Jun 30, 2011

Orange Paneer

Vegetarian Orange Chicken anyone?? Well, I actually don't have that here - but I do have some glistening Sweet and Spicy Orange Paneer. 

FSB Theme for the month was suggested by DK of Chef In You. This was a challenging theme and DK wanted us to prepare something vegetarian that looks like a classic or famous Non Vegetarian dish. When I read that first, I thought – this could be easy..and then I read further. She told us that we could not use any store bought mock meats to prepare the dish. Ok the first three dishes that came to my mind at the beginning just went back to where they were sleeping. Nevermind.
And then a few weeks passed by – I had this thought at the back of my mind that I have not come up with anything yet and time’s slowly running out. And then last Friday happened. Came home from work and was totally inspired to either order pizza or pick up Chinese food. But the big guy in the house was acting a little hyper about cooking up a nice homemade meal..and when I said order Chinese food, he said why not make Chinese food. Really?? Why can’t we both ever think on the same lines? And so he first told me that he’ll make dinner. I was happy. And he told me he wanted the sweet and spicy orange chicken done vegetarian. My heart went thud. Wait. That means I could achieve two things here. The name DK then flashed a few times in my brain. I brushed off my Friday evening laziness and decided I will actually make this sweet and spicy orange chicken – not to please the hungry guy in the house – but because I might have a post for this month’s FSB.  Wink Wink. And to be honest, this has been a dish that my guy has been asking for a while now and I always just veto it because I’m never in the mood for a sweet and spicy thing. But, today I was more than happy to undertake this adventure!
Tofu would have been a great substitute here – but instead, I decided to use Paneer to make this. So, I can tell DK that Paneer really is not fake meat. Right DK? And honestly because I had a big pack of Paneer sitting in my fridge and I was not going out to get tofu just to make this – you never know, I just might end up bringing dinner back. Not a good idea!

So I looked at a few recipes for Orange Chicken and looked at the Panda Express site for some visual inspiration. And also came across this one which was a vegetarian version from Pham Fatale blog. I kind of get an idea and a plan sketched out in my mind. Time for executing the plan. And so I start. I have to tell you though, by the time this was done and we were eating, boy was I glad I cooked at home. Thanks FSB team!! This is now a keeper recipe for me and we have already planned when to make this next!

Enough of all the banter, let me just get to the recipe.
Chop up Paneer into uneven sized chunks. The weirder shaped the chunks are, the better!

In a plate, take about ½- 1 cup of corn flour (corn starch would also work great here). The amount you see here was actually too much – I ended up wasting half of it. So, ½ cup should be sufficient. Add salt to taste and also 1 tsp of red chilli powder for a little spice. Mix the dry ingredients well.

Add the paneer pieces in here and just mix well. 

Sprinkle a few drops of water and just gently toss the paneer in the moist corn flour. You just want to coat the paneer pieces and not really dunk them and make them into bhajjias or pakodas.

Let this sit for a few mins while you get the sauce ready.

Here comes the saucy juicy part! This was fun to do – because I had no clue really and just kind of added everything I had. You should have seen our frightened faces when we were ready to taste the final product.
Let’s start off with the spicy stuff. Chilli Garlic sauce – add about ½ - 1 tbsp of chilli garlic sauce to a mixing bowl.

Then, add ½ tbsp of Chilli Soy sauce or regular Soy sauce to the bowl.

Add ½ tbsp of rice vinegar to the other ingredients.

Follow that with 2 big heaped tbsp of tomato paste.
Throw in some fresh chopped ginger to the paste mix.

And throw in ginger’s favorite partner garlic – chopped into little bits along with the rest.

Now, add the kicker in here – ½ cup of orange juice.

Followed by 1 tsp of brown palm sugar.

And for the real kicker – 2 tbsp of maggi hot n sweet ketchup.

Some last sweet thoughts - a few drops of Honey
And to seal the deal with a little spice – 1 tsp of red chilli flakes or you can use a red chilli asian paste if you have that or even some Sriracha sauce.
Now do you understand that I really had no clue. But don't lose faith in me yet. I won't let you down.

Whisk together all of the ingredients well. Add about 1 cup of water to this sauce and set aside.

