Gluten-free Besan Cheela (Savoury Pancakes with Chickpea Flour & Spices)

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Since last few days, S & I have been eating out a lot, mostly junk and calorie rich stuff because let’s just admit that best things in life are always fattening 😀 But as much as we love eating out, we also ensure that we eat clean most of the time. So I keep coming back to wholesome nutritious food and this New Year, I made a resolution to cut out processed food from my life and embrace real food.

The cheelas/ pancakes I made for lunch today were delightfully tasty and very healthy too. Chickpea flour, also known as besan/ gram flour, is gluten free. It is highly nutritious as it’s packed with protein, iron and fiber. For a guilt free indulgence, chickpea flour is definitely one of the best options and in India we use it to cook both savoury and sweet dishes.

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I will share healthy and tasty recipes from time to time. For now, note down the ingredients and method of making besan cheelas.

Ingredients (for 4-5 pancakes):

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 2-3 green chilies, finely chopped (depending on your heat tolerance)
  • 1 inch ginger piece, grated
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
  • For the batter:
  • 2 cups chickpea flour
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (or any white oil would do)
  • Water to make a runny batter
  • Following spices to be added:
  • 1 tsp carom seeds/ ajwain
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds/ jeera
  • ½ tsp asafetida/ heeng
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilly powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of sugar

Method:

In a large bowl, take 2 cups of chickpea flour. Add in all the spices listed above. Mix well with a balloon whisk. Now throw in all the veggies into the bowl before adding water.

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This is done so that the flour absorbs all the moisture from the veggies, making it easy for us to understand the amount of water needed for the batter. Now slowly add water, until you get a runny batter. Mix well. Keep aside for 15-20 minutes.

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Heat oil in a tawa/ griddle. Pour some batter in the center of the griddle and spread evenly with a spatula or the back of a large spoon. Make sure that the pancake is not very thick. Let it cook for at least a minute or until you see the sides becoming brown and bubbles forming on top.

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Now drizzle some oil on the top and flip the pancake over. Drizzle oil on the sides and let it again cook for another 2 minutes. Keep flipping from time to time for a crispy finish.

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Serve hot with green chutney/ ketchup or some yogurt for a simple and nourishing meal 🙂

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Welcoming the Chinese New Year at Absolute Thai Hot Pot, Mid Valley, KL

Gong Xi Fa Cai 🙂 

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Chinese New Year is undoubtedly the most important festival for the Chinese community. KL simply comes alive during these few days, with every nook and corner of the city being lit up, sales and discounts at shops, food stalls everywhere, beautiful decorations at malls, lion dances and fireworks!

Yesterday was the beginning of a long holiday for S and we decided to spend the next couple of days with friends- watching movies, going for drives, potlucks etc., basically chilling without a care 😀 We were at the Mid Valley mall and I suggested S & a friend that we go to Absolute Thai Hot Pot for dinner and they readily agreed. It’s rare that the husband would say no to Thai food 😛

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Our visit to this branch was a first, though we’ve been to a couple of their other outlets. Located at level 2, Center Court, its décor was all black which surprisingly had a very calming effect. We took a table near the corner from where we had a clear view of the outside. Although the restaurant was inside a mall, it felt as if we were sitting at a roadside open café.

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The menu was fairly exhaustive. We didn’t opt for their hotpot menu which was quite tempting, but settled for their usual fare instead.

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The menu

I have a thing for Chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves. It can be quite tricky though. You have to cook it just right to get the perfect texture- crunchy from the outside and soft, juicy inside. A little overcooked and what you have is an inedible hard piece of chicken. However, Absolute Thai nailed it. It was so delicious that it made us even hungrier.

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Pandan Leaves Chicken

The service was quite fast. As the waiter was bringing the other dishes to our table, I noticed S was glued to his phone looking at the highlights of a soccer match. Boys and their toys! After my stern look, he quickly put down his phone and beamed with delight looking at the food on the table.

Unfortunately the Tom Yam Soup with Seafood and Meehoon was the first thing I tasted. Why unfortunate? Because it was one of the worst tom yam soups I’ve ever had. It was so sour that all other flavours were overpowered and I felt as if I was biting on a piece of raw tamarind. I would never recommend it to anyone.

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Tom Yam Soup with Seafood and Meehoon (red base)

That made me somewhat skeptical about the other dishes we ordered. But my presumption was wrong thankfully. The Red Curry Roasted Duck was lip-smacking. The flavours were balanced perfectly. The sweet and spice quotient was just right and it tasted fabulous with plain white rice. The duck was quite soft, unlike a few other places I have had before, where it was hard and chewy.

