Pandemic Takeout 12: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)


Last year I wrote up a couple of meals at Kumar’s in Apple Valley—a local outpost of Kumar’s Mess, a popular Texas-based franchise that specializes in Chettinad food (though their menu has more than just Chettinad food). That write-up from December—which included my thoughts on developments in Indian food in the Twin Cities metro that seem to have eluded the professional critics—focused on what is normally Kumar’s specialty: thali-based meals. They’ve been doing takeout through the pandemic but I doubt thalis have been involved. They are now open for socially distanced dining-in but we only stopped in on Sunday to get some takeout for another socially-distanced meal on a deck with friends. The dining room is restricted to 24 guests only, and it’s a large space, but it’s going to take me a long while to get comfortable with eating in at a restaurant—and frankly, the sight of customers going in and out without masks, as we were waiting in our car outside for curbside pickup, did not help. The food, however, was pretty good. Continue reading

Eating at the Tollygunge Club (Calcutta, Jan 2020)


I finished up with my Goa reports from January two weeks ago. All that remains from that India trip are a few reports from Calcutta, which is where we went directly from Goa. We were there for just short of a week for a family wedding. For the first few days we were put up at one of Calcutta’s many hoity toity private clubs, the Tollygunge Club. The father of the bride is an ex-president of the club and set this option up for everyone from the bride’s side of the family who wished to partake. This was an opportunity I was all too glad to seize as I’ve had a morbid fascination with these clubs since I was a young boy—never having seen the inside of any except the Tolly on a few occasions as a teen, as the guest of either said ex-president of the club or of wealthy classmates from the boarding school I went to in Darjeeling in the 80s. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 11: Tenant (Minneapolis)


Last week I had a review of takeout barbecue from a restaurant in South Minneapolis. Today I have a review for you of takeout barbecue from another restaurant in South Minneapolis. The two restaurants could not, however, be more different. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is a 51 yo Black-owned restaurant that is takeout-only and which serves no-nonsense barbecued meats and sides. Tenant, on the other hand, is a 3 yo hard-to-get-into, cheffy prix fixe restaurant in what I call the Global Cosmopolitan school. That’s in normal times. The pandemic has caused a temporary convergence as Tenant, like most other local fine dining restaurants, has pivoted to a takeout model to keep its doors open and its staff employed. The restaurant’s bare bones structure—very few people in the kitchen, doing all the jobs—has perhaps allowed it to be more flexible in this regard than most of its fine dining peers. They’ve not, however, been serving the food people normally book six weeks in advance to eat. For the first couple of months of the pandemic they were selling takeout soup and sandwich packages; as of about a month ago they’ve pivoted to barbecue. Continue reading

Teekha Alu Sabzi


At the end of April I posted a recipe for sookha or dry alu sabzi. Here is a close relation: a spicy (or teekha in Hindi) alu sabzi which has a little more gravy but not a whole lot of it. It too is made without any tomato and with even fewer spices. I improvized this take on a broader family of homestyle potato dishes—eaten in wide swathes of North India with chapatis or puris—entirely in order to test out a new (to me) ingredient that I purchased in Delhi right before departure in February. And so I did not want to mix in too many strong flavours. The ingredient in question is yellow chilli powder. I purchased a packet at an outlet of FabIndia (where else?) and then promptly forgot about it until I found it two weeks ago in the back of the pantry shelf where I’d stowed it upon our return. I purchased it because I’d never come across yellow chilli powder before. I’d expected it would be relatively mild but when I tasted it raw it packed a decent punch. I asked a number of Indian friends—in India and in the US—who are avid cooks and very knowledgable about Indian food (some of them far more so than me) if they’d come across it before and drew a complete blank. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 10: Ted Cook’s 19th Hole (Minneapolis)


I had planned to post this review of this large takeout barbecue meal earlier this week. But the prefatory comments I’d wanted to make about American food media and race became a much longer thing, and rather than have this review disappear into that I posted those as a separate piece on Thursday. One of the things I noted in that post was how little awareness I have of Black-owned/run restaurants in the Twin Cities metro beyond Somali and Ethiopian places. Indeed, the other two that I have reviewed—Big Daddy’s* and Handsome Hog—are also barbecue restaurants, albeit at different ends of the price and ambience spectrum. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is even more informal than Big Daddy’s—it’s takeout-only here and things are as functional as you might imagine for a takeout-only establishment: a counter where you order and pay, the kitchen behind and a few seats in the bare bones room in front for people waiting (in non-pandemic times) for their orders. There is little here that signals the history of the restaurant—it’s been around since 1969. You pick up your food, you pay, and you go on your way. Continue reading

