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Category: food

Philadelphia

I got a new phone. It’s a Lumia 920. It has a very good camera. Being rather bored in Seattle, where it is cold and wintery and rainy I decided to plop over to the other side of the continent to meet a friend who studies at the University of Pennsylvania. It was one of the better decisions I’ve made in the recent past. The rest of this post talks about food, aeroplanes, movies, art, history and walking.

 

I left Seattle on a rather rainy Friday morning, at an hour that I consider ungodly. After a ride in a taxi with a driver who had spent 10 years in Japan and thought very highly of Indian cinema, after a suprisingly painless experience at security that only involved taking off my shoes, belt, jacket, laptop I was on board an Alaskan airlines flight and I took the photo above. I was rather pleased with it, the camera managed to do exactly what I had asked of it – photograph the drops of water on the window.

 

It was bright for all of the duration of the flight. I was very pleased and looking forward to spending a weekend in sunshine. Also, I’m just showing off the camera. The plane then dipped below the clouds and Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcast. Drizzling. Philadelphia airport does nothing to distinguish itself. There is a severe lack of space as in all airports – it is designed for utility. There is nothing wrong with it, there is just not much that makes you feel warm and cheery after a long flight. I used to think all airports are like this until I disembarked at San Francisco earlier in November this year. SF airport is spacious and bright and welcoming. There is nice music in the restrooms, like a sultry seductress’ serenade. I took a train to their University District, or University City – everything in Philly is a city. The train was old and had conductors which was surprising to see. The airport was actually the low point of the trip – it all got better so fast.

 

U Penn, is ivy-league, home to a lot of rich kids – which is why food trucks that deliver hot cookies to your hostel make sense

 

We had dinner at Zahav, this fancy middle-eastern place. I haven’t eaten in many fancy places and actually had no conception of what the food here would be like. The walk to Zahav was three miles through the University, Downtown Philly, the rich affluent housing area of Philly, the old Jewish quarter of Philly and then Zahav. The place is beautifully decorated – there are diwans and cylindrical pillows and very Turkish looking curtains. There was a chandelier, well, more of a lamp, made out of some blue metal, hanging from the ceiling, in the center of the room. The table was copper or bronze, dimpled like a golf ball. Our waitress was knowledgeable but snobby – perhaps it was my  hair but she had made this assumption that we were uneducated normal people with run-of-the-mill palettes.

The food was an experience. There were six kinds of salads, the picture above. The most interesting was the one made of eggplant – a salad of eggplant which was actually surprisingly good. The pita bread was fresh, hot off the oven and the humus was divine. The second best part of the meal were these spheres of lamb (I desist from using the term lamb-balls because of certain uncultured readers of this blog). They were the perfect blend of spice and meat. I will not use the “dissolve in the mouth” cliché. They did not. Infact, they just waited for the appropriate amount of time on the tongue, just long enough to understand the flavour and the spice and then melted. Brilliant.

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The walk back was interesting until it was cut short by a minor downpour which caused us to get into a Philadelphia taxicab. Taxicabs in Philadelphia have wide rear seats which can accomdate four people of my build and a glass partition separating the driver from the passenger.

washington square.

 

liberty bell. yes I did see it. no I do not know much about it’s history

 

the streets of philadelphia

The next day was overcast but not raining and was spent walking around. A must see place is the Reading Terminal Market – with its eateries and food shops. There is a creperie there – some of the best crepes I’ve eaten. Oh, and while walking around in Philly, do not be surprised to see black gentlemen at intersections proclaim loudly into loudspeakers, “Jesus is coming”, “The end is near” and other chantings of an apocalyptic-return-of-the-big-guy nature.

 

Philadelphia is old. Full of nice buildings

 

and ridiculous cars

 

and Chinatown

 

and streets that are forlorn and lonely in the winter

 

Our target was Penn’s landing – the place where William Penn landed and founded Pennsylvania. It is by no means a spectacular, stunning waterfront. Especially on a gray day – it just looks gloomy – I dislike water bodies that do nothing to cheer you up. The Philadelphians do not care for it either, the big neon signboard proclaiming Penn’s landing had only a few of the letters lit up.

