be a personality problem with the humble ‘dal’. Dal or ‘daal’, is a Hindi term used for cooked pulses or lentils. Lentils (from legumes) is split and prepared as a stew that goes well with rice or flattened bread, as a staple. There are several variations of the same, as one would travel from region to region (specifically in South Asian countries). Now the problem arises when the ‘dal’ is written and pronounced as ‘dhal’. This is where the personality problem arises.

Bronze copy of Schwantaler's Shield of Hercules at Chatsworth House, UK
Bronze copy of Schwantaler’s Shield of Hercules at Chatsworth House, UK

‘Dhal’, as transcripted from Hindi, means shield. One that is commonly used in warfare. Fancy, engraved and carved ones from history to the ones used by anti-rioting police. So when ‘dhal’ is used, interchangeable for the ‘dal’, it loses its taste; almost literally. Sure some varieties of ‘dal’ are spicy enough to bring an army to its knees as there are others that can win kingdoms.

I feel, if the western world would have termed it as ‘dahl’, it wouldn’t have been much of an issue. Unless Sophie would resist her name becoming a recipe! But when alphabet ‘H’ is conjoined after ‘D’, then phonetically it assumes a heavier broth. The consonant ‘dh’ is a ‘punchy’ one, onomatopoeically speaking, something that is used to denote the base note of the left of the tabla. The other sound is a heavier ‘D’. Native Hindi speakers would understand the usage here. Many languages around the globe, translate heavy sounds into a more fluid phonetics, like the Portuguese are known to do.

Funnily, if ‘H’ is added to the ‘dal’, and kept silent while pronouncing, then I do not see why it is added in the first place! If border-less food ambassadors want to migrate the word for lentils, then use ‘dal’ or at most, ‘daal’.

Phonetically, a ‘dal’ is to be uttered like you would read Dante. You see, the ‘dal’ is no less poetic. It is tough to make a good ‘dal’. It is the simplest thing that I judge most restaurant menus on. It is something that can cement a relationship, if made correctly. On the other hand, the ‘dhal’ is a dull sounding word that takes away from the lustre of this delicious broth.

Therefore, I reject the ‘dhal’ in favour of the ‘dal’. And I would urge the culinary world to see the taste behind the reasoning and favour the seasoning. So, say it with me, ‘dal’.

………………………………………………………………..

Nominated for Best Asian Blogger for #MasalaAwards2015. To vote, log onto: masala.com/awards

Chāt It Up!

Chat. Or Chāt. This simple, 4 letter word, finds a huge resonance in the lives of most South Asians. The first usage would be in English and the second would be in Hindi (or Urdu). Truth is, no Indian or Pakistani, can ever survive without either.

The CHAAT of good times
The CHAAT of good times

This is no occasion to discuss the English meaning, so we steer over to the vernacular connotations of ‘chāt’. Chāt is a culture. It is about the times when people are out, no matter what the barometer reads, to stuff their faces with their favourite chāt. A good chāt goes a long way in cementing relationships, finding new love, downing after-office hunger pangs and getting over boredom. A chāt centre is also a study of brand building – be it in the way the cart owner greets new customers or by giving a little something extra to repeat customers. Remember, your local chāt-waley bhaiyya? You might not remember his name, but you still remember him as chāt-waley bhaiyya! That is branding and recall!

A good chāt can define a person, shop, locality, and city even. If you don’t believe me, as any Indori about their chāt locality called ‘Chhappan’ and brace up to not talk for the next 20 minutes because you are salivating like Garfield in front of canned tuna.

The humble chāt is a tasty mix of flavours and spices, hot and cold textures, sweet and savoury and has many, shall we say, variations to it. A chāt menu can be very exhaustive and more challenging than an agency copy test. For those that know, salivate thinking of aloo tikka chat, papdi chaat, dahi bhalla, gol gappey, sev puri, bhel puri, jhaal moori! It’s just scratching the top, really. In fact nobody has considered it seriously but there is a chāt critic in all South Asians. We are the same commentators who feel that Sachin Tendulkar should have hit the ball a little to the off-side; and the tamarind chutney in the chāt is not tangy enough.

