H for Halibut

Halibut, like all fish, is a high-quality source of protein and selenium, a powerful antioxidant that helps your body repair damaged cells and aids in decreasing inflammation. It is especially good because it also includes omega-3 fatty acids, niacin and magnesium, helping to fight heart disease.

Halibut is the largest flatfish in the ocean, and lives on the seabeds of the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and Arctic oceans. It can grow up to more than ten feet long. Members of the flatfish family are flattened laterally, and swim sideways, with one side facing down and the other facing up. The upper side is typically gray to brown, or nearly black, with mottling and numerous spots to blend in with a sandy or muddy bottom. The underside is typically white. Virtually all halibut are right-eyed, meaning both eyes are found on the upper, dark side of the body. The mouth extends to the middle of the lower eye or beyond, and is nearly symmetrical. The scales are quite small and buried in the skin, making the skin appear smooth.

All flounder species also belong to the flatfish family.

Fish these days are either farm-raised or caught in the wild and flash-frozen while still on the boat.

Atlantic halibut, once considered a superior fish because of its higher fat content has almost disappeared from the market as there are severe restrictions on its fishing. As per the Greater Atlantic Fisheries Office (GARFO) for New England and the Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic halibut was only allowed as a bycatch, with limits imposed on the number and size of the ones that can be kept per fishing expedition. If Atlantic halibut were to be considered endangered under the American Endangered Species Act, then fishing would be completely prohibited.

With Atlantic halibut virtually unavailable the Pacific halibut has seen higher demand, sending its prices way up. Fortunately for now, Pacific halibut is likely to be available in the market.

Currently the Atlantic halibut is ‘in a rebuilding plan’ with a target date of 2055 for the stock to be completely rebuilt. Both Atlantic and Pacific halibut are huge fish, weighing up to hundreds of pounds. They also each have very long lives, living up to 50 years (Atlantic) or more (Pacific). On average, the fish take about 10 years to reach reproducing age, so any fish caught before it’s at least that old means the end of future population contribution from that fish. This slow timeline calls for the long term rebuilding plan.

With so many factors affecting its supply and availability, surely the prices will go up. New York City’s Fulton Fish Market, for example, sells the Atlantic variety for more than $45 per pound1

A lean fish, halibut has a mild, sweet tasting white flesh. It’s thicker and firmer than cod. Because the flavor is so gentle, halibut pairs well with bolder seasonings like pesto, lemon juice and basil.

Halibut can be cooked in many ways, including baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing, poaching or steaming. Here we are making a delicious Bullinada, a creamy Catalonian seafood stew infused with saffron. (You can also prepare a great Bullinada with any other firm white fleshed fish like striped sea bass, flounder, haddock, or cod.)

As halibut is a lean meat fish, it is especially suited for soups, as there is no fear of the fish drying out.



  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely minced 
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 8 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1¾ pounds new potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1¾ pounds skinless fish fillets, such as hake or monkfish
  • ¾ cup prepared mayonnaise
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, plus more for serving
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish


  • In a largish pot, heat oil over medium. Add onions, and cook until they begin to soften. 
  • Add half the minced garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly golden.
  • Add the saffron, stock and wine. 
  • Add potatoes, fennel seeds, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  • Season fish with salt and pepper and add to the stock.
  • Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until fish is opaque and flaky, 4 to 6 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, remaining garlic and Aleppo pepper. 
  • Slowly stir in a ladle of hot stock into mayonnaise mixture. Gently stir mayonnaise mixture into the simmering soup. 
  • Heat through, without reaching a boil as the mayonnaise will curdle when boiled. 
  • Serve garnished with cilantro leaves.

U is for Udon Noodle Soup

Udon noodles are a popular food in Japan, especially in the southern parts of the country. Made with basic ingredients like wheat flour, water and salt, they are thicker than the regular noodles, and can be round or flat. Usually made into soup, udon can be enjoyed in hot or cold preparations. I’ve made this recipe of udon noodle soup with shrimp balls and a mix of vegetables.

Udon noodles have their origin in China. Legend has it that a monk from Kagawa on the Shikoku island went to China in the 7th century, for studies. When he returned to Japan, he brought back the recipe for udon noodles  which was common in China at that time. It is also mentioned that a stone relic in the Takinomiya Tenmangu shrine, called the Ryutoin-ato, marks the location where the first udon was made in Japan.

