Asparagus Soup with Coconut Milk and Lime


The other day I had the rare opportunity to take an undisturbed afternoon nap. As would naturally happen to anyone, when just on the verge of falling asleep my mind summoned forth the image of the bag of aspargus I had in the fridge. I’d used some of it for last week’s panch mishali torkari but there was still a lot of it left. Asparagus, as you know, is not a restful vegetable and the next thing I knew I had an idea for asparagus soup racing through my head. I leapt out of bed and went into the kitchen and made it. And it was good. Being kind, I am willing to share the recipe with you. Things to note are there two. First, despite asparagus being the main ingredient, this is not very asparagusy—you can address this if you so desire by simply using more asparagus. Second, the flavours here are not at all Indian, more Southeast Asian. Okay, lets make soup. Continue reading

Kumar’s Mess and the Changing Face of Indian Food in the Twin Cities Metro (Apple Valley, MN)


We are well into the Golden Age of Indian food in the Twin Cities metro. You might not have a sense of this from the local food media’s restaurant coverage but over the course of the last half-decade or so the Indian population of the Twin Cities metro has been growing steadily and newer restaurants have been opening to cater to this market. As I’ve noted in a number of write-ups on the blog, the new(er) population is likely highly skewed towards South Indians. This can be seen both in what’s on offer in Indian groceries around the metro (see my look at TBS Mart in Bloomington, for example) and in the fact that more and more restaurants have opened in the last few years that have menus focused on South Indian dishes. (I’ve reviewed a few of these—Persis, Bay Leaf, Hyderabad Indian Grill.) Continue reading

Panch Mishali Torkari


I have for you today a recipe for a homely but essential dish from the Bengali repertoire: panch mishali torkari. “Panch” means five, “mishali” more or less means mixed, and this is by definition a dish that involves five vegetables cooked together (except when it involves four or six). It is a highly flexible dish. Classically, I suppose, you are most likely to see potatoes and radish and eggplant and snow peas/broad beans and pumpkin in it but really you can make it with whatever mix of vegetables you have at hand. This version, for example, uses asparagus, which you are rarely likely to see used in Bengali kitchens in a dish like this. The dish is a concept not a fixed list of ingredients—I make versions with zucchini and bell peppers as well. No matter what combination of vegetables you use, it is a good idea to have a mix of textures. The flavour of the dish is really carried by the ingredient that more than any other ties the Bengali kitchen together: panch phoron, the mix of five seeds that goes in almost ever Bengali vegetable and fish dish. When I first came to the US panch phoron was not easily found but these days you can purchase it easily in any decent South Asian grocery store. and if you live somewhere without a decent South Asian grocery store at hand you can even buy it on Amazon. Get some and get cooking (and while you’re at it, get some mustard oil too). Continue reading

A Return to Homi and the Question of Who Makes Money Cooking Mexican Food?


As I have said before, since the demise of La Huasteca, Homi on University Avenue in St. Paul (where else?) has been our favourite Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities. I’ve reviewed it twice before (here and here). But I like to keep up on the blog with our favourite restaurants, not just eating there but also reporting on their trajectories over time, checking in on how things are going. Accordingly, I have another report today on a recent dinner at Homi. We ate there two weeks ago with friends after a rather disappointing theater outing (The Song of the Summer at Mixed Blood). The dinner, I am glad to say, was much better. Continue reading

Stir-Fried Broccoli with Kashundi


Like any other above average Indian home cook in the United States, I’ve been told over the years by American dinner guests that I should open a restaurant etc. It’s flattering to be told this, of course, even if in the context of most Indian restaurants in the US it seems like somewhat dubious praise. Of course, I am never going to open a restaurant. But two and a half years ago I decided to scratch that occasional itch without flirting with bankruptcy, and launched a little series of “pop-up in my own home” dinners for eight. As a tribute to the North American curry house I call it India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal. The guests are all friends and friends of friends and the dinners have become quite popular. I’ve done 14 of them so far. The first 13 were seven course meals with each course served individually plated. The recipe I have today was the second course at the tenth dinner. It is, as you will see, very much a slight play on a very traditional dish. I thought it came out very well, and the diners enjoyed it very much. Continue reading