 

 

What appears to be a lounging area of the general population. Devoid of people on that day. That river is the Delaware. There is another river in Philadelphia called the Skychupnawanapoppitipompom.

 

There is a military ship in the background on the river.

 

leaving Penn’s landing we meandered through the old quarters of Philadelphia, full of red-brick houses and more forlorn streets.

 

 

there was extremely good coffee over here – must try place

 

there was also this utterly lame museum of art made out of trash. ditch it.

 

one of the main streets, the city hall is shrouded in fog.

 

and there are a lot of interesting sculptures there

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Most of the last day was spent at the Philadelphia Art Museum and eating. I will not taunt you people with details of the food – suffice to say it was homemade and divine. The art museum is an old building (I like old buildings) and has a few nice paintings (of bridges and snow and mountains and water). It is not a particularly impresive museum but go here if you’ve got nothing to do. The walk back from the Museum, along the waterfront is nice!

 

the main staircase

 

the façade of the museum – columns – I like

 

I do not understand modern art.

 

and it’s a very nice walk back!

 

Overall, Philadelphia is fun. If only for a weekend. The food is amazing. It’s great to just walk around. U Penn is very likable. I approve!

The Most Comprehensive Review of a Local Sushi Restaurant in Juanita written in November

Whenever I see an article titled “The most ….” or the “Top ten things you must …” I question it. Something in my gut tells me that it is inaccurate and as with most things on the Internet it turns out to be true. Today, I sat down and decided to write “The Most Comprehensive Review of a Sushi Restaurant” and realized the need for a far more specific title so that when someone like me reads the title the only way to prove that it is inaccurate is to write a review that is more comprehensive than mine and ergo improve the quality of the Internet.

Oto Sushi – a small place, nestled between a massage parlour and another restaurant, behind a Walgreens.

11628 97th Ln NE
(at Juanita Dr)
Kirkland, WA 98034
(425) 825-8899

The staff are very friendly and it’s open till late (10pm). The open-till-lateness is very useful, coming back after hitting the gym and finding that there is no food in the house. The ingredients are fresh and the rolls are not only delicious but also beautifully presented.

tl;dr – if you do not read further:

  • The Norwegian Pepper Salmon is delicious
  • The Caterpillar Roll is a work of art
  • The Snow Crab is soft and soothing and melts in your mouth.
  • The Rainbow Roll is stunning as well

Pictures and roll descriptions in my order of preference of the rolls.

The Caterpillar Roll

If you do not order anything else then order this. Crab. Eel. The sauce is tangy. It is delicious and presented beautifully.

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The Rainbow Roll

This is a roll you get everywhere. It’s got four different fish meats on top of it – they are of different colours and hence the name “Rainbow Roll” (I’m sure you got that from the picture ).

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The Mango Salad Roll

Crab, wrapped in lettuce and beetroot. Simple. Elegant. Healthy. The sauce (raw mango flavoured) goes really well with the roll. Oh, and each piece is rather big and kind of hard to fit in your mouth like a gentleman.

 

Lion King Roll

This roll looks like a mess. It seems like a crazy jumble of thoughts and when you take a piece of it and put it in your mouth you realize just how crazy it is. There is so much going on in this roll – the creamy sauce, the spice, the sweetness of the crab, the wasabi and the soy sauce – and yet it all just comes together as you eat it.

 

The Norwegian Pepper Salmon

It’s seared, has a slightly burnt taste and sprinkled with black pepper. Enough said.

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Godzilla Roll

Eel and spice – it tastes very nice.

 

Dragon Roll

The Godzilla Roll’s older cousin. Similar.

