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About a year ago I did a post on Sri Lanka’s best restaurant, Ministry of Crab.

http://riceandcurry.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/adventures-in-dining-ministry-of-crab-colombo-sri-lanka/

It seems that the word is getting out as they were just featured on CNN.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/12/travel/sri-lanka-experiences/

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Nimal, on the right, stands in front of his trishaw

Nimal, on the right

Across the street from my Aunt Dora’s flat in central Colombo is a small Buddhist temple nestled beneath the branches of a sacred Bo Tree. During the day, the little temple is a hub of activity as worshippers come to pay their respects. In the evenings, I like to watch as the tree’s magnificent limbs becomes home to a colony of bats. The temple and the tree are fixtures of Park Street, as are the 3 trishaws parked right out in front.

Whenever my Aunt needs to run an errand, and the family van is not around, she hops into any one of the trishaws. When I am around, I always look for Nimal, the youngest of the three trishaw men. Nimal is not much older than myself, and he sports a big toothy grin (Most recently he lost some teeth in an accident, so his generous smile reveals only a single tooth). I like Nimal because his English is fairly decent, he’s full of jokes, and he pushes that trishaw like he’s a stunt driver in the Fast & Furious franchise, weaving in and out of the worst Colombo traffic. I’ve known him since the 90s, and whenever I’m in town he takes me where I want to go. He even gave me his cell number so I can reach him when he’s not out front beneath the Bo tree.

Anyone who saw the Sri Lanka episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain will recall Nimal since he was in several scenes. He sat down and ate hoppers with Tony and me, in a very memorable clip in which Tony, still recovering from a bad New York hot dog, does not feel like eating. We also shot a segment at Malay Foods in Rajagirya while leaning against Nimal’s trishaw, but it was never used. When I discovered that Nimal used to cook at the now-defunct Park Street Lodge, I asked him to contribute a recipe to my cookbook. When I’m looking for a new place to eat, I usually ask him. In short, we have become good buddies, so I was very sad to hear that my friend Nimal passed away in December. I was not surprised to find out that a road accident claimed his life, however, because Nimal was always a bit of a daredevil. But, at the same time, I always felt safe riding with him.

I will miss your infectious smile, Nimal, and your good nature, and sense of humor, and the way you used to get me home in no time despite the horrible traffic. We had some close calls, but it was always fun. Thanks for everything, friend, and know that you are fondly remembered.

Nimal’s Devilled Beef/Chicken/Pork

from Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking (Hippocrene Books, 2011)

Devilled or “spiced” meats such as these are considered finger foods in Sri Lanka, and make the perfect hors d’oeuvre accompanied by a cold beer. This preparation, which includes soy sauce, is of Chinese origin, but has truly become an island standard. Although there are infinite variations on the “devilled” theme, this recipe was given to me by Nimal, a former chef at the well-known Park View Lodge in Colombo.

1 lb. (500 g) beef, chicken or pork

salt to taste

black pepper to taste

1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tbsp. soy sauce

3 tbsp. oil

1 onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 in (5 cm) piece ginger, sliced

2 Serrano chilies, sliced

1 tomato, diced

3 tbsp. tomato sauce

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2” (1.25 cm) stick cinnamon

1.)            Wash and slice meat into small chunks or strips. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, soy sauce, and marinate for at least 1 hour.

2.)            Heat oil in pan and stir-fry meat until cooked. Remove meat.

3.)            Add a little more oil and fry onions, garlic, ginger, chilies and tomato.

4.)            Add tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, and cinnamon.

5.)            Add meat back into pan and mix well. Stir-fry for an additional 5 minutes.

Makes 6 servings

Skiz & Tony enjoy some Malay specialties in front of Nimal's trishaw

Skiz & Tony enjoy some Malay specialties in front of Nimal’s trishaw

skiz n tony eat 2

Nimal appears in the Sri Lanka episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain

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2013 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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It’s been a great experience being a member of the Hippocrene Books stable of authors. Boasting the most comprehensive catalog of ethnic cookbooks, Hippocrene is truly a powerhouse when it comes to food publishing, and I’ve learned so much about other cuisines as a result. That said, I admit to being slightly disappointed upon initially learning that I was to cook from a newly published volume called Spoonfuls Of Germany for this special day that a few of us authors swapped books. I have toured Germany countless times as a deejay and musician, and sadly have suffered miserably from the local fare, which has done little to satisfy a palette weaned on bold, spicy flavors. It’s not that I haven’t tried the potatoes and sausages and spaetzle and schnitzel, but German cuisine in general has fallen far short of my expectations and demands.

