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(Redactor's note: Here's the fic behind the food: Cooking With Zack, part of Jou's Harrow Children universe. More infrastructure rambling after I've gotten out of the way and let Zack do his thing!)

(ETA, 8/1 - finally got the pictures sorted & imbedded!)

The dishes

Chicken tiki tone

Chicken in a tart-spicy-fragrant tamarind and coconut sauce.

Pumpkin tari

Think five-alarm mouth fire, with pumpkin and chickpeas. :3

Spinach tari

Spinach and squeaky-cheese with an optional citrus twist from artichoke and lime.

Chakanbir

Crisp vegetable salad marinaded in mild vinegar and spices.

Barati

Skillet-bread flavored as you like it.

Lemon rice

Long grain rice cooked with spices and dressed with lemon juice and flavored sizzling oil.

Shopping / pantry list

Fresh stuff Spice list

Pantry stuff

2 lb. chicken Ajwain seeds (optional) Baking basics: flour, sugar, salt (preferably kosher), baking powder
4-5 small to medium onions Amchur powder (dried mango, optional) Cooking oil (high-heat safe)
1 kabocha pumpkin (or butternut squash, or carrots and yams) Anardana (dried pomegranate seeds, optional) A package of dried red chiles (Japanese type, chiles de arbol, or, if feeling wild and crazy, Thai bird chiles! :3)
2 bunches spinach (or 2 pkgs. frozen) Black cumin seeds (kala jeera/kalonji, optional) Tamarind paste
1 jicama (and/or daikon, and/or radishes) Black peppercorns Garlic paste (or fresh garlic)
1 seedless cucumber (and/or summer squash/zucchini) Cardamom (as green pods or as seeds) Ginger paste (or fresh ginger)
1 mango (or a can of mango, and/or a yellow tomato) Cayenne or chili powder (optional) 1 can chickpeas (or 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, to be soaked and cooked)
About a dozen fresh green chiles (mix and match! Serrano, poblano, Anaheim, Hungarian wax peppers, finger-hots, you name it.) Chaat masala (optional) 1-2 cans coconut milk
Plain (unflavored) live-culture yogurt Cinnamon 1-2 cans chopped or crushed tomatoes, or 1 can tomato paste, or several fresh red tomatoes
Lemon juice and lime juice Cloves Apple cider vinegar
Optional but nice: Coriander Rice vinegar (or substitute apple cider vinegar diluted half and half with water)
1 coconut (or a package of shredded unsweetened coconut) Cumin Honey or agave nectar
Ghee or butter Fennel Your preferred red-chiles-in-vinegar sauce: sambal, sriracha, Tabasco, etc.
Fresh lemons and limes Fenugreek (optional) Rose water (highly recommended - only $1.50 a bottle, and the bottle lasts forever in the fridge. You only need a few drops at a time because it's so intense.)
Fresh cilantro Ginger (dry, ground) Long grain rice
  Mint (note: you can raid a tea bag! :3)  
  Mustard seeds (brown or black preferred) Optional but nice:
  Nutmeg Flavored oil (sesame and mustard are handy)
  Paprika Pistachios (optional but nice)
  Sesame seeds (opt.)  
  Star anise  
  Tamarind powder (opt.)  
  Turmeric  

Ingredients and spice prep

Chicken tiki tone Dry tari Wet tari Ingredients
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds (kala jeera/kalonji) (or substitute regular cumin)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds (opt.)
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken
3 cloves
6-8 green cardamom pods, cracked, or 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
3 star anise, broken
2 white onions (or a bunch of shallots), minced and sauteed golden brown
1/4 cup tamarind paste
1/4 cup coconut milk (or 3 Tbsp grated coconut)
1/2 Tbsp garlic paste
1/2 Tbsp ginger paste
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
2 lb chicken, cut into bite sized cubes
2 tomatoes (or half a can of crushed tomatoes, or 2 Tbsp tomato paste)
2-3 fresh green chiles (serrano, ancho, poblano)
3-6 dried red chiles (Japanese, Thai, de arbol)
1-2 tsp oil (peanut, coconut, mustard, whatever you like)
1 more green cardamom pod
1/4 tsp rose water
Pumpkin tari Dry tari Wet tari Ingredients
 1 tsp brown/black mustard seeds
1 tsp anardana seeds (dried pomegranate - can substitute fresh)
5-10 dried red chiles
1 Tbsp peanut or other high-heat oil
 1 Tbsp tamarind paste
The other 1/2 can tomatoes, or 2 Tbsp tomato paste
2-4 fresh green chiles (serrano, poblano, anaheim)
1 onion, minced and sauteed golden brown
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp table salt (to taste)
1 tsp black cumin seeds, ground (or substitute regular cumin)
Water as needed

