Food - Sub Categories

Sambar Recipe ( सांबर )

Turned out great. Quantity overshot a lot, did not need that much!

Probably cooked around 16 cups (4 quarts in a 5-qt pot), needed only around 6-10 cups of sambar.

This was very easy to cook using prepared sambar powder. Only thing is that it needs a number of ingredients.
Sambar is great in that one can add any vegetables. For me, drumsticks are a must. For fun and because I like the texture, I also added Woodear mushrooms from the local Korean shop!
Serve sambar with rice or dosa or idli.

The tricky thing here is how much hot red chilli to add. Chillies or chilli powder can't be added as salt can, it requires cooking, so difficult to adjust it while cooking. I added 4 chillies, 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder, along with the 2 tablespoons of sambar powder (which also has the chilli spices), and it turned out a bit on the hot/spicy side. So for the recipe below, I removed the 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, though if you like things hot, feel free to add it.


Time: 60-90 minutes
Serves: 10-16 (makes around 4 quarts or 16 cups)

Toor dal - 1/3 cup
Masoor dal - 1/3 cup
Wash dals, soak in cold water for around 30 minutes.
Then add 3-5 cups water as needed, boil it, lower to simmer and cook until they almost dissolve. No need to mash it, just fine with boiling. Takes around 30-40 minutes.

Tamarind - soak 1-2 tablespoons in 3/4 cup warm water for 30 minutes then filter it out to get tamarind juice. Or use 1 tablespoon tamarind paste and add it while cooking.

In parallel, cook the sambar. Some recipes call for just boiling all the vegetables with the spices, while some saute vegetables and then proceed to boiling. I prefer the latter, though I'm told it probably makes no difference in the final taste.

Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Cumin Seeds - 2 teaspoons
Curry Leaves (kadi patta) - 10-12
Dry red whole chillies - 3-5
Oil - 2-4 tablespoons

Xi'an Famous Foods

Xian Foods - Pictures and details on the Albums - Flushing's Chinatown.

Xi'an Famous Foods is worth the long trek down to Flushing, Queens. And their best items travel well too - the cumin lamb burgers - though be aware that the appetizing, hot, spicy smell of the food pervades the subway, the bus, and car, so make sure it is wrapped well!

Their original location is in Flushing, Queens, New York.
And now they have multiple locations in the city too - mostly downtown, in and around Chinatown: 67 Bayard St is one location. All the locations are quite small, with very little seating. And it can go from empty to crowded in seconds. Think standard NYC hole-in-the wall type of place, with great food.

[2012 Update] So the Bayard St location is good to go to if pressed for time, since going to Flushing takes the whole afternoon out. But - it seems to me that Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles has far less lamb in the NYC location than at the Flushing location! Next time around, I plan to get the Spicy Cumin Lamb (Plate) which is all lamb, and a side dish of noodles (they don't have rice on the menu).
The Lamb Cumin Burgers are outstanding in both locations. If you take them home, sprinkle some lime juice on them, to kick up an already excellent dish another notch!

After another trip to Flushing, can confirm that food is better there. In addition to the small underground Golden Mall stall, they have full restaurant two blocks away at 41-10 Main St. They label it as a chic version of their original restaurants and have renamed it to biang!. It does look really nice. If walking from the Train 7 Flushing station on Main St, 41-10 is around 3-5 blocks down, and 41-28 Golden Mall location is another 2-3 blocks down.

Restaurants & Food Markets - Montréal

List of all my favorite restaurants and food markets in Montreal. Some of these are described in more detail in the links. Photos are available in the Montreal Photo Gallery.

A map showing locations of all these restaurants is in the Montreal Restaurants Map posting.

Schwartz's Jewish Deli
Street View Schwartz's Deli 3895 St-Laurent Blvd, 514-842-4813.
Food: 4 stars/4 Value: 4 stars/4
Excellent smoked meat sandwiches -- spicy, tender, succulent meat that falls apart easily with the touch of a fork... accompanied with a black cherry soda or hot tea, it is truly an unique experience. Take a seat at the bar-stool at the deli counter, and enjoy the food amidst the hustle and bustle. More on Schwartz's
Le Petit Alep
Street View 191 Jean-Talon East, 514-270-9361.
Food: 4 stars/4 Value: 3 stars/4
Syrian/Armenian food. Great food and excellent ambiance - the best dish is Ciche Kebab Terbialy which is filet-mignon with a special spicy sauce. Open Tuesday through Saturday. Can get crowded during lunch. Their weekday lunch specials are also excellent. Wine and Coffee available. More on Le Petit Alep
Marché Jean-Talon
7070 Henri-Julien St., south of Jean-Talon St., near the metro stop for Jean-Talon.
Food: 4 stars/4 Value: 4 stars/4
Marché Jean-Talon - Inside Jean-Talon Market bustles with activity in summer certainly and winter too. It is truly a fantastic market - all fresh vegetables, fruits you need, as well as bakeries, food stalls (bison sausage anyone), maybe the best calamari you can have (at Aqua Mare). And cheese too - inside the market, as well as at La Fromagerie Hamel close by at 202 Jean-Talon St. East. On your first day at Montreal, get down here, get yourself a supply of fruits, continue to replenish every few days. And then to eat you have crepes, fish, pastries, cheeses, and so on. Just outside the market is Marché des saveurs du Québec selling local products, at 280 Place du marché du nord, on a side street.


