Monday, August 8, 2011

Jackfruit curry

Jackfruit curry à la Bhavya

Last week I got to enjoy one of the first tangible results of this blog in the form of a wonderful food gift. Bhavya Tiwari, a brilliant graduate student in Comparative Literature here at UT and reader of Let the Spice Flow, brought me a container of homemade Jackfruit curry from her kitchen. She tells me it's a delicacy in India, and after trying it I believe her. What fantastic textures and flavors! Texturally, it reminds me of the softest best part of an artichoke heart (what the French call the fond d'artichaut). Flavor-wise, it tastes starchy and fruity (like a green plantain, sort of) and neutral enough to be able to absorb any number of flavors. Bhavya prepared it with a delicate curry, blending notes of cinnamon and and turmeric over a base of mustard seeds, onions and tomatoes, and maybe just maybe a bit of jaggery. It was stupendous and now I am thrilled to have a new food project: investigate all the uses of this weird and beautiful starchy fruit and start experimenting with it. Does anyone have any Jackfruit stories to share?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Uthappams (South Indian lentil pancakes)

I just learned that my all-time favorite vegetarian South Indian restaurant, Madras Saravana Bhavan, is a chain. A chain with locations in Singapore, London, Paris, Chennai, Dubai, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Atlanta, and New York, among other super-cosmopolitan locales. But a chain all the same. How to react? I've had amazing Sri Lankan cuisine in Paris. I've had lick-your-fingers-and-squeal-in-delight delicious Bhojpuri cuisine in London. But, seriously, the very best South Indian I've ever had was in Atlanta at Madras Saravana Bhavan. If they're opening restaurants worldwide I guess they must be doing something right. Right? Truth be told, I don't usually trust that logic. But I've not had better vegetarian South Indian anywhere, so perhaps this is a logic that works if you're part of the vegetarian Indian transnational jet set? I don't know. In any case, I have been missing Atlanta and dreaming about those dosas and uthappams for years. Also, my mom has been on a soak-your-grains-before-you-cook-them kick for a little while now, so I've been interested in recipes that involve soaking and fermentation, which happens to be a staple in South Indian (and more specifically, Tamil) cuisine. The soaking and fermentation process makes grains and pulses more digestible and somehow produces a greater variety of amino acids (vegetarians and gluten-haters, pay attention!). It also creates a much more complex, interesting, flavor. Think sourdough vs.Wonder bread.