Now, fry the corn flour coated pieces of paneer in hot oil and drain excess oil on a sheet and set aside.

Chop up 1 small red onion and also chop up a small bell pepper.

Add the sauce and just enjoy the sizzle.

Cook for 3-4 mins and you’ll start to see the water evaporate.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, add 2 tsps of corn starch and add ¼ cup water and make into a thin paste.

When the sauce begins to thicken, add in the corn starch paste. You’ll see that the sauce thicken instantly.

Quickly add in the fried paneer pieces to the sauce and mix well. Cook for a min until most of the sauce thickens. If you like it saucy, you can switch off the stove immediately after adding the paneer.

And you’re done people! Now, I don’t know if this looks like the Orange Chicken at Panda’s – but I surely know that it tastes awesome because we finished the whole damn thing in about 15 mins!

Serve with some hot white rice. I actually made ginger flavored rice. I added about 2 tsp of chopped ginger along with the rice and cooked it together. The rice holds a subtle flavor of ginger and it was delicious to eat along with this sweet and spicy Orange Paneer!

Check out here for some of the awesome stuff the FSB gals have come up with – Deepti, LataDKMadhuriNags, Siri, Mitu. I’m sure when the hard core non vegetarian look at this, they’re going to finally stop thinking that us vegetarians eat only salads.

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Jun 28, 2011

Podalangai (Snakegourd) Besan Curry

The recipe I have here is what my mom makes quite often with podalangai. Instead of a plain poriyal, this version has a powder besan curry similar to that of a parupusili but with a much shorter and easier way to cook.

Snakegourd (Podalangai) always reminds me of this joke in a tamil movie. The comedian goes to the market to pick up vegetables and picks up a snake and puts in on his shoulder thinking it is a podalangai and walks home. Everyone around him screams and runs away and he looks at people like they are crazy. Remember that scene? I even tried to look for a video online but can't find it. Anyways, what would a snake be doing in a crowded market pretending to be a podalangai..Hmm.
Anyways, this vegetable is not as commonly available here as in India. The Indian stores carry them every now and then and they are short and stout and not very tender – and can be classified as one of the more expensive vegetables in the US. I’d have to spend 5-6 dollars to just pick up a couple of pieces of this vegetable. And you can get a 10lb bag of potatoes for less than a dollar! Go figure! But I still do end up spending my 2 coffees at Starbucks on this coz I do love this vegetable.  It just makes me feel ..well..south Indian!

Wash and chop the vegetable into little bits. Cut them out first, scoop out all the seeds and the flesh inside and discard. It is basically the skin that is eaten. Cut that into thin strips and then further cut into little bits along the sides.

In a pan, dry roast about 1 cup of besan. Add salt to taste and about ½ tsp of red chilli powder.  Heat the besan in low-medium heat and make sure you don’t burn them. Heat up till a nice aroma starts floating up. Remove from heat and move to a mixing bowl.

In the same pan, add a tsp of oil and add some mustard seeds and let splutter. Then, add a couple of red chillies and then add the chopped vegetable pieces. Add salt to taste and let this cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add about ½ cup of water to the besan powder and blend it to a smooth paste. Don’t add too much water and make this too thin.

Pour the besan mixture on top of the veggies.  You’ll see that they start to thicken up almost immediately. Bring down the heat to medium and let this cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the besan starts to brown and become crisp.

That’s it – you’re done. Serve hot with rice and rasam or sambar. Or like me, just scoop up in a cup, grab a spoon and start eating!

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Jun 21, 2011

Vegetarian Drunken Noodles

Drunken Noodle or Pad Kee Mao is my most favorite dish in Thai Cuisine. There is an interesting story behind the name given to these noodles. The literal meaning of the name is a little gross. I could not believe it when I read it up for the first time and my jaw opened up wide. Well, just so I can gross you out too – here’s what it is. Pad means Stir fry. Kee means Shit. Yes, you read it right and it’s not a typo. Mao means drunk. Grossed out enough? So, here’s the old wife’s tale behind this noodle – it seems a guy came back home so drunk and had a horrible hangover the next morning. His wife made some flat noodles and added a ton of chilli spice in it – and he ended up eating it and was totally relived of his hangover. So, the wife decided to call the noodles – Stir fried noodles to be eaten when someone is Shit Drunk. Pad Kee Mao. Makes sense now? And so it got its famous Drunken Noodle name. And I thought it was just because the noodle itself looked so flat out drunk and sloppy when cooked. Maybe that’s true too.