Food Rating: 4 stars/4 Value Rating: 3 stars/4

2077 Ste-Catherine W, 514-937-0156. On Ste-Catherine, just west of Rue du Fort.

This Turkish restaurant has a unique window display of the cooks making lavash - basically huge chappatis/tortillas.

The appetizers - Mezze platters - are good enough for a meal, many choices to pick from, and come with a freshly made lavash bread. The appetizers include Baba Ghannouj - charbroiled eggplant puree with pomegranate paste and roasted vegetables, Hummus - chickpeas puree with tahini, lemon, garlic, olive oil, Muhammara d'Alep - pomegranate paste with mixture of walnuts, pine nuts, pepper.

The borek - Turkish feuillette - is excellent. These are flaky phyllo dough pastries filled with feta and spinach or beef and potatoes along with a splash of hot spice - really good. The spinach and feta borek is a great accompaniment to main dishes like Manti, or to a sampling of the mezzes. With a main dish, you can request an half-order of borek so you have chance of finishing it all. 2015 update: They heard me! Now the borek is half-size - a single large square instead of two, so it is now the perfect accompaniment to Manti. 2015 Manti and Borek picture.

Le Petit Alep

Food Rating: 4 stars/4 Value Rating: 3 stars/4

Street View 191 Jean-Talon Street East in Montreal - walk West towards St-Laurent from the Jean-Talon metro station. Phone: +1-514-270-9361.
Open Tue-Sat for lunch and dinner.

2013: Le Petit Alep Official Website is now online with details and the whole menu.

Great food and excellent ambiance in the converted garage that houses this cafe.

Syrian/Armenian food.
Filet-mignon with a special spicy sauce - Chiche Kebab Terbialy. Absolutely the best, this is always a safe choice.
Pureed eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon - Métabal.
Chicken in tahini - Poulet Trator.
Grilled Pita sandwich - Pitas grillés poulet. Chicken, mayo, garlic, with a nice kick - hint of spicy red-pepper?

For pictures, including a picture of the menu, visit the travel gallery Le Petit Alep in the Montreal album section.

The terbialy sauce is a nice, medium-to-hot spicy sauce,
and it makes the difference, best on the beef kababs (medium-rare), but also available with shrimp.

And then there are the weekday daily lunch specials with great soups -- just remember to get there during lunch Tuesday through Friday.
Kebbe Labanie (Kibbe Lebanese) - large meatballs in yogurt, garlic, mint sauce.
As they describe it: "boulettes de bœuf, blé concassé, noix, souce yogourt, ail, menthe".
Filet de sole Amandine
Soupe Harira - tomatoes, beef, fennel, cardamom - nice spicy soup.

Montreal Restaurants Map

The Restaurants & Food Markets - Montréal posting describes all these restaurants.

Google Earth users may be interested in the KML File for these locations.
Microsoft Live Search Maps is also a good way to view the KML file data.
If the map does not display below, this link may work: Google Maps - My Maps - Montreal Restaurants

Café Tortoni

Café Tortoni - Inside Café Tortoni at Av. de Mayo 825 is well written about on the web, they have absolutely amazing chocolate. They serve churros too, but frankly, the churros are not as good as they are in México and are cold and more salty than sweet. On the back of the menu they claim churro is a national pastry - but this was the only place in Buenos Aires that I found serving it.

The chocolate drink is very delicious, thick, feels like it is just melted chocolate with some magical transformation so that there is no watery taste, but is still flowing liquid. This comes with a small pot of hot milk, and of course, three packets of sugar - everywhere in Buenos Aires, sugar is always available. In this case, skip the sugar, the chocolate is great just as is, and if needed, dilute it with the hot milk. This is definitely something not to be missed if visiting Buenos Aires. And then alternate between dunking the churro in the chocolate, and drinking the chocolate. This is good living!

While the cholocate is excellent, this place also has a lot of history, it has been open since 1858, visit the Café Tortoni web site for more info. The downside is that it is now on every tourists itinerary so there is a line to get in in the evening but it was never full in mid- to late-afternoon.

