Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Indian Stir Fried Noodles



Hey everyone, I'm still alive! That's what I've been reminding all my friends and family who have almost stopped calling or checking on me. Well, mostly because I have been "off the grid" because of all this moving and packing madness going on in our household. Its only when you have to pack them in boxes that you realize how big of a hoarder you are. I'm writing about this just to tell you that this is what's keeping me from coming here on Indian Simmer and doing what I love to do. So please hang in there with me!

India

Alright, lets talk about some happy things! I might have told you how fun and special my recent trip to India was. I got to do a lot of things, some of them new and some after a long time. Rode around the city in an auto rickshaw after years. What an experience it was to walk on the same streets you grew up in, this time with a camera in hand and a different perspective maybe.

India

This was the first time I got to spend a few days with A's family (my in-laws) without the husband! I was anxious and nervous, very nervous. I had friends telling me that its a whole different ball game with his family when the husband is not around. Hence the anxiety and nervousness to see how that experience was going to be. Well, it really was a different ball game! I got to know them in a way I was not able to do before and got closer to them like never before. Papa (his dad) is a simple man. You just cook him his favorite dal makhani and he's all yours. He will talk to you about politics, world issues and stock market at the same time he can tell you about what's the latest trend in India right now or which movie is not doing very well in the box office. You can have a conversation with him on any topic and he'll be right there with you!

India

Mumma (his mom) is not very much a talker. You will have to either meet her in the kitchen or talk about her kids or maybe both! Stand by her side learning how to make A's favorite gulab jamun or pani puri. Through her glasses you can see a sparkle in her eyes when she shares those recipes and every little story attached to them. She would religiously try to learn my recipe for his favorite pasta or chocolate cake so that the next time when the son visits she can surprise him with some. We would climb the mango tree (well, I climbed the tree but she was the one who motivated me to!) to get some raw mangoes so that she can make her signature mango mint chutney that A still misses.  I was nervous how I would relate to them with A not around, but forgot that it is A who relates me to them.



You know how there are a few dishes that only your mom can make the right way? Every person has one, so does Mumma. These stir fried noodles is one of them. Its a very simple recipe using sevaiyan (thick vermicelli) with few ingredients involved but however hard I tried, I could never get it right for him. Sometime the noodles were too thin, the oil too little or sometimes it was just about the curry leaves. I wondered if it was simply about a different set of hands or cook. So one of my agenda's from this trip was to perfect the art of cooking his mom's stir fried noodles.



I shared the same with mumma and I could see the excitement on her face just hearing that. She made several trips to the chaurahe waali dukan (corner shop) until she found the right noodles, managed to pluck some curry leaves from the neighbor's plant while they were having their afternoon siesta and made sure I listened! Yes, I listened and took notes. After coming back home this was first thing that I cooked. Did it again and again until I exhausted the whole stock of vermicelli that had she sent with me and until I came close enough to her taste. I guess I can never make it taste like mumma's but close enough is good enough for me! Here I am sharing the recipe with you.



Ingredients:

2 cups thick vermicelli (wheat vermicelli that you can find in any Indian market if not in your local store)
1/2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tbsp curry leaves (roughly chopped if the leaves are too big for you)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt
Water

Method:

In a saucepan boil some salted water. Add salt to taste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a separate wide pan or my mom-in-law uses an Indian wok. Add mustard seeds.
Once they start to pop, add curry leaves. Step aside after adding the leaves as they can pop and splatter oil on you.
Add chopped onion and cook until its translucent.
Add coriander and curry powder. Mix and add the vermicelli (if you got long vermicelli, break them smaller - 2 to 3 inch in length).
Fry the noodles for a couple of minutes for them to nicely coat in oil.
Start adding water slowly. A little less water can leave the noodles undercooked and a little extra can make them soggy. So the trick is to add a little water, keep stirring for noodles to cook and at the same time extra water to evaporate. Keep doing the same until the noodles are just a touch undercooked.
Turn off the heat, add a splash of lemon juice, mix and cover the noodles for a few minutes. Steam trapped in the pan will cook the noodles through.
Serve hot.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Announcing DMBLGiT Judges and Indian Simmer Giveaway Winners!

