And here’s another dish from the-Y-O, that’s Yotam Ottolenghi to you and me. This adaptation from “Plenty” was a huge success. The dish is South East Asian inspired, since it uses sambal sauce.

sambal okra over coconut rice

sambal okra over coconut rice

Sambal is a fiery sauce made with chili peppers, shallots, tamarind and other spices. The-Y-O claims that a dish like this is served in Malaysia for breakfast. “Wow” is all I can say, people and their cuisines sure can be different. This is spicy! I can’t imagine having it for breakfast. It reminds me of our trip to Thailand and Cambodia a few years ago. When we first arrived, the brutal jet lag had me hungry for spicy foods loaded with fish sauce in the morning. That’s standard fare there, so it worked out really well, at least at the beginning. Fried rice and fish soup at 7AM, no problem! I ate with gusto and it was all simply delicious! After a week or two, as I adjusted to the Thai clock, I began to have trouble with that kind of breakie.

I’ve made sambal before with calamari and shrimp, but didn’t think breakfast-time. We had this sambal okra for dinner, which is just fine by me. Really, it was so tasty that I’d be willing to have it anytime, including for breakfast… I bet this would be a super remedy for a hangover…

sambal okra over coconut rice

for the coconut rice:

1 cup basmati rice rinsed
½ cup coconut milk
1½ cups water
2 rinds of lemon
4 thin slices of fresh ginger
Kosher salt to taste

for the okra:

1 lb frozen baby okra
Lemon or lime wedges
Cilantro leaves for decoration

for the sambal sauce:

3 fresh Jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs partially removed (leave some for heat)
5 dried red chili peppers, seeds discarded
8 baby shallots
2 garlic cloves
1tsp paprika
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Add chilies fresh and dried, shallots, garlic, paprika, tamarind, sugar, 2 tablespoons of oil and another 2 of water to the food processor and spin until it turns into paste.

Place remaining oil in a large skillet on high. Pour paste in and sauté for a minute or so. Turn temperature down and cook it for about 10 minutes. The sambal sauce will be ready when it becomes dark brownish red in color and oil starts to separate from the paste. Set aside.

Place all rice ingredients in a saucepan on high heat. Give it a good stir. Bring to a boil. Stir again, reduce temperature to low, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keeping covered, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.

Have a pan ready with boiling water within the last 8-10 minutes rice is finishing cooking. Drop frozen okra into the water and cook 3-4 minutes to scald the little pods. Transfer okra to a colander and run some cold water over to stop cooking process.

Heat up sambal, fold in okra and let it warm through.

Transfer rice to a serving platter, top with sambal okra & decorate with cilantro leaves and wedges of lemon.


This is another delicious recipe I have adapted from the wonderful cookbook, Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India. I served it recently with a mouth-watering Kashimiri eggplant dish, badal jaam featured here back in June.

aloo gobhi matar with dried fenugreek leaves

aloo gobhi matar with dried fenugreek leaves

I picked this recipe because we bought a head of cauliflower and inadvertently left it at the back of the fridge for almost a week. It was still perfect though it needed to be used ASAP. In my opinion, fresh is always best!

We enjoyed the dinner in the company of our friend, Gordon, who was visiting from the Big Apple and our sometime-guest blogger, Jasmine T. I always make sure I include Jasmine for dinner whenever I make Indian as, like me, she loves it.

The dish turned out great. And the leftovers tasted even better the following day. Next time I make this dish I will prepare it a day ahead and just warm it through before serving. Somehow the flavors marry better with some time getting to know one-another.

aloo gobhi matar with dried fenugreek leaves

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
4 small white or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in approx. ½ inch cubes
1 cup garden peas, fresh or frozen
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ground fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
5 ripe Roma tomatoes, run though food processor
1 tbsp ground cumin
1½ tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper or other ground hot chili
1 tsp ground sweet paprika
1 tsp turmeric powder
kosher salt to taste
3 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves, crushed into powder
1 tsp tamarind paste or juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp amchur powder
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnishing

Steam potatoes for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from steamer and set aside. Add one tbsp olive oil to a non-stick pan and cook cauliflower at low heat for about 10-12 minutes. Don’t burn it. Add a few tablespoons of water during the process to prevent sticking. It should have an ‘al dente’ texture. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil to the same pan. Bring temperature to high and sauté garlic and ginger for about ½ minute or so. Add onion and continue cooking, stirring frequently until soft and translucent. Don’t brown the onion. Pour tomato purée into pan and continue cooking for a few more minutes just to allow some of the juice to evaporate. Add cumin, coriander, cayenne, paprika, turmeric, amchur, salt and stir for a few seconds to form a paste. The consistency will be similar to a ‘roux’.

