Monday, October 26, 2015

Memories of Banzai: Pot-stickers at home

Prawn pot-stickers with sweet-chilli sauce
When I was studying at college in north campus, there used to be a couple of inexpensive Chinese restaurants closeby, thronged largely by the massive student population living in those areas. My favourite was Banzai - it has shut down since - tucked away in the back alleys of Kamla Nagar market. We used to frequent the place to have their delicious steamed pork momos. A plate costed about 60 or 80 bucks, and had 8 or 10 very large dumplings arranged around a plate with a small bowl of spicy sauce placed at the centre. They were juicy and full of deliciousness, and comfortably priced for a student budget. A plate was adequate for a heavy lunch, and I remember not feeling the slightest pangs of hunger till about dinner time. 

A couple of weeks back I came across a lovely video on Youtube by the Dumpling sisters (watch it here) for making pork pot-stickers for the Chinese New Year, and I knew I had to try it out. I modified the recipe a wee bit, but the credit goes out to the Dumpling Sisters for this fantastic recipe! In fact, I always assumed that pot-sticker wrappers need to be store-bought and there aren't any speciality Asian stores in the city that I know of. But this is a myth, happily dispelled by this wonderful video! The first time Len and I tried it out, we used a pork filling and miraculously they turned out just like the ones we used to eat at Banzai. It was the same moist dumpling with that extra crunch from being first pan-fried. The second time around we used prawns, using using exactly the same ingredients as with the pork. 

In terms of the actual novelty of preparing a dish, the pot stickers experience was right up there. I was quite surprised to find that the pork filling turned out better :) I say, surprised, because I have never rated anything above a prawn dish previously in my life! But luckily we used the same recipe for both; the only difference being the 300 grams of pork instead of the prawn I used for this recipe. Come to think of it, I think one could use also use chicken and they should still be just as yum! I served mine with a sweet-chilli sauce, readily available at any store.   

What you need:

Fresh prawns ready to be chopped

For the original recipe and the method, check out here. We made it exactly how the Dumpling Sisters did in their video it. I only tweaked the ingredients list a wee bit, mainly because I could not lay my hands on Shaoxing rice wine. So, here's what I used.

For the dough:
300 g flour
220 ml boiling water
1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:
300g cleaned prawn (OR boneless pork), minced finely by hand or in a food processor
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. water
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce (I added this for the prawn, not pork)
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp honey
5 small spring onions, finely sliced
2 tsp ginger, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, finely diced

All rolled up

Monday, October 12, 2015

The last Sunday of September

This post has been sitting in the drafts folder for a really long time now. It is from the weekend before last: probably one of the laziest and longest of weekends in a long long time. What did I do? Absolutely nothing, well apart from hanging about at home watching some absolutely mind-blowing animations, cooking a little bit, and generally sinking into bed at every given opportunity. But, this apart, there were three other reasons that made the weekend utterly and perfectly delicious. 

Plucking one
Firstly, I discovered that even in late September, our mango tree is bearing fruit! I don't know if climate change is to be held responsible for this anomaly - in which case I shouldn't be happy - but it is hard not to, when you see big green mangoes hanging within reach :)

After we spotted one (see photo), we started looking for more, and there were so many, hidden in between heavy foliage and all that green and brown. We plucked a couple and left the remaining for the occasional parrot or (yes!) monkey visitor! They can be quite a nuisance, but then, as long as there is no visible damage, we are happy to see them hop over once in a while :)

Secondly, we ate pancakes for breakfast: some with maple syrup, others with butter or soft chocolate spread. And best of all, I didn't even have to slave over the batter. We used Aunt Jemima's ready-made pancake mix, thanks to Madhu's timely visit from Chicago and my superior judgement in listing out all that I needed from Walmart!

Pancakes for breakfast

Thirdly, by Sunday evening, I had warmed up to the idea of cooking a little bit. And I mean actual cooking, and not the kind of cooking that ready pancake mixes warrant. We made this simple, yet delicious tuna curry Veracruz style. Lately I have been reading up a bit on popular Mexican food, and this one popped right up on top. I adapted it a little bit to suit what we had at home - definitely not high on authenticity, but right up there in taste!

Tuna Veracruz style!

What you need

500gm tuna, diced
2 onions, medium-sized, chopped 
5 cloves of garlic, medium-large, chopped
black olives, a handful, sliced
green chilies, sliced
Creole seasoning, to taste
1 tomato, large-sized, chopped
100 ml light cream
1 bay leaf

How to

Wash, clean, and pat dry the tuna. Season generously with the Creole seasoning. Keep aside.

In a pan, heat oil and throw in the bay leaf. Once it starts giving out a gentle aroma, throw in the chopped onions and garlic. When soft, add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes.

Now add the fish to pan and fry on low heat for ten minutes, turning the pieces occasionally.

You could also add some salt at this time, along with chopped chilies and olives. Cook for a couple of minutes, turning up the heat slightly.

Now add the cream and let the gravy simmer away gently. You could cover the pan, but keep stirring every couple of minutes, so that the cream does not curdle. Heat should be at the lowest.

Once the fish is soft, and flakes easily, turn off the heat. This should not take more than ten minutes.