Everyone thinks their mom is the best cook in the world. But my mummy is seriously yummy! And this is the proof! My mother Gulnar, came from Basra, Iraq to Karachi in 1965 and brought recipes the likes of which Karachi had never seen (well, maybe). Here's some of her signature recipes that should try. Some of them are my experiments and food experiences from around the world. You can check out the menu and order details on facebook.com/yummymummyandme

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Pakistani Penne

Yup. You got that right, a Pakistani twist on the penne pasta. If you're Pakistani, you've had the signature 'desi qeema noodles' - if you're not Pakistani, then try this Pakistani-Italian fusion 'cuisine'.

You'll need:
1/2 kg lean minced beef
3-4 large onions finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
5-6 chopped green chillis
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
3 tablespoons soya sauce
Salt to taste
500 gm packet of penne

Heat up about 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan or pot and add the minced beef. Keep stirring until the mince changes color - which should be about 3 - 4 minutes. Add in the onions. ginger, garlic, chilli powder, soya sauce and salt. Be careful with the salt because the soya sauce is already salty. Stir the ingredients together for another 3-4 minutes and add about 1/2 cup of water. Lower the flame and cover the pan. Add the tomato puree some 10 minutes later. Cover it again, add some water if and let it cook for another 15-20 minutes. Add another 3 tablespoons of oil and stir over a high flame for 3-4 minutes or until the oil rises to the top of the pan.

Boil pasta according to packet instructions. Add some butter and soya sauce to the drained pasta. Mix in some of the cooked minced beef to the pasta and layer the rest on top.

Try the pasta with some chilli sauce or even some Peri-Peri sauce. This is a classic pasta dish in my family. It's simple and the minced beef recipe is quite multi-purpose. So while the rest of us like it with pasta, my Dad likes it with naan. Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Singapore Eats: Renn Thai

If you are a 'real' traveler and not just a tourist, you must indulge in the local cuisine of your destination. Singapore is a great place for a foodie, a close second to Malaysia. But the debate between which one of the 'causeway cousins' has better food will probably never end. Coming from anywhere other than Malaysia, the variety of food in Singapore is truly mind-boggling. The term 'Asian cuisine' takes on mammoth proportions - Peranakan, mainland Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, South Indian - I could just go on and on but you get the drift. There will be lots of Singapore entries on the blog. We'll start with something more upscale and touristy in the Clark Quay quarter.

Clark Quay is a nightlife hotspot - lots of bars, clubs, restaurants, characters - the whole rainbow. The restaurants are of course pricier than your average Singapore food prices. Our first night in town, my friends and I probably wanted to feel more special than the average weekend so we opted for a fancy Thai place on Clark Quay - Renn Thai. 

Here we have the wonderful honey glazed chicken with fried garlic. The chicken was thinly sliced and fried crisp and the garlic beautifully golden fried. The chicken was flavored with a basic soya sauce marinade it seemed, with a generous drizzle of honey. The strong taste of the garlic and the sweetness of  the honey should have been a good balance but honey was a bit over powering. But nothing some Thai chilli sauce couldn't balance out. The dish works perfectly on its own and with steamed white rice as well. But check this, this meal with white rice and a drink set me back by SGD 50. Bit much if you ask me. Good food but the place is obviously aimed at the tourist dollar. Or perhaps abusing the tourist dollar.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Kathmandu Eats: Belle Momo

The city of Kathmandu is an acquired taste. It is poor and cold. But there is a positvity and warmth about the people of the city that is infectious - they have the best, biggest smiles in the world.

Kids posing for me at The Botanic Gardens outside Kathmandu
Traditional Nepali food is largely familiar to the Pakistani/South Asian palate. The basics are 'daal- bhat' i.e. dal chawal - everything else is an add on - vegetables, chicken curry, chutney, poppadums. But if you must eat one 'local' dish in Kathmandu, it must be the delicate 'momo'  Momo is a type of dumpling native to Tibet and Nepal. Momos are made of a simple white flour and water dough - and a variety of stuffings - chicken, lamb, cheese, mushrooms and even yak!!