Gently fold cooked potatoes and cauliflower into tomato spice mixture. Add a cup of water, stir, cover and cook on low temperature, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. Towards the last 4 minutes of cooking, add peas and tamarind. Complete cooking then remove from heat and let it stand, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro and you are done! This dish is really tasty.

Obs: I prefer toasting and grinding my own coriander and cumin. It tastes infinitely better.

Here’s a funny video with another take on aloo gobhi:

just for fun:  Clarence at rest

just for fun: Clarence at rest


I was in the mood for some flavorful fiery Southeast Asian food the other day. Normally when that happens I go for Thai or Vietnamese but this time I decided to “travel” further south, closer to the waters of the Mallaca Strait, Java Sea, Sulu Sea and so on. That’s where Sambal originates.

calamari and tiger prawns in Sambal sauce

calamari and tiger prawns in Sambal sauce

Sambal is a spicy sauce basically made with crushed chili peppers, garlic, ginger, sugar, onions, shallots, some sour agent such as tamarind or lime juice, anchovies, shrimp paste (belacan), etc. Enfin, this sauce is bold.

I’ve never used belacan before. It is famous for being quite stinky, so I was a bit nervous about it. Steven always complains that my nose is too sensitive. Would this kill me to smell? Well, I survived. Surprisingly, I can’t decide which stinks the most: fish sauce or belacan. And I didn’t think that fish sauce is really that bad. What do you think? All I can say with certainty is that these ancient condiments impart a wonderful and unique umami flavor to food. They’re really quite popular and are widely used in Southeast Asia, and with good reason. Never be discouraged by their smell in the “fresh” state. Once cooked, they are the best!

The recipe is quite easy to make, but you need a food processor to grind the paste conveniently.

key ingredients for calamari and tiger prawns in Sambal sauce

key ingredients for calamari and tiger prawns in Sambal sauce

calamari and tiger prawns in Sambal sauce

1 lb calamari bodies, cleaned and cut into ¼ inch thick rings
6 medium tiger prawns, tail on, shelled and deveined
1 inch cube dried tamarind, soaked in 1¼ cup warm water for 45 minutes
½ medium white or Vidalia onion, cut into thin slivers
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp shrimp paste (belacan)
4 ripe Roma tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro leaves

Sambal paste:

1 inch thick piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
8 dried chili peppers (I used chile de arbol)
3 shallots
2 cloves of garlic

Place Sambal ingredients in a food processor and process into a paste. Use a spatula to push down bits that stick to the edges.

Squish tamarind with your fingers until dissolved. Juice will be a bit thick. Pass it through a strainer. Discard solid parts.

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add Sambal paste and stir until raw aromas are gone and you see paste separating from oil. Add calamari and shrimp and cook for just a minute. Remove shellfish to a warm bowl and reserve, leaving as much Sambal sauce in the pan as possible. Add tomato, salt, onion and belacan and cook until onion has softened. Add tamarind juice, sugar, black pepper and salt, then simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, add calamari and prawns back to pan and allow them to warm through for a couple of minutes. Adjust salt. Serve over fragrant jasmine rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

This recipe has been adapted from here


Tamarind bars are sold at Asian markets in 5x3x1½ inch thick bricks. They’re called Me chua Không Hôt in Vietnamese. Tamarind has a gorgeous sweet and sour flavor. Here’s something fun about tamarind: the fruit was brought to Persia and then the Arab world with the spice trade from the Far East. At that time they thought that the fruit looked like dates because of the color and texture of the pulp are similar. Therefore the name ‘tamar hindi,’ or Indian date was born! Despite the name, it’s originally from tropical Africa, once it made its way to India, the name was fixed.

tamarind, mint and cilantro salsa for samosas

tamarind, mint and cilantro salsa

1/2 cup tamarind purée
2 large ripe roma tomatoes
½ medium newly harvested sweet onion (Vidalia)
2 cup cilantro (about 2 bunches)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, minced
kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
Juice of 2 limes

Cut a one inch piece off of the tamarind bar. Place in a microwave safe glass jar, cover with a 3/4 cup of water and nuke it for about 2 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature. Squeeze seeds with your fingers until all pulp dissolves and liquid becomes a thick purée. Add a bit more water if too thick. Strain and discard solids.