1-2 lbs kabocha or pumpkin, bite-size cubes, cooked fork-tender
2-3 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Sambal, sriracha, Tabasco, or favorite red-chile-and-vinegar sauce (to taste at serving time)
Spinach tari Dry tari Wet tari Ingredients
2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp mustard seeds or 1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/4 tsp table salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp peppercorns, cracked or ground
1/4 tsp black cumin seeds, ground
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, ground (optional)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cloves, ground
2 Tbsp oil (mustard oil if available)
 1 Tbsp ginger paste
1 Tbsp minced garlic or garlic paste
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1-3 fresh green chiles (serrano, poblano, anaheim)
3-6 dried red chiles (Japanese, Thai, de arbol)
1 onion, minced and sauteed golden brown
 1 cup paneer (either homemade or storebought - homemade directions under "night before")
2 lb fresh spinach (or 2 packages frozen spinach)
1 can artichoke hearts (optional, but lemony-yummy-good!)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 lime, cut into wedges (optional)
Chakanbir Dry tari Wet tari Ingredients

1-2 tsp chaat masala
(OR 1-2 tsp taken from:)
2 Tbsp ground amchur (dried mango)
1 Tbsp ground dried mint leaves (can use herbal tea for this)
1 Tbsp tamarind powder (or add 2 Tbsp tamarind paste to wet tari)
1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp ground ajwain
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne

1/2 cup rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar diluted half and half with water)
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp lime juice
2-3 Tbsp sugar or honey (adjust to taste)
Minced green chiles (optional, to taste)
4 cups julienned vegetables and fruits picked from the following (choose the ones you like to eat raw):
Jicama
Cucumber
Daikon radish
Mango
Yellow tomato (seeds removed)
Summer squash or zucchini
Green onions
Barati Dry tari Wet tari Ingredients
1 - 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
(or any other spices you like)

1 tsp honey or sugar
Up to 1 cup water

Options:
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp sesame oil or other flavorful oil
3-4 Tbsp melted butter or ghee, divided

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/4 tsp table salt or 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder (preferably the kind without aluminum)

Lemon rice Dry tari Wet tari Ingredients
 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of cardamom
Pinch of mango powder
 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2-3 dried red chiles (optional)
Small handful of cilantro leaves, rough chopped (optional garnish)
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
3 cups water (or whatever your rice cooker wants for 2 rice-cooker cups of rice)
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1 lemon, thinly sliced (optional garnish)
A handful of pistachios (optional garnish)

The night before

Chicken tiki tone

Since our kind of food has soft-cooked onions in just about everything, collect up your onions and mince them all in advance, then portion them up for each recipe. (Trust me, your eyes and your timing will thank you tomorrow.) You can saute them tonight, or you can keep your house less onion-smelling overnight and saute them in the morning.

You can do all the dry-spice roasting the night before, let them cool, put them in a jar, and keep them in the fridge. (They'll keep in the fridge for a couple months, or for a long time in the freezer. You'll have more than one batch worth of spices.)

If using coconut meat rather than milk, dry-roast the coconut by itself until crisp and golden.

If you're feeling merciful, don't chop the chiles fine; leave the dry ones whole (or break them in half and shake out the seeds). Cut mostly-through the green ones and rinse the seeds out of the inside but leave the stems intact. This makes them easier to pull out during later taste-testing.

If you want to push the heat, leave all the seeds in place and chop the greens and the drys to bits and just go for it. :3

(L - R: Hungarian, Anaheim, poblano, finger-hot, serrano, and dried Japanese chiles. Also vinyl gloves to keep from getting hot pepper juice on fingers I might need to rub my eyes with!)

