A Tale of two chillies

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Shaded from both the sunlight and the moon’s glow by leafy branches, the occupied tables scattered outside the Nagaland Kitchen in Dilli Haat are invariably laden with two items: the ubiquitous momos and an innocuous reddish-brown curry served with a bowl of steamed rice. Despite its watery appearance, the dish, Pork with Raja Mircha, a chilly native to the Northeast, is as fiery as the belly of a dragon, which is no surprise given that the raja mircha, known as bhut jolokia in Assamese, is one of the spiciest chillies in the world. People take a bite, gasp, chew, gasp some more, and then keep eating, usually washed down with copious amounts of fruit beer.

It was from these government sanctioned surroundings, that the cult of the raja mircha spread, first to Northeastern eateries such as Nagaland’s Kitchen and Rosaang Cafe, and then appearing in supporting roles at cafes such as Cafe Lota, ranging from traditional curries and roasts to contrivances such as Bhut Jolokia Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks at Oh My God Cafe, Delhi. And now after a finger-licking Raja Mircha Pork appeared on the menu of Delhi’s Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, the first instance of it in an establishment restaurant. With this, the raja mircha has arrived, and it’s been a long time coming.

But first, we have got to thank the Portuguese. Apart from their contributions to the fields of cartography and generally discovering the world, the nation of navigators disseminated a cornucopia of crops across the globe, for example introducing chillies to India at the then Portuguese colony of Goa in the 15th century. After spicing up the beach state, the piquant pod scattered its seeds across the length and breadth of the country, growing and diversifying into a sort of capsaicin kaleidoscope over the centuries, including varieties like the bhut jolokia, and became an integral part of our cuisine, nay, diet.

Meanwhile, a far more recent conquest has been by the piri piri or peri peri, the African bird’s eye chilli, which was brought to the dark continent from South America by, you guessed it, the Portuguese. Like the bhut jolokia in the Northeast, the peri peri became essential to various African cuisines, including that of South Africa. So when South African-based Portuguese restaurant brand Nando’s, famed for their Peri Peri Chicken, opened shop in India a few years ago, it was little surprise that peri peri was suddenly en vogue, graduating to a staple Continental seasoning once Indians found it suitably hot.

Smoke House Deli was one of the first restaurants to introduce peri peri in their menus in Delhi and Mumbai by rubbing it on grilled chicken and preceding Nando’s by three years. Today, a peri peri chicken or white fish is almost de rigueur on any decent European menu.

According to Smoke House Deli Brand Chef Shamsul Wahid, peri peri works because it has just the right balance. “It’s not as intense as a bhut jolokia nor as mild as a jalapeno, it’s somewhere in the middle. It also combines well with garlic and olive oil, which makes for a great marinade. That being said, it needs room to play so it has to be the star ingredient of a dish, too many other elements will spoil the balance,” he says. What makes it most attractive to chefs though is its consistency. “Even buying local chillies is a bit of a gamble because their heat levels vary greatly, while the peri peri is uniform in its intensity, ensuring that dishes maintain their consistency, something vital to restaurants,” says Wahid, “Also, I think people just really like the name.”

From a Street Food to an Exotic Dish: The Interesting Tale of Sushi

A night out at the most exquisite fine dining restaurants in the city, we are always compelled to order a portion of sushi. With a multitude of options available, one or the other kind always manages to occupy a place on the table. These rice rolls are not only healthy; they are scrumptious and addictive too. The popularity stems from the fact that it is a simple dish with raw seafood and rice, yet manages to attract so much attention.

sushi 620x350Photo Credit: The Leela Mumbai

The inception

 

Did you know that sushi was first created with a purpose to keep meat fresh in the absence of refrigeration? By keeping raw fish folded in rice, its freshness could be preserved for over months. This was the main purpose when sushi was invented in Southeast Asia back in the second century A.D. It is hard to believe that preservation of seafood was the main aim of this rather exotic dish. By allowing the fish to ferment in rice over a period of time, it was made edible. The rice was then thrown away, while the fish was eaten. Just like all things ancient, the origin of sushi is not free of old wives tales and folklore.

How did sushi get its name? Tracing its trajectory is as fascinating as the name sushi itself is. It is believed that the word sushi literally means ‘it is sour’ which is used to describe the ancient process of making sushi,with raw seafood rolled into rice along with salt for facilitating the fermentation process.

