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Seeing that there is no Sri Lankan restaurant within a 200 miles radius, and Sri Lankan food is probably some of the tastiest to stuff to emerge in popular consciousness in the last few years, I would have thought there would have been a run, no, a sprint, to sign up for the latest Sri Lankan Supper club. After all, I’ve done these Supper clubs all over the country and they’ve always sold out, but for some reason, the home town crowd here in Bmore is a hard sell. The last time I did one locally, I had only 10 guests and I would love to at least surpass that number this time. So if there ANY adventurous foodies out there in the Charm City, stand up and be counted! Here’s what’s in store:

 

Menu

Appetizers

Beef cutlets – deep-fried, breaded croquettes stuffed with beef, potatoes, and spices

Masala Vadai – vegetarian appetizer made with yellow split peas; similar to falafel

Mains

Steamed, fragrant Basmathi rice

Black Pork Curry

Fish Ambul Thiyal – Sour fish curry, a signature Sri Lankan dish

Dahl – red lentils stewed in coconut milk and spices

Mallun – Sauteed greens

French bean curry

Sides

Sri Lankan Salad

Pol Sambol – shredded coconut with chili, lime, and spices

Mango Chutney

Mixed pickle

Papadum

Dessert

Caramel Pudding (Flan)

 

If that’s not enough to grab your attention, in the absence of smellivision, I’m going to have to resort to some good old fashioned food porn.

 https://www.flickr.com/photos/14488284@N08/sets/72157602234867730/

 

Hungry?

Tickets are available here:

http://slsupperclub.ticketleap.com/the-sri-lankan-supper-club—-bmore/

 

See you next Saturday!!

 

SCIENCE OF THE LAMB

Yemeni specialists offer oasis in pastaland

Photo: J.M. Giordano, License: N/A

J.M. GIORDANO

There’s a new kid on the block in Little Italy, and pasta is not what they’re pushing. But the recently opened Yemen Arabian Restaurant (411 S. High St., [410] 385-4900) has lamb down to a science. Whether it comes chopped up as shawarma and rolled in a pita, crammed in chunks on kebabs, or slow-roasted in tender hunks for the house specialty haneez, you really don’t want to miss out.

My first taste of Yemeni food was at a restaurant called Sana’a (named after Yemen’s capital) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they served a whole leg of lamb atop a mound of fragrant basmati rice. That thoroughly authentic, lip-smacking, finger-licking meal set my standard for Yemeni cuisine, which is distinctive among Middle Eastern food, and Yemen Arabian Restaurant upholds that standard quite well.

Take their national dish, salta ($19, $8 for a side), a cross between a soup and stew. The savory base of ground lamb and vegetables is dolloped with a bitter fenugreek foam that tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before. Bolstered by sahawiq, a salsa-like condiment of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, the dish is oddly addictive scooped up with the thin pita-like bread it is served with, but I could have easily enjoyed it over a bed of rice as well.

The loubia ($18) did come with rice. Though the menu calls it “Yemeni risotto,” it’s actually a hearty stew of lamb chunks, zucchini, tomato, and onions in a peppery, cumin-based sauce that soaks up the rice. They also make this dish with chicken, as they do with many of the other lamb-centric offerings. (Beef is conspicuously absent from the menu, and the only fish offered on the day of our visit was catfish, though they say the fish offerings vary by availability.) The menu also misleads with its description of Yemeni galabah ($18) as a dish of “minced lamb.” I was pleasantly surprised to find a stir-fry of tender strips of meat sautéed with onion, tomato, and cumin—a dish I’m told is traditionally served for breakfast.

If you want to cut to the chase, however, go for the haneez ($18), a generous portion of Chef Hamood’s famous whole-roasted lamb served over rice. Maybe it’s the sheer simplicity that makes this lamb so good—it’s neither fatty nor gamey, and definitely a dish to be revisited. A veteran of establishments in Brooklyn, and Dearborn, Mich., both home to a significant Arab populations, the chef knows his game well, and will even prepare a whole lamb for you on special order.

For appetizers, the restaurant features traditional Middle Eastern favorites like hummus, lentil soup, and fattoush salad, a mix of fresh tomato, cucumber, lemon, oil, salt and crunchy pita chips, but venture off the eaten path and you will be rewarded. The fasolia, a dish of white navy beans sautéed with onions, tomato, cilantro, and cumin, scooped up with pita, will have you hooked, and the sautéed lamb liver will make you wonder why you hated this organ meat as a kid.