If you want to marinade the chicken, you can marinade it in the wet tari mixture overnight (and, if feeling brave and/or sadistic, chop the chiles in with it).

Wet tari and dry tari ready to go:

Pumpkin tari

 Reserve some of your onion mincing spree for this dish.

Chickpeas:

If you have canned chickpeas: Consider yourself lucky! :3

If you have dry chickpeas: Soak them for at least 12 hours and boil them tonight, until they're tender, then put them in the refrigerator for the next day.

Pumpkin:

If you have canned pumpkin, put it away. Repeat after Uncle Zack: Pumpkin pie tari is not the answer!

If you don't have a fresh kabocha or other small cooking pumpkin, don't despair. You can also use butternut squash (easier to peel), acorn squash (harder to peel), or even carrots or sweet potatoes (easiest to find, least like the intended flavor).

Don't get crazy enough to try this with turnips, though. There's nearly no help for turnips, unless you've got mustard greens and vinegar and -- well, that's a different recipe. 

Whichever kind of orange root vegetable you've got, cut it into bite-sized cubes and simmer in lightly salted water with a splash of vinegar until it's just fork-tender but not too soft. (Leave some resistance for the second round of cooking.)

Alternatively, Tifa says to use the microwave on the squash - halve it, gut it, nuke it for 5-8 minutes, done:

 

Spinach tari

Reserve some of your onion mincing spree for this dish too.

Spinach:

If using fresh spinach: Wash your spinach and roughly chop it.

If using frozen spinach: Thaw it in the refrigerator.

Paneer:

If you bought frozen paneer, thaw it in the refrigerator tonight too.

If making your own paneer, make it tonight. 

To make paneer
(twice what you need for the spinach tari, since you might as well have extra after going through all this):

1/2 gallon milk (skim works fine)
Up to 1 pint buttermilk or plain natural yogurt (not the kind set with pectin, the ingredients should basically be milk). Plain yogurt is important, and so is live culture. Vanilla paneer is bad. Strawberry paneer is even worse. :o
-or-
Up to 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice

Also locate:
A good-sized pot
Cheesecloth or a clean flour-sack dishtowel
A strainer or a second large pot

Heat milk to almost boiling, then add your curdling agent (yogurt or buttermilk or acidic juice) gradually. Cook for a couple more minutes until it separates into curds and whey. It goes from milky-colored with floating bits to pale-and-strawy with floating pieces of cheese. Add any extra curdler slowly though; you don't want to set it up too hard since the nice squeaky texture is one of the awesome points of paneer. :3

Strain out the whey through a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth or a flour-sack dishcloth, or else put the cheesecloth in another large pot and pour from one to the other. Tie a knot in the cloth and hang it from your sink faucet for a few minutes to drip. (Tip: Put the cooking pan under the faucet to catch your paneer ball, just in case the knot slips off the faucet. Not that I would know anything about this from experience. ...ehehehe... whoops?)

If you want a firmer consistency in your paneer, put the wrapped cheese between two salad plates and weight the top plate for about 10 minutes. 

Cover with saran wrap to keep it from forming a skin and refrigerate until cooking day. (It also freezes nicely, if any of it survives the snacking-on phase of the cooking prep.)

Sneaky Ninja Trick: If you do this with soy milk instead of regular milk, you basically have tofu paneer and it makes the spinach tari vegan friendly! \o/ Everything except the chicken tiki tone can be made vegan friendly if you like; just swap coconut milk for regular milk, olive oil for ghee, and a tablespoon of tamarind paste for up to 1/2 cup yogurt.

Chakanbir

Chop the vegetables. Mix together the wet tari and pour over the vegetables; cover and refrigerate overnight. (If you don't have tamarind powder, add tamarind paste to the wet tari and mix it in now.)

Sneaky Ninja Speed Tricks: A mandolin (not the musical instrument) makes your life much MUCH easier. Make sure to use the hand guard, though! Cucumber julienned in 1:30, daikon in 0:50.

Mangos are fun to dissect. They've got a big flat seed. Cut the large pieces off each side, then the small pieces. Skin the small pieces by laying your knife flat on the board like you're peeling a fish.