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Red Curry Roasted Duck

The Green Curry Chicken was nice, so no complaints there but it wasn’t remarkable. I have had much better ones at other Thai restaurants in KL. S was busy removing chunky pieces of eggplant from the curry 😀  Otherwise he seemed to have enjoyed it.

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Green Curry Chicken

The best was saved for last. The Garlic and Black Pepper Fried rice with Fresh Crab was in one word heavenly! The crab was really fresh which elevated the dish to another level. It was mildly spiced and very juicy. The rice was perfectly seasoned with crushed black pepper and overall it was the best dish of the day.

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Garlic and Black Pepper Fried rice with Fresh Crab

Address: Mid Valley Megamall, 1, Lingkaran Syed Putra, Mid Valley City, 58000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Phone: +60 3-2201 5308

Open: 10am – 10pm

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Patishapta (Rice flour crepes with coconut filling): Celebrating Makar Sankranti

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In India, the harvesting season is considered extremely auspicious and households all over the country celebrate during the month of January by making sweets of all kinds. Each region has its own take on the festival but the underlying essence remains the same, i.e. to celebrate the prosperity and bring in more luck for the coming seasons. In Bengal, it is known as Makar Sankranti or Poush Sankranti, while in Northern India its Lohri, Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat and Pongal in South India. Different names but similar in spirit 🙂

I have grown up relishing pithey– a sweet made with rice flour, semolina, jaggery, coconut, etc. The sheer variety of pithey can be overwhelming, but one particular which is an absolute favourite and has a lot of fond memories attached to it, is ‘Patishapta’. I am filled with nostalgia as I type on my keyboard because dida (my maternal grandmother) used make the most scrumptious patishaptas I have ever had. Ever since I can recall, I eagerly waited for her to make them and the delightful whiff of her freshly made crepes still lingers in my mind. In fact she couldn’t even take the first batch out from the kitchen as me and my sisters would pounce on the plate to claim our share 😀 She is no longer with us today but the sweet memories still remain fresh as ever.

Last Friday, Makar Sankranti was celebrated in India, and so I decided that I would make Patishapta. I called up mum and noted down the recipe like an obedient student and then checked my pantry. Thankfully I had all the ingredients in stock! Though the magic of my dida couldn’t be recreated but it was tasty nevertheless because S couldn’t stop at just one 😉

So here’s the recipe- (Traditionally, Nolen Gur or Date Palm Jaggery is used but since I didn’t have that so I used brown sugar instead)

* I am not very particular about measurements, unless it is for baking. I just go by my estimation, so you can adjust accordingly.

Ingredients (for about 8 Patishapta):

For the stuffing:

  • 4 cups grated coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or as per your taste)
  • Green cardamom powder (preferably crushed in a mortar pestle)
  • 2 cups milk

For the batter:

  • 1 cup semolina
  • 2 cups maida or all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • Sugar to taste
  • Water for semi runny batter

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Method:

In a kadhai/ wok on low-medium heat, dry roast grated coconut for a few minutes. Now mix sugar with the coconut and keep stirring continuously. Carry on with it for at least 15-20 minutes. Now add freshly crushed green cardamom powder in the kadhai and mix well.

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The sugar and coconut should combine really well to give a slightly mushy texture. In my case it was taking a lot of time and so I used milk (not used in the original recipe). Maybe my coconut wasn’t that fresh as I used store bought grated coconut. It is very important to use fresh coconut, although after adding milk (you can also use condensed milk for a gooey filling) I got the right texture and it also enhanced the flavour. Once the filling is ready, remove from the kadhai and let it cool.

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Now for the batter, in a large bowl, mix semolina with some water and let it rest for about 30 minutes. After that, add maida and rice flour. Mix well with water to make a batter which is slightly runny. Add some sugar according to your taste.

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Heat a tawa/ round flat griddle. Drizzle few drops of oil and smear it all over using an eggplant stem. Pour a ladle full of the batter into the center of the tawa. Spread it evenly using the back of the ladle.

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When you see bubbles forming on top, put the filling in the center of the crepe and gently fold from both sides. Once folded, press for about 30-40 seconds on each side and remove immediately.