As with many establishments I like, the quality of the décor is inversely proportional to the quality of the food, so don’t expect anything fancy, and go for lunch instead of dinner because you’ll pay roughly half-price for pretty much the same dishes, depending on the sides—though the lamb or chicken shawarma, at $5 and $4 respectively, are always a great buy. And while you might want to skip the sorry iceberg lettuce salad that accompanies each entrée, be sure to try some of the complimentary lamb soup, which is scrumptious. Less than a year after Ozra opened nearby, Yemen Arabian offers a new spin on Middle Eastern food and proves itself another welcome oasis in pastaland.

Yemen Arabian is open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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haneez

haneez

lamb shawarma

lamb shawarma

lamb soup

lamb soup

fassoulia

fassoulia

sauteed lamb livers

sauteed lamb livers

salta

salta

roast chicken

roast chicken

salta

loubia


 

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Remember that great squid dish you always order at Thai restaurants? The one with the fiery Thai chilies and the awesome Thai basil. Well, with only a handful of ingredients, this dish is yours to enjoy at home anytime you want. And believe me–the fact that you made this all by yourself is going to make it taste that much better! Feel free to improvise as well. Don’t like red bell peppers or celery? Use whatever vegetables you prefer. The great thing is that previously hard to find ingredients like fish sauce and Thai basil are now available most everywhere.

And do not be intimidated by squid or any other seafood for that matter. Seafood, to me, is the easiest thing to cook because it cooks quickly. There is always the possibility of overcooking squid, which can become quite rubbery and inedible, but sloshing it around a hot wok for a few minutes is not going to accomplish this. The real key to this dish, and most Asian, wok-based cuisine, is prep. Make sure you clean and cut your squid and vegetables beforehand. Measure out your sauces and other ingredients beforehand, and keep them close to the stovetop because once you begin, this dish comes together in the blink of an eye. And it tastes so good, it will also disappear in the blink of an eye.

 

The Recipe

 

1 ½ lbs. fresh squid, cleaned (or 1 lb. frozen)

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally

1 ½ tablespoons peanut oil

4 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic

3 tablespoons finely sliced shallots

2-3 fresh red Thai chilli peppers, chopped

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

handful of Thai basil

 

1.)   To clean the squid: Pull the head and tentacles of the squid away from the body; the guts should come away with them. Then remove the thin purplish skin. Slit the body open and remove and discard the transparent bony section. Wash the body under cold water and cut into thin strips.

2.)   Slice the tentacles off the head, cutting just above the eye (you may also have to remove the polyp, or beak, from the center of the ring of tentacles. Discard the head and reserve the tentacles.

3.)   Heat a wok over high heat until smoking and add oil. Add garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

4.)   Add the squid and stir-fry for 1 minute until it starts turning opaque.

5.)   Add the shallots chillis, peppers,celery, fish sauce, oyster sauce and sugar and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Toss in the basil and mix well. Remove to serving platter and garnish with fried garlic. Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.

 

Serves 4

 

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Skiz (1)

It was great to see Sri Lanka on CBS’s “The Amazing Race” last night. It showed a peaceful place full of culture, history, and great hospitality, which is the Sri Lanka I know. We have made rapid strides since the end of the 27-year conflict with the LTTE terrorist group in 2009, and the country is finally living up to one of its nicknames as “The Pearl of The Indian Ocean.” Though there is a lot of negative propaganda in the media about holding Sri Lanka responsible for “war crimes,” much of this originates from the governments of Britain and the U.S., who should be the last countries to lecture other sovereign nations about accountability when they have so much innocent blood on their hands in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sri Lanka, in fact, is a model for post-war reconcilation, which this short video underscores. Take a look at it, and hopefully you’ll add Sri Lanka to your list of top destinations because it really is a small piece of paradise.

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It’s time, once again, for another rice & curry feast courtesy of yours truly. This time I’m doing it for the home town crowd here in The Wire country aka Bodymore, Murdaland aka just plain Bmore, for those of us who live here. Since I don’t own a restaurant, I’m taking over a friend’s place for a truly one-of-a-kind dinner experience that you won’t find anywhere this side of Staten Island.

For tickets and info, please check out this link:

http://slsupperclub.ticketleap.com/the-sri-lankan-supper-club—-bmore/

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Yes, indeed, beef cutlets will be served!

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