Then cut a hash pattern into the large pieces and then turn them inside out so they get separated like chrysanthemum petals. Much faster and less dangerous this way than if you try to peel it first and have it all slippery on you!

Barati If you're going to flavor your barati, toast your spices tonight.
Lemon rice  Nothing to do yet

The morning of

Chicken tiki tone

If the dry tari haven't been toasted and ground yet, do that now. A spice grinder (or coffee grinder reserved for spices) works best; it takes a good amount of time to grind all those spices finely with a mortar and pestle.

Use a little sieve or sifter to get the cardamom pod hulls and unground pieces of the spices before they go in for cooking.

Saute all your onions in a little oil until they're golden brown and very soft, at least 10 minutes. Separate them out into three portions when you're done sauteeing them, since they go in all three tari dishes.

Pumpkin tari

The dry tari in this dish are quick-fried in hot oil and served whole; don't grind these. (It'd make it too hard for people to avoid the chiles of death, particularly if you just happened to luck into a nice batch of dried Thai bird chiles, not that a nice guy like me would do such a thing, really, honest... even if it was really funny watching the expression on the shrimp's face! Tifa, if you ever read this, don't kill me please?)

Spinach tari

Same as the tiki tone - toast and grind the dry tari in advance. Make sure you note which skillet is toasting which set of dry tari! (I cheat by wrapping matching-colored rubber bands around the handles of the different skillets and pots. All the red ones go to the same dish, all the green ones go to the other dish, etc.)

(You can't see under the edge of the bowls, but one is pink and the other green to go with their skillets. I keep the recipe cards next to the spice bowls as I fill 'em too.)

If you're using frozen spinach, wring the extra water out of it now. Rough-chop it so you end up with bite-size pieces of spinach and put it back in the refrigerator to wait.

Chakanbir Leave it in the refrigerator (yay for non-fiddly bits!)
Barati Stir your dry ingredients together in a large enough bowl to leave yourself a bit of kneading room. If using any dry tari, stir those in now.

Add your sugar/honey and any other wet tari options, and mix through with your fingertips. Note: don't use all the ghee here; use up to 2 Tbsp of the ghee, and save the rest for basting.

With just the wet tari, it'll probably still be on the dry side. Add a tablespoon of water at a time and keep working it through. You want it to be soft enough to work, but not sticky. If it sticks to your fingers too much, put a little water, ghee, or olive oil on your fingers.

Once it's cooperating enough to form a nice ball of dough, cover the bowl with saran wrap. Leave it on the countertop so it can get itself psyched up for its big performance in a nice warm backstage area instead of a cold refrigerator.

(Tip for pet and hungry-teenager owners:) Hiding things in the microwave also keeps unexpected noses and paws out of it...

Lemon rice

 Wash your rice thoroughly. Put it in your rice cooker pan with the appropriate amount of water (you're going to have enough going on the stove that you really want a rice cooker for this). Add your dry tari spices to the cooking pan. 

Save the wet tari ingredients for later. If you want to garnish with a lemon, slice it thinly and put it in the refrigerator to wait for serving time.

The home stretch (the last couple hours of cooking)

Chicken tiki tone

Heat a teaspoon or two of oil.

Measure out about 1 Tbsp of the dry tari mix and fry it in the oil for a couple minutes. (Beware of splatters - a splatter shield is handy.) Add the cooked onions in to this skillet.

Add the chopped tomatoes, and the rest of the wet masala ingredients. Cook over medium to low heat into a paste. If you're feeling fancy, take it out of the pan, put it in a food processor, and blend til smooth. If you like it homestyle, just keep mashing the bits against the side of the pan.

When the sauce has come up to a slow boil, add the chicken pieces.

Leave on a slow boil/simmer to cook the chicken while the rest of the dishes are being prepared.

Pumpkin tari

 Except for the hot sauce, bring the wet tari ingredients to a simmer and cook until moderately thickened.

Add the pumpkin, coconut, and chickpeas, and cook until pumpkin and chickpeas are tender. You might want to strain some of the liquid off later.

Hang on to the hot sauce and dry tari until just about serving time.