Fun fact: The dough for the udon noodles is tough and difficult to handle. So it is stomped on to make it pliable. 

Most of the Japanese soups have dashi as their base. Dashi is made from bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes or kombu (edible kelp, a large brown seaweed), or both. I used instant dashi powder (available online and in some east Asian grocery stores) for this recipe.

This soup is a delightful melding of flavors. Starting with the dashi which makes a lovely broth, and the shrimp balls flavored with ginger, garlic and scallions, to the sautéed mushrooms and the still crisp snow peas and radishes, it is totally enjoyable. And the boiled eggs provide a creamy satisfying rounding off of the flavors. And it is rather easy to put together, including making the shrimp balls.

This soup is a complete meal that includes protein, starch and vegetables. Usually it is served with just hot mustard on the side.

U is for Udon Noodle Soup

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:2 servings


    For shrimp balls

  • For the soup


  1. Using a food processor (or a chopping board and heavy knife), chop together ginger, garlic, scallions, and 6 of the shrimp, adding 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar to moisten.
  2. Cut the remaining shrimp into small pieces and add to the chopped mix. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. To the mix, add the cornstarch and enough of egg white to hold the mixture together.
  4. Form into uniform small balls and set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a pot and add the mushrooms. Fry till light brown.
  6. Add 4 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil Drop in the sliced radishes and the instant dashi powder. Cover and cook.
  7. When the radishes are cooked, in about 10 minutes, add the snap peas and cabbage. Continue to cook for two minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Bring the heat down so that the liquid in the pot is on a slow simmer. Carefully add the shrimp balls to the pot and allow to cook for 3 minutes without disturbing.
  9. Add the cooked noodles and carefully mix together. Continue to cook for 3 more minutes.
  10. Take off the heat and serve in two bowls. Place two halves of boiled egg in each bowl.
  11. Serve with hot mustard or any other chili sauce on the side.
Keywords:Japanese, Shrimp, Udon soup

S is for Smørrebrød

Smørrebrød is a Danish open sandwich made of dark rye bread as the base and a variety of toppings. Pronounced ‘shmur-broht’, smorrebrod is a signature item and an integral part of the Danish food culture. The word smørrebrød has its origin from the words ‘smor’ meaning butter and ‘brod’ meaning bread.

The idea of the open-faced sandwich is supposed to have come from the middle age custom of serving food on slabs of stale bread called ‘trenchers’. Someone smart must have realized that the juices from the toppings infused the bread and added flavor to it, and started using good bread as trenchers so that the trencher could be eaten too. And Smørrebrød was born!

Back in the 19th century, when most of Scandinavia was agricultural country, lunch was the main meal of the day. The farmers would pack cold meat and the bits and pieces of the previous day’s dinner to sustain them through the day and eat them piled up on pieces of hardy bread. Thus the open-faced sandwich became the popular meal of the region.

The easy way to plan for this, is to think about the main ingredient – usually a protein – first. Roast beef, smoked (cured) salmon, cooked shrimp, boiled eggs, crab or fish cakes, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, pickled herrings… these are just a few among the possibilities. Now think about what vegetables – pickled or fresh – will go with them. A dressing to match and something on top to make them pretty. You have the whole plan ready to go!

The bread is buttered generously and this prevents it from getting soggy from the juices of the toppings. Then you pile up the layers, making sure that all the ingredients on a slice of bread get along well together and look good.

They are eaten at celebrations or at daily meals, for any meal of the day – breakfast, lunch or dinner – and are served as starters or entree. At gatherings, often the toppings and accompaniments are passed around on platters so that people can build their own, as per choice.

There are certain rules to be followed in the serving and eating of smørrebrød. First and foremost, you eat them using a fork and knife, never picked up like an NY pizza slice. Secondly, there is a sequence in which they are to be served and eaten: pickled herrings first, other fish next, to be followed by meats and cheeses in that order. A word about the pickled herring… it is definitely an acquired taste. Just like some extreme versions of Danish licorice. But I digress. The third and most important rule is to say ‘skol’ (cheers) frequently, raising your glass. There might be other rules but these are the only ones I recall.

The recipes below are for three variations of smørrebrød, each with its own dressing: Boiled eggs and shrimp with garlicky mayo dressing, Smoked salmon with honey dill mustard dressing and Roast beef with a remoulade dressing.

