My New Obsession: The Micro Culture
I’ve spent plenty of time on this blog waxing on about my love for the multicultural. I am obsessed with flavors from around the globe, and mixing up Western presentations with bold flavors from cultures around the world. Charm me with your churrasco! Move me with your masala! Boggle me with your baklava!
This week, however, I was working on a project that opened my eyes to a new level of dedication when considering my global passion. This week, I waved goodbye to merely celebrating the flavors of a culture and I began considering the flavors of a county, a neighborhood, a city block. My eyes have been opened. I am now obsessed with the “niche-cuisine.”
My “aha” moment came this week when we were charged with working on our menu for Apna Ghar’s Taste for Life event on May 25. Apna Ghar is an organization that supports South Asian women, so I wanted very much to do something in the vein of our Modern Indian Celebrations. However, I wanted to mix it up a little bit. (When don’t I want to mix it up, actually!?!) And so I cracked the books and found that Indo-Chinese Cuisine, sometimes called Manchurian, originated in Calcutta. Centuries ago, Calcutta was the Indian city where the Chinese first emigrated and a micro-cuisine was born. The warm, tantalizing spices and masalas of the Indian palate mingled with Chinese cooking techniques and preparations.
The resulting fusion of flavors are bold, eclectic, and spicy – feels very Entertaining Company, no!?! Tamarind meets soy sauce, sugar and vinegar. Chinese spices blend with cumin and coriander. Soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame, Asian sesame oil, scallions and fresh coriander dance through every recipe and suddenly, a new menu is born. Chili-laced Paneer, Chicken “Manchurian” (chicken and vegetables with chopped garlic, ginger, and green chilis, but instead of adding garam masala, substitute soy sauce.) Don’t forget sweet and sour prawns! (The Chinese brought their fishing nets to India, after all!)
And then there are Hakka noodles – a street food that surely was the pre-cursor to Americanized Chow-Mein. In India, street vendors will fork up some Hakka Noodles on your plate from a tawa and, I for one, always come back for more. I love them so much that we’ll be serving them at the aforementioned Apna Ghar Taste of Life event. Buy your tickets here.
As a trip to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is nowhere on my 2011 itinerary, my education in Indo-Chinese micro-culinary culture will have to be completed this June when I travel to New York City and eat at Thelewala. There, owner Shiva Natarajan has modeled his newest outpost as a nod to Indian Calcutta street food. After looking at their menu, I am dreaming of Nizami Rolls (egg rolls meet green chilis). Then, I will likely make (my patient husband,) Michael roll down MacDougal with me to The Khati Roll Company where blazing griddles marry bread, spice and protein.
It’s a new, bold world of (micro) culinary celebration at Entertaining Company, to be sure.