Let me just start this post by telling you how excited and amazed I am to see all the gorgeous photos you guys have been sending. Every time I check email, my inbox has emails with DMBLGiT entries. Thanks so much for sending your photos for the contest. If you have not sent your entry yet then don't worry, you still have plenty of time to pick a photo and send it to me. Entries will be accepted till 20th May. Just by looking at the photos, there is one thing I can tell already - the judges are going to have a very hard time picking a winner!

Speaking of judges, let me introduce to you a very talented group of photographers and my lovely friends whose work always helps me learn so much. I want to "officially" thank them for helping me judge the photographs and making my work a little easier. They were also kind enough to share a quick photography tip that they think never fails to help them, so please welcome!
Kimberly Taylor:
Kimberly is a very talented photographer and one of the sweetest persons I've ever met. She shares her life with her loving husband and gorgeous boys in their little farm on a hill. When asked to share a little something about her photography she says, " I think my photography is an expression of what I love about life.  I photograph food and the places it comes from. I love natural light and shooting on location so that the experience of gathering the food is part of the journey".

Photography Tip: Lighting is my number one priority - turn off the flash and if at all possible, use natural light.  Content is important, but lighting can make or break your photograph.
Website: Kimberly Taylor Images
Jenn Oliver:
Jenn is a scientist living in Switzerland who photographs and writes about making and converting recipes to gluten free on her cooking blog Jenn Cuisine.  She calls herself an amateur photographer very much still learning the techniques and methods of food photography (which I completely disagree with!). She loves creating images full of color and showing that gluten free food can look and taste both rich and flavorful. Checkout her photography tutorials which I found very helpful!

Photography Tip
: Don't be afraid to experiment.  Reading books and tutorials are great and there are many many helpful and informative resources available, but nothing solidifies new concepts learned like spending some dedicated time with your camera trying a bunch of different settings and arrangements.

Website: Jenn Cuisine
Email: jenncuisine[at]gmail[dot]com
Twitter: @jenncuisine
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jenncuisine

 Joy
Joy is just a pure joy to talk to and joy is what you feel when you look at her breathtaking photography. I want to give a special shout out to Joy who is on a honeymoon with her lovely new husband and still has been tolerating all my stupid emails and chats with me online if I ever need help. Muaah to you Joy, have fun there! :-)
She says,"I stumbled upon food photography by pure chance.  I've always had a life long passion for food and photography and thankfully with the support and encouragement of family and friends I've been able to combine the two into an exciting career.  Embracing the natural beauties of nature, life and love I wake up every day excited about discovering the allurement and artistry of food photography."

Photography Tip: When shooting food, I always strive to use natural light opposed to artificial.  Never shoot under direct sunlight as it causes harsh shadows and flat lighting.  I typically shoot right by a north-facing window as the light will be soft, indirect and fairly even all day long.

Website: Joylicious
E-mail: joy [at] joylicious [dot] net
Also on Facebook and Twitter

Dario Milao
Who knows better about food photography than a former chef turned food photographer? Dario, once a chef, now has a very successful food styling and photography business of his own in Sydney. In his spare time, he writes a blog where he shares very useful photography tips (definitely not worth missing!)

Photography tips: Don't overdo the food and in general keep things as natural as possible.

Website: Food Pixels
Twitter: @foodpixels

Again, thank you all for helping me out!

