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

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Chairman Mao, we have a problem....

I love Chinese food. Hainanese, Sczehuan, Hokkein, Pakistani - pretty much every kind of Chinese works for me.  Chairman Mao Chinese food delivery is one of the best loved (and most expensive) ones in Karachi. After being a delivery only place for a long time, Chairman Mao is now a dining venue too - at Port Grand.

 Above is the entire spread we ordered for four people - egg fried rice, beef chilli with vegetables and American chop suey.With any kind of food, I love it or I hate it - but Chairman Mao at Port Grand left me indifferent. It definitely wasn't good, and not horrible either. Which is strange because I don't know if i I will ever be going back there.

Beef Chilli with Vegetables
Beef has never been so boring. Onions, cabbage, carrots, bla bla - it doesn't really matter because there was no real 'chilli' in the dish. It was like hospital food, with soya sauce of course. It was quite bland and unexciting.
American Chopsuey

I've never been a fan of chop suey and this one at Chairman Mao made sure things stayed that way. Cabbage, onions, chicken and carrots - all sliced up and probably cooked in that ketchup concoction that is characteristic of tacky Chinese cooking in Pakistan. The only thing worth eating in this dish were the crispy fried noodles. Even the egg wasn't fried pretty enough to eat.

Chairman Mao, what can I say? My mother does Chinese food better than you. I think the Port Grand outlet needs an intervention. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Very Cool Koel Experience

11 am dates/outings are not exactly my thing-to-do on a weekend morning but I was in for a pleasant surprise at Koel Cafe and Gallery. Having been there for lunch and dinner, yet the morning experience was really quite pleasant. I like to eat and talk in fairly empty places and this was just perfect!

Tamarind Sherbat

When living in Malaysia, I used to drink bottled tamarind juice almost every day. It's supposed to be a great  way to beat the heat and for your skin too! What a delicious way to stay beautiful! The tamarind cooler at Koel had a desi twist to it with some roasted zeera thrown in and a mint leaf. When I first saw the zeera floating in the drink, I imagined that horrible 'kala namak' taste that many of us feel MUST be used in fruit drinks. However, the drink had none of that horrible taste - it was sweet and tangy at the perfect temperature! Priced at Rs 150, I wish the serving was bigger though! Firstly, because you can never have too much of it! Second, because it's really cheap to make.

The waiter told us that besides the regular menu, there was breakfast available as well - pancakes and some seven types of omlettes! But we opted for a fun salad to share instead - the Tangy Green Salad with Chicken.

Tangy Green Salad with Chicken
So many colors, so many flavors, so many textures! So much love! I love trying new salads so this was definitely a great idea! The toasted sesame added flavour and texture. The oriental-ish chicken chunks were hot and sweet at the same time. It took me a while to discover the water chestnuts - for some reason the chicken was on one side of the plate and the water chestnuts were on the other side. The peas didn't quite fit into the whole scheme of the salad but what the hell, it was a beautiful Saturday morning and I was feeling particularly good. The dressing was sticky sweet and lacked a bit of kick that I feel is important to an oriental salad - some crushed chilli perhaps? Priced at Rs 350, the serving was huge and more than enough for two people.

All in all, Koel on a Saturday morning was a great idea, especially with a good friend and a reasonable soundtrack. However, we could do with better music. The cool shade of the leafy canopy and the big fans kept the temperature under control, especially outdoors. I have a feeling my mother will love Koel. Next weekend, perhaps?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Karachi Chicken Rice

The best things in the life are often the simplest - ones that are comforting and familiar. Chicken Rice is my favorite comfort food. No contest there. There was a chicken rice stall called 'Warong Saga' in Johor Bahru, Malaysia where I lived for some 5 years that started this love affair of mine with chicken rice. Chicken rice and myself are currently in a long distance relationship. But some mutual friends of ours, helped us get together earlier this week.

Before, we get into the 'date' - for those of you who are not familiar with Chicken Rice, here's a quick introduction. It's actually Hainanese Chicken Rice - originating from China and popular in Malaysia and Singapore. The chicken is poached with a few simple ingredients. And served with fragrant rice cooked in chicken stock. Sounds simple but the preparation must be meticulous, when dealing with such delicate flavors. The chicken may be then steamed, roasted or barbecued. The entire dish consists of chicken, rice, chicken soup, chilli sauce, pounded ginger and dark soya sauce.

This is what it usually looks like:

Chicken Rice @ The Chicken Rice Shop in Vivo City Singapore
Roasted Chicken sprinkled with cucumbers, scallions and soya sauce
So back to my encounter with an old flame in Karachi. My friend Abu Bakar at the Malaysian Consulate in Karachi was kind enough to have me over for some authentic chicken rice. And home made too! Special thanks to our friend Azmir and his wife of course for cooking up a storm. But this was by far, the fanciest, classiest chicken rice I have ever had! Beautiful glassware, silverware and gorgeous blue and white plates and bowls monogrammed with Jata Negara (Coat of Arms of Malaysia). I could not have asked for a more gratifying meeting! Ah, to be reunited with an old fried, lover and care-taker is one of the greatest gifts ever!

