dinner at indian zing [London]
firstly, thanks to malik for organizing.
as there were about ten of us, we ordered in advance the kind of things a maharastrian normally eats.
for starters, a) coriander leaf bound with (besan?) flour and drizzled with green and tamarind chutney
b) potato patty garnished with chickpeas and a shmoosh of yoghurt (a gussied up version of a bombay street food ragda patties)
and then the mains:
a) pitla (a maharastrian dal held together with besan flour, very smooth and meant to be eaten hot with bhakri, a thick chapatti made with bajri/jowar flour)
b) pohe (flattened rice cooked in the classic phodni of rai seeds and turmeric)
c) potato bhaji (boiled and lightly fried with cumin and coriander seeds)
d) matki usal (sprouted moth beans)
e) chicken miravna (green chicken curry using coriander, methi, coconut milk from the patre prabhus)
f) ghati goat (invented name, a generic whole spice flavoured dish)
g) rice, chappattis and an attempt at bhakri
i was shocked how close they came to home cooking. my cousin and his (excellent cook, natch) wife were with us, and they too marveled at the cooking. i think consensus for excellence was the pitla and chicken for the weakest dish but i'd be interested to hear other reactions.
if nothing else, this ought to prove my point in spades: eat vegetables in good indian restaurants! the range of flavours and the very deft spicing are a tribute to real skill, while any dunderhead like me can cook meat.
yes, plenty of fish amongst the coastal people.
i must warn you - apart from the potato bhaji and perhaps the chicken, i think every single item was off menu. would be great though if you could call and encourage them to make at least the matki usal and the pitla part of the main menu.
I am so embarrassed. I had totally intended to come to this, it was in my diary and I was looking forward to it. And then for some reason, yesterday, it completely slipped my mind. I only remembered this morning when I logged into Chowhound. I am such an idiot and more than a little gutted. :-(
Apologies to howler and malik for my flakiness (which is out of character - I must have been having a senior moment!).
dave_nyc - it was a pleasure to meet you. it's a tribute to jim leff - his buddies are mine whenever i meet them!
do ask and try out matki usal in pune when you are next there. warning: it'll be a lot runnier and you'll shlurp them in pune, but i think (hope) you'll find the spirit the same.
Thank you Howler for organizing the food ordering ahead of time. This was a lovely meal with great company.
The starters were excellent in flavor, texture and presentation. Among the mains, my favorites were the pohe (which I'd never tried before) and the goat, and it was nice to find some good chappatis in a restaurant setting. I also didn't care for the chicken too much, but the leftover has been very popular at home, so maybe the dish needed a little time to come together.
Yes, thanks to both Howler and Malik for organising a great dinner. A very talented kitchen was in evidence. Loved the presentation (and taste!) of the starters. Like everyone else, I was impressed by the care given to the preparation of the vegetable mains, and their resulting taste and texture.
Cunningly I ended up taking home the leftovers for my favourite two dishes (the dal and the bhaji), and I think eating them for lunch created a bit of of office-envy!
it's my newest howl: getting chowhounds to move away from dining in courses and instead eating lots of veggie dishes together at the same time, exactly as an indian family would.
while i might wake up craving mutton champs or butter chicken, what i really miss is the huge number of glorious vegetarian dishes of all the cuisines in india, given a choice to scarf down butter chicken or sarson ka saag, i know which way i'm going.