Yellow Eye Beans with Smoked Chicken

It’s a wild time in American food media right now. It’s an ecosystem I observe from a bit of a (privileged) remove and it’s been wild to see problems that have been obvious for years suddenly seemingly coming a head and spilling over. I might have a bit more to say about this in a couple of days if it doesn’t all get worked over by smart(er) people on Twitter who are closer to/in that world. On Thursday, probably. Today all I have is a recipe for beans. As always, I use beans from Rancho Gordo. In this case, it involves Yellow Eye beans but you can also make it with a number of their other beans, including Cranberry, Marcella, Moro and even the Midnight Black. This is a very simple prep indeed—as long as you have a carcass of a smoked chicken on hand. And if you don’t, a smoked pork hock or smoked ham will do. And if you don’t have that either, maybe just the carcass of a roast chicken. Or if you’re vegetarian/vegan maybe some smoked tofu. Just as long as you have a way of getting some smoke in there (liquid smoke?). Continue reading

Eating by the Water (Goa, Jan 2020)


More than four months after we left, here, finally, is my farewell to Goa. We spent a week there, living in the lovely home of old friends who now live in Hong Kong and it was one of the best vacations we’ve had as a family. It seems a world and two lifetimes away now but I see my other trip reports and look back with pleasure at our time there—hanging out at the beach every day, eating (mostly) very good Goan food both in restaurants and at home, visiting the local fish market, visiting old Portuguese cathedrals, touring the Paul John distillery etc. It was a charmed week and I don’t know when we will ever be able to do it again. Continue reading

Mussels Moilee


I made this for dinner last night with the last of a mega-bag of mussels from Costco. I posted the picture on Facebook and a friend asked for the recipe—you may as well have it too.

Moilee—often also transliterated as “molee” or even “molly”—is a Malayali (as in from Kerala) stew made with coconut milk. Where a lot of Malayali food is very robustly spiced, and often very hot, moilees tend to be mild. They usually feature seafood of one kind or the other—typically fish or prawns. I make it with fish and prawns as well but mussels are really my seafood of choice for it. I haven’t come across mussels moilee in Malayali restaurants in Delhi but for all I know it’s a very common variation down Kerala way (I’ve never been). At any rate, I find the briny-umami flavour of mussels goes really well with the other flavours in the stew. As a bonus it’s also a very easy dish to make: I pulled it together in less than half an hour last evening. Continue reading

Achaari Baingan


Where “achaari”=”a la achaar” where “achaar=Indian pickles”. There are actual baingan/brinjal/eggplant achaars/pickles—this is not one of them. Instead, as with most achaari recipes, this is made with ingredients that you would use in pickling. There are a large number of variations in how this general family of eggplant dishes is made; this is the one I use more often than not. It comes together very quickly and easily and it is very tasty indeed. As made in this recipe it is also quite hot but you can adjust that down by either using less red chilli powder or using a mild chilli such as Kashmiri or the slightly hotter Byadgi chilli. Either will be available from Amazon if there isn’t a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you. But I do hope there is a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you because the recipe calls for curry leaves. It’s not the case that you can’t make the dish at all if you don’t have them but it’ll be much better with a sprig of this otherwise un-substitutable ingredient. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 9: Simplee Pho (Apple Valley)


As I’ve noted before, we live in probably the only college town in the US—one with two colleges, in fact—that has no Thai or Vietnamese food on offer. There is serviceable Thai food available within 20-30 minutes drive (Taste of Thaiyai in Apple Valley, for example, or Thai Curry House in Burnsville or Joy’s Thai in Lakeville—where we recently got some pandemic takeout from); but in normal times we prefer to drive further to the Twin Cities’s real “Eat Street” for food that is substantially better. For Vietnamese food, and pho in particular, the gulf is less wide and we’re happy to eat at Pho Valley and Simplee Pho in Apple Valley when taken by a sudden urge for a good bowl of noodle soup. And so it was that after doing curbside pickup of Indian groceries at Mantra Bazaar on Saturday, I stopped at Simplee Pho to pick up a few things. Continue reading

Fisherman’s Wharf (Goa, Jan 2020)


Almost exactly four months to the day that we arrived in Goa for a week’s holiday, here is a brief account of our first meal there. We were staying at the beautiful home of old friends (they weren’t there) in Velim in South Goa. South Goa has far less tourist traffic than North Goa does and so is far less hectic. By the same token there are fewer quality restaurants in the larger area, and in a small, sleepy village like Velim there are none. For the rest of the stay all our dinners would be at the house; but as we’d arrived in the evening of the first day it hadn’t been possible to get set up with the cook we’d made arrangements with in the village. I’d looked around before arrival to see what the options were that wouldn’t require us to drive another 30 minutes back in the direction of the airport and we settled on the outpost of The Fisherman’s Wharf in Cavelossim, not too far from the beach on which we would spend the majority of every day following. The Fisherman’s Wharf is a chain with a few locations in Goa and they’ve expanded as well to Bangalore and Hyderabad. We didn’t have any particular expectations but it turned out to be a decent meal on the whole, if nothing very exciting. Indeed, this meal included a few items that we consumed pretty much every day for the rest of the trip. Continue reading