Spinach tari

 Heat a tablespoon of oil on medium-high and fry the dry tari in it. (The spices should sizzle when they hit the hot oil.) Add the wet tari and cook for about a minute.

Add the spinach, cover the skillet, and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the paneer (and the artichokes if you have 'em) and cook over medium heat until the liquid mostly evaporates.

Hang on to the yogurt and lemon until serving time.

Chakanbir Keep on leaving in refrigerator (yay!)
Barati

You can make your barati toward the end of this stage, but don't start to cook them until about 5 minutes before serving time. Only start shaping these when everything else is in the final simmering stage, because you don't want them to dry out before you cook them.

To make your barati, tear off approximately tennis-ball-sized pieces of dough and flatten them out. A tortilla press covered with saran wrap and dusted with flour works nicely. So does a floured rolling pin, of course, but it takes more space, and by this point in the process I'm always out of countertop space. And tabletop space. And refrigerator-top space. And cutting-board-balanced-over-the-sink space. (That last is a really bad idea, by the way. It tips your food into the sink wayyy too easily. Ahem.)

Lemon rice

Start your rice cooker about 35-45 minutes before serving time. The cooking cycle should take about 25 minutes. When it's done, don't open the rice cooker until 15 minutes after the cooker has switched off; just let it hang out and steam. At the end of the steaming time, open it briefly, fluff the rice, and put the lid back on to keep it warm. 

(If you're not using a rice cooker, use the package directions instead.)

Keep the wet tari ingredients saved for serving time.

Serving time! ♥

Chicken tiki tone

Leave the cooked peppers in if you like -- I like eating the fresh ones alongside the chicken; they're just another vegetable, and Tifa's always telling "us kids" to eat our vegetables, so I figure we might as well get the tasty vegetables . :3 (I'm not so brave about eating the dried Thai bird peppers, though. Some things are too much even for the asbestos tongue!)

After you've put it into a serving bowl, sprinkle the 1/4 tsp rosewater over the top and lightly stir through. If you like, crush a couple seeds from the last cardamom pod and scatter over the top for a fragrance-burst.

Pumpkin tari

 Heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil or other high-temperature-safe oil in a skillet. Fry the dry tari (except for the mustard seeds) for about 30 seconds - be prepared for splatters; keep your splatter shield handy.

Add the mustard seeds next; lower the heat, put the splatter shield on, and wait for the spluttering to subside. (Be ready to pull the oil off the heat to keep the spices from scorching.)

Drizzle the hot oil over the pumpkin and stir lightly through, leaving some of the chiles showing.

Add sriracha or your selected hot sauce to taste, to put the third chili spin on the ball. Serve hot (in more ways than one - sorry about that, Spikes!)

Spinach tari

 Put the spinach tari in its serving dish. Stir the yogurt until it's smooth, and mix it through the spinach.

When the spinach goes on the table, give everyone their own lime wedge to squeeze over the top.

Chakanbir

Remove from the refrigerator; if it's gotten too juicy overnight, pour some of the juice off. (You do want some of the juice remaining as dressing.)

Sprinkle 1-2 tsp of the chaat masala or chakanbir dry tari mix over it, stir through, and serve. If you have either fresh mint or fresh cilantro, chopping a few leaves and sprinkling over the top is good.

Barati

About 8-10 minutes before serving time, start heating up a nonstick griddle and melt your ghee in a separate container (a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave is handy. Yeah it's not traditional. By this point in the process, I can never be arsed to care.)

Once it's hot, about 5 minutes before serving, mist it lightly with oil and cook your baratis. You can peek under the edge carefully, but don't flip them until the first side is golden brown -- once you move them, they stop turning golden.

Put a piece of aluminum foil in the center of a folded-over kitchen towel and keep the kitchen towel over your catching-plate of baratis. The aluminum foil helps with catching the heat and the kitchen towel makes it look all rustic so Ma would still approve of the presentation. (Just call me the sneaky ninja food masquerade dude! ...or something!)

By the way, if your baratis will fit into one of those warm-tortilla-holding containers, those work great too.

Once they hit the table, you can brush 'em with the melted butter or ghee as you serve 'em. (Hey, this is all about pulling out the stops -- you think I cook like this every day?)