Gradually, the preservation method was discovered in China and Japan, where Japan went a step further. Today, Japan has the most exciting night life and back then, there were significant transformations taking place. With Edo as the Capital of Japan, entrepreneurs developed quicker ways to prepare the sushi. Vinegar aided the process. The Japanese began eating the rice along with the fish. It was Matsumoto Yoshiichi of Tokyo who began to add vinegar in his sushi to sell it. This allowed the customers to eat it immediately rather than waiting for the process of fermentation to start. This why the sushi kitchen is called tsuke-ba or “pickling place.” The process of fermenting the rice releases acid that allow the fish to last longer.

The evolution

Hanaya Yohei is known to be responsible for the shift in the way sushi was originally presented and prepared. Before him, in the 1820’s, chefs used raw fish in their sushi, known as ‘Edo-style’ sushi. This is the style you will find in most sushi restaurants. Then, Yohei began a method where by rather than wrapping the fish in rice, he began to place the fish on top of the roll and that is exactly the way we eat Japanese sushi today. It is also commonly referred to as ‘nigiri sushi’. At his time, it was a fast food available on the streets. He set up his stall on the banks of the Sumida river, this meant that sushi could be prepared within minutes rather than hours or days. You could be on the go and fill yourself with a box of freshly prepared sushi. It was slowly being favored and is now one of the most widely ordered dishes.

sushi 620x350

Photo Credit: Istock

How did it make its way into fine dining restaurants?

The aftermath of the World War 2 and a massive earthquake in Tokyo in the 1920s changed the scenario in Japan. Land prices decreased significantly. You would no longer get sushi on your casual stroll across the street. It shifted to fine dining restaurants that desired more formal clothing and few more hours of your time. The earthquake also displaced numerous chefs to set up their bases across the country, increasing the popularity of sushi.

 

Transcending geographical boundaries for the art that sushi making has become, the west slowly adapted the artistry. The booming post-war economy could support mass refrigerators, better transportation of seafood and fine dining restaurants that allowed the sushi industry to thrive.
Today, Japan’s iconic street food, has become a sophisticated and unique dish globally. Upscale sushi restaurants are creating fusion forms, inventing and innovating at a rapid rate to meet customer needs.

sushi

Photo Credit: Istock

Chefs across the world attempted to embrace the sushi culture. With western influence, cut rolls that have been wrapped in seaweed or soy paper have become extremely popular. Vegetarians too have no reason to complain with toppings and fillings like mushrooms, cucumbers, avocado and asparagus.

 

The Japananse pay a lot of attention to the presentation of food. The presentation is almost as important as the taste itself and that’s what makes sushi an art and an experience. Owing to the mysterious, yet elusive background of sushi,  Yohei’s contribution is credible and unforgettable. In the absence of advancement of technology, his foresightedness is believed to have transformed the world of sushi. We can now state with conviction that sushi is here to stay.

A Tale Of Two DWTS Weddings: Julianne Hough Vs. Peta Murgatroyd

They may compete on the dance floor but clearly the competition doesn’t stop there. Over the weekend, Dancing With The Stars hunk Maksim Chmerkovskiy married the beautiful Peta Murgatroyd at a breathtaking castle out on Long Island. Unfortunately, dancing co-star Julianne Hough didn’t RSVP “attending” because she was a little busy getting married to Brooks Laich, Canadian ice hockey player. Let’s take a walk down the aisle and decide who wins the Mirrorball Trophy this round.

Location! Location! Location!

Max and Peta opted for a fairytale wedding and tied the knot at the beautiful Oheka Castle. Julianne and hubby Brooks decided to keep it nice and intimate out in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Verdict: Max and Peta’s Disney movie wedding wins in our book! Because you can never go wrong with a castle.

The Dress

The Dress

Julianne wore a custom Marchesa gown at the altar while Peta WOWed guests with her off-the-shoulder, multi-tiered Karen Sabag Couture ball gown.

Verdict: Custom Marchesa for the win here!

The Groom

The Groom

Brooks decided to leave his gear at home and went with a classic black and white tuxedo. Maks thought the bride shouldn’t be the only one wearing white at this party and went with a slimming white tux.

Verdict: Both men looked so dapper but we love a traditionalist – Brooks!

Squad vs. Squad

Julianna

Julianne’s squad pre-gamed with the couple in Lake Couer d’Alene, while Peta and Maks threw a pool after-bash. Needless to say, both events made some waves.

Verdict: Both bashes required inflatable swans, but lakes are gross. Maks and Peta!

The Winners

The Kiss

The final score?! It’s a tie! Both brides looked as gorgeous as ever and did their big days their own way.

Because when it comes to weddings, it’s never a competition!