Monday, September 7, 2009

Yellow Dhal (Lentil) Curry

This post is also available on Chowhound

Dhal Curry Ingredients
2 cups of dhal (this is half-split pink-red coloured pulse, called Masoor dhal or lentils).
Depending on your taste for it, this could be sufficient for 2-6 people.
Two pods of peeled garlic, diced.
Half a teaspoon of turmeric powder
Half a tablespoon of mustard seeds
Half a tablespoon of cumin
Half a tablespoon of fennel
Half an onion, sliced
Five red dried chillies, broken into smaller pieces
Difficult to get ingredients
Ten curry leaves (these about 2 cm-long green pinnate leaves have a strong aroma. You can use the thumb and index finger to hold one edge of the pinnate, and hold the closest leaves on either side of the axis with the thumb and index fingers of the other hand and pull all the leaves down to separate them from the axis)
Two tablespoons of coconut milk (you can use either canned unsweetened coconut milk or, in the absence of it, dried unsweetened coconut powder with water)
Cooking Method
Wash the dhal thoroughly and boil, with four cups of water. Remove the scum that forms on top as the dhal begins to boil. When the lentils start turning yellow (half cooked), add the diced garlic.
When the dhal is cooked, remove it from the cooker. Take a separate pot and add oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When they start popping up, add the fennel and cumin. Add the onions, the curry leaves and the dried chillies (split).
Add the dhal curry to the hot mixture. Add turmeric powder, and coconut milk. Add salt.
Dhal is a very versatile dish and in some South Asian cultures is almost a must for any special occasion meal, particularly if it is a vegetarian rice and curry meal. You can also enjoy a simple meal of dhal curry, pickles and yoghurt. Alternatively, dhal can also be a companion for a meal with bread, roti or stringhoppers.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Japango -- An Exciting Sushi Joint In Toronto

Japango is a Japanese sushi joint tucked away in a rather quiet small street off Dundas Street.
Once inside, one might feel like having stepped into the wrong place; or at least for me the notion of a Japanese restaurant conjures up the image of rather spacious restaurants with elegant (usually black coloured) tables and chairs and Kimono-clad waitresses floating around, bowing all the time.

But this is more like a hotdog-in-a bun with fries type of a place – small and congested. Moreover, and this could be very challenging – the tables are small and not very sturdy. I am small-made but even I once tipped the tea cup as I got up to go to the washroom.
But then the food is a different matter.

Kirin Beer
To wash-down my meal, I went for a 330 ml Kirin beer – Ichiban Special Premium. I like beer off the tap or from the bottle and avoid the cans, and this was one reason I opted for Kirin.
The beer had soft but its malt was strong.

Deep fried Oysters for Appetizers
I checked for the seasonal fish available for appetizer. They had mackerel and went for it, along with fried oysters.
The oysters were deep-fried and despite my initial scepticism (I have found that deep-fried food is usually very heavy and kills the taste for the other dishes), I found the pieces to be soft and smooth.

Spicy Maki Rolls
I have always liked the spicy version of Japanese maki rolls. They use some kind of a spicy sauce but they are different from the hot sauces we know in the west. In fact, the type of sauces used and the strength of their piquancy, also differ from one restaurant to the other. So, I ordered spicy tuna maki and shrimp tempura with spicy sauce.

I rarely leave a Japanese restaurant without ordering flying fish roe, so besides the Tobiko sushi, I also had amber jack, octopus and butterfish sashimi. I was so glad I went for the latter. The cute, small pieces of off-white coloured fish tasted excellent.

Tasting Madai For First Time
Then the chef asked me whether I would like madai – supposedly a Japanese favourite. Well, the chef himself was taking an interest in us and whom am I to desist that temptation?
Madai was a fish of multiple textures and tastes. I found as if it was slightly heated but it looked raw. And it had a dash of the sourness of mackerel and saltiness of dried fish. It was excellent.

Special Wasabi
Along with that, came two different types of wasabi – one the ‘normal’ one and one ‘special’. Needless to say, I went for the special one. Taste-wise it was almost the same – ma be little stronger – but it dissolved neatly into the soya sauce. I checked out with the waiter who told the special variety is basically kitchen, and not mass-made.
All in all, the food was excellent and fresh as always, and even the maneuvering the tight pace is an adventure.
I have heard comments that Japango resembles a typical sushi joint in Japan. Hopefully, one day I can check that out.