Alright, now the part you were looking forward to the most. Winners of the giveaway hosted on Indian Simmer last week. Here they are:

Esther: Thanks for your beautiful pictures and writing, as always! I'd looooove the Rudraksha beads and the box of Indian style peanut brittle please!
Marla: I follow your tweets too :)
Tyran: I would like to win the coasters

Congratulations guys! Please email me your information so that I can send you your gifts.
Now I need something in return as well, don't I? Tomorrow, 12th May is the last day to cast your votes for the blogger you like most on Saveur Magazine's Best Food Blogs Award 2011. If you like Indian Simmer then please help me with your votes! Click on the icon on top right corner of the blog, register (if you are not a member of Saveur already) and vote for Indian Simmer in the Best Regional Cuisine category.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Announcing DMBLGiT (Does My Blog Look Good in This) May 2011

I'm excited to announce that I will be hosting the May edition of DMBLGiT (Does My Blog Look Good in This). A popular food photography contest that was started by Andrew of Spittoon Extra.

Andrew and many others call it "the grandest food porn event available" on the web! Its a photography contest open to all bloggers who have a photo of food or drink posted on their blogs and every month a blogger hosts the contest. I've been submitting my food photos to the contest and was lucky to win a couple. So if you have a food or drink (or both together!) photo that you posted on your blog last month and you think its gorgeous, just send it to me and enter the contest. A group of five judges (including me) will score the photographs based on three categories - edibility, aesthetics and originality. A total of 6 winners will be announced next month.

To check out last month's entries and winners please visit lovely Rose's blog Magpies Recipes.

General DMBLGiT Rules:
  • Only one food/drink photograph may be entered per person.
  • The photograph must have been taken by you.
  • The photograph must have been posted on your blog between April 1 through 30, 2011.
  • The deadline to submit your entry is May 20, 2011 at midnight, whenever that is in your part of the world.
Scoring:
A panel of 5 judges, to be introduced later this month, will choose 6 winners based on the following criteria:
Aesthetics: composition, food styling, lighting, focus, etc.
Edibility: does the photo make us want to take a big bite out of our computer monitor while drooling on our keyboard?
Originality: a photo that makes you stop, look twice, and think “Wow! I never thought of photographing it like that before.” Three overall winners will be selected plus one in each of the 3 categories. As host I have the privilege of choosing one photo that I think stands out, but wasn’t chosen as a winner. My post announcing the winners for this month will be published by June 1, 2011.
 
How to Enter DMBLGiT:
Send an e-mail with "DMBLGiT Entry" as the subject line to me at indiansimmer [at] gmail [dot] com. In your email, please include:
  • An attachment of a single qualifying food or drink photo you'd like to enter. It should be without text or watermark and no more than 500 pixels in width.
  • Your name
  • Your blog URL
  • The title of the image/what it is
  • The URL of the post containing the photograph
  • The camera and lens you used
Photographs will be loaded into this Picasa gallery as I receive them. If you don't get an acknowledgment from me within 72 hours of sending your entry, please leave a message in the comments section of this post, drop a message on my Facebook page or catch me on Twitter. By submitting a photo, entrants agree to their photo being redisplayed and altered in size on the host’s page and on the Spittoon Extra DMBLGiT page.

If you have any questions about this month's event, please feel free to email me. Anyone with interest in hosting a future edition of DMBLGiT should email Andrew with "DMBLGiT Host" as the subject. So what are you waiting for? Dig into your lovely blog and send in your best photo to indiansimmer [at] gmail [dot] com. Also don't forget to enter the giveaway on at Indian Simmer till 10th May.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A trip back home and some gifts for you!

Indian Simmer is a finalist for Best Regional Cuisine in Saveur's Best Food Blog Awards. Winners are chosen by reader vote. Please click on the icon to the right, sign up and vote for Indian Simmer at Saveur.com by May 12.

You must be thinking where the heck did I disappear after showing my  face for a little. Well, we are packing again. Mmm hmm.. again! I returned a week back, got a few good news and boom! back to reality. Back to the trips to Home Depot, brown boxes and measuring tapes and to a room full of things most of which I never used but still packing them. You may have heard me say this before but I am going to say this anyway - "packing sucks and packing to move sucks even more!" I'm doing all this staring at the light on the other side of the tunnel where I'll be moving back to California. Not that I don't like Charlotte but California is where my heart belongs I guess. That's where we made our first home as a new couple and created a new life for us thousands of miles away from our real home!