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You can serve them hot just like that or if you have patience, then drizzle some condensed milk/ melted nolen gur (jaggery) on top for a blissful experience 🙂

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Party Special ‘Spicy Chicken Drumsticks Curry’

Indian food is all about contrasting flavours. The way different spices and herbs come together in one dish is amazing and nothing less than a work of art. The once humble Indian chicken curry is now famous all over the world, but let me bust some myths here. There is really nothing called an Indian Chicken Curry because India is a land of cultural miscellany and so is the food- as diverse as it can get. So a chicken curry up north is dramatically different from its southern counterpart. In fact every state has a different take on the curry. So what you get in Jaipur will be quite different from the one in Kashmir or Calcutta or Amritsar or Hyderabad! So you see. You really can’t have a universal Indian Chicken curry.

Today I’ll sharing with you a recipe of my mum’s including her handy tips to cook the perfect chicken! This dish is a party winner and have been appreciated by many. I recently made a big bowl of it for our New Year’s party at a friend’s where we had a potluck night. I guess everyone loves potluck dinners. It’s half the work and double the fun 😀 and what better way to ring in the New Year than enjoying a hearty meal with friends and watching the spectacular fireworks from the terrace 🙂

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Recipe Ingredients:

  • 12-15 Chicken drumsticks
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes (chopped finely)
  • 6 fat cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 inch ginger (crushed)
  • 3-4 slit green chilies (depending on your heat tolerance)
  • Whole garam masala for tempering (4 cloves, 5-6 green cardamom, 10 black pepper, 1 large stick of cinnamon)
  • 2 Bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 3/4th tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri red chili powder (this gives the gravy a luscious dark red colour)
  • 1 ½ tsp Cumin powder
  • 1 ½ tsp Coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Fried onion juliennes (made from 6 large onions)
  • Fried cashews
  • Chopped coriander leaves
  • 4-5 tbsp Olive oil (you can use any white oil)

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Method:

Wash the chicken well. Heat a tbsp of oil in a deep kadhai/ wok and add the drumsticks. Sauté for couple of minutes until the chicken becomes golden brown. This retains the juices of the chicken which enhances its flavour (#Tip 1). Take out the pieces and the juice in a bowl.

* If you simply add raw pieces of chicken to your cooked masalas, then it won’t taste that great. So this is a handy tip for you guys.

In the same kadhai, heat some oil. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. This softens the onion faster (#Tip 2). Deep fry them until they become dark brown in colour (remember not to over fry them, else they will turn bitter). Remove with a slotted spoon. Take half of the onions and make a paste in a blender. We will use it for our gravy. Keep the remaining for garnishing.

Now add some oil in the same wok. When it becomes hot, add a tsp of sugar. This makes the colour of the gravy red and glossy (#Tip 3). Once the sugar is caramelised, add the whole garam masala, and bay leaf. Saute till you get a lovely aroma of the spices, add slit chilies and the onion paste. Fry well for 2 minutes. Add crushed ginger and garlic. Cook until the raw smell is gone. Now throw in the tomatoes and stir for a minute and cover with a lid. Let it cook on a low-med flame for 3-4 minutes.

This is the time to add all the spices. Take a small cup, add turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and red chili powder. Add some water and make a paste. This is done so that the masala won’t burn while frying (#Tip 4). Now add the paste into the kadhai. Fry for 3-4 minutes on a medium flame.

Now add the chicken pieces into the wok. Keep stirring for atleast 8-10 minutes or until you see oil separating from the spices. This is called ‘Koshano’ in Bengali/ bhuno in Hindi, basically sautéing :D. This step is very essential if you want velvety and succulent chicken (#Tip 5). Don’t add water during this stage.

Add 1 cup of water now and cover and cook on a low flame till the gravy thickens and clings onto the chicken drumsticks. The trick to making juicy, fall off the bone chicken requires cooking it on a low flame for a long time (#Tip 6).

The dish is ready. Garnish with chopped coriander, fried onions and cashew nuts. Serve hot with naan (Indian flat bread) or rice.

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BUMBU DESA: From the land of Kopi Luwak & Batik

Indonesia is my preferred destination for holidaying in the entire South East Asia. From the vibrant nightlife in Jakarta to the stunning natural beauty of Bali, the country has never ceased to spellbind me. So far Bali has been my favourite holiday spot. A land rich in culture, heritage, art & craft and of course food! My love for Indonesian food is pretty well known. The multitude of spices & herbs used in their food is what makes the cuisine a foodie’s delight. From their satays to bakso, gado-gado & rendang- every dish is scrumptious.