Lemon rice

 Take the rice out of the rice cooker and spread it on a serving tray that allows you some stirring room.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp peanut or high-heat oil over medium high heat. Fry the mustard seeds, the fennel seeds, and any dry chiles for a minute or so -- be prepared for splatters. Pull the oil off the heat and drizzle over the rice, then stir through.

Drizzle the lemon juice over the rice and stir it through next.

(Options:) Scatter cilantro and pistachios over the top. Serve with lemon slices around the edges of the serving tray.

After it's all on the table...

Tear off bits of bread to scoop food up with. Use the lemon rice to balance out the heat of the taris. (If you've got any yogurt and mango left, put those in a blender with some ice and make a nice soothing lassi to go with it too.)

After everyone's stuffed themselves, drag yourself to your feet and make pathetic puppy eyes about how tired you are after all that cooking and see if you can guilt anyone else into washing the dishes for you. :3

Note: this technique works better on Cloud, Marlene, and Loz than the others. Tifa's got sympathy but she's also too aware of how many times she's been stuck with the cooking and the dishes herself, and the shrimp's convinced my life's entire focus is tormenting him personally, no matter what it is I'm doing at the time. It's like no one's ever explained to him that tormenting shrimps is a big brother's moral obligation or something. :3

 

Created by Mom! ♥♥♥♥♥

Reproduced by Zack Fair, Sneaky Ninja Master Chef of Killer Death Food! (TM)(R)(C)

 

 

 


Redactor's rambling:

Joudama and I have this tendency to throw each other's brains curve balls. I sic plotbunnies on her and she sics foodbunnies on me -- see also materia ice. We've been doing it to each other again - I asked her for a birthday ficlet that turned out to be a fic she was already working on, and the fic she gave me (in the other last-year's-birthday-prompt-inspired universe) set my brain off on this. And I have reasons for every single cooking method and spice combination in here.

Jou said she thought of Gongagan cooking as Indian cooking for intricate reasons involving the structural similarities between the word 'Gongaga' and several Indian place-names and alternative terms for the Ganges River, as well as Zack's coloring and its resemblance to Aishwarya Rai. Of course, India's a biiiiiig place with a looooooot of regional cooking in it!

So I built the specifics of Gongagan cuisine off of the three concepts of "tropical, southern jungle weather -- and the associated plant life and spices", "the cultural mixing-bowl of a small coastal port near several islands, including another country that was on-and-off-at-war with the other continent for quite some time," and "Jou described the pumpkin-chickpea recipe as beingtake-your-head-off spicy for an unprepared blonde <strike>Norse</strike> Nibelheim boy."

I chose cooking trends from the southwestern coast of India -- specifically the tropical spice-growing region of Kerala and the port city of Goa -- because of their climate and cultural similarities to the "tropical seaport with several different cultures blending in a very small pot over the course of centuries" concept of Gongaga.

Plus, if you know anything about vindaloo and how legendarily spicy that is? That's Goan cooking all the way. :D They took dried red chiles and vinegar from the Portuguese and enthusiastically turned them into taste-bud napalm. Vindaloo is usually done with pork, but there are also beef vindaloos and even vegetable vindaloos. (Meet the base of the pumpkin tari.)

Pumpkin tari: Goan vindaloo and Keralan tarkari flavors, Keralan curry methodology, and "imported" flavor adjustments
Instead of the classical vindaloo "soak your red peppers in vinegar, grind them all into a paste, and simmer it down until it's concentrated flaming death on a spoon!" approach, though, I wanted to make the cooking method something that people could actually adjust to be survivable for their personal spice tolerance. So for the Cloud-killing pumpkin tari, I kept the vinegar and chile flavors, made the cooking method heat-adjustable, and let the ambitious augment the final product with sambal or sriracha to taste (both of which have a LOT structurally in common with vindaloo but provide a slightly different flavor twist in that the chiles haven't been cooked with the other ingredients for as long as they would in a classic vindaloo). I picked sambal and sriracha for the particular hot sauce recommendations because of the family base they share across Southeast Asia, connecting Indian vindaloo to Chinese chili-garlic paste along a Southeast Asian trade continuum -- I'd imagine southern Wutai cooking would have carried into Gongaga much the same way.

