Food Wine International Cuisine and Health

Arabian Nights

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Arabian cuisine is sometimes described as refined art; such is its diversity and richness. It is influenced by dozens of cultures, and its spicy dishes reflect the fact that the Arabian nations that also includes Egypt was either the source or the way for spices that eventually spread to the whole world. Rice and various legumes, especially lentils and chickpeas are staples of main course dishes and it also includes lots of salads made from both fresh vegetables and fruits. Meaty items like lamb, chicken and beef plays an important role in the cuisine, be it in grilled or barbequed form and blends of common ingredients like coriander, cumin, mint and other Arabian spices adds to the uniqueness of this fare. Lebanese cuisine plays a very important role in placing Arabian food in the world map of exotic food.


Varli Food Festival Returns for a Second Year with Emmy-nominated TV Host Padma Lakshmi

Emmy-nominated television host Padma Lakshmi
Emmy-nominated television host, Actress, Model and Cookbook Author Padma Lakshmi

New York, NY, February 13th, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) After a tremendously successful event in 2011, the Varli Food Festival returns for a second year with Emmy-nominated television host Padma Lakshmi, according to a press release.

Varli magazine brings another gathering of the Masters of Indian Cuisine on April 4th and 5th at the 2nd annual Varli Food Festival and Varli Cook Off in New York City.  The Metropolitan Pavilion located in the heart of Manhattan will open its door to the exquisite flavors of India featuring over 60 fine Indian restaurants and 20 Award Winning Celebrity Chefs, from US, Canada, UK and India. “I’m really excited  to introduce festival guests to the vibrancy and diversity of Indian cuisine” notes Varli Singh, founder and publisher of the popular Indian food magazine, Varli.A new introduction by the Varli Magazine is a Live Cooking competition between aspiring chefs at the first Varli Cook Off. Esteemed Chefs Kunal Kapur, Prasad Chirnomula, and restaurateur Rajesh Bhardwaj, will be joined by internationally acclaimed Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, to be the official judges of the Varli Cook Off. Contestants will compete for the title of Varli Star Chef.  The Varli Cook Off will be held on April 4th, one day prior to the Varli Food Festival.



Celebrate The Joy Of Being In Love, The Dharma Way

Cover of "My Name Is Khan"

Cover of My Name Is Khan

Mumbai, Feb 2, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) February is probably the favorite month of the year for most of us who believe in celebrating the love we have in our lives. This year to celebrate this month, Dharma has come up with a very unique idea to celebrate love and romance.



Nolen Gur – Redefining Sweetness, The Classic Bengali Way!

Nolen Gur / Patali Gur on Sale in Kolkata

Bengali Sweets on Sale at a Kolkata Mishtir Dokan

Calcutta, Jan 5, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) If you are a true-blue Bong with a typically sweet tooth and there is a nip in the air, it must be your favorite time of the year. The scents of ‘Nolen Gur’, that delectable and delicious variety of jaggery which is available only during the winter months (like all good things in life, it cannot be found any time one likes!) must already have reached your discerning nostrils. We love our ‘mishti doi’-s, ‘rosogolla’-s and ‘korapak-er sandesh’-es, but ‘nolen gur’ seems to add an extra dimension to the range and taste (slurp!) of sweets in the city. Indeed, ‘nolen gur’ sweets are much more than just another variety of tasty food items gracing the plates of the discerning Bengalis in winter; they have become intermingled with the way of our lives.

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

For those of you who are not quite aware of the origins of ‘nolen gur’ (the romanticism of which is somewhat lost in its alternative name – ‘notun gur’), it is obtained from the sap of palm trees, which is secreted mainly during the Bengali months of ‘Aghrahayan’ and ‘Poush’ (roughly, from November to January). The manner in which ‘nolen gur’ is collected and prepared has its fair share of charm, beauty and indeed, adventure as well. Traders tie earthen pots right at the top of palm trees at night and they are left there till morning. At the crack of dawn, the pots, now filled with palm sap, are brought down. The collected juices are now boiled and treated to prepare different varieties of ‘nolen gur’. ‘Jhola gur’, the thick and sinfully sweet member of the ‘nolen’ fraternity, is created by boiling the sap for a relatively short period of time. Boil it longer and you will get the solid and equally (if not more!) tasty ‘Patali gur’, which, in turn, is designed into different forms before being sold in the markets. Of course, the palm juices, in their raw form, enjoy high customer demand levels too.

