Fried Rice

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My mom is the queen of the kitchen, which meant growing up I never cooked! Fast forward to 2005 standing in my kitchen in Connecticut I figured fried rice would be the easiest thing to pull off, right? Wrong! While it tasted good, the texture was completely off, more like awful, because of some obvious mistakes. What followed was a teary conversation with mom, mostly because I was really homesick and couldn’t even cook myself a decent warm meal. This post is more about the secret tips that mom shared with me that day, than about the actual recipe. This recipe is a basic one and can be modified to make your own. Add different vegetables, may be some protein…

The secret to a good fried rice is starting with cold cooked grains! Now that I think of it mom always cooked the rice the day before. The reason is simple, dehydration of the grains. Refrigeration makes the grains dry, and then when cooked it gets hydrated just right. Fresh cooked rice gets mushy! When in the moment spread fresh cooked rice in a baking sheet and chill it in the refrigerator for 15-20 mins. This will take care of any residual moisture and give your dish the fried texture.

Heat! High heat is important. As my mom’s lil helper I would love adding things to the pan but I wasn’t that patient. So I would go “Aikhon Di”(should I add now) and mom would roll her eyes and say “Daada, gorom hoi ni”(wait its not warm enough yet) because it was probably the 4th or 5th time! High heat ensures that whatever is added to the pan gets fried quickly, so the rawness goes but the crunchiness stays.

“Ghatish Na”(Don’t stir it too much) was what she screamed at me when this eager helper, kept stirring the rice. Constant stirring will cause the grains to break and get starchy, then mushy. Also it prevents the rice from getting that crunchy crusty texture. So spread the rice out in the pan, let it sit for a minute or so before flipping it.

So the secret to Jhojhore (fluffy), slightly crusty fried rice is – dehydrated cooked rice, cooking in high heat and no to constant stirring! To never again mushy fried rice… Happy cooking!!

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 10 mins     Yield: 4-5 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice, cooked.
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp black pepper, ground
  • salt to taste

Process: 

  1. Heat oil in a wok, add the vegetables (except scallions) and sauté in high heat for 4-5 mins, just so that the rawness goes but they still retain the crunchiness.
  2. Add cooked rice, salt, ground black pepper and butter, stir it in and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Pour the soy sauce, around the edges of the wok and gently fold it in.
  4. Remove from heat, garnish with chopped scallions and serve.
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Kumror (Pumpkin) Chokka

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Fall is my favorite time of the year the slight nip in the air, the smell of pine, festivities everywhere and fall vegetables, I love every one of them! Chokka in bangla means a spiced dish of vegetables cooked almost dry. Kumror Chokka is a traditional bengali dish that is made using Pumpkins, potatoes and chickpeas.While traditionally this dish is made during the summer months, I make this in fall, with fresh Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash from the local farmers market. Serve it with Porotha or Puri and its just perfect of cold evenings.

This dish was very popular in my maternal grandparents house. Story goes that when ever my grandparents argued about something, my granddad would step out and comeback home with a Pumpkin as peace offering. And my grandmother would make this, their favorite dish and they would laugh about their disagreements over a meal. Love Birds!

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 15-20 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sized potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 3-4 green chile pepper
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1-2 dried red chilli pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing
  • 1 tsp ghee (optional)
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron and dried red chilli pepper. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. In the mean time muddle together ginger, garlic and fresh green chile pepper with a pestle
  3. Add the potatoes, muddle spices, turmeric and salt to the now aromatic temper. Sauté for 4-5 mins.
  4. Add butternut squash/pumpkin and chickpeas, mix them in. Cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 10-12 mins.
  5. Let the vegetables char a little at the bottom.
  6. Remove from heat, fold in the thin charred crust.
  7. Garnish with ghee, garam masala and chopped cilantro.

 

Aloo Pyager Chorchuri (Potato-Onions Stir-Fry)

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Chorchuri is a char flavored bengali style stir fry, Chorchori being the noun and the vegetable used to make it, the adjectives. As a child I had asked my mom why this dish was called Chorchori, she said it is because when the vegetables are getting charred, they make a sizzling sound that sounds like ‘chor’ which is also an indicator that the dish is almost done. I am not sure if that’s accurate or not, but thats the story I go with.