Place ½ cup tamarind purée into food processor followed by the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until smooth. Adjust flavors. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days but it is best in the first day.

Freeze any left over tamarind purée for other use

Serve this with vegan ajawain samosas.


almost vegetarian pad Thai

almost vegetarian pad Thai

Cooking Thai food without a wok or a high octane burner can be tricky! After we moved from NYC to San Francisco we sort of stopped using our wok for cooking Asian dishes. It had a round bottom and did not sit well first on the coils of our ancient electrical stove in our Eureka Valley rental and worked even less effectively on the tempered glass cook top in our Potrero Hill condo. Eventually we did get another wok with a flat bottom but I still think it doesn’t really work because it can’t get hot enough without gas. I really miss that special touch that fire, smoke and metal brings to stir-fries with high heat, especially when cooking Thai food! Gas is dangerous in an earthquake zone, so I’d opted to just give up this kind of cooking. I didn’t see how it could possibly taste “right” with sub-optimal cooking conditions.

Well, on several occasions Steven encouraged me to try again but I kept saying “no!” Perhaps it was simply “no” without the exclamation point, but I was pretty persistent. Instead we just ate pad Thai out at restaurants. But it was never as good as I remembered when I worked at a Thai place in London in the 1990’s, or as good as the Thai restaurant near our old place in Queens. I am picky. When we traveled to Thailand, I preferred the pad Thai from Queens!

After eating a lot of second rate pad Thai and with continued domestic pressure, I decided it was about time for me to make it at home again, despite the setup not being so ideal. Instead of a wok, I am now using a non-stick heavy paella pan. It’s not quite right: a bit hard to stir and there’s that subtle smoky/high heat part still missing. Overall, though, it turns out really well. We invited our friends Carey and Wendy for a “Thai-style” dinner the other night and they approved.

Squid Brand Fish Sauce

Squid Brand Fish Sauce

This recipe feeds about 4 people with a bit left over. It requires a fair amount of prep time, but I think it is fun making it. It is nice to see how the flavors come together.

Almost Vegetarian Pad Thai without the Wok

1 package of rice noodles soaked in tepid water for 30 minutes
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic,sliced
4 whole scallions, cleaned and sliced on the bias (never discard the green parts!)
¼ of a tamarind block/bar soaked in 1 & ½ cup warm water for 20 minutes
Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for decoration
5 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1 tbsp sugar
3 to 4 tbsp fish sauce (you could leave this out to make the dish completely vegetarian and use soy sauce instead but the taste is totally different)
1 lb block medium-firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 5 squares
3 eggs (leave yolks out if you have cholesterol concerns)
2 cups of bean sprouts (Moyashi)
5+ tablespoons canola oil

How to:

Use your fingers or a fork to mash tamarind into a thick paste. Pass it through a strainer and discard the solids (pod and seeds). For this dish you need ¾ cup of the thick paste. Left over paste can be made into a tamarind juice. Just add more water and sugar, some ice and drink it while making your pad Thai!

Add fish sauce (or soy for vegetarian) and sugar to tamarind paste. Mix.

Drain Noodles and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut strings into 10-14 inch long pieces.

frying tofu with garlic and shallot

frying tofu with garlic and shallot

Heat your paella pan or wok with one tbsp of oil. Sauté tofu squares on medium heat with garlic and shallot for about 4 minutes on each side to slightly brown. Transfer to a platter and keep warm. Return pan to burner and fry and scramble eggs for a minute or so. Reserve cooked egg with tofu. Return pan to stove, crank temperature to high and add remaining oil followed by noodles. Give it a good stir. Add half of the tamarind mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the rest tamarind mixture. Fold in egg and tofu, scallions and sprouts, garlic and shallot, stirring gently to warm everything evenly. Adjust flavor with extra fish (or soy) sauce if necessary. Add lime juice.

Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and lime wedges and serve immediately.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

a homemade Indian banquet

by Heguiberto on April 28, 2009

Have you ever wondered about cooking Indian food at home? Well it’s not as hard as you think, though it does take a little planning. At this Indian dinner, I served six traditional dishes from southern India. That probably sounds like a lot and it did take a few hours to prepare everything. Fortunately, many Indian dishes improve with sitting, so they can be made early. Also, these are relatively inexpensive dishes because they’re all vegetarian.

some Indian spices

some Indian spices

I’ve cooked Indian before so already had most of the spices that were needed. These can be found at many conventional supermarkets and specialty food stores. I like to go to an Indian market in the San Francisco Mission area at 548 Valencia Street called Bombay Bazar for hard-to-find Indian ingredients. That’s where I got the paneer (Indian cheese) and the pre-made mango chutney that I served as a side dish. For the rest of the fresh ingredients, I went to one of the many local Mexican markets in the same neighborhood.

Heguiberto frying stuffed peppers

Heguiberto frying stuffed peppers

I found the recipes I used on a variety of web sites and modified them to suit my taste. For a party of seven we had: an Ayurvedic recipe of mixed bean sprouts and corn salad, an Andhra garlicy tomato curry, an eggplant curry, mirchi bajji or stuffed anaheim peppers deep fried, a cabbage vepudu (a type of spicy cooked cabbage salad) and paneer byriani (a rice dish with marinated paneer, green beans and rice). I offered mango and date chutneys as condiments. Because many of the dishes are fairly spicy, they were served with champagne, rose and a Spanish red brought by two of the guests that could stand the heat. For dessert we had a chocolate cake brought by another guest with tea and a sweet liquor.

paneer byriani

paneer byriani

The meal was tremendous; and the company, wonderful. My highest compliment came from the one guest of Indian descent. She had grown up back East with many of these dishes served to her by her mother. She thought that the food was “amazing.”

I highly recommend that you venture out of your comfort zone into Indian cooking. It’s not that hard, really fun and the results are worth it.

homemade Indian banquet

homemade Indian banquet

Garlicky Tomato Curry Recipe

10 fresh ripe skinned Roma tomatoes chopped fine
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
5 fresh curry leaves
10-12 garlic cloves, crushed
pinch of turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder or more for spicier finish
1 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp grated jaggery (palm sugar) or substitute with dark brown sugar
½ bunch of chopped cilantro
2 tbsp canola oil

1- Heat oil in a large pan. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. About 2 minutes. Add
crushed garlic and curry leaves, sauté for further 10 seconds.
2 Add onions, sauté until translucent. Add chili, turmeric and coriander powders as well as salt. Stir to combine.
3- Add chopped tomatoes, plus sugar and cook uncovered on high heat stirring constantly for about 10-15 min. I used a non-stick pan for the job.
5- Garnish with fresh coriander leaves

Mirchi Bajji (stuffed deep fried green peppers)

9 Anaheim peppers, cut lengthwise seeds and ribs removed.
Canola oil for frying


1 tbsp oil
1 chopped onion
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
½ tsp chaat masala (spice blend of dried mango, cumin, salt, coriander, black pepper, asafetida and hot paprika/chili)
3 medium potatoes cooked in salted water and roughly mashed
¼ to ½ tsp chili powder
½ cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp tamarind pulp

Heat oil and sauté onion for 4-5 minutes, add ginger and spices, stir. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for 3 minutes more stirring constantly. Set aside


1 cup chick pea flour (gram flour)
¼ cup rice flour
Pinch baking soda
½ tsp cumin
Black pepper
1 cup water

Wisk all ingredients together, it should have a pancake consistency

Stuff peppers with the potato mixture. Dip one by one into the batter coating them well on all sides and drop
them gently into hot oil (3 at the time). Fry each batch for about 5-6 minutes.