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

Moving on from the technical (some might even call it mundane!) details, let us now turn our attentions to the varieties of sweets, with ‘nolen gur’ as one of their principal ingredients, that add to the attractions of sweet shops by their gracious presence during the months of winter. Many swear by the ‘gurer kanchagolla’-s, ‘taalshaansh’-es and ‘gurer kalakaand’-s that are available during this period. During January, in particular, certain shops boast of having more than 50 varieties of ‘nolen gur’ sweets in their stock. How one wishes we could taste all of them!

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

Customers, however, need to be careful while buying ‘nolen gur’ products from sweet stores. A bad tasting experience with sub-standard sweets can rob much (nay, all!) of the charm of a person’s desired date with ‘nolen gur’ sweets. Thankfully, there is no dearth of shops in our city, which serve ‘nolen gur’ sweets of the finest quality.

Balaram Mallick Radharam Bengali Mallick Sweet Shop in Kolkata

While stores like KC Das and Bhim Nag have taken it upon themselves to ensure that their customers are never denied the chance to enjoy the ‘nolen gur’ items that they so crave for, the Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick store can be considered to be some sort of a pioneer as far as bringing top quality ‘nolen gur’ sweets to the markets too.

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

Nolen Gur, Poira Gur, Jhola Gur, Patali Gur etc. on Sale in Kolkata

It’s all very well to purchase ‘nolen gur’ delicacies from sweet stores, but, if you want to feel the true traditional and old-world charm of this incredibly magical genre of edibles, you simply have to buy the ‘nolen poira gur’ from the roaming salesmen (and ladies!), who visit houses with clay jars, filled to the brim with the liquid variety of this highly addictive potion. In fact, the sight of these vendors, carrying two heavy earthen pots of ‘gur’, hanging from either end of sticks that are carefully balanced on their shoulders, fills all Bongs who love their sweet dishes with an intense craving to taste ‘nolen gur’ products (that too, on an ASAP basis!).

Bengali Sweets in Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Bengali Sweets in Kolkata, West Bengal, India

‘Nolen gur’ weaves its magic in the typical Bengali households as well. The appearance of this brand of jaggery in the markets sparks off a flurry of activities among the female members of practically all Bengali families, who become busy in creating the (slurp..again!) ethereal ‘patishapta’-s, ‘puli pithey’-s, ‘nolen gurer payesh’, ‘gokul pithey’-s and a wide variety of other ‘nolen gur’ sweets – each of them more tasty than the other (or so it seems, really!). ‘Narkel naru’-s (which, when translated to English, become the extremely prosaic and dull-sounding ‘coconut dumplings’!) are another variety of ‘nolen gur’ delicacies that have found considerable favour among us Bengalis from the times of yore. Indeed, what is childhood if one has not tried to steal fistfuls of these ‘naru’-s from shelves (in their own homes!) and got caught in the process (by mothers, grandmothers, aunts and the like)? These experiences indeed contribute a great deal in the process via which a person grows from being a ‘resident of Kolkata’ to a ‘Bong’, in the real sense of the term.

There are plenty in store for those who wish to try out some non-conventional ‘nolen gur’ sweets as well. A new category of so-called ‘fusion sweets’ are generally available in shops during the winter months, which present a heady mix of the traditional taste of ‘nolen gur’ and other, more contemporary, ingredients and designs. Try out ‘nolen gurer rosogolla’-s or ‘nolen gurer icecreams’ and you will know what these ‘fusion sweets’ are all about. ‘Nolen gur’-filled chocolate sweets also deserve an honourable mention in this category.

