Weird Kitchen Science

IMG_2187.JPGSome old friends of mine were recently in town and came over to make dinner. N, whose family is from Andhra, does lots of cooking stuff differently from me, and it was fascinating to hear her talk about it. We (okay, she; the other two of us mostly chopped and helpfully tasted) made three dishes. One: a South Indian-style daal with veggies in it. (I’ve long plopped frozen spinach in my paruppu, but tomatoes for some reason never occurred to me.) Two: chana with mushrooms from a recipe that we found on the Interwebs… And three: the piece de meat resistance, lamb curry.

We ate and drank and made merry and curry. It was fun, and I learned a lot from watching N. She has a deft hand with spices, and the curry aged well, too. So well, in fact, that I was moved to try some experiments. A few mornings later, I was eating breakfast, and I was looking at my hot buttered challah toast (from the criminally delicious Zingerman‘s). It looked lonely and sad and curry-less, and I thought, you know what would go really well with that? The gravy from the lamb curry, thickened from having been in the fridge. Curry and toast is old hat for some people, but this time, because I was too lazy to heat it up, the lamb kulambu was almost the consistency of jam.

I’ve blogged here before about cooking and food and fusion dishes encountered on my travels… but the fact is, some of the most creative fusion I’ve eaten has been in my own kitchen, as the result of leftovers, laziness and not having anyone else around at that moment to exclaim “Chee!” at my idea. There is considerable serendipity (forgive me, Vivek said I just had to use that word) in sloth. Challah and curry is seriously good. The eggy crustiness of the toasted bread stands up well to cold curry, particularly thick meat gravy. It’s even better with lamb than with chicken. And now that I’ve done it once, I would eat it on purpose, not just out of desperation.

A few days later, I ate a bagel with leftover paruppu on it for lunch. (Pictured above.) It was what I had on hand. I was in a rush. And surprise: it was tasty. I told a number of people with more… conventional preferences, and they were a little grossed out. But it was delicious, filling, and even healthy. (Better than a bagel and cream cheese, at least.)

Made anything similar? Tell, so I can try it! I won’t judge, regardless of whether you spike your milk with Sriracha, put Bru in your hot chocolate, slather your laddoos with maple syrup, or put Cheerios in your spicy snack mix. Really. What can I say? Years ago, I accidentally discovered that a banana that had fallen into the shrimp curry puddle at the bottom of my pittu lunch plate was outright delicious. I’ve been improvising ever since.

Recently: Abhi’s post on Deep prepackaged foods

58 thoughts on “Weird Kitchen Science

  1. I haven’t with avakaya, but I bet that would taste yummy too. I am using achari-mango; something like pickle mango puree :)

  2. I think this is my favorite thread by FAR. I’ve been known to eat odd food combinations :)

    1) waffles with hotsauce or avakaya and peanut butter!

    2) rasam and plain cheerios with walnuts. Super healthy, and delicious if you’re odd like me and hate having sweet things for breakfast.

    3) Not going to lie, many of the combinations mentioned on this thread I have tried at some point and LOVED. You’re not alone. I don’t know why everyone knocks these unconventional” ideas.

    I can’t wait to hear more!

  3. Oh wow I didn’t even see Prasad’s comment about avakaya and peanut butter! Nice, good to someone else who likes that combination!!

  4. I don’t eat either of those things. :) I have a very strong preference for sweets being consumed at breakfast, or after something savory. I don’t like hot and sweet anything. I keep the two separate. i agree in some circumstances – in india, my aunts would always put the piece of mango on the plate that i had just finished eating the main meal off of – i was disgusted by this mingling of sambar/pulusu and mango. i still have to pre-empt the mango serving to avoid this. my mother sometimes eats her upma with raw sugar, which still freaks me out.

  5. vv – well, although i don’t condone this mixing, i recommend a milder sambar (like murungakkai, but e.g. not mullangi).

  6. Anyone try honey nut cheerios with dahi? Not the sweetened , fruit on the bottom crap that you get at the supermarket, and definetly not the gelinated crap. Try the authentic, sour dahi made using the bacteria. The sour and the sweet blend together.

    Also, I make bread in a bread machine, and I put all the regular Indian spices in there. Garam Masala, fresh ground pepper, red chili powder, turmeric, Jira, Dhania…. the whole shebang. This bread makes a killer panini with sharp cheddar cheese. Next time, instead of putting the spices and butter seperately, I am going to fry the spices in the butter, and make a tadka out of it. Tadka bread. It’s going to be awesome!

  7. I don’t want sugar in my hot sauce

    Not discounting your personal experience, but the science says otherwise. According to the science, opposite tastes enhance each other. That’s why you have certain combinations that are present in all cusines. The thing is that the way human brain works is that it reacts to sudden changes in the environment stronger than gradual changes. That’s why you sweat after you come out of the cold shower, or feel the adrenalin rush in a roller coaster. Your brain senses the sudden change in temperature/elevation and goes “Emergency! Emergency!” The same goes for taste too. When you add a little bit of sugar to something hot, the sugar tickles your taste buds and sends a “sweet” signal to your brain, then the spices start tickling your nerves, and a nano second later, the brain starts getting these “hot” signals. So, the brain goes from slightly sweet, to hot and it thinks, this is fucking hot.

    The same thing happens witl salt-savory combinations. That’s why salt is added sparingly to enhance almost all dishes

    Again, not trying to discount anybody’s personal taste. Everyone’s taste buds are different, everyone’s brains are wired differently. so everyone tastes food differrently. It could be one persons sweet taste buds are extra sensitive, so the little bit of sugar tends to overwhelm the taste of the hot sauce. Same for salt, some people take less salt, some take more; It’s a matter of taste. it’s the same thing with sugar in hot sauces.

    However, as a general rule, sugar will enhance any hot dish. The amount of sugar that is most effective is a matter of taste