Wednesday, September 26, 2018

More Bengali Inspiration #1

I will be recreating the recipes we prepared at the last class, and give some more detailed instructions.

Meanwhile, if you want to get your information from the source, you can of course ask the Bangladeshi greengrocers on Starling Ave (aka Bangla Bazaar), or, there is a series on youtube, Village Food Life, which allows you to study some of the Bangladeshi cuisine in a fairly authentic village setting. I will use one of the videos below.


While you can vary these recipes endlessly, some of the basic patterns and spices are very helpful to understand and I will break them out here, for they are the building blocks.

With lentils, you can make a quick sauce or a soup. We will make one here, but there are many kinds of lentils, so you can vary this endlessly and fine tune it to your own taste.

Poi Leaf

Here is a recipe about Malabar Spinach, or Poi Leaf, which is available year-round. It is a bit like spinach, but it has a richer taste, and soon enough you will figure out when Poi is more suitable than spinach. As it says on the site I linked here, it's like there are hints of citrus and pepper in the flavor.

At our recent cooking class, we just made boiled poi leaf, but on this occasion, I am going to make more of a stew with it, using the stems as well.

Caramelized Onions are the start

I started my cooking with a frying pan to caramelize 4 to 5 medium-size onions finely cut-up, with some finely cut chilis, and a jalapeno, plus garlic, while adding slowly about 8 oz of veggie broth and about a tablespoon of Braggs Liquid Aminos. The key is to not stir the onions at first, until the bottom begins to brown, and then, before they would char, you start stirring them, and you will gradually see a glaze form in the pan. You can then use water, or veggie broth, or vinegar to deglaze the pan, so that instead of sticking to the pan, the onions are nice and moist.

Note, the article I linked here, suggests caramelizing in a hot frying pan, which is the best. It will take 5 minutes or less. Here is an article that describes a slow method, which also works, but is inefficient because it costs too much time. If you do it over high heat, you just need to watch it closely. If you go the medium temperature method, it will take 25-30 minutes.

For about 1.5 lbs of poi leaf, I used about half the onions and added a piece of turmeric, cut-up in thin slices. I cut up the stems in 1/4" pieces, and cooked them with the onions, adding a little more water. Once the stems were soft I threw the leaves on top and let them wilt over a low flame, about 15 minutes. Then I mixed the whole thing together. It was delicious.

Lentil Sauce

I used a 3 lb Deshi squash (water squash) and 1 lb of split red lentils.
Water Squash
Starting with the caramelized onions, I added some turmeric, and a few bay leaves and a bunch of cilantro cut up fine and the squash cut-up to about 1/4" thick 1/8th wedges. Then I added about 1 lb of lentils and water to cover and about a table spoon of liquid aminos (in lieu of salt) and that cooked for about 30 mins. With a wooden spoon I could practically pulverized the squash, and make a smooth sauce out of the whole thing, while removing the bay leaf.

With that, I had enough sauce left over to freeze two quart bags for another day, and that still left me enough for about two more days, which I could keep in the fridge. You learn to cook in batches.

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