January 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
People always ask me what my favourite Indian restaurant is. Hands down it’s Vij’s Rangoli because I love, love, love their Portobello Mushroom and Red Bell Pepper Curry on paneer with beet salad & naan ($15.50). The mushroom is cut thick and has a nice chew to it and the paneer is soft and melts in your mouth. Not to mention the perfection of the delicate spices that make the sauce.
Vij’s original restaurant just moved to Cambie and I was surprised there was not a line up to see the Celebrity Chef’s new space. The food and service was amazing as usual but I do have to say, that I love this dish the best. I take all of my visiting clients to Rangoli at least once during their stay and many go back again. Rangoli Restaurant is located in South Granville on 11th Avenue. www.vijsrestaurant.ca
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, my daughter and I really enjoy Best Quality Restaurant which is more of a traditional Indian restaurant with authentic food and minimal service. This restaurant is pure veg and only serves vegetables and dairy products. The meal that is shown here is the puri with chickpeas ($4.99) and my daughter got the vegetable kofta with rice ($9.99). The place makes you feel like you are transported to India and the prices make you feel the same.
The flavours are authentic and the food arrives a few minutes after you order. As the name implies, they use quality ingredients unlike other traditional restaurant and I have never gotten sick or a stomach ache from eating their food. We usually pick up a small box of assorted sweets when we leave which comes to around $5.50 and a box of veggie samosas ($0.75 each). Best Quality is located on Main Street at 57th Avenue in Vancouver.
December 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
The hugging saint “Amma” was visiting San Francisco from South India so I travelled to her ashram in San Ramon to attend her retreat. Amma is a humanitarian and has an international charity called Embracing the World that focuses on ending poverty by educating people in India and implementing creative solutions to change the world.
In India she has built universities, hospitals and orphanages to name a few. She gives out free meals and scholarships to those who would not be able to afford education. She has spoken many times at the UN and is an inspiration as she came from a small fishing village.
I enjoy being in her presence and so I took the opportunity to see her in California. I always look forward to the food as it is made with love and warms the soul. One morning when I entered the cafe, I was so happy to find some of my favourite south Indian breakfasts. The idlis tastes just like the ones in India and the sambar sauce complimented it perfectly.
I kind of pigged out and also got a scoop puttu which is made with ground rice and has savoury spices with veggies. I was so in heaven and I washed it all down with a cup of chai.
I had a great time at the retreat and the space for solitude and reflection was what I needed. Back at home I feel more connected and relaxed and eager to research recipes on South Indian breakfasts. If you would like to know more about Embracing the World, visit their website at www.embracingtheworld.org for more info on Amma, visit www.amma.org.
September 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
When I decided to cook dinner for my hosts one night, I chose one of my favourite dishes, vegetarian coconut curry. I make this dish all the time, especially when I’m craving fat in my diet. This coconut curry is not overly spiced and has a warming effect on the body and soul. Better yet, it matures overnight and continues to dazzle the next day. All you need is a little water to heat it up.
I headed to the grocery store and when I arrived, I realized that I would need to substitute my veggies for Japanese ones. Their produce comes in small plastic packages with plastic wrap on it. The portion are about the size of a large handful because the Japanese value fresh ingredients and shop for groceries almost daily. I bought a whole bunch of different ones to create variety in the dish. I was also fortunate to find the right spices and was surprised that the quality was better than in Canada.
When I got back, I got organized in the kitchen. It was my first time cooking in Japan and also the first time that I felt a little Japanese. I love Japanese kitchen stuff as everything is good quality and made ergonomically. Saya is always laughing at me because I have a long list of kitchen items that I want to take home and that list gets longer everyday.
When we sat down for dinner, Saya decided to play music and put on a youtube video with Shahrukh Khan, the famous Bollywood actor. She told me that all the Japanese women love him which made me laugh. The meal was delicious and the Japanese veggies created a nice contrast in texture and taste. I will definitely make the curry using these veggies at home.
Cooking time 45 minutes
one Japanese yam boiled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces and then quartered
one lotus root cut into thin slices
one handful broccoli florets
one handful green beans cut into 1/2 inch pieces
one handful okra cut into 1/2 inch pieces
one handful snow peas
two bunches bok choy cut into 1/3 inch pieces
one red pepper sliced into 1/4 inch pieces lengthwise
one handful mushrooms sliced into 1/3 inch pieces
1 package soft tofu diced
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 small onion diced
2 -3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp cumin seeds or powder
1 tsp coriander seeds or powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 small can plum organic tomatoes
1 large can coconut milk
chopped fresh cilantro
1. Steam the veggies
2. In a large sauce pan on medium heat add the olive oil.
3. When hot, add the garlic saute until golden and add the onions. Cook until transparent and brown.
4. Add the spices, ginger and salt. Stir. Add the tomatoes.
5. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil and puree.
6. Add the steam veggies to the pot and when the flavours are incorporated, turn off heat. Serve with rice and Japanese pickles.
