ras malai

December 12, 2009 1 comment

On the 13th day of the dark half of the month of Ashwin, over a billion people around the world light candles and bring out their best new clothes, to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights.  For some, it is a day of celebrating the harvest, the move into shorter days, the ancient triumph of good over evil and Rama’s defeat of Ravana to win the return of his wife.  For others, it is more, the final day of the lunar year and the start of the new. Regardless of reason, all celebrations mark a turning point and a remembrance, and the beginning of something new.

Of course, no Indian festival is complete without decadent sweets and tablesfulof food.  Among these, ras malai stands out as my clear favorite, a milky fatty dessert that dominates the other more sugary items available.  It is typically Indian, curd-based and spice-kissed, evoking sensory comaraderie with paneer and chai. For that matter, it is quite similar, made with the same soft cheese and spices as its two famous cousins.

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pita bread

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Flatbreads are made the world over, a particularly useful item when utensils are not available.  They are grilled, roasted, fried, baked, and sauteed, leading to a myriad flavors.  Despite great similarity in preparation and cooking, they are often very different depending on the culture which produces.

Sometimes the difference is due to the presence of yeast or baking soda, olive oil or ghee, milk or yogurt, honey or sugar.  Sometimes the difference is in the milling – coarse grains vs fine, corn vs millet vs spelt vs wheat.  And sometimes the difference is barely discernible, giving the consumer a fleeting glimpse of the lifespan of grains and the unique climate, water, and soil conditions of growth and production. Read more…

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mantuu buuz

October 20, 2009 1 comment

Mongolia is a country of high meat consumption, particularly compared to much of the rest of Asia.  Mantuu, while a popular item with hearty soups, is also eaten with a meat filling.  These mantuu buuz (named so because they are a variation on the buuz, steamed dumplings made without yeast) are highly popular and very reminiscent of Chinese bao.

Mongolia is undergoing a significant cultural transition right now, following its abrupt political and economic transition after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  A transitional economy with a profound historical legacy coupled with proud nationalistic independence, Mongolia is in the process of redefining its cultural identity.   After half a century of strong Soviet repression, and centuries of Chinese interdependence, it isn’t too much of a surprise that Mongolia is still carving out its place in the modern world. Read more…

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food in Mongolia

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

A recent article of mine has been posted at Off the Radar, on food in Mongolia.

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September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Steamed dough products are widespread in Asia, more so, I think, than any other part of the world.  The varieties are endless, with steamed dumplings to steamed buns, both filled with myriad items.  Or, popularly, filled with nothing whatsoever.  These empty buns are simple but filling, the food of common folk.

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September 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Fittingly, the first post here is not about a Mongolian food item, specifically.  However, though “ricotta” is a cooking method named in Italian, it is familiar the world over.  Simply put, it is heated and curdled milk, with the whey strained off to reveal only the moist curds. Read more…

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September 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Grains and dairy products compromise the bulk of our food, and they manifest in myriad forms across societies. Every society, since the agricultural revolution (and even before then) has incorporated some form of cereal (or pseudo-cereal) and dairy product into its diet, often to varying degrees.  Meat (and other proteins), fruits, and vegetables also play important roles, but, once we shifted away from the hunter-gatherer paradigm, moved towards the “fringe” of our plates.

Cereal and milk form the ultimate foundation of diet, from providing sustenance in the hunger season to serving as a basis for reduced caloric intake.  This blog will look at how we consume cereals and milk products, how we produce such, and what both mean to us culturally, politically, and maybe even spiritually.

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