At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

WHAT'S FOR DINNER? AND IS IT RISKY?

Several years ago, at the Indian restaurant where I was the cashier in the evening, the proprietor disquisitioned anent the health-giving properties of Indian food. There was, he averred, no other cuisine so ancient and so concerned with your physical well-being than desi khanna. It was a gift.

The person with whom he spoke was a customer who had earlier placed an order for food to take out. Veritably a captive audience.
Indeed.

While half-heartedly listening to the lecture I had often heard before, I glanced at the order awaiting expeditious delivery from the kitchen and subsequent lip-smacking nosh-nosh by the happy purchaser and his presumed good lady wife.

One order of Murgh Makhni.
One order of Chicken Tikka Masala.
One order of Dum Aloo Vindaloo.
One order of hot naan breads.
One rice pilaw.

All told, over a pound of butter.

Delicious!


I knew several Indians who had experienced heart-attacks at a comparatively young age. It's all that butter.


Of the five items listed, not a single one originated in India.
Some weren't even refined there.

Murgh Makhni as we now know it was a Pathan stew of leftover tandoori chicken scraps, sauced with tomatoes, butter, cream, and mild spicing. Its earliest manifestation in India was after partition at the Moti Mahal, whose owners had previously resided in Peshawar.
The version common in England is often made with cream and Campbells Tomato Soup.
Red-hued Tandoori Chicken is, again, a Pathan dish.

Chicken Tikka Masala is, if anything, British. Like with Murgh Makhni, the story goes that a Scotsman, sodden-drunk as so many of them are wont to be, stumbled himself into a late-night Vindaloo hut somewhere in the Midlands, ordered chicken, and then when it came exclaimed indignantly "oy, wheeer's me gravy? Ye kanno' expect me to eat this wi'oooooot gravy!"
Whereupon the enterprising Bengali cook obliged by mucking it up to a fare-thee-well.
In actual fact it is Muglai in it's inspiration, but rather unknown in India, though quite the most popular dish in England. Indians who know it have eaten it first overseas.

Dum Aloo Vindaloo uses an ingredient from the new world cooked with lots of butter, garlic, and chilies (which are also a new world crop). The word 'alu' originally meant a type of plum, as it still does in Afghanistan, and Vindaloo is bastardized Portuguese, referring to pork chunks cooked with garlic and vinegar, hot and zesty. Dum Alu Vindaloo is delightfully greasy, and a close relative of Alu Makhni (potatoes in butter, cream, and tomato paste).

Naan is Persian and Afghani. The tandoor oven in which it is made came from Central Asia via the Turkish nomads who conquered vast regions in Afghanistan and Iran. Their descendants, the Moghuls, despoiled northern India, and ruled for centuries, profoundly influencing the language, the culture, and the cuisine.

Lastly, rice pilaw, which is the distant relative of the Persian 'polo'.


As you can see, none of these things is Indian. Indian restaurant food would be unthinkable without a huge number of Afghan-Persian borrowings, and the vocabulary to describe them.

But all of them are indeed Indian.


All kitchens avidly borrow from their neighbors, and it is the genius of each cook to twiddle with the concept, yielding results which are as much native as the person who prepared it, and the people who wish to eat it. Derivation plus inspiration and innovation.
As Julia Child informed us, just add more butter.
Everything tastes better with butter.


AFTERTHOUGHT

Everything ALSO tastes better with bacon, cheese, and chilies.

Hmmmm. I believe I should make myself a lamb burger with bacon, cheese, and chilies. With murgh makhni sauce on top. Should be interesting, and transport me gustatorily to far-away climes.
It will be a worthwhile experiment.
Possibly dangerous.


I should probably have a cool refreshing glass of whipped dahi paani to drink with it. Either mithi or namkeen.
What do you think?



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