 

Tiger Roll

Tempura. Snow Crab and another fish whose meat is in the mouth. Slightly chewy but the coolness of the snow-crab is very refreshing. Good to finish a meal with.

 

Salmon King Roll

Shrimp, snow crab and Salmon. Filling.

 

The Not So Good Rolls

Or rather, rolls that I don’t like that much.

The Fire Alarm Roll – It has Jalapenos on it but it is not spicy at all

 

Magic Roll

 

Music Roll – I think it is by far the most meh-inducing roll.

how to make gulab jamuns

DISCLAIMER: Unlike previous (and/or most) posts on this blog this one actually contains useful information. It tells you how to make gulab jamuns from scratch. The last post that was like this was about rasgullas.

What is a gulab jamun

Gulab jamun , is a popular dessert in countries of the Indian Subcontinent such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. In Nepal it is widely known as Lalmohan, served with or without curd, which is a popular dessert on all occasions. It is made of a dough consisting mainly of milk solids. Traditionally, khoya, an Indian milk product (buffalo milk) is rolled into a ball together with some flour and then deep fried, but at a low temperature of about 148°C. It is then put into a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom seeds and rosewater, kewra or saffron.

(The definition above was lifted from wikipedia)

How long does it take to make

About two and a half hours. That includes the time it takes to clean it up. This was the first time I made this, I reckon I can shave an hour off this. Two and a half hours for 35-40 odd gulab jamuns.

Is it good for me

Indeed. You should consume copious quantities of these. They are perhaps the best Indian sweet.

How do I make it?

To put it simply:

a) Make the syrup

b) Make the balls/dumplings. This post from now onwards will use balls because of the greater potential of cheap jokes.

c) Fry the balls

d) Put balls in syrup

What all do I need

Look this up on the internet. You lazy … oh wait … this is the internet and I said I’d give useful advice. Well you need:

  • Oil
  • Water
  • Milk Powder
  • Rose Essence
  • Flour
  • Ghee
  • Milk/Yogurt
  • Sugar
  • Cardamom
  • Kitchen utensils

That is as useful as this is going to get. For more (and you will anyway, let us be honest, you are never going to use this blog as the single source of all ngyanam on gulab jamun creation) look up the internet.

I WANT MY PICTURES

here we go …

Making the syrup: The first step. For that you need a lot of sugar. By a lot I mean a lot. I must have used somewhere between a half and three quarters of kilogram.

 

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pure sugar in a pan or bowl or vessel

 

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add water and start boiling. as the sugar dissolves add more water. then add some cardamom some

 

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Rose Essence. That is the item in the foreground (I had to use rose water because rose essence is hard to find). Rose water is like an alcohol, just a pleasant smelling alcohol.

 

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The solubility of sugar in water increases with temperature. Also, this is really really really sweet.

 

Making the balls: The balls are the jamuns. First, collect your ingredients and keep them in an easily reachable manner. I did not do this and halfway through kneading the dough I realized I needed more milk and then I had to go open the fridge to get more milk which is rather painful because as I was about to grasp the fridge handle to open the door to get more milk I saw that my hands were covered in dough which if it got stuck on the fridge handle would be painful to cleanup so I had to wash my hands. (A friend of mine writes emails like this)

 

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The core ingredients – the milk powder and flour

 

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I used that much milk powder to make the first batch. The glass is approximately two thirds the diameter of the bournvita bottle and a shade under a third it’s height and it was half filled with milk powder.

I also added some flour.

 

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and some ghee which ideally should be melted.

 

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first up, put all the dry ingredients in a bowl (oh you need a little bit of baking soda as well)

 

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I had to find a bigger bowl. PROTIP: Make sure your bowl is big enough

 

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Add a little bit of yogurt and ghee. The ghee is to make it non-sticky and the yogurt is what holds it together. If I was a hippie the yogurt would be akin to LOVE

 

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It should be sticky and rolling your hand in there is a lot of fun. Don’t worry if it is sticking to the bowl, once you have rolled it enough let it be for ten minutes or so. It compacts (I think the baking soda does something to the dough) and all comes together.