What you see above are fresh mushroom and cheese momos at Kathmandu's best momo joint - Belle Momo @Cafereena on Darbar Marg. This is an upscale part of the city where all the cool kids on bikes like to hang out. My friend Abhishek and I opted for the indoor seating as we couldn't really handle the cold or the kids chattering. The 'red' sauce is pure heat - fried chillis in oil. Be careful only to just dip a bit of your momo into the sauce, because the combined heat will cause some discomfort. But then again, it makes complete sense in Kathmandu in December. The signature yellow Nepali chutney allows is interesting at best.

The momos are just chewy enough to let you think over the savoury dough and let the stuffing melt in your mouth - I think if it melted any faster, you couldn't taste it! A set of six vegetarian momos only cost about NPR 100 or PKR 120 - pretty good deal!  A set meal of of mushroom soup, 6 momos, fries and tea/coffee will set you back by NPR 250. The outdoor seating area of Cafereena overlooks the bustling Darbar Marg - you'll often see 'VIP movements' and wedding bands. But we warned, the fireplace in the middle of the dining area will do NOTHING for the cold - dress warm, very warm. Needlesss to say, I went back to Cafereena more than once on my last trip to the city. 

Momos are more fast-food than delicacy in Nepal. They are available at roadsides and speciality cafes alike. They are cheap, filling and warm you up - very, very necessary when travelling on a budget. 

Special thanks to Abhishek Shah for introducing me to the best momos in the world!

psst...let's get out here and get some momos

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Kuala Lumpur Eats: Jalan Alor

Kuala Lumpur is a popular holiday destination for Pakistanis. And pretty much my favorite city in the whole world, followed closely by New Orleans and Cairo. Malaysia, in general, and Kuala Lumpur particularly is a food lover's paradise. Few cities can replicate the variety, verve and the very culture of eating out the way Kuala Lumpur can. Food is cheap, delicious and aplenty! Name the food and you'll get it....

If you've been to KL, you've been to Jalan Bukit Bintang - the main artery of the tourist hotspot of the city. Bukit Bintang is lined with hotels, malls, restaurants and cafes. But right behind the BB road is the glorious Jalan Alor.

But this post is dedicated to the famous/infamous dried chilli chicken on Jalan Alor. It is a bit hard to name stalls on Jalan Alor, unless you can read Chinese - but surely you can ask around. Here's what it looks like:

Can you find the the bits of crisp, tender boneless chicken in the blazing red of the fried chilli? This chicken is unbelievably hot - like fire in your mouth. Perhaps, this is what created the fire breathing dragons of the Orient. The chicken is deep fried in some kind of batter and then re-fried with the chilli. The chicken retains its juiciness and surpisingly you can still taste the chicken with all the chilli! We ordered a side of slivered potatoes cooked in the same style. The potatoes are served with less chilli but it really doesn't help put out the fire in your mouth. Order some greens and tofu and plain rice to put out the fire.

My mother would not touch this dish with a ten-foot pole but as a true desi I loved it! However, you MUST visit Jalan Alor if you're in KL - try the dried chilli chicken at your own risk. It is advised to follow up the fiery meal with ice-cream to avoid unpleasantness morning after. This could be a walk of shame for those with a weak palate and stomach.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Simplest Masala Chicken Ever

Don't panic - there is no need for a barbecue set or that special cut of chicken to make this chicken delight. Regular utensils and chicken cuts work.

You need:
1 large chicken (1.5kg) - cut into 8 pieces
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
4 tablespoons of white vinegar
1 tablespoon of red chilli powder
Salt to taste
2 cups of chicken stock

This is easier than you imagined. Mix together the ginger, garlic, vinegar, chilli powder and salt into a marinade. Rub the marinade over the chicken and let it rest for at least an hour,if not two.

In a large wok/karahi heat up 1/2 cup of cooking oil. A 'handi' or pot works well too if you don't have a wok. Add the marinaded pieces of chicken to the oil and keep stirring at a high flame until the chicken changes color. Once that's done, add 1/4 cup of water, lower the flame and cover the chicken. Allow it cook for ten minutes before checking on it. Uncover and raise the flame, stir the chicken around until it is cooked.