Chicken tiki tone: Xacuti base, tikka masala methodology, Keralan and Goan flavor adjustments

Jou mentioned that she was thinking of chicken tikka masala for her chicken dish; again, because I was looking for the tropical-coastal flavor twist, I combined tikka cooking concepts with Goan xacuti and balanced the heat with Keralan tart-and-tropical flavors with a fragrant overtone. Xacuti is, like vindaloo, designed to be up there on the spice scale, but Jou had described chicken tiki tone as a bit more merciful than the pumpkin tari -- or at least Loz and Marlene weren't having the same reactions that Cloud had! So I moderated the heat a bit, and brought out the spice fragrances more, over a very Keralan base of tart-fruity tamarind and rich-creamy coconut milk with a few drops of rosewater for the "traveler's" influence. Rose water in Indian food can generally be traced north to Iran through the Muslim communities, and there's an active Muslim group in Goa -- along with equally active Christian (vindaloo) and Hindu communities.

Spinach tari: Saag paneer with a twist

Spinach tari started out as saag paneer, but of course I couldn't leave it at that. Because you can use citric acid to make paneer, and because there's a bit of tartness in plain yogurt, and because citrus goes nicely with spinach, and because artichokes have a bit of a lemony twist to them (and I think artichokes are God's gift to the vegetable kingdom), I added artichokes and lime to the basic recipe, along with the typical Keralan-coastwards shift in spice accents. (You could do it with lemon too, but I wanted to focus the lemon attention on the rice.)

In addition, I wanted to pull something from the European flavor base into one of the Gongagan recipes, because the reactor can't be the only thing the Shinra left in Gongaga. There have to have been some reactor technicians who would have had about Cloud's reaction to the usual spice level, and they'd have been used to the concept of vinaigrettes and lemons and artichokes with spinach in dips and so on. So the artichokes are the fusion-cooking note from Midgar's continent.

Chakanbir: The non-yogurt version of Indian salads

When you go through the Indian languages, most of them have some variation on this type of salad -- chacumbar, kechumber, koshumbir, and so forth. (When you take this idea, add yogurt, and don't add vinegar because it would curdle the yogurt, you get something in the pachadi or raita family.) In Japan, they do it with daikon, carrot, and rice vinegar and call it namasu; in Thailand they do it with cucumber and onions and sweetened rice vinegar; in India they do it with a little bit of everything except lettuce, and "chaat masala" is a spicy-sweet-sour spice blend that goes into a lot of things.

For the fruit and veg themselves, I recommended jicama and mango for the Keralan tropical accent, but you'll also see this in Goa with tomatoes and cucumbers (a throwback to Israeli, Lebanese, and Iranian salads through the Jews and Muslims)... right along with daikon and whatever else was handy in the market that day.

Barati: Indian bread mashup

There are dozens of kinds of griddle breads and oven breads in India: chapati, baati, roti, rotla, pulka, paratha/parantha/prata/partha/porotta (in Kerala), bhatura, poori, dhosa, naan, lucchi, kulcha, thepla, and so on and so on and so on.

I wanted to get a bit of leavening into it to make it lighter than a typical "flour and water=tortilla" bread, but I don't have the patience to muck with yeast breads on an ordinary day, let alone a cooking-like-mad day. So I took a page from Japanese okonomiyaki (and pancake) theory and added a bit of baking powder and white flour to the mix (to create more gluten than a pure whole-wheat paratha would have, but leaving most of the whole wheat flour in place both for the health benefits and for the authenticity). As is probably evident from the number of variations on the word "paratha," Indians do a LOT of different things with these, so I left the door open for some experimenting. Sometimes they spice them fairly heavily; given the number of spices already going in the other dishes, I thought it was more merciful to suggest milder options.

(whew) Like Zack, I'm worn out! I've got some pictures that I'll come back and post later -- right now I want to eat my leftovers for lunch (only three hours late; it took longer than I thought to write all this up...)

(ETA a week later: yep, pictures posted, and yep, I had leftovers for a week! I've made more since too, because they're pretty tasty.)

 

Date: 2012-04-13 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Stop hack the program!!!

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