Any number of vegetables can be used to make this, but in the Aloo loving Mukherjee household, potatoes have always been the main ingredient with others making a guest appearance or not. This particular dish was a breakfast favorite served with Luchi or Bashi Porotha (Stale Parathas made the night before). There is something about warm porotha, potatoes along with the smell and taste of mustard oil that makes it one of the most comforting dish for lazy mornings.

The charred part is the best part of the dish and my sister and I always called dibs on who gets to clean up (read lick) the wok, mom won most times, go figure!

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I like to cut the potatoes and onions in wedges, because thats how my mom did it, but its not a rule.

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

 

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 20-30 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium size potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 medium sized onion, cut into wedges
  • 3-4 green chile pepper, slit
  • 1 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. Add the potatoes, onions, green chili pepper,  turmeric and salt. Sauté, cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 12-15 mins.
  3. Let the vegetables char a little at the bottom.
  4. Remove from heat, fold in the thin charred crust.
  5. Garnish and serve.

Note:

  • If you want to add some protein in to it, shrimp or scallops is the way to go.

Peas Pulao

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This past week marked the 42nd wedding anniversary of my parents, growing up we celebrated the day with a gathering of friends and family and my mom like always cooked up a feast. Peas Pulao or ghee bhaath, always played an award winning supporting role, complimenting the flavors of the side dishes. In my opinion this dish is the underdog of bengali cuisine and never gets its due credit. Long grained basmati rice flavored with aasto gorom moshala (whole spices), jeere (cumin) and ghee makes for perfectly light and aromatic companion to pretty much any side dish, or to be eaten as is.

Time for Prep: 5 mins     Time to Cook: 15 mins     Yield: 6 Servings     Level: easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 4-5 green cardamom
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3.5 cup water or broth.
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan heat the ghee and add caraway seeds, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, black peppercorns. Sauté for till you begin getting the spice aroma around 2-3 mins.
  3. Add the drained rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  4. Add green peas, cilantro, mint and sauté for a minute before adding water, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 12-15 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  6. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Serve with your favorite side dish or with just Raita.

Notes:

  • For rice that is fluffy and each grain of rice is separated drain and spread soaked rice on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out before cooking. While cooking fry/sauté the rice grains for a 2-3 mins before adding water. While doing so make sure that you don’t stir too vigorously, that will break the rice grain and you will not get those long grains of rice that are visually so appetizing.
  • If your using frozen green peas, thaw it before using.

Burrito Bowl

Hari and I love traveling, especially long road trips. There is something very energizing about open roads, music, us singing along, stopping at random places to explore and debate about random topics. Chipotle is our favorite fast food places to go when on these trips, its healthy and wholesome with a delicious vegetarian option which is not just salad. But then there are those days where we crave the goodness of a burrito bowl and live the memories of travel without really leaving the house, this is our fix for those days. Plus this easy to fix meal is actually faster than getting in the car and driving.

I use Cilantro Lime Rice and homemade Salsa (Recipes posted earlier)

This is a vegetarian version, but if you are a meat lover then just top it with cooked meat of your choice in assembly and your all set.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 10 mins     Yield: 4 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cilantro lime rice
  • 1/2-3/4 cup beans and corn salsa
  • Chopped mixed vegetables:
    • 1/2 green pepper, Julienned (cut into thin strips)
    • 1/2 red pepper, Julienned
    • 1/2 yellow pepper, Julienned
    • 1 medium sized red onion, Julienned
    • 1 medium size tomato, Julienned
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing

Process:

  1. Cooking the vegetables:
    • In a heavy bottom pan heat oil over medium high heat, add all the vegetables and sauté for another 2-3 mins.
    • Add the cumin powder, cayenne and salt. Mix and sauté until they are cooked, stirring as needed.
  2. Assembly:
    • In a bowl arrange 1/2 cup of Cilantro Lime Rice, top it with the Beans and Corn Salsa, then the sautéed vegetables.
    • Season with salt and pepper if needed, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

Cilantro Lime Rice

IMG_4123The freshness of the flavors of cilantro and lime makes this a perfect alternative to plain rice. Since burrito chains, like Chipotle made this dish popular we always think of it as a side to a Mexican dish. But this goes really well with traditional Indian side dishes as well. Serve this with basic yellow dal and you can make every day food feel special. I like it best with Mutton Rogonjosh or Bengali Kosha Mangsho.