Hyacinth II


We first ate at Hyacinth in March. That was a nice dinner but nothing so very special; and on our drive south all four of us agreed that if we lived in St. Paul we’d eat there every once in a while but that it wasn’t anything we needed to drive an hour each way and pay a sitter a lot of money for. Nonetheless, I had wanted to go back in the summer or early fall to see what their kitchen would do with the best of Minnesota produce but, alas, it wasn’t to be. But I did get a chance to go back earlier this month with friends from work (the missus wasn’t along). As it happens, I liked this meal more than our first. Here are the details. Continue reading

Three More Thalis at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Hello! I ate my first lunch thali at Kabob’s in Bloomington late last month and had to post about it right away. That thali was so good, I pronounced t the best lunch deal and probably the best Indian food in the Twin Cities Metro. I’ve since eaten the lunch thali there on a few more occasions and I stand by both those assertions. If there is a better lunch deal in the area I would like to know what it is. And if there is better Indian food to be had I would love to eat it. In the meantime I find myself manufacturing reasons to drive through Bloomington at lunch time. I stopped in two more times just this week, once with the missus and once alone. Having come upon this unlikely jewel so late I have now predictably turned into a one-man advertising agency for them. They have no idea I am writing about them but I must urge you all to go eat their wonderful thalis. There’ll be no butter chicken, saag paneer or dal makhni; you won’t always know what’s in the bowls (see below for my recent confusion) but if you like delicious food prepared with care you will love it. Continue reading

Beetroot Poriyal


I’ve mentioned on many occasions before that growing up in India in the 1970s and 1980s my sense of South Indian food—like that of most North Indians—was restricted to the idli-dosa-vada-sambhar-rasam complex. It wasn’t till much later—not till I had left India, in fact—that my limited view of South Indian cuisines really began to open up. I don’t mean to imply that this opening up required leaving India because, of course, it did not: it’s only that it was in that time period—in the late 1990s and 2000s—that I began to become truly aware of the wider world of South Indian food. This  was due both to the publication in that period of higher profile English language Indian cookbooks on regional cuisines (see the titles in the excellent Penguin series) and to the first flowering of the South Asian food web on forums and then blogs. As I began to cook some of these dishes—this was also the period in which South Indian ingredients began to become easily available in South Asian groceries in the US—I was particularly drawn to poriyals. Continue reading

Tenant IV (Minneapolis)


We went back to Tenant for dinner a week and a half ago. This was our fourth visit. Our previous meal there was just about 6 weeks prior to this one and the one before wasn’t too much longer before that one. Both those meals were very good indeed, catapulting Tenant to the top of our Twin Cities fine dining list. They also took place at the height and end of summer respectively. We were interested to see, going into this one, how the kitchen would deal with the relatively depleted produce options of Minnesota in the late fall/early winter. Well, our experience was a little mixed. This was probably the least of our meals there so far. But only some of this was likely down to the market offerings of the season (no more tomato water!). It’s more the case that going every six weeks or so, as we’ve been doing since mid-summer seems to have resulted in a bit of deja vu. While none of the courses were identical to those at our last meal there was some sameness. Now you might say that this is an odd criticism—most restaurants have far more static menus. But one of the things we enjoyed most about Tenant on our previous visits was surprise and there wasn’t much surprise at this meal. Which is not to say, of course, that it wasn’t a good dinner in its own right—for it was. And keep in mind that this is not a problem you would have on your first visit there or if your visits were spaced further apart. Continue reading