Few moments from my Bali trip 🙂

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Tanah lot, Bali

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Prawn Satay & Nasi Goreng Platter

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Grilled Tilapia

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A random flea market, Nusa Dua

I am always keen to try out new Indonesian eateries in town & when I learnt that Bumbu Desa, a popular restaurant chain in Indonesia has an outlet in KLCC, I decided to check it out. Honestly, this won’t be an exhaustive review as we sampled only a couple of dishes, but I can of course share my experience with you guys 🙂

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The restaurant is located on the 4th floor of Suria KLCC and with its warm lighting & elegant décor, it looked rather inviting. We were ushered in by a friendly wait staff and quickly asked for the menu as I was very hungry. There were many appetisers & main course to choose from but we decided to settle for their set menus (For a complete listing of their menu please visit Bumbu Desa Menu). I ordered Nasi Rabeg Kambing, which is a spicy mutton dish. The mutton came accompanied with Sayur Asem, Nasi, Peanut sauce (similar to gado-gado) & small disc shaped crackers.

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Nasi Rabeg Kambing

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A closer look

Sayur Asem is the perfect appetizer. Made with corn & squash, its sweet & sour taste made our tastebuds dance. Flavoured subtly, it is a very comforting soup. The peanut sauce was mildly spiced which balanced the hot & spicy mutton impeccably. About the mutton, I really have no words. Perfectly cooked, tender & juicy, & spicy without being too hot. I like my food very spicy, maybe my Indian palette is responsible for it, and so Indonesian food is an absolute winner for me & from whatever I had at Bumbu desa, I am coming back for sure, to try out more from their menu & give a better comprehensive review.

S had ordered Nasi Rendang Daging which he claimed was as good as the ones he had in Indonesia. The beef was succulent & tasted fabulous.

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Nasi Rendang Daging

The crackers in both the sets were unimpressive. They were neither crispy nor made any difference to the whole dish. I think one can do without it.

The wait staff was very friendly and obliged us every time we made any requests, from changing seats to clicking photographs, explaining the dish to us, etc. Do come and eat here if you want an authentic taste of Indonesia without burning a hole in your pocket.

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THE GANGA CAFÉ: Pure Desi Delight

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Read a lot of reviews about The Ganga Café on social media, got recommendations from friends as well, but somehow never had a chance to visit the restaurant. Being a meat lover, pure veg was never an option exciting enough to make a trip all the way from Tun Razak to Jalan Riong (On Lorong Kurau). But finally today, being 1st of Jan & a Sunday, S suggested we go there for lunch & I agreed. I was proven wrong & how! 😀

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We were greeted by one of the owners of the café, Mr. Prabodh Sheth who explained to us about the menu (Sundays are meant for only buffets) & went out of his way to make our experience memorable. His affable nature is what created my very first positive impression.

If you take pleasure in simple things in life & enjoy freshly cooked healthy traditional Indian fare, then Ganga Café is the place for you. I haven’t come across a place as such in KL. The café was pretty small but bustling with people which was a testimony to its popularity. I saw many Chinese take a fancy to veg Indian food which was very surprising for me.

Their lunch buffet spread had a pumpkin soup, masala chai, a salad, starters, main course & a dessert. All this for just RM21!! & unlimited helpings 😀 Can you beat that?!

Every single dish was freshly prepared using quality organic ingredients & no MSGs. My personal favourites were the dhokla, aloo tikki & onion pakodas from the starters. The pakodas were crunchy outside & juicy inside, dhoklas were superbly moist. I must give a special mention to the masala chai (tea) which complemented the snacks perfectly.

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The starters

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Among the mains, I simply loved the kadhi. In fact it was the best kadhi I’ve ever had. Rich, creamy with a lovely aroma of ginger & asafoetida, it was so comforting. I could have bowls after bowls of it with some rice. Throughout the meal I felt like I was at one of my close friend’s (who is a Gujarati) & eating food prepared by her mum.  Guess I needn’t say more.

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Main course

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I only wished there were more options for dessert 😀 After so much for yummy starters & main course I really wanted to have some sweets, & just a halwa (which was delightful by the way) didn’t satisfy me enough.

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But the highlight of my lunch was meeting the two owners of the café Meeta & Prabodh. The husband & wife duo also own the neighbouring Mediterranean veg restaurant, Barat.  You seldom meet people who are so passionate about their work & make you feel at home. A soul cleansing experience, The Ganga Café took me back home in India & renewed my love for fresh wholesome healthy food.

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