Bengali bonanza


Chingri malai curry, dimer dhokkar dalna and baigun bhajja

The shrimp curry was a big hit and fairly simple – in a slightly sweet, coconut curry sauce. The picture on the web site sure looks like there is onion in that dish, but nowhere is such mentioned in the recipe. They certainly wouldn’t hurt it – give the dish a little more bulk – but perfectly fine without them as well. Some thinly sliced poblanos might be tasty in there too. A beautiful, smooth and creamy, crustaceous curry.

Dimer dhokkar dalna – not only a mouthful, but quite an undertaking as well! This fussy little dish begins with the boiling soft potatoes, letting those cool, then mixing them with egg and some spices. That amalgam (often, apparently, lentils are used in place of potato, too) is steamed into a puffy, eggy cake, that is then cooled, sliced and deep fried. That is not the end: Then, it is simmered in a sauce “for some time” until it is “soft and juicy!” Phew!

But that’s not all – there’s also the curry sauce: It starts out as a fairly typical, Indian type curry: Fry onion, ginger, garlic and spices… Already, here’s where it became a bit complicated: It calls for brown onion paste. Since that isn’t something that’s typically kept on hand – it was fabricated. Caramelizing onions takes time, compounding the effort for an already tedious recipe, for which we already knew we were going to have to whip together the panch phoran. Not that putting that together is particularly difficult – it just adds more time onto an already timely process.

There is also, at the very bottom of the list of ingredients for the curry, a call for Maggi bhuna masala. Nowhere in the instructions is it mentioned, but it seemed like it might be somewhat relevant! Maggi, as it turns out, is a brand. This is a pre-packaged sauce that is apparently – and, certainly not evidently – added to the curry. We don’t have Maggi, nor bhuna masala under any prefabbed name. So, it was therefore approximated with what we had. Again, adding more time and effort to what, at this point, had become an unreasonably laborious project. To cap it all off – there was no garam masala left, so that had to be mixed as well… 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there – longer because the lousy cardamom pods were puny and tough to crack, and, had little of the tough to separate seeds within.

The end result was outstanding. The little cakes were – interesting – but not unpleasant, and they held the flavor of the deep and broody sauce wonderfully. The curry was unlike any that’s been tried – bold, rich and earthy, slightly spicy, and with a hint of crunch added by the toasted spices from Dan’s© bhuna masala. Marvelous, delicious and excellent, and sadly never to be recreated, because who has that amount of time on their hands for a silly little curry? Ergo – no doubt – the shortcuts in the recipe! As it’s also unlikely anything remotely similar will be found in any restaurant within 100 miles of here, this will have to live on fondly, only in memory – very fondly.

The luchi were forwent, as deep fried, fatted flour didn’t seem like a health risk we wanted to take, nor necessarily considered an addition that would add much to the dish, but mostly – because of exhaustion. (At the moment, the thought seems awfully tantalizing.)

The baigun bhajja was the ugly duckling of the dinner, and led to a discussion of whether or not eggplant was actually a food that we enjoyed consuming. Its association with parmesan is appreciated, as is baba ganouj – especially the fabulous, smoked variety at Lebanese Grill. However, beyond that we couldn’t think of any dishes that we really liked. Looking back, the pappardelle was very good, the burek was quite good, and apparently the burger was well thought of – we’ll have to revisit those. So, apparently, yes – sometimes.

Of the (essentially) two dishes comprised in this one recipe, the sliced and grilled, slightly sour one with the tomato chutney was preferred. It really does need that chutney to work, however, and not in diminutive amounts. i.e., maybe just a bit too sour – but a nice contrast with the curries. The other one we decided tasted like an eggplant pico de gallo, and not in a positive way. Mom says it wasn’t bad cold, but heated as it were, she didn’t care for it either. None of us thought it went well with the rest of the dish.



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