Alu-Gobi


Alu-gobi or cauliflower cooked with potatoes is a North Indian staple. It is also a dish that has no fixed recipe beyond calling for potatoes and cauliflower. Like most dishes from the home-cooking repertoire (which is almost all of Indian food) it is more a genre than a specific dish. While generally there’s a lot more cauliflower than potato in it, I’ve had and made versions where the ratio was 1:1. I’ve had and made versions that have a lot of gravy and I’ve had and made versions that are completely dry. I’ve had and made versions with pureed onions and had and made versions with fried onions. And I’ve had and made versions with various combinations of spices. I make various versions of it often. Today I have for you a recipe for a simple but extremely tasty version—as long as you are a fan of coriander seed. Continue reading

Motorino (New York, August 2019)


Here finally is the last meal report from our trip to New York in August. This was our last meal out in the city and another round of pizza. We’d spent the day hanging out at Coney Island and at the end had been thwarted in our attempt to eat pizza for dinner at Totonno. The Upper West Side location of Motorino—just a couple of blocks from our flat—was our fallback option and as it turned out it wasn’t a mere consolation prize. It is likely that Totonno is as good as everyone says it is and quite a bit better but we rather liked Motorino’s pizza—which, like that at Totonno, is in the Neapolitan vein. And we much preferred the atmosphere at Motorino to the frenzy at Mama’s TOO! where we’d had our first meal in New York— coincidentally and fittingly, also pizza. Here is how it went. Continue reading

Lunch at the Keg and Case Food Hall (St. Paul, MN)


We visited Keg and Case in March and again in September, both times to eat dinner at In Bloom (reviews here and here). On both occasions we walked by all the other food businesses without paying very close attention to them and on both occasions we resolved to come back soon with the kids for lunch and try some of them. Well, at the end of October we finally got around to doing that. We met friends there for an early lunch on a Saturday. Our main targets were Pimento, a Jamaican counter (and a branch of a more formal restaurant in Minneapolis) and Revival Smoked Meats, an outpost of the Revival empire. We did eat and drink the wares of a few other merchants as well (doughnuts, ice cream, beer, coffee) and after lunch we sauntered around the rest of the complex. I have descriptions and evaluations for you of the things we ate and pictures of everything else. Continue reading

At Coney Island (New York, August 2019)


On our last full day in New York we took the subway from the Upper Westside all the way to Brooklyn and out to the sea, to Coney Island. I’ve always wanted to go to Coney Island. I’ve never had much of a sense of it—a hotdog stand and a beach is all I could have told you if you’d asked me to try and describe it before getting there—but it is an iconic piece of Americana. And there’s no guarantee that it will still be around when our kids are our age. They may not be able to take their kids there when their turn comes but we could take them now and so we did. And, unlike me, they’re really into hectic amusement parks and boardwalks. We met a friend and his family there for lunch and beach lounging. Before lunch the four of us spent an ungodly amount of money on the rides and attractions along the boardwalk. Is there any reason you should not look at pictures of all of this? No, there is not. Continue reading

Alu-Posto


Don’t tell my children but I barely ate any vegetables when I was a kid. In fact, I barely ate any vegetables till I was in my twenties. The big exception was potatoes—and I guess technically potatoes may not even be vegetables. I ate potatoes in all forms, from simple alu-sheddho (boiled potatoes mashed with either ghee or sharp mustard oil and minced onion) to alu-parathas to alu-bhaja (fried potatoes of various sizes and textures) to alur torkari to alur dom. [Be patient, I’m almost done with this fascinating dietary autobiography.] A favourite dish, however, was alu-posto, a quintessential Bengali dish of potatoes cooked very simply with a few spices and poppy seed paste. Mild in flavour and somewhere between grainy and smooth in texture, the poppy seed paste (or posto) made this dish unlike anything else made in my mother’s kitchen and all through childhood it was a major comfort food. For whatever reason, I didn’t start making it in the US until relatively recently but now I make it often. I have not yet had any success in getting my own kids to eat it though: in a wry twist neither of them is particularly into potatoes except in French fry form, and one of them doesn’t even care very much for French fries. Meanwhile the missus and I both love potatoes. Who knows how these things work. Anyway, here is the recipe for alu-posto as it is made in my family. Continue reading