You can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was then, while flipping through Spoonfuls, to arrive at a recipe for Currywurst, probably Germany’s most popular street food. Born in a Berlin snack bar in 1949, currywurst is a humble food that has ascended to much higher heights. It is essentially the popular sausage known as bratwurst, smothered in a hot and spicy, tangy ketchup, and usually served on a small bread roll called a brotchen.  I have downed more than a few currywursts, Germany’s version of the popular “dirty water” NYC hot dog, on my various trips to Germany over the years.

Nadia Hassani’s recipe for the curry ketchup used on currywurst satisfies my craving for spices and heat, and, in fact, could be used on most things one normally pours ketchup on. I used the leftover curry ketchup on French fries and scrambled eggs, and it is fast becoming a tastier and healthier alternative to Heinz (because it contains none of that insidious high fructose corn syrup). But try it first the way it was meant to be eaten—as currywurst—and I guarantee it will give you a new take on German food. The morale of this story: never dismiss another country’s cuisine because there is always a bite that you will like.

Note: I used my own curry powder blend (Skiz’s Original available online at http://www.foodoro.com) in the ketchup itself and not sprinkled on the sausages as the recipe states.

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The Recipe

From Spoonfuls of Germany by Nadia Hassani

Curry Ketchup:

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 (14 ½ oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

pinch of powdered mustard

pinch of ground allspice

pinch of ground cloves

pinch of ground mace

pinch of ground cinnamon

½ bay leaf

salt & freshly milled black pepper

Sausage:

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

4 large sausages, preferably bratwurst

mild to medium curry powder

For the curry ketchup:

1.)   Heat oil in a small saucepan and sauté the onion until translucent.

2.)   Add  tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, mustard, allspice, cloves, mace cinnamon, and bay leaf. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until a thick paste forms. Remove the bay leaf and puree the ketchup. Season with salt and pepper and cool. The curry ketchup can be kept refrigerated for 3-4 weeks.

For the sausage:

1.)   Heat oil in a large skillet. Saute the sausages until cooked through and browned,      turning them frequently.

2.)   Top each sausage with the curry ketchup and sprinkle with curry powder. Serve at once.

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Made with Skiz’s Original Sri Lankan Roasted curry powder available at http://www.foodoro.com

Please check out the other authors involved in this cookbook swap:

http://cookinginwestchester.com/

http://spoonfulsofgermany.com/

http://www.refuelingyourfork.com/ 

www.amyriolo.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

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With spring upon us and summer right around the corner, I’m inspired  to get outside more, and start hitting the farmers market for fresh produce. It’s also time to start shedding that winter weight and get healthy again, and vegetables are the perfect tonic. Since the south of India is known for its primarily vegetarian diet, and also some incredibly tasty dishes, I looked in Healthy South Indian Cooking by Alamelu Vairavan and Patricia Marquardt for inspiration, and pulled this amazing recipe for Vegetable Kurma. It uses carrots, potatoes, cauliflower and peas, but feel free to use whatever vegetables you like. I also substituted cashew nuts for almonds (since I didn’t have any handy), and, of course, upped the heat quotient by adding more green chilis. While the dish is simple to prepare, there are a lot of ingredients involved, but mysteriously enough, no garlic! Though it turned out great, I think next time I will add some garlic as it can only enhance an already delicious dish. Also, salt to taste as I believe the recipe called for not enough salt.

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The Recipe

from Healthy South Indian Cooking (Hippocrene Books, 2008)

by Alamelu Vairavan and Patricia Marquardt

Ingredients:

½ cup ground fresh coconut or unsweetened coconut powder

1 green chili pepper

12 raw almonds

1 tablespoon white poppy seeds (optional)

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 thick slices ginger root (peeled)

1 tablespoon roasted chickpeas

2 tablespoons canola oil

6 to 8 curry leaves

1 dry bay leaf

3 or 4 slivers cinnamon sticks

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped tomato

2 cups peeled and cubed Idaho potato

½ cup peeled and thinly sliced carrots

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon curry powder

½ cup green peas (fresh or frozen)

1 cup cauliflower florets

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1.)   In A blender combine coconut powder, green chili, almonds, white poppy seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, ginger root slices, chickpeas. Add 2 cups hot water and grind the ingredients to a smooth paste.

2.)   Heat oil in a wide-bottom saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add curry leaves, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, remaining cumin and fennel  seeds. Cover and fry to a golden brown.