For rice that is fluffy and each grain of rice is separated or like we call it in bengali ‘Jhojhore’, soak rice for 30 mins, then drain and spread it on a paper towel or cotton towel to dry it out before cooking. While cooking fry/sauté the rice grains for a 2-3 mins before adding water. While doing so make sure that you don’t stir too vigorously, that will break the rice grain and you will not get those long grains of rice that are visually so apetizing.

Time for Prep:5 mins     Time to Cook:20 mins    Yield:2-4 Servings    Level:Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups of Basmati rice
  • 1.75 cup water or broth
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter or oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp lime juice (Juice of 1 lime)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped + 1 tbsp for garnish
  • zest of 1 lime for garnish

Process:

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 30 mins. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan over medium heat add butter/oil. Add garlic, cumin seeds and bay leaf, sauté till you begin getting the spice aroma around 1 min.
  3. Add the drain rice, which should’ve gotten a little dry by now. Mix and sauté for around 2 mins or until the rice is well coated and starts to glisten.
  4. Add water/broth, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Stir slightly.
  5. Cover and let cook for around 10-12 mins, when the rice is almost done and there is still a little bit of moisture remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 20-30 mins.
  6. Using a fork, fluff up the rice a little. Garnish with the lime zest and cilantro, serve with your favorite side dish.

Salsa

IMG_4111Superbowl is round the corner and it calls for some easy crowd pleasing finger food that are guaranteed to score! This is one of my favorite game day recipe, a base that gives me flexibility to serve with some chips or a plate of Veggie Nachos or Veggie Quesadillas or as one of the toppings for a burrito bowl. Over the years this has become our favorite game day food for any big sports event… Cricket, Boxing, Tennis.. and MMA, provided the fight goes on for more than a few seconds. Essentially I always have a jar of Salsa in my refrigerator and it has always been a big score for me.IMG_4112I first had Salsa at a mexican restaurant in Mystic CT, the food in Margaritas is average but the salsa is a town favorite. Thats the taste that inspired this recipe and to me it feels like perfection, every bite brings back memories of Sangrias with girlfriends. Play around with the ingredients and find that perfect taste for you. This is also one of those recipes that I am asked about a lot! So here goes. 526102_373643059347155_950859651_nCouple things to keep in mind: First, I use plum tomatoes for this because they have low moisture content, robust flavor and mild acidity making it a perfect choice, but any other type of tomatoes works just as good. Secondly I don’t use a food processor to chop the vegetables because they loose their crunchiness, which I really like. But if thats something your not particular about then just throw all ingredients (except corn and beans) in a food processor and pulse away. Third, allow it to rest for a day before digging in. This helps with all the flavors to really blend in.IMG_4117The picture above shows how I chop the vegetables, they are almost finely chopped.

Time for Prep: 20 mins      Time to Cook: 5 mins     Yield: 16oz (2 cups)      Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cubanelles, chopped
  • 2-4 jalepenos, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 english cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp chili paste or Tubasco sauce (optional)
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 cup sweet yellow corn, cooked (Optional)
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked (Optional)

Process:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix in the chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, cubanelles, jalepenos, onion, cilantro and cucumber.
  2. Add tomato and chili paste, mix it in.
  3. Add yellow corn and black beans, mix in.
  4. Add salt, cumin, cayenne and red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning based on preference. If you want a runnier Salsa, add more tomato paste and/or red wine vinegar.
  5. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Stays good for around 14-15 days.