Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sri Lankan Bitter Gourd Salad (also known as bitter melon)

This is a traditional Sri Lankan dish. Frying the bitter gourd (aka bitter melon in East Asia) takes away the bitter taste (but beware that the dish has a sophisticated bitter undertone - the lime and tomato help with that).

I have never seen bitter gourd in a regular supermarket in the US. I buy mine at my local Patel Brothers, and I'm sure any local Asian market will have them. This is what they look like, raw:

They are about the size of a skinny cucumber pickle.

5 small/medium bitter gourds
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 green chilis, thinly sliced
lime juice
white vinegar to taste
kosher salt (or whatever kind you have on hand)

Slice bitter gourd into very thin circles/rings.

Deep fry in vegetable oil till crisp and till the vegetables darken.

Place bitter gourd on paper towels to soak up excess oil.

Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.

Put in bowl and toss with tomato, onion, chili, vinegar and lime juice to taste.

Serve! It is traditionally served with white rice and curry dishes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Borders is closing

I went to Borders on Saturday. I won’t give you the long and harrowing details of how I tried to go on Friday in 100*F heat in a car with no AC only to find the location I picked had already closed and the traffic resembled that at a Yankees game.


I went to the Rockaway Mall location, and it was a sad sight:

Borders at the Rockaway Town Square Mall, Rockaway, NJ

Currently, everything is 10% off unless otherwise noted. They are selling the furniture as well since it is a liquidation sale. The employees on Saturday were visibly stressed but nice, and most seemed to be accepting this as something they knew would happen eventually. They were treating it like Christmas rush.

I managed to snag a cook book called “The Soup Bible” by Debra Mayhew for under $6, which was quite a deal. Everything else really wasn’t worth it, and I know the prices will tip down more and more as September approaches. I am definitely going back come August end to check out the deep discounts – 10% is really not much of a discount at all. I’m definitely only going to hit the cookbook section, and perhaps see if I can get any good-condition Harry Potter books, although I’m sure the latter will sell out very fast. Cookbooks usually cost too much to warrant me purchasing them and other books, cds and dvds are accessible at a little place I like to call “the library” for free.

I just wanted to share with anyone who may read this blog that there will be deals to be had at Borders soon, and it’s going to be great to find some good deals on cook books.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sri Lankan Pol Sambol (Sambal) recipe with fresh coconut

Pol Sambol (or sambal) is a spicy coconut mixture that is unique to Sri Lankan cuisine. And it's absolutely delicious. The flavor is very sharp and clean, and if you've only ever had coconut dishes that are sweet, you have to try this savory treat.

I took great pleasure in making this dish. It was my first time, although I'd grown up eating it. Thought I was a novice, it turned out perfectly which means this dish is very, very easy to make as long as you have the correct ingredients.

1 whole coconut
Red chile powder
1 small red onion, chopped
juice of 2 limes (more or less)
dried fish flakes (maldive fish which can be bought here)
1 thinly sliced small green chile*
curry leaves

Now the first thing you have to do is crack open the coconut which is no easy task. Find a heavy knife, one that you can whack against the nut. Use the back of the knife to give it some good, sharp smacks. If you can get it cracked, you can slide the tip of the knife in to pry it open.

If you can capture the coconut water in a cup, drink up! It's very good for you.

Then, you have to scrape the flesh out. This picture gives a good idea of how this works, and you can buy a coconut scraper online or at your local Indian food store, if it's good.

The scraper screws onto the side of a table, and then you crank away.

Mix in the chile powder (as much/little as you want). To get a healthy orange color, you have to put in quite a bit, so get a milder powder if you don't like too much hotness.

Mix in the lime, more or less according to your taste. Traditionally, Sri Lankan food is quite limey.

Add the chopped onion.

Add the sliced green chile and maldive fish (these are optional).

You may fry the curry leaves a little bit before you add them in, but this is not necessary. The curry leaves can be optional, but to me they make the dish authentic. In Sri Lanka, curry leaves are known as karapincha.

Pol sambol can be eaten with plain bread, and it's delicious this way. In this picture, you see it with dal curry (red lentils) and some crusty white bread.

*The chile I mean is not usually found in American grocery stores. It is small, slim and short, very spicy, and can be found in Indian markets.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Black Forest Cake: Beauty is only skin deep

Hello world! This post will be brief, because I have a backlog of posts that have been delayed by a semester (of awesomeness, I might add...3.9 GPA) and a lost camera.

Boyf and I made a Black Forest cake for my 24th birthday. The end result looked...ok in a picture, I suppose, but really not so great as a food item. The cake was dry, the filling was all wrong, and the icing was - I cringe to admit - plain old whipped cream with shaved dark chocolate. After making the cake and fixing and re-fixing the cherry filling, I was so over it that I just COULDN'T whip up real icing.

The filling was supposed to be sour pitted cherries. The novice that I am bought no sugar added cherry pie filling, thinking I could add sugar to my taste. When I got home, I realized "no sugar added" means "Surprise! we added Splenda instead." Gross. I cannot tell you how much I loathe Splenda. The after taste is one of the most vile flavors anyone can taste in their lifetime. So I went back out to the store and got normal cherry pie filling, but as I applied it to the cake I realized slowly that it was all wrong. I added frozen raspberries to make it more sour, but...the end result wasn't great. Well - lesson learned for next time.

The recipe I used was a generic Black Forest one I found online. It's been so long since my birthday, I can't remember where the recipe came from.