 

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It is a good idea to eat some Jalapeno flavoured Pringles while you wait for the dough to come together.

 

 

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That is what the dough looks like. BTW this is very edible. I had quite a few fingerfulls of this which significantly impacted the yield of my gulab jamuns.

 

Once you’ve waited long enoguh (i.e. the chips are over) make the balls.

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Nascent Gulab Jamuns. These balls don’t know that they are going to be stepping into the frying pan.

 

The final step: Frying the gulab jamuns. (Yes, I’m aware that this is the semi-final step).

 

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Heat the oil. This is important. The temperature of the oil is vital. Too hot and the balls will become black too fast. I had my stove set on 2. Out of 10.

 

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Drop the balls in. One-two-three at a time. The ball will sink down and then magically rise up.

 

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The ball rises up. It is getting fried. Golden brown is the colour you want.

 

 

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Let them fry. After this, I kind of stopped taking pictures because it is difficult to take pictures while balls are frying.

 

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Once they become golden brown take them out of the frying pan and dump them into the syrup. Let the syrup simmer and let the balls absorb the sugar.

 

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Garnish and eat!

Sushi VII

Magic Roll

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Snow crab. Lots of it. No special sauce.

 

Music Roll

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Tempura. Seared salmon. The sauce is very creamy. This is not a good roll.

Sushi VI

Salmon King Roll

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Shrimp tempura. Snow crab topped with Salmon and fish roe. Very filling.

Rainbow Roll

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Another beautiful roll. It has crab inside and different fish outside – Salmon/Tuna etc. The green is the avocado.

Sushi – V

this post in collaboration with Maddy D.

Dream <something> Roll

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Another horrible picture. I would have thought that I’d have gotten better at it. This roll had three kinds of fish inside (you can taste the different fish itself) and another on top. I do not remember which but I suspect tuna and salmon for sure. It was also layered with a little bit of cashew which was very nice.

 

Lion King Roll

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Appearances (and photographs) can be deceptive. This roll has a hint of spiciness but the sweetness of the crab and the creaminess of the fish on top make it melt in your mouth.

 

Mango Salad Roll

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Crab, wrapped in lettuce and beetroot. Simple. Elegant. Healthy. The sauce (raw mango flavoured) goes really well with the roll. Oh, and each piece is rather big and kind of hard to fit in your mouth like a gentleman.

Sushi – IV

Dragon Roll

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So, I saw the snow crab and went right ahead ergo no full picture :-). Anyway, this was cool and soothing and had snowcrab, tempura, eel and avacado. Very nice.

Fire Alarm Roll

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It looks like a ship. Jalapeno is probably why this is called the Fire Alarm Roll. It’s got tempura and tuna I think. The Jalapenos make a nice crunchy noise when you bite into them but the roll isn’t really spicy – Fire Alarm is a misnomer.

Sushi – III

Caterpillar Roll

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This roll looks very nice, like a caterpillar. It’s got crab and eel and the rice is mixed with a very tangy tasty sauce. Very very nice.

Double Salmon Roll

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Lots of Salmon. Cucumber. Simple. Straightforward.

Sushi – II

Godzilla Roll

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Eel and spice. It tastes very nice – you don’t really need the Soy Sauce with this. It’s got something slightly fried around it so has a nice crunch.

Tiger Roll

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Tempura. Snow Crab and another fish whose meat is in the mouth. Slightly chewy but the coolness of the snow-crab is very refreshing. Good to finish a meal with.

Sushi – I

The Avalon Roll

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Tempura. Crab. Avocado. Cucumber. Very nice, especially the crab, incredibly cooling and refreshing.

Bryant’s Rainbow Roll

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Looks the same as the Avalon Roll but couldn’t be more different. It’s spicy. There is no crab. Tempura and three other kinds of fish. A lot of raw meat that can be tasted.