Thursday, December 18, 2014

Our Mexican Sojourn

Let me start by apologizing for the long gap between posts…the excuse is lame and clichéd, but we have been really very busy.
My parents and mother-in-law are visiting from India and we took a trip to Mexico City last month. This trip had been planned almost six months in advance, and we had allotted seven days for it. On our last day in Mexico, we realized that a week was not enough for seeing the myriad churches and other sights.
The first thing that hit us when we got out of the airport was that Mexico looked just like any big Indian city…we related it to Chennai because we are all from there. The roads, the traffic, the incessant honking, and the drainage odor wafting in the air, all felt very familiar; the only things unfamiliar were the people and the language.
We had been forewarned that the city was dangerous in the nights and that we should be extra cautious when using the public transportation or local taxis. It could be because of our experience in Indian buses and trains that we found the trains quite comfortable, except for the occasional peak time crowd.
We stayed in a serviced apartment and managed to cook at least two meals on most days, at other times we ate from local joints. Being a food enthusiast, I enjoyed all the dishes I ate there and have been planning to write about them.
This was our first international vacation and we enjoyed every single moment. Thanks to the Google translate App on my husband’s phone and research done by my father, we were able to cross the language barrier a bit.
Our first restaurant experience in the city taught us that the people there are extremely patient and accommodating, especially to tourists like us. Another interesting factor that we noticed was that most of the people there, including servers and vendors, are literate. We would show them the phone (with the translated queries) and they were able to respond accordingly.
Overall, I have only one thing to say, Mexico City and its nearby locations are worth visiting. The beautiful churches, ancient pyramids, and castles together make Mexico City and its surrounding areas a tourist’s paradise.
There were many roadside eateries all over the city. We did not venture to eat from there, because we weren't sure what all was being served

Appetizers: Tortialla chips and fresh bread

Tomato Soup

Vegetable enchiladas in a spinach cream sauce
We went to Isckon temple in Mexico city and this was part of the prasadam lunch provided there: Bread and potato stuffed empanadas (tasted like samosas)


Maha prasadm: Rice pudding and a berry pie

Fresh papaya juice

Fresh tamarind juice

Vegetable soup

Main course: rice, greens, and eggplant
Dinner made at home: Curd rice with exotic garnishing, spicy boondi and bhujiya sev with mango pickle
Lunch at La Zanahoria (The Carrot): Steamed vegetables with a spicy salsa

Fresh naranja (orange) juice

Another enchilada, but this one was in a salsa verde sauce. Tasty and lighter than the spinach and cream base

Dessert was from...any guesses? McDonalds...yes you read it right!!!

Varieties of bread bought from a bakery right across from our apartment. The breads were light and fluffy, with a nice crust. Another thing we liked was the price, four breads and one sandwich cookie together cost less than $1.50

This bread had sugar a encrusted outer crust, very yummy!

Sandwich cookie

Soup from a can and fresh bread, not a bad dinner!

Lunch at Dipao Restaurant

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar to go with bread

Vegetable Pizza

Vegetable Pizza

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tofu Curry

Are you the type who eats tofu just because it is healthier than paneer and not because you actually like it? Then here’s a recipe that you are sure to love. I have tried using tofu as a substitute in many paneer dishes. Honestly, it does not taste as good as paneer, but it isn’t that bad either.* Look for the baking tip at the bottom. the texture of the tofu changes completely once it has been baked.
My parents visited the local library and came back with two Indian cookbooks. My mother has been hooked to one of them, ‘Vegan Indian Cooking’ by Anupy Singla and has written down almost all the recipes from it. One of them was this tofu curry, which looked so yummy that I had to make it. I am quite sure that you will love it too.   
Diced onion – 1
Chopped ginger – 2 tsps
Chopped garlic – 2 tsps
Diced tomato – 1
Green chilies 1-2
Yogurt (soy yogurt for a vegan dish) – ½ cup
Garam masala – 2 tsp
Dried fenugreek – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tbsps
Asafoetida – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Turmeric pd – 1 tsp
Cinnamon stick  - 1
Cardamom pods – 2-3
Cloves – 2
Red chili pd – to taste
Water – ½ cup
14 oz pkg firm tofu (baked and spiced)
Cilantro for garnish
Blend together the onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, and chilies. Transfer the ground mixture to a bowl, add yogurt, salt, garam masala, fenugreek leaves, and red chili powder. *I did not have fenugreek leaves at home, so I left it out.
Heat oil in a pan. Add asafoetida, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Cook for about 30 seconds or until the cumin seeds sizzle.
Add the yogurt mixture and the water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly.
Add the tofu and simmer for another 4-5 minutes, remove from heat and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with rice or rotis. Bon Appètit. 

*The author had provided a tip, to use baked tofu for a firmer, drier texture. I did not have enough time to do this step, so instead of baking the tofu, I broiled it for about 10 minutes.
Cut the tofu slab into ½ inch thick slices. Rub one side of the tofu with garam masala, place the slices with the plain side facing down, and bake in a 350oF oven for about 15 minutes or broil on high for 10. Turn the slices over, rub with garam masala, and return to the oven for another 15/5 (broil) minutes. Remove, cut into small cubes, and use in the curry. Else, cool it and store in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for up to two months.