Adding to the enormous popularity of ‘nolen gur’ products is the fact that, this brand of jaggery is available in the markets at wholesale prices, which are, of course, much lower than what the prices would have been if we had to buy it from individual retailers. The consistently high customer demand levels also help shopowners supply delicious ‘nolen gur’ sweets to buyers at relatively low prices. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that even if the prices of ‘nolen gur’ were slightly higher, that would have, in no way, diminished the attractions of these delicacies in the eyes of the average Bengalis, who are known for their love for tasty sweets.

Christmas has come and gone and we have had our fair share of yummy cakes. New year celebrations are also done and dusted and we have indulged our taste buds on that occasion as well. But hey, don’t these cakes, tutti-fruttis and western-style desserts pale into relative insignificance when we detect that unmistakable golden brownish tinge of ‘nolen gur’ in the sweets, ‘pithey’-s and ‘puli’-s that are presented in front of us by our loving mothers and grandmothers (sorry to all guys, but you do not even come close to matching your better halves in preparing these traditional Bengali sweets!)? After all, even literary stalwarts like Sukumar Ray have proclaimed, ages ago, that, while there are many tasty items available to us Bongs, the fact remains: ‘Kintu shobar chaite bhalo/Pauruti aar jhola gur’!

Phew! All this writing about delicious ‘nolen gur’ items has made me hungry again. Let me raid the refrigerator and hopefully I’ll find a bowl of sumptuous, finger-licking ‘notun gurer payesh’, made by my mom (who else?). Pray for me...


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Ikra (Russian Caviar)

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Ikra or the Russian caviar is culled from the sturgeon as it moves to fresh water to spawn in adjoining rivers, from its habitat in the Caspian Sea. The most prized ikra are Beluga, Ossietra, and Sevruga, in descending order of quality — and demand! Not surprisingly, it’s also fabulously expensive as the best caviar is from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. 


Fajita (Tex-Mex delicacy)

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Fajita resembles our very own ‘Calcutta roll’ but not wrapped so meticulously. The combined dish of Texas and Mexico also means ‘a little strap.’ The history of Fajita is a little inhuman;


Rezala (Mughlai Food) From the Kitchens of the Nawab

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A few weeks back I was watching Satyajit Ray’s film Shatranj ki Khiladi and quite enjoying the fact that the nawabs had so much time to laze around and gorge on some exotic nawabi khaana. Well, I was certainly thinking of Wajid Ali Shah who was known to be foodie. When he came to Calcutta, it is known that he brought all his chefs and cooks to supply him his daily dose of food glorious food. 


Greek Food

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You certainly don’t need to be in Greece to enjoy their wonderful cuisine as most big cities in the World have a couple of good Greek restaurants. True, you may not get the specific ones like an estiatorio that serves foods from the oven, a psistaria, a grill house where one could eat roasts, grills and salads and a taverna, a restaurant with a small menu and ideal for long meals and lots of wine. But what you are sure to get are the souvlaki shops, selling mouth-watering kebabs and gyros.


Pujo Special Snacks: Mughlai Paratha

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It is Durga Puja time everywhere in the World and no Puja can be complete without the delicacies of Bengal. Starting from Rolls, to Phuchka, Jhalmuri, it’s also time for Indian Chinese, Mughlai Parathas and the all time favorite Calcutta Style Biryani.
For people like us who are far away from home in India, finding a road side stall selling these mouth-watering delicacies is just unthinkable. So most of us, try and make a Pujo like ambience at home by making some of these at home. The most popular snack that can be made at home is no doubt the Mughlai Paratha.

Durga Puja Special Bengali Food Recipe: Rui macher Ganga-Jamuna (fish curry)

Ingredients :

750gm rohu pieces or a small whole fish Salt and haldi (turmeric) to taste

 Imli (tamarind)- Dried, 2-inch lump or
Sour imli paste-  ½ cup
Mustard seeds- 2tbsp, soaked overnight; ground to a paste
Sharp mustard oil- ½ cup.
Green chillies- 2, chopped.
Sugar- ltsp.
Green chillies- 2, chopped.

Preparation :

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