But the last hundred times I’ve eaten it, I’ve not been Shit drunk. Or have I ever eaten this for breakfast to cure myself of a hangover. However, this still makes a sensational dish as a part of a Thai dinner. Shit Drunk or not. Now, I can’t seem to stop using the gross words. Help me God!

There’s been this little box of Panang Curry paste sitting in my pantry for a little while now. And so one day last week for dinner, I decided its going to be Thai night. And of course, I ended up craving for some Drunken noodle and decided it was time I learnt how to make it. So, one the way back home from work, I stopped at the asian store to pick up some flat noodles and found these flat rice noodles. Now, even flatter ones would work best – the big flat squares would be perfect. But sometimes you just learn to live with what you get. Right? So, this was all I could find and had to live with it. Or rather cook with it.

This recipe is pretty simple. Cook the noodle al dente and set aside. Make a sauce to go with the noodles. Cook the veggies crisp. Add the sauce, spices, and noodles and mix them all together well. That’s it. Eazy, Peazy, Jacuzzi.

So, let’s start the cooking. Bring a wide pan of water to a boil and add the noodles in and cook for about 5-8 min or as per the instructions on the packet. Cook the noodles al dente and not too soft – there should be a gentle bite to the noodles. Drain, wash well with cold water and move to a bowl and add about a tbsp of oil and mix well. Make sure they don’t cling to each other and remain separate.

Chop up your favorite veggies to go with the noodles. These are my veggies for both the panang curry and the noodle – that’s why you see two sets of veggies. I also bought fried tofu from the store for my curry and noodles. You could also use regular soft tofu instead – that would do good for the curry but you can pan fry them a little for the noodles.
Here’s what goes in the sauce.

1 tbsp of soy sauce
2 tbsps of golden mountain sauce - this is made with soy sauce and wheat flour. This is a great substitute for vegetarians instead of a fish sauce normally used in thai dishes. This sauce adds that extra saltiness usually provided but the fish sauce
1 tbsp of vegetarian oyster sauce ( if you can find it – if not, just skip this ingredient)
1 tsp of plain white sugar
1 tsp of brown palm sugar
1 tsp of chilli paste (skip this if you don’t want your dish too spicy. We will also be adding chilli paste directly to the veggies)

Add all the above sauces to a small bowl and whisk together well and set aside.

In a wide pan or wok (wide enough the toss the noodles with the veggies), add 2 tbsps of vegetable oil. Add in fresh chopped ginger, garlic and green chillies.
When that browns a little, add in the sliced onions and saut̩ till they turn color. Throw in all the veggies Рbroccoli, carrots, baby corn, bell peppers or anything else you like with your noodles. Little button mushrooms would be great too.

Add the tofu to the veggies and mix well.

Cook the veggies for a minute and add in some red hot chilli flakes. You could also use the thai chilli paste. Purists would cry foul at my dish because I’m not adding the fresh thai basil here – I will cry foul myself – but I could not find the fresh thai basil at my Korean store..:( - but I added an alternative later on – you’ll see.

When the veggies are done, add half of the prepared sauce on top the veggies to flavor them up.

Immediately, add the cooked noodles and stir well. Now, add the rest of the sauce on top of the noodles and give the whole thing a brisk mix up.

Now, instead of the thai basil, I added a few fresh leaves of Tulsi. Why did I do this – because a friend of mine has a thai neighbor who oftens borrows tulsi leaves from her garden to use in her home cooked thai meals. According to her, tulsi also provides a nice flavor to her thai dishes. So, I thought I should try using it too and yes it does add a nice flavor. So, try some the next time you make Thai food.

That’s it – we’re done here.

Time to sit back and enjoy some awesome Pad Kee Mao noodles.

Here's the Panang Curry I made. I don't really have a recipe for this as I used a readymade Panang Curry paste to preapare this - just a couple of spoons of the paste with a can of lite coconut milk and a easy bowl of curry is ready for dinner. Serve hot with steaming white rice.

Enjoy. Peace Out!