Friday, August 12, 2011

Shrimp roll

You know what’s better than having a warm bowl of soup. Having a warm bowl of soup (check out my recipe for Tom Yum soup) and munching on shrimp rolls that are crispy and delicate at the same time.

The outer layer of this popular Bengali restaurant dish is made with spring roll wrappers you get at your regular grocery store but the marinade requires a couple of specialty sauces, two to be exact. Thai sweet chili sauce and green chili sauce. The combination of these two sauces imparts a mildly sweet yet spicy flavor that makes these rolls very different from your regular spring rolls. Both sauces  are available at Asian markets or Indian groceries and will be a great addition to your pantry as they are good for a couple of months and can be used in a myriad of different dishes.

Also did I mention....
these rolls are made with whole shrimp and nothing else and then deep fried.   Bake them for a healthier version but sometimes it just feels soo good to indulge.

20 shrimps
10 sheets of spring roll wrapper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
2 teaspoon green chili sauce
1 teaspoon corn starch

To seal the wrapper 
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup water

Fresh shrimp from the farmers market. You can also buy tail on raw shrimp to make your life easier. I, for one, don't mind the extra work. I'd rather go the extra mile.
Clean and devein the shrimp and nick the inside a couple of times so that the shrimp don’t curl up. Here’s a little clip that demonstrates how to keep shrimp straight.

Get the marinade ready.
Marinate for 15 minutes. Doesn’t look very appetizing does it? Patience grasshopper. ;)
Soak up excess moisture with a paper towel. Cause we all know what happens if there’s water when you are deep frying. Don’t wory about the shrimp being bland as they’ve already taken in all the flavor.
Now comes the fun part. Wrapping up the shrimp. First gather the wrappers together. Cut them diagonally
 Make sure to keep them covered under a wet kitchen towel. Otherwise they'll dry up and will be harder to roll.
Take one of the triangles and place a scored shrimp on it like so
Fold one corner over tightly covering the shrimp. Make sure it's a tight wrap.
Roll it once and then fold the top over.
Keep folding till you get near to the other corner and brush some cornstarch-water mixture on the edge and seal it good
Keep repeating till all the shrimps gone
Deep fry the pieces in oil that's about 350 degrees F. When the rolls are added the oil should bubble vigorously. Enjoy with sweet chili sauce.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Papaya Mint Lemonade

It's always fun to take a common everyday thing and to give it a little twist to turn it into something fabulous. I'm not much of a papaya fan but in my effort to add more fruit and vegetable to my diet I have recently started blending up fruit.

Things to know before buying a papaya:

Papaya is a member of the pawpaw family. 

It supplies a whole days worth of vitamin C among other things. 

Take care when buying them as they bruise easily. 

Try to buy one that is soft to touch but not mushy. If you do get an unripe one place it in a paper bag with a banana. The ethylene gas released by the banana will ripen the papaya after which it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

This recipe is one of those that was created out of necessity. I had a papaya that was going to go bad unless it was used up quick. So I made a papaya lemonade. I hope it gives you an idea on how to use up papayas, or melons that you might have lying around the house.

3 cups of papaya
1 cup of lemon juice
1 cup of sugar (add more as needed)
4 1/2  cups of water
1/2 cup of mint
ice cubes (if desired)
Generally half of a large papaya peeled, seeded, and chopped makes 3 cups.

Add lemon juice, water, mint and sugar.

Blend and strain into a pitcher. I don't like lumpy drinks so I strain most everything. Don't strain it if you don't mind a chunk or two of papaya in the drink.

Chill for a few hours, pour into a glass, drink up and pat yourself on the back for adding more fruit to your diet. 

Raita – A Yogurt Sauce Made Bengali Style

Raita is a thin yogurt sauce that goes really well with kababs. The marriage between raita and kabab is what makes a beautiful kabab dish glorious. It is similar to the Greek tzatziki sauce… but without the garlic or the olive oil and tastes absolutely divine. 