What we have above is the best food money can never buy. Rice cooked and flavored to perfection; the chicken chewy and crispy. Ah and the authentic chilli sauce to go with that! The soup was packed with flavors and yet so light. Mix it all up in a spoonful and that's a warm hug right here. I think I closed my eyes on the first bite - rush of memories taking me to Johor Bahru and of course the joy of being reunited with a loved one!

And to just completely render me useless for the rest of the day, there was agar-agar for dessert! Agar-agar is basically a kind of light, sweet jelly.  Agar-agar is derived from sea-weed and sold in powder form for cooking (not in Pakistan, of course). The one we had some lychees and sago worked in to it. The perfect dessert for a hot Karachi day. Light, refreshing, cool and sweet!

Here's hoping that the Malaysian community in Karachi brings more of their culinary heritage to Karachi! Thank you Abu Bakar and Azmir - keep inviting me over! Terima Kashi!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Lunch @ 76

It's very rare that I get to go out for lunch - either I'm at work or too lazy. It was one of those rare days that my sisters and I decided to get away from work and treat ourselves at Cafe 76 - located on Old Clifton. We had been there for dinner before and assumed that the road would be just as sleepy in the day time. We were wrong - give yourself an extra ten minutes at lunch time to make room for the school traffic. The place was really quiet, which is kinda nice, with the right soundtrack.

We're not really into starters but ordered the Mozarella sticks any way. Perfectly golden fried and just the right temperature. Hot enough to be smoking but not enough to burn off my taste buds that hot cheese is capable of doing. Sorry, I didn't take a picture of the Mozarella sticks but they're worth a try.

Jalapeno Chicken with Gratin Potatoes

Two generous, fleshy chicken breasts made for a big portion of Jalapeno Chicken. The creamy cheese and Jalapeno sauce was just right - without those big pieces of Jalapenos. The Jalapenos were chopped and worked into the sauce - which is much better. There's no way I can consume those big Jalapenos, but I love the kick. The chicken was cooked to perfection, not too soft, not too tough. However, with such a spicy entree I would've preferred vegetables on the side. I love potatoes but......steamed vegetables would be nice too.

Penne Arrabiata with Chicken
Pasta is a staple for us - good pasta is definitely the way to a woman's heart. But maybe that just comes with being an Italian man. However, this is a food blog, and I will stay on topic. The Arrabiata sauce was angry alright. It's a good thing my sister asked for chicken to be added to the dish, otherwise it might have been too spicy. Also, what's up with restaurants only serving one piece of garlic bread with entrees - come on guys, two's company - especially when taking on a spicy dish like this one.

Pink Pepper Chicken

The Pink Pepper Chicken was by far the most superior dish we tried at Cafe 76. Delicate yet complex flavors. The chicken breasts were stuffed with feta cheese and chicken and drizzled with a sauce of whole pink peppercorns and roasted bell peppers. The chicken teases your palate with a little dance of flavors as you chew through it. The really flavor explosion is in the sauce! Peppercorns go boom in your mouth! Not sure what the technical terms are to explain these flavors but this dish is a MUST try at Cafe 76.

Besides the food, I was most pleased with the service and the staff. Polite, helping and not too intrusive. All in all, a lovely afternoon experience at Cafe 76. Can't wait to take my mom there!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Chicken and Potato Curry

What makes a curry, a curry? What is the difference between a 'salan' and a curry? I am not sure. The chicken curry recipe detailed below is one of the first recipes taught to me by my mother. Makes for a great lunch, comfort food and 'dawat' dish.

You need:
1 kg chicken (12 pieces)
1/2 kg potatoes
4 - 6 tomatoes
4 onions
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon red chilli powder
1 tablespoon corriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
3-4 whole green chillis, cut down the middle
1/2 cup of cooking oil

Heat up the oil in a large pot. Add the sliced onions and fry until golden. Next add the sliced tomatoes and stir and cook for  6 - 7minutes, until the tomatoes and onions make a loose paste. There should be 'loose' onions and tomatoes floating around. Use a blender to create a 'neat' paste if needed. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and stir for another 3-4 minutes. Then add all the spices and continue to cook until the spices are cooked through. Add a little bit of water, if needed. Then, add the pieces of chicken and mix well. When the chicken changes color, add the potatoes and mix well. Then add about 500 ml of water and cover. The amount of water to be added depends how you like the consistency of your curry. I like mine to be a little watered down to go with the rice, and quite thick to go with naan.The chicken and potatoes should be cooked in no more than 15-20 minutes over a low flame. Add the green chillis in the last 5 minutes.

This should serve about 6-8 people easily. Serve it with boiled white rice or naan. This is one of my favorite desi dishes. Quick, simple and can feed a large family in a relatively smaller cooking time. Thanks Mom for teaching me how to cook this!