Friday, October 16, 2009

In search of Dan Mein- the tale of a wannabe gourmet girl and current glutton

I admit it .I was one of those people who believed food is not food if it is not brightly coloured, in an oily gravy and very spicy. Five years ago, if you had served me mildly spiced cous cous with freshly roasted vegetables, I would have had it sent to the sick at Apollo Hospital.
When my dad brought some expensive blue cheese that he absent mindedly picked form the nilgiris fridge, the smell haunted my year. Today , what wouldn't I do for some conchiglie with gorgonzola , leeks and cream.
I loved and still love Indian Chinese food- it is in my top ten list of favourite regional cuisines but enjoyable Chinese to me a few years ago was blood red manchurian and sichuan fried rice from Popsies or vegetable fraid rice from the Chinese Bandis (carts) on Hyderabad streets. While I reiterate that some of the best food in the world can be found in such bandis, my Romance with Real Chinese food is the most beautiful of all.

And Yes, I Am Vegetarian.

If I ever write a book on my culinary obsessions, it would be titled 'In search of Dan Mein- one woman's journey around the Orient if you please in search of her beloved Street Noodles.
Dan Dan Mein means noodles carried on a pole.

On the streets of Lhasa, women carry two baskets tied to a pole on either side .It is simple noodles with the rightest amounts of seasame paste, chilli oil, some peanuts , ginger , garlic and Sichuan peppercorns but it's light, mild and the perfect street snack.

Dan Dan Mein to me is the real epiphany of Chinese food but other simple dishes like stir fried Chinese greens with steamed rice, Sweet Potato noodles and a variety of noodle soups are
my favourites. I have never found real real Chinese food in India.The closest you can get to it is the Royal China restaurant in Bandra, Bombay .

After the Dan Dan Mein comes the Dolmades. Spiced rice wrapped in vine leaves is served soaked in olive oil. A Greek starter , or mezze, it is a dish that I have walked around the streets of London at midnight in search for.

The only place in India where I know you get it is at Moshes' on Cuffe Parade in Bombay but it is quite sub standard.
Rosemary is a herb whose magic I have only discovered now. It works well by itself. Thrown in with some salt and potatoes or marrow and baked for 20-30 minutes it makes a fragrant and tasty side dish.
While most things that I like including Rosemary, Sage ..okay parsley and thyme are available in my dear city Bluru, I haven't met rocket anywhere.

The Irish family I lived with said most Irish people find it too spicy. We Indians will love it.
It's green with the mildest peppery sting and can work simply tossed with some cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. It is also brilliant on pizzas and warm breads. Rocket pesto is available on the life saving Food World gourmet store on MG road but I can't tell you I've tried it.

It amazes me , the newest addition to humans who can sort of cook that the simplest

of processes leads to the yummiest of tastes. Take the example of toast, yeah just

regular bread toast from the bakery down the road. Now spread some goat cheese

on it and a little bit of honey. It tastes marvelous and I wouldn’t have guessed the two

worked together if I hadn’t tried it at this delightful French restaurant in the Ashwem beach in Goa called La/Le(?) Plage.

Forget gourmet for a while .I am going to list five basic dishes that are easy to make and don’t taste like they possibly could be.

  1. The bland , cool comfort of curd rice with the feiry rudeness of avvakai or garlic pickle
  2. Sunny Side up, salted,peppered.
  3. Dal.Rice
  4. Idly.Chutney.
  5. Warm fresh bread. Nice cheese/butter

That said, I am a food desperado. Next post on restaurants .

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