The recipe is also very flexible as you can add as much or as little onion and cucumber to the sauce if you so desire. The only step special step requires the preparation of a coarse powder made from dry roasted cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Other than that,  you just dump everything together, give it a quick whiz in the blender and voila, you have raita.

So the next time you are having kabab or tandoori chicken make sure you mix up a batch of raita. I promise you won’t regret. :)

1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
quarter of a small green chili
1/2 teaspoon green chili paste (availablt at Indian grocery stores)
1/2 teaspoon dry roasted cumin and black mustard seeds 

Take 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds and 1/2 tablespoon of mustard seed and dry roast it. Remember to continuously stir it as you don't want the spices to burn. If it does, cut your losses and start from the beginning. This is only take 3-4 minutes. The minute the seeds release a strong aroma take your pan off the heat.

Cool the seeds for a few minutes and place in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder or anything else you want to use to crush them.

Grind to a coarse powder.

In an airtight container this powder stays good for a few months.

Mix all the other ingredients in a blender making sure not to use more than 1/4 of a green chili as this will be plenty hot. If you use more the raita loses its traditional taste and tastes a bit bitter.

Now pour into a bowl and stir in cumin-mustard dry roasted powder and raita is done.

Beef Sheekh Kabab

If I was left alone on an island and could only eat one food for the rest of my life I would pick Sheekh Kababs. I think I know I could eat these for every meal of every day for the rest of my life and still love it as much as the first day I savored the my first bite as a young girl.

What is commonly known as Shish Kabob in America is called Sheekh Kabab in my part of the world. As opposed to using ground meat (the way it is done in many parts of India) in Bangladesh the meat for the kabab is sliced thinly, marinated overnight and grilled over very hot coal, all the while being basted with oil to preserve the succulence of the meat.

Although nothing compares to the lovely charred flavor you get from grilling, it is possible to make it in your home oven like I frequently do. But first, before we move on to the recipe, there are a few details one needs to be mindful of to produce restaurant quality kababs.

Fact 1: Extra moisture can very easily ruin the kabab. After one quick rinse the meat needs to be dried completely with a paper towel to get rid of extra water.

Fact 2: Meat tenderizer is a must for soft, tender, melt-in-your-mouth kababs.

Fact 3: Water also needs to be squeezed out from all the other pastes.

Fact 4: If using regular yogurt, place in a cheese cloth or paper towel and put in a strainer for a few hours so that extra liquid seeps out.

Fact 5: It is best to get all the masalas, including the tenderizer from an Indian store. The tenderizer from your regular grocery store is salted and will not make the meat tender as it should be. I recommend using Shan brand meat tenderizer.

Enough of my blabbing. Now on to the recipe.


1 pound thinly sliced meat
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon meat tenderizer
½ teaspoon salt (add ¼ teaspoon more if you like your food salty)
½ cup fried onion (also sold in Indian grocery stores)
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons greek yogurt/ strained yogurt
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ cup shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons oil

First, the slices need to be as thin as possible.

Gather all the dry masalas together.

Mix it all together and sprinkle it on.

It’ll be hard to coat all the pieces because the meat should have no water other than what’s inside. 

Remember, your hands are your best tools for the job.

Let it rest while you mix all the other ingredients. Mash up the mozzarella with the palm of your hands till it turns into a paste form.

Mix everything together and marinate overnight.

I usually stick the skewers in an empty soda bottle filled with water, close the lid and let it sit for 30 minutes before using. Otherwise the wood will catch fire in your oven.
Trust me, it will not be a pretty sight... :p 

After waiting overnight (or a few hours if you are impatient), thread the slices onto the skewers that have been taken out of the water and wiped dry.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Flip the kababs over and bake for  another 15 minutes.

Depending on your oven the kababs should be ready. If you like it a bit more charred, broil for a few more minutes.

Enjoy with naan and raita. :)