The experience of eating chāt starts long before a loaded plate is handed over. It begins with the customer peering over to see all the ingredients laid out, in invitation. Sorry Subway, move over; we’ve been at it since Adam’s. Then it is the magic of the person who loads up goodies on the plate and sprinkles different masalas with more aplomb than Emiril. Bam! Swirl on some spicy, tangy chutney, throw on some ginger juliennes and there you have it – the perfect plate of chāt.

That modest chāt assumes different hues of taste and flavour as one travels across the length and breadth of India. Newer items get added to the family of chat. Sometimes, popular chāt items get known in 3 or 4 different names. Of course there are epicurean critics who can theorise the difference in anatomy of a Bengali ‘phuchka’ to that of a Punjabi ‘gol-gappe’ over its Western poor cousin ‘pani puri’. So you see, getting together a plate of chāt right, is perhaps, tougher than pleasing Gordon Ramsey. Should you find anybody who can make the perfect chāt, marry the person!

One of the first things I was looking for when I landed in Dubai was a good chāt. My search took long with many trials, re-trials and tribulations. I am listing down the top 5 places where you can get a good chāt.

My recommendations are:

  1. Elco Chat Center in Karama for Pani Puri. Bengali’s might want to drive till the border of Sharjah for some ‘Phuchka’ at Calcutta Fast Food.
  2. Chatori Galli for some North Indian style treats like Papdi Chaat, Raj Kachodi and Jalebi Chaat.
  3. Urban Tadka (Karama / Discovery Gardens) for Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Ragda Pattice and Pani Puri with Ragda.
  4. Puranmal for Vada Pao, Aloo Bonda.
  5. Bombay Chowpatty for Samosa Chaat, Dahi Bade, Papdi Chaat.

Now, if the desi in you is doing a jig because you are yearning that sunshine back home with street feasts and unending hours of fun while hot cups of ‘chai’ keep arriving along with piping hot samosas and vada paos, then, this is news for you.

The first-ever Masala Food Fair is here. 2 days of desi picnics, street-eats, and restaurant favourites, celebrity-sighting (Raveena Tandon promises to show up – wipe that gravy) and live cooking demo by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor! Save the dates – 20th and 21st of February at Zabeel Park, Dubai. Log on to masala.com/foodfair for more or look up #MasalaFoodFair on Twitter.

You will probably spot me there with a spoon in hand. See you there!

PS: my auto correct has resigned. It couldn’t agree with all the desi street eats thrown in here!

Also featured on Masala Magazine Online: http://www.masala.com/masala-food-fair-special-5-places-in-dubai-that-serve-best-chats-188871.html

 

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

I admit that I was very nervous as I promised my wife that I will cook fish. This was the first time I was attempting to be friends with fish. The last statement might come as a surprise to many who are acquainted with me and my vernacular belonging. I was ready with everything, including a new griddle that I bought. And so, with all the courage and confidence I could amass and special blessing from Jamie Oliver, I set off to cook salmon steaks. I was super-delighted with the results. A good dinner and happy wife are strong signs of posting the recipe on my blog.

I started with 2 fresh salmon steaks. I had the skin on. Was not too sure if I should cook with skin, so decided to knife it off. The steak might have some bones. Use your knife to find it and pluck them out. Salt both sides and rub in some olive oil. Let it rest.

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa
Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa – Need to better food photography

For the salsa, I used 2 medium-sized cucumbers and cut them into small pieces after peeling off the skin. Continued the same with a big tomato. Threw in 3-4 young leeks. Open up an avocado and scoop out the flesh. Roughly chop it up and put some lemon juice over it to stop discolouration. Throw them all together in a bowl, add red chilli flakes, pinch of salt and lots of lemon juice. A quick swig of olive oil and some chopped mint on top. You could add in a couple of spoons of orange or pineapple juice. Mix them all well and keep aside.

Meanwhile, put the griddle on the stove till it is as hot as Ramsey’s temper. Put in the salmon steaks and hear them scream on the griddle. Keep them on for 7-8 minutes on the side and then turn them over. It will look nice and well done. A little extra grilling will keep the steak crunchy on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside. Repeat the same for the other side. I was experimenting on getting the criss-cross griddle marks correct. Will perfect them the next time. Take them off heat and allow them to rest a while. You may notice the juices in the griddle pan; pour them back on the steaks.

Now plate them. Steak first and spoon generous amounts of the salsa on top. Take a picture. Sit down and eat well. And do not look at the kitchen sink. That is for another time.