3.)   Add onion and ½ cup of the chopped tomato to saucepan and stir-fry for a few minutes until onion is lightly translucent.

4.)   Add potato and carrots to saucepan. Add turmeric powder and stir well.

5.)   Add curry powder and stir-fry for a minute or two.

6.)   Add peas and cauliflower to mixture and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

7.)   Add ground spices from the blender to vegetable mixture in saucepan plus 2 cups of warm water. Mix thoroughly.

8.)   When mixture begins to boil, reduce heat. Add remaining ½ cup chopped tomato, salt and cilantro leaves. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Serve with rice or bread.

Serves 6

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Lunch is served at my Uncle Wilson's place in Kandy

Lunch is served at my Uncle Wilson’s place in Kandy

Despite Sri Lanka’s compact size (roughly about the area of West Virginia), there are definite regional variations in its cuisine. The food from the south is said to be spicier and more fish-based, as is exemplified by one of my favorite dishes from that region, fish ambul thiyal; whereas Tamil cuisine from the northern city of Jaffna  tends towards using a lot of tomato and tamarind as the basis for their spicy curries. Upcountry cooking, on the other hand, focuses largely on the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that grow in this mountainous central region of the country; while coastal cooking relies heavily on the use of the ubiquitous coconut.

Located in the central highlands, Kandy was the last Sinhala holdout against British colonial rule. As the seat of Sri Lankan kings and the site of one of Buddhism’s most important shrines, the Dalida Mahligawa (or Temple of The Tooth), which supposedly holds one of Lord Buddha’s teeth, Kandyans are proud of their heritage, and equally as proud of their cuisine, which is largely vegetarian. It’s probably got as much to do with what’s available in the proximity as much as an adherence to Buddhist doctrine, which eschews meat.

Some of the vegetables from my uncle's garden

Some of the vegetables from my uncle’s garden

At his modest house overlooking the migthy Mahavelli River in Kandy, my Uncle Wilson has always taken great pride in his garden, which is flush with all kinds of produce. Mango, papaw and king coconut trees share space with spiky green jackfruit, pumpkin, and plantains. Greens such as gotu kola and koakka grow in the backyard. Under the ground, he’s got tubers like manioc and sweet potatoes growing. He even used to have a paddy field in his front yard until he gave up the land so that one of his sons could build a house there.

King Coconut growing in Uncle Wilson's yard

King Coconut growing in Uncle Wilson’s yard

His garden, in fact, is almost a microcosm of these central highlands, well-known as the center of tea production in the country, but a veritable Garden of Eden as well. I took a trip to the central Kandy market to get a better idea of this region and all it has to offer.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Uncle Wilson’s cooks Kumari and Saroja were busy preparing lunch, which proved to be a veritable vegetarian feast including such dishes as red rice, white rice, jackfruit curry (kos), boiled manioc (battala), coconut sambol, dry fish curry (karola), banana blossom curry (keselmuwa), young jackfruit curry (polos), and egglant (ela batu). Most of the produce came straight from the garden, and anything that didn’t was from close by. Lunch was symphony of different tastes and textures, and even though I’m no vegetarian, I would have no qualms about eating food like that everyday.

a righteous spread!

a righteous spread!

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  • Photographer

     

  • When: Sat, 05/04/2013 – 11:00am to 1:00pm

    Cost: $75
    Category: Food and Garden
    Location: Lorinda “Annie” Hooks Demo Kitchen @ The Capitol Hill Center

    Skiz Fernando returns to Hill Center to take you on a culinary tour of the Far East without ever leaving the kitchen. In this two-hour, hands-on class, Skiz seeks to demystify Asian ingredients and techniques as he instructs you in the preparation of such simple, delicious and healthy dishes as Steamed Fish with Soy Sauce (Hong Kong), Basil Chicken (Thailand), Summer Rolls (Vietnam), and Spicy Stir Fry Squid (Korea). Afterwards, you’re invited for lunch. Skiz is the author of RICE & CURRY: Sri Lankan Home Cooking, a 2011 New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He hosts his own cooking series on YouTube called Pan Asian, in which he cooks dishes from all over Asia and the world.

    Skiz is a second generation Sri Lankan-American and graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia School of Journalism. In 2009 he was featured on Travel Channel’s No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain where he led the crew to Sri Lanka’s hot spots. Check out his blog Rice & Curry and Pan Asian online cooking series.

    Cook books will be available for purchase for $19.95.

    Space is limited so please reserve your spot asap!

    Register Here »

    Rice & Curry Cover Final

    Skiz's original logo

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