Alu-Gobi, Dry Style


I posted a recipe for alu-gobi last November. In the tedious preamble to that recipe I noted that alu-gobi—like most dishes in the vast Indian home cooking repertoire—is more of a genre than a specific dish. That shouldn’t be surprising considering the dish is just named for the two major ingredients in it. Cauliflower and potatoes cooked with a rotating cast of spices: that’s all alu-gobi is. The recipe I posted in November involved a simple spice-mix heavy on the coriander seed, and a fair bit of water for a fair bit of gravy. This one has a different mix of spices and tastes quite different. And as it’s made with very little water the texture is also very different. I like to make it keeping the cauliflower fairly crunchy but that’s easy enough to sort out if your tastes run otherwise. It’s a simple dish that’s not going to set off any fireworks but it’s very good. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 8: Back to Grand Szechuan


It’s been two months since restaurants closed to dining-in and I am very glad to say that Grand Szechuan is still open for takeout. This is not to say that they’ve not been affected severely, of course. Though I do see more people picking up food each time I go, business is obviously down drastically: they’re now closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I do hope that the staff—most of whom must have been laid off or furloughed when this began—are doing well and have managed to get access to financial support; I haven’t read much about what support systems are in place for restaurant workers in Minnesota, and have generally not read much about what programs/support networks there are for restaurants outside the high-end in general. (It’s quite possible I’ve missed things that are out there—if so, do point me in the right direction.) Against all hope I hope that we will see all the familiar staff again when restaurants can open fully and we feel confident enough to go back and eat in again. In the meantime, we also hope to be able to continue to get Grand Szechuan’s food as takeout. As I said in my first pandemic takeout report on them, we get a huge order from them once every two weeks and eat it all slowly over four or five days. This report is of our last two orders. Continue reading

Anda Curry, Again


Another month, another anda/egg curry recipe. This actually has very similar ingredients as last month’s anda curry but with a bit of crucial +/- turns out very differently in terms of both flavour and texture. This is less aggressively spiced both because there’s no mellowing coconut milk being added in this version and because it was made with my children in mind. I’m happy to report they loved it and asked that I make it again. For my kids at least this has to do not just with the less aggressive spicing but also with the fact that the sauce is pureed and so there’s no onion or other crunchy bits floating around in it. It feels like my life’s work right now is to convince them that onions are actually why they like almost everything they like to eat. (You may not need to be so convinced but you’ll like this pureed sauce  too.) They are also not yet able to resolve their relationship with dhaniya. They like the flavour of dishes that are garnished with it but perform intricate surgery to get every bit of green off their plates before they eat. Fascinating, I know. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 7: Back to El Triunfo


El Triunfo, as I noted last week, is the place we’ve been ordering the most takeout from during the quarantine. Both because we like the food and because we want to support this immigrant family business that is such an important part of our town as far as we are concerned. I’m glad to say that, at least as far as I can tell, they are doing decent business during the pandemic. We get food from them about once a week and each week it’s seemed like there have been more people waiting outside to pick up orders. I do hope they will make it through. Here now is a brief report on what we’ve been getting from them over the last month. Continue reading

Boiled Moog Dal


Here is a recipe for a dal that is very easy to make and which, despite featuring very few ingredients, has a rich, complex flavour. Is made with moog dal (moong dal in Hindi) or split, peeled mung beans. I’ve previously posted another recipe for it made with carrots and peas and tomatoes. That one is very good too—and even healthier—but this is the one my children love and ask for, and so it’s the dal I make most often. I smile wryly, by the way, at their affection for this dal. When I was their age, moog dal was my least favourite dal: mushoor dal prepared in this style and chholar dal were my favourites. I realize this is deeply uninteresting information all around. Anyway, this moog dal is made in the Bengali style by first pan-roasting the dal and then washing it before cooking it. It’s a very unglamorous dal but it is very tasty indeed. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 6: Flickeramen from Bull’s Horn (Minneapolis)


Okay, so it’s not actually called Flickeramen. But maybe it should be.

If you’d told me in 2017, when Doug Flicker closed Piccolo, our favourite restaurant in the Twin Ciites, that it would take us 3 years to finally make it out to his next spot, Bull’s Horn, I would not have believed you—even though I was ambivalent then about seeing Doug Flicker putting out diner food (like watching Michael Jordan play HORSE). And if you’d told me that when we did finally get around to Bull’s Horn it would be during a pandemic when takeout would be all they would be offering AND that what we’d get from them would be home assembly ramen kits I’d have thought you were crazy. But that is what we did, that is what we got and that is what we ate. And it was good. More than good: it was the best ramen we’ve yet had in Minnesota. That may seem like damning with faint praise but it’s not. Continue reading