April 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s been 2 months since I’ve been back from India and lately I’ve been craving the Indian food that I indulged in. Though I love cooking, there are many things that I don’t bother making anymore and pawkoras are one of them. I used to make big batches of pawkoras but it was time-consuming to fry them plus my house would smell of smoke for days.
When I discovered the easy no-nonsense of frozen pawkoras, I never looked back. For $5.99 you can get 15 frozen golf ball sized pawkoras with a generous portion of tamarind chutney by Indianlife. They use natural ingredients and you can find their products in the freezer section of the grocery store.
I buy mine at the health food stores like Wholefoods and Choices. The samosas taste very authentic and are not too spicy so the whole family can enjoy them. I often serve them as appetizers at dinner parties and people go crazy over them.
To cook the pawkoras, all you need to do is preheat the oven and cook them on a baking sheet for 16-20 minutes, turning them half way. They are so easy to make and worth the hassle free price of $5.99. I promise that once your try them, you’ll be addicted.
April 2, 2013 § 2 Comments
samosa and chai
Street food in India is usually very inexpensive and a chai and samosa costs about 18 cents. Some places have benches or stalls to sit on that are in the street. Street food usually has more flavour and is more authentically made as it’s geared for locals and not tourists. If you’re in a hurry, you can get something and it’s ready within minutes of ordering compared to spending an hour or so in a restaurant.
When I first started going to India, I never ate the street food. I’ve heard many horror stories from people of sicknesses that have lasted over a week over some dodgy meat that tempted them in the market. That was enough to keep me away for some time. But you do hear of people who eat everything and even drink the tap water without any side effects. I decided to give street food another chance and have come up with a method to help decipher what is safe.
I usually look for places that are busy where all the locals eat. I watch the person cook a few items and see how they handle the food, the money and clean up. Look to see if the person is using their hands or utensils, and using the same hand for money. Often they don’t have running water and only a cloth at their side
Look at how the item is cooked and in some cases like deep-frying for samosa, it may kill some bacteria. Overall you need to use your judgement and intuition as to where to trust. After you’ve tried a place, see how your body feels and then you’ll know if it’s good to go back.
Vendor cooking uttapam on the ghat in Varanasi
March 23, 2013 § 2 Comments
India is one of my favourite places to travel and this holiday I spent one month there. I started my trip in South India on the beautiful beaches in Kerala. I love South Indian food and there seems to be a shortage of it in Vancouver which drives my appetite for the authentic version in India.
I had my first masala dosa on a beach front restaurant while I watched the waves crash in the ocean. The thin crepe is made from rice and lentils and stuffed with spiced potatoes and served with sides of sambar and coconut chutney. Masala dosas go perfectly with a cup chai. But be careful, they are quite filling because of the large quantity of potatoes.
Idli has got to be one of my favourite breakfast items. It is made from rice and is very light and fluffy. The coconut sambar is usually quite spicy but very flavourful and each bite hits the spot. Idli is a nice light and filling breakfast that satisfies the palate.
Poori bhaji is a north Indian breakfast that you can find in south India which is a heavier option. It comes with poori, deep fried roti and a potato curry which is made with boiled potatoes that are mashed and minced thinly and cooked with spices, garlic and onions. It is full of flavour though it is something that I eat in moderation.
In Vancouver you can find these items at a few restaurants. A good restaurant is Chutney Villa on Broadway at Main which serves South Indian food and has popular lunch specials for $9.95. The international chain Saravana Bhavan is down Broadway at Oak Street and serves everything South Indian including an amazing buffet for $12.99.
November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
A couple of weekends ago, my friend asked me to give him a ride to the Italian store Ravioli on Commercial Drive to pick up two cases of lupini beans that he specially ordered. The beans are native to Italy and the ones that he received were from Portugal. I had never heard of these beans before and I am not surprised as my friend had to wait months for his order to come in. He was kind to give me a couple of cans in exchange for being his sherpa.
I decided to make a masala curry which turned out fabulously. The lupini beans are quite crisp and crunchy like chestnuts and surprisingly took a long time to chew. My friend mentioned that they are high in protein and fibre and I quickly learnt that when I got full from eating only half the portion size that I normally do. This curry can be made in advance as the flavours saturate overnight.
Cooking time 35 minutes
6 medium-sized red potatoes par boiled and cut into pieces
1 tbsp (15 ml) + 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1/2 tsp (2 ml) cumin seeds
1/2 tsp (2 ml) black mustard seeds
1 tsp (5 ml) minced ginger
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 small onion diced
540 ml can of lupini beans
1/2 tsp (2 ml) masala
1/2 tsp (2 ml) turmeric
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) sea salt
1 cup (250 ml) diced tomatoes
1. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook until they pop.
2. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few seconds until golden. Add the onions and cook until golden.
3. Add the potatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute until potatoes brown.
4. Add the beans, spices and salt. Stir and cook for a few minutes.
5. Add the tomatoes, stir and cook for a few minutes.