Saturday, January 24, 2009

Street Food: Chanachur

The pot has hot coal in it to keep the crunches crunchy!
The tomatos act as a barrier too.
The whole thing is so light he can carry it around on his head.

I love Bangladeshi street food. It always just hits the spot. But, it isn't for weak stomachs!! Last posts have been about the ultimate favorite Fuchka and Chotpoti, today's is on a another very popular snack, Chanachur. Chanachur wallas are mobile and carry everything with them whereever they go. They can be found in parks and public places where there is a gathering. An interesting thing about them is that they sing to advertise, hopefully next time I can catch a video of it.

Chanachur is fried chickpeas dough in spices then mixed up with mustard oil, puffed rice, peanuts and tomato salad (cilantro, onion, green chili). Its cruncy, spicy, tangy, salty and everything to keep the palate entertained for a few mins!

The back part of the basket is the makeshift kitchen, how compartmentalized! The tomato salad is pre-prepared, the mustard oil, and the tumbler to shake and mix it all together.

Another interesting point to make for street food, it produces no waste. It is fantastic to see so much recycling in Dhaka. The chanachur wallas sell their fare in pouches made from newspaper scraps! Is it hygencic? Umm, probably not, but hey, street food in any country is a little adventurous!

So, you happen to be by Dhaka and hanging with your buddies at the park, call a chanachur walla and share a pouch!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mushed Eggplant (Begun Bharta)

Eggplant is an incredible vegetable that creates delicious dishes in all cultures. It is, in fact, one of my most favorite vegetables...its tastes wonderful whether in curry, grilled, baked or smushed! Here is the way I prefer it most with just some roti or plain rice - you don't need anything else. It's got a distinct eggplant flavor, spicy, tangy and just a whole lot of delicious flavors that slowly blooms in your mouth.

You can start with any eggplant, the big round ones are in season now and available plenty in the bazaar so that's what I used this time but thinner long eggplants work too. Oh, the green eggplants are very savory too.


1/2 an large round eggplant
1/2 sliced onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 dry red chilies
salt to taste
mustard oil to sautee

1. Heat about 2-3 tbsp. of mustard oil, add the onions and sautee till golden and translucent.

2. Add the garlic and cook through. The oil will foam, it is normal.

3. Add the dry red chilis in the oil and let gently roast till it puffs up slightly.

4. Stick the half eggplant on a fork and char roast over an open flame. Blacken it completely till it is cooked inside.

5. Let the eggplant cool and gently remove the burnt skin.

6. Place in clean bowl and add the mustard oil, onion, garlic and chili and smush and mash it all together. Add salt to taste.

Thats it!!

The same onion, garlic, chili and mustard oil mix can be used to make other smashed vegetables like roasted pumpkin, boiled beans, boiled potatoes, fresh coriander leaves (gently fry it in the oil and use a blender with tiny bit of water to puree it), fried fish...there are no limits.

Mustard oil is a staple in a bengali kitchen mainly used in bhartas and fish curry. It should be only used with vegetables and fish, meats are not that tasty at all with it. Its also used in many snacks like puffed rice and tomato dish...that's another recipe!

Mustard oil is like vinegar or soy sauce, there can be many grades or types. Fresh ones or good ones have a very strong smell and a spicy odor, older oils have a faint odor and much more tame spice. The best flavor comes from the stronger oils.

Mustard oil can be found for consumption and body oil-a little odd yes, but its a natural heating agent. So, its a great oil to use for winter and applied to the body in the winter naturally heats the skin keeping you warm. But, the pungent odor and staining can hamper a regular lifestyle ;)

More on mustard oils on another post and some natural remedies with it!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Butter Baked Cabbage

I found this recipe on the Open Source Food network. It was from a guy in Japan named Theory that gave the chemistry behind this that was very interesting and made it all the more enticing to try it out. Here is a link to his post: Butter Baked Cabbage (Posted using ShareThis)

Baked Cabbage

1 whole cabbage (quartered - leave core intact)
Water to boil
Star anise
Black pepper

(Preheat oven to grill)

1. Boil water with spices (star anise, cardamom, cloves).

2. Boil the cabbage in the water until cooked through.

3. Place the cabbage in an oven proof dish, place a little bit of butter on the quarters, sprinkle some salt for taste and place in oven.