Mixed Sprouts Corn Salad Recipe

1 cup mixed legume sprouts of your choice (chick peas, beans, pigeon peas)
1 cup of steamed sweet corn (from 2 ears)
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp walnut oil
1/2 tsp of freshly pan roasted cumin powder
pinch of black pepper powder
Juice of 2-3 limes
Pinch of chili pepper powder
½ bunch of chopped cilantro
1 container of sprouts (pea or daikon)

1- Steam legume sprouts for 8-9 minutes or longer if you like it softer, let it cool to room temperature, add corn and daikon/pea sprouts

2-Prepare cumin seeds as follows: Add cumin seeds to a hot pan and roast it till fragrant (few seconds) Careful not to burn them. Transfer to a mortar or food grinder. Grind into a fine powder. It makes a big difference in flavor

3- Prepare dressing by mixing together ginger, salt, chili, cumin, black pepper, lemon juice and walnut oil

4- Pour dressing over sprouts mix, adjust seasoning and serve with cilantro

Cabbage Vepudu Recipe


3 cups chopped cabbage
1 onion, very finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder (adjust)
1/2 tsp coriander powder
big pinch cumin powder
chopped cilantro
2-3 tsp oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 minced cloves garlic
4 fresh curry leaves (optional)

How to:
1-Boil a quart of water with a pinch of turmeric, add cabbage and cook for a couple of minutes just to wilt it. Drain and reserve.
2- Heat oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds and toast them (about 1 minute). Add chopped onion and sauté it until translucent. Add garlic and curry leaves keep sautéing for few more seconds.
3-Stir in chili powder, cumin powder and coriander powder, add cabbage, mix well cooking for further 2 minutes. Garnish with cilantro

Paneer Biryani

1 and 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed till water runs clear

3 and ¾ cups of water
1 cup paneer (Indian cheese) in cubes

1/4 cup fresh/frozen pea
1/4 cup green beans
1 tsp chili powder
a pinch turmeric powder
3-4 strands coriander leaves
5 tbsp Canola oil
1/2 cup yogurt
2 cardamom pods

1 bay leaf
3 green chilies (Serrano or Jalapeño), seeded and ribbed
½ inch of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic
few strands saffron


Spice (grind into powder):
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 cloves
½ inch of a cinnamon stick
1 tsp poppy seeds
5-6 peppercorns


1-Using a bowl mix 3 tbsp of yogurt, turmeric, 1tsp of spice powder and salt. Add paneer cubes and marinate for about 2 hours

2-Heat 3tbs canola oil, add cardamom pods, bay leaf, rice and salt, sauté rice mixture for 3 minutes. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of water let it boil, reduce heat to minimum, cover the pan and let it cook till water has evaporated about 10-15 min, remove from heat. Let it rest, covered, for 5 min.
3- Heat 1 tbs of canola oil, transfer paneer to pan and brown them a bit (about 5 minutes), put aside in a bowl.

4- Using a food processor or a mortar grind into a paste the green chilies, garlic and ginger.

5-In the same pan used for browning the paneer, add 1 tbsp of canola oil, the paste, the vegetables and sauté till the raw smell is gone (5-10 min). Add yogurt and any leftover juices from marinate plus some salt and stir. Sprinkle about ½ tsp of spice powder and cilantro over it.

6- Assemble the Biryani on a baking dish (Pyrex) layering half of the rice at the bottom, followed by the paneer and veggies. Cover with remaining rice and sprinkle saffron threads over it. Poor 1 cup of water over rice, wrap the dish with aluminum foil and bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 300F

Eggplant pulusu (eggplant and tamarind pulp)

1 very large eggplant
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ cup of thick tamarind pulp
2 green chilies, finely chopped (leave the seeds and ribs out if you don’t want it very spicy)
1 and ½ tbsp of brown sugar or grated palm sugar (jaggery)
Chopped cilantro to taste
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste

2 red chilies (Italian pepperoncini) broken into pieces seeds removed
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafetida– (called hing or ingua in India)
5 fresh curry leaves
4 tbsp canola oil

1- Grease the eggplant with part of the oil and roast/bake it in the over till it collapses. Rotate it few times just to ensure even baking. Remove and let it cool down. Peel skin off and mash eggplant into a pulp.
2-Add to eggplant pulp the chopped onions, green chilies, tamarind extract, sugar or palm sugar and salt. Combine well to form a thick paste.
3-Heat remaining oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add cumin seeds, red chili (pepperoncini), and asafetida and curry leaves followed by the eggplant pulp, stir it for 3-5 minutes and serve garnished with cilantro leaves
Recipes adapted from blog:

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ Comments on this entry are closed }