Trip back home

Our recent trip back to the real home a week back was great too. Its always good to see family and seeing them after years and specially after some of the most defining years of life, it was amazing and emotional!

These things have take place of doodhwalas in India now!

I was surprised to see how much has changed in these few years though. Tall buildings have taken place of the open fields. These funny milk machines have taken place of doodhwalas (milkman) who would come every morning to give milk and mom would complain everyday that he's added more water to the milk today!

Old grandpa's fan!

But some things never change. Like my grandfather's century old table fan, which now doesn't even work but still has a reputed place in the house.

Fresh breads selling by the street

Like the smell of freshly baked breads by the local baker sitting in his stall by the street.

Bangle store in India

Like the sparkling, colorful bangles of chooriwala (bangle sellers).

Yup, that's me :-)

Like the smell of henna (Indian version of temporary tattoo).

An Indian shop

and like the mango leaf toran (garland hung on the doors, considered sacred) outside every Indian house and tiny shops.

They never change and they never fail to make you nostalgic even with the mere thought of them! This trip turned out to be all we had expected it to be! But what we never expected was how well the little one took all the changes she had to adjust to in a month's time.

Little one off for a walk in the park :-)

She loved morning walks with her dadu (grandpa).

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The cousins met and kinda got along!

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Although the gatekeeper was not as happy with her but she couldn't care less. This trip was supposed to be all about her and she made the most of every opportunity she got. Ate cookies for breakfast, chocolates for lunch and ice cream for dinner! Do I still need to say that she had a good time? So now I and A are detoxing her and keeping her away from all the "good" things and closer to all things "green" as much as possible.
I have so many stories and memories from this one trip and I'll keep sharing them with you but I have something else that I want to share with you too. Some gifts I got for you from India. Some tiny little tokens of love and a few bits of India for you. Consider this my Mother's Day gift to you!

Rudhraksha

First thing I got for you is something that is considered sacred and can be called a rosary for hindus. It is called Rudraksha beads. You can learn a little bit about it here. It is believed to have medicinal benefits too and it is claimed that wearing rudraksha beads is good for heart.
P.S - I tried my best to get the best rudrakhsha beads that I could find but I don't claim them to be real bead since I am neither a jeweler nor an astrologer. I've bought it as an accessory and not a medicinal cure.
Then a food blogger needs to get some kind of food right? Due to strict custom rules I couldn't bring all the delicacies I tried there but still managed to sneak in some Indian version of peanut brittle for you. We call it chikki in India and I promise you'll love it!

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Then I found these coasters with beautiful carved metal on them. They looked cute so I got one for myself and one for you.

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The last thing I got for you is this cute little ethnic Indian decoration on the right. You can hang it on your door or find a tiny little place in your house to decorate them. 

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Every time I give something away I tend to neglect the lovely supporters of Indian Simmer on Facebook and Twitter who have slowly become close friends of mine. So this time I thought I'll organize a giveaway for everyone. Please read the steps carefully to get a chance to win what you really like out of the three items.
  1. If you would like to win the Rudraksha beads and a box of Indian style peanut brittle, then please leave a comment here stating that.
  2. If you "like" Indian Simmer on Facebook then leave a comment here stating that and get a chance to win the 4-piece coaster set with silver carving on it.
  3. If you "follow" Indian Simmer on Twitter then leave a comment here stating that and get a chnace to win the ethnic Indian decoration.
  4. If you already follow Indian Simmer on facebook, twitter and subscribe to its emails then please leave a comment stating that to get a gift of your choice.
Entries are open until 10th May 11:59 pm EST. Winners will be announced on 11th May. This giveaway is open only to US addresses, so if you have an address in the United States or a friend with a US address then you are eligible.

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