Remove the chicken from the wok. Add the leftover marinade to the wok and let it cook/fry for no more than a minute. Next add the chicken stock and let it simmer until it thickens. The gravy makes a nice addition to the chicken tikka - goes well with the naan.

Serve the chicken with naan and raita. My mum usually makes peas and carrots to go with it. And I add on the garlic fried potatoes.  And a big cold bottle of Pakola goes well with everything!

Must Have Meat in Cairo

Some of the richest, most delicious food I have experienced was in Cairo. Heavy helpings of meat, lots of bread and even more starters to go with it - hummus, baba ganoush and turshi (pickled vegetables). And lots and lots of ful beans!

The best food you can find in Cairo is the Maidan-el-Hussein and the adjoining Khan-el-Khalili bazaar. Although the bazaar food is bound to be a little bit more expensive and dodgy. Maidan-el-Hussein is home to the shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) - son of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The areas around it include lots of traditional Egyptian restaurants. I visited the area with my friend Muhammad Sheleep, a local journalist and Mazin Al-Yasery, an Iraqi journalist. Exhausted after our excursion to the pyramids of Giza, we arrived at el-Hussein square. Dusty, hungry and tired. Head for the restaurant on the far left as you enter through the gates of el-Hussein to find all the food heavenly food described below.

Starting with the starters of course - with servings big enough to be mains! That's hummus, baba ganoush, greens and the 'orange' sticks are turshi (pickled vegetables). And a pile of bread. The hummus was actually lighter and less' thick' than we get in restaurants here in Karachi. However, the turshi is a bit of an acquired taste. Try not to fill up with the starters, because coming up is.....

Glorious, hot, moist, steaming meat on a bed of greens. All made of lamb meat, mind you. It's lamb or nothing when it comes to meat in Egypt. And I won't contest that because this food was fine! The names were familiar but a little mixed up. The 'kofta' was what we call a seekh kabab here. The 'kabab' was lamb chops. The 'resh' was what we call 'boti'. All the meat was very lightly spiced but very tasty. I think it was more about how it was cooked as opposed to the ingredients. Fresh, simple ingredients made for a fantastic meal. Loved by locals and tourists alike.....

Make sure to follow up this gorgeous meal with mint tea and lots of walking around in the bazaar. Egypt is delicious! Thanks Mom for helping me blend in with Egypt!

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Best Winter Soup In The World - Shorba


The origins of this hearty soup is shrouded in mystery. Well, just a little bit maybe. The thing is I have never had this soup anywhere except in the homes of my maternal side of the family. No other Arab or other person I know has heard of it; never had it in any Middle Eastern restaurant either.This Shorba is a Ramadan classic. There is no iftari in my house without this soup.
PS: I promise to work on taking better pictures

You need:
100 gm Spaghetti/Noodles
2 cups of Masoor Dal
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
Pinch of 'tatri'/citric acid
Serves 6-8 people.

Soak the washed dal in warm water for an hour. Boil about 3 glasses of water and add the soaked dal. Let it cook until the dal becomes like a thick paste. Add half a glass of water at this stage and add the salt, red chilli powder and the tomato puree. Stir for about 5-7 minutes. Next, add another 3 - 4 glasses of water and let it reach a gentle boil. Then break up the spaghetti into thirds and add to the soup. Let it simmer on a slow flame for about 10-15 minutes or until the spaghetti is tender. Serve hot, of course. This soup is a meal in itself.  Try it and let us know how it turned out

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Easiest Chops In The World

You need:
2 kg lamb/goat chops
Crushed black pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
Cooking oil

Heat up about a liter of water in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, lower the flame and add salt and garlic. Add chops and let the chops cook over a slow flame. Add a couple of pinches of crushed black pepper after the chops have been cooking for 20 minutes. Let them cook for another 20 minutes. Raise the flame and add about 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. Let the remaining water evaporate and add a teaspoon of black pepper. Gently fold the black pepper into the chops - be sure not to break the meat with too much 'spooning.'

These chops will just melt in your mouth - no more tough chops, just gentle beautiful chops. Serve them with naan or French bread and mint yogurt. And don't forget to credit by mom when you try this recipe!