4. In about 10-15 mins the corners will slightly char-those are the best bits-when ready, take it out and sprinkle with black pepper.

We had it as a side dish to some chicken biryani and it was wonderful sweet delicate flavor contrasted to the strong spices of the biryani. This recipe is a must try!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tetul Shorbot (Tamarind juice/cocktail)

There is a place called "Adda" in Dhaka, a restaurant on the top floor of the store Prabortona. The unique aspect of this restaurant is its made for women! The servers and cooks are all women-which is a rarity for general Bangladeshi public. "Adda", loosely translated means Hangout and that's just women do here. The low tables with floor seating and the separate dining area with low tables and short chairs exude an air of relaxation that a female can embrace. Now, now...don't get riled up, men are allowed here but only with the accompaniment of a woman, which is such a pleasant change from so many "hangouts" that require a male escort for "good middle class girls"!

Besides the atmosphere, the menu is also worth mentioning. It serves up the traditional Bangali fare of khichuri, rice, daal, chicken curry, beef, fish and bhartas (mashed and spiced veggies) along with light snacks of chotpoti, fuchkas and delicious teas and juices. I always end up getting a tall cool glass of tamarind juice - a drink this place is noted for-its spicy, sweet, sour and full of robust taste explosions. Yes, its a strange way to describe it but you will see why when you see what types of things go into it. One thing that always happened when I had this drink was within an hour-I had to be close by to a toilet! At first I thought it was just my weak stomach unable to handle the flavor combination but later as I talked female friends-I realized why this drink is popular at a women's hangout. It works like a bowel cleanser! Now, I can understand why it would be a sought after drink to empty out a women's stomach after a meal.

After some research online I found that Tamarind is used in Ayurvedic Medicine for gastric and/or digestion problems. Now it all makes sense!

Is it worth drinking knowing the experience afterward? No, not for me but still---it is one of those tastes you just have a hankering for and just have to have tall cool glass! But maybe one could choose the timing well....

Tamarind Cocktail

Tamarind Pulp
Rock salt
Cumin powder
Sugar or Jaggery

There is no perfect measurement for it, its a- taste as you go -type mix. Tamarind pulp can be bought at the super market or if you have dried tamarind fruits, break the skin and pull out the fruit. Place the pulp or fruit in boiling water to let the pulp melt away. Cool and strain and squeeze with your hands to get all the pulp out off the seeds. Add the other ingredients and alter to your taste, that's it! Just stay close to a toilet with an hour or so... ;-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Street Food: Fuchka & Chotpoti

Street food - smells & tastes like nothing in a clean sanitary kitchen. It's delicious but you don't really want to know why!

Fuchka Walla and his carts on
the streets by Dhaka University...

Here is a unique street food in Bangladesh -

the Fuchka Wallah with the hot
chickpea waiting to put it all together...

Fuchka is a mix of potatoes, chola (chickpeas) boiled in spices, tomatoes, onions, coriander, green chilies topped off with a sweet and sour tangy tamarind juice or sauce.

the potato, cilantro and onion mix ready for the mix

The mix is stuffed in a crunchy hollow wheat shell and has to be gulped in one bite.

yep...he mixes it with his bare hands...

Chotpoti is slightly different in that it's like a salad with chickpeas cooked in a slightly different set of spices with all the above minus the shell and plus some boiled egg slices.


Both are absolutely delicious and although they can be easily cooked tastily at home, there is nothing quite like it when you get it on the street. Kind of like NYC street hot dogs!!


Happy New Year!

Cooking more fresh foods...resolution # 3! Very excited about the new year and looking forward to doing more research and work with fresh foods. Haven't done any cooking for a few days due stomach ailments - so another project is to do research on natural remedies for common problems.