Eating - Buenos Aires

The Buenos Aires Photo Album pages include some restaurant and food photos.

Buenos Aires has its unique food style - anything you want as long as it is some cut of beef, and grilled. Cut of beef may be a restrictive definition, you can get any body part of cow grilled! The range and taste is not as good as one might find in New York, Montreal, or Chicago, so prepare accordingly. There was a period between 2002 and 2007 when prices in US$ were quite good, but inflation is very high in Argentina and by 2008, the mid-range restaurants would range around US$15 to US$20 (not including wine) for lunch and higher for dinner. This type of food would be a minimum for good eating as far as tourists may be concerned. And just like Europe, no restaurant serves plain water for free so have to order water for around US$2-3 per bottle.

These external links are great guides to refer to:
Guía de Restaurantes de Buenos Aires which seems to be a popular local site, with many customer comments. Even if you don't understand Spanish, they have great summaries that rate the food, the service, and provide an indication of the cost of one meal (without drinks).
Asado Argentina » Beef has pictures, explanations of different cuts of meat. Given the amount of beef you might eat in Buenos Aires, this is a good site to read about what you may be eating!

Food: Yes, grilled food is only thing they eat here in Buenos Aires! Seriously, the beef at any parrilla is excellent, Bife de lomo or bife de chorizo were good at all price points - even at under US$15. They do have better beef down in Argenttina, grass-fed cattle make better beef than US grain-fed cattle! French Fries are common side dish, but if you need ketchup, must ask for it, it is not normally served here.

Daily Groceries

Grocery shopping for this creature of habit.

My weekly grocery bag, here are all the things that I usually get:

Good Stuff

  • Brown Cow non-fat plain yogurt.
    This brand is the best - perfect amount of sourness, right consistency, great taste. And for once-in-while binging, nothing beats the Cream-On-Top variety. I stick to the plain varieties, no need to indulge in the sweetened or fruit flavored versions.
    The non-fat plain yogurt is on my daily menu. Here's a link to Brown Cow website. This brand is available in the local Whole Foods Market.
  • Zeppy's Bagels.
    They come from a bakery called Zeppy's Baigel Bakery, and the bagels are sold in a few local stores, for example, in the local Whole Foods Market. The nice thing about these bagels is the right amount of chewiness - not too hard, and a great taste - unlike the totally bland, tasteless bagels served at many local stores. This is very popular in the local store, so many times there are no Zeppy's Bagels left late in the evening.

Guilty Pleasures

  • Butter-Rum muffins from the local FoodMaster.
    Don't even ask how many calories for each muffin, half-a-muffin is probably the right serving for once every two days! Having tried so many muffins from so many local bakeries, this was a incredible, serendipitous find - local grocery chain with heavenly muffins! These are made fresh daily, and invariably, by late evenings sometimes even by afternoon, the butter-rum muffins are all gone, so have to get them early. The FoodMaster also increased the cost of these muffins 40%, and made them slightly smaller in 2006! Other types of muffins are still the old price, so I suspect they have caught on to having made a hit with these butter-rum muffins.
  • Banana-Nut Bread, from the local Stop&Shop
    Another find that is unexpected - local grocery chain, with pretty good banana-nut bread.

Rajma, Rice, and bibaDa

This happens to be a Punjabi dish, and my recollection of eating this in Maharashtra and Gujarat is in a combination of Rajma, Rice, and bibaDa.

bibaDa (बिबड़) is a Jowar pappad (ज्वारी, sorghum pappad) - certainly can't get it anywhere in the US, nor it is easily available in India, have to travel to interior towns in Maharashtra to find someone who even knows about this. Like pappads, it is a crispy snack, can be baked or fried. I prefer the baked variety - put this in a toaster oven, watch it very carefully, one or two seconds more in the toaster oven, and it will burn completely to black. Cooking time in a toaster oven is around 30-60 seconds - keeping a watch all the time. It has a smoky, crispy taste, and closer to a tortilla chip than to the more popular chickpea pappads.

Rajma (राजमा) is kidney beans - an amazing store house of good nutrients - high soluble fiber, fat-free high quality proteins, minerals, and lots more as a search on the web reveals, and in the curry dish below, with rice and bidaDa, it tastes great too!

Rajma (राजमा) Curry

Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4-6

Red kidney beans soaked overnight - 2 cups
Onions, finely chopped - 1-2 large
Tomatoes - 1-2 large, chopped
Ginger and Garlic - 1 tablespoon each, finely chopped
Cumin seeds - 1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder - as needed
Coriander Powder - 1 teaspoon
Cumin Powder - 1 tablespoon
Garam Masala - 1 tablespoon
Oil - 3 tablespoons
salt to taste
finely chopped coriander leaves for garnishing
5-7 cups water