To make the sandwiches, place the ingredients listed, in the order listed, in a single layer on a well buttered slice of dark rye bread. Drizzle or pipe the dressing over the toppings as indicated in the dressings recipes.

Boiled Eggs and Shrimp

Lettuce leaves

Thick slices of boiled egg

Salad shrimp

Thin slices of radish


Springs of dill

Garlicky Mayo

1/2 cup mayonnaise 

Garlic chives, chopped fine

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the sandwich.

Smoked Salmon

Slices of smoked salmon

Thinly sliced cucumber


Sliced cornichons

Pickled beets

Springs of dill

Honey Dill Mustard

Equal quantity honey mustard, cider vinegar, and grape seed oil (or any neutral oil)

Chopped dill sprigs

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk mustard and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify. Add the chopped dill, pepper and salt. Mix well and pipe over the toppings.

Roast Beef


Slices of roast beef

Rings of red onion

Thin carrot strips


Equal quantity mayonnaise and sour cream

Cornichons, chopped fine

Capers, chopped coarsely

Dijon mustard

Pinch of curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and pipe over the toppings.

O is for Oaxacan Roasted Fish

Oaxaca is the south western region of Mexico, bordering on the Pacific Ocean. And home to a food culture that sets it apart from the rest of Mexico, or for that matter, any other part of the world. What is noteworthy about Oaxacan cuisine is that it has more or less stuck true to its roots and origins, despite the outside influences. It is not surprising that many indigenous people here take pride in the fact that they never have been conquered by any European power and their food ways are untouched by European ingredients or cooking methods. In many parts of Oaxaca, wood stoves earthenware pots are still the norm. Still, maybe due to exactly for the same reasons, Oaxaca today has become a global foodie travel destination, with an increasing number of luxurious restaurants opening up, catering to global tastes.

Known as the home of the seven moles (or the thousand, according to some), Oaxaca makes the best of the diverse varieties of chiles cultivated locally. Ancho, poblano, pasilla, chilaca, chile negro are just a few examples. Ingredients are matched and paired with the chilies to produce complex dishes which sometimes take hours to make.

Though concentrating on ingredients like corn, beans, chocolate, wild herbs, and local cheese, Oaxacan cuisine has its share of meat, poultry and fish. The fish we are focusing on today, is roasted in the oven, but it can also be grilled.

The mole like marinade is cooked first which gives it an amazing complexity and depth of flavor. The marinade is slathered on the fish, inside and out, before roasting it in a high heat oven.

I selected a red branzino to make this dish. Any fish that is fairly firm fleshed and of medium size can be used. Also, selecting a fish with not too many bones will be good.

Having decided to clean and prepare the fish myself, I opted to cut the fish head off. It can be kept on, if you prefer with only the insides removed.

Remember to be careful with the salt, as the fish sauce used in the marinade contains a fair amount of salt already. Letting the fish marinate for 20 minutes greatly enhances the flavor. 

I have not tried this recipe for anything other than a whole fish so far. Maybe one of these days, I’ll try the recipe for a large piece of boneless fish.

You can combine this fish with anything from a pasta salad or a green salad to a bowl of cooked rice. 

O is for Oaxacan Roasted Fish

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:4 servings



  1. Place the ancho chilies in a bowl and add the fish sauce and apple cider vinegar to the bowl. Soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat over to 400 F.
  3. Powder the black pepper, cumin, cloves, and oregano together.
  4. In a food processor or blender, grind together all marinade ingredients except the salt: the soaked ancho chilies with the soaking liquid, garlic, the powdered spices, and sugar. Form a smooth paste, adding a little extra water if required.
  5. Transfer this paste to a sauce pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Taste for seasoning and add salt if required.
  7. Prepare the fish by cleaning, washing and drying it with paper towels.
  8. Slather this paste on the cleaned fish inside and outside. Let sit for 20 minutes.
  9. Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil on is and place the fish on the baking sheet.
  10. Roast on the middle rack of the oven, for 8 to 10 minutes per side, turning the fish over half way through the process.
  11. Serve immediately with a salad on the side.
Keywords:Dinner, Fish, Oaxaca, Spicy

E is for Étouffée 

Étouffée (pronounced ay-too-fay) is a popular dish in the Creole cuisine of Luisiana and especially New Orleans. Creole cuisine combines European, African and native American traditions and is one of the distinctive styles of cooking in the United States.

The word étouffée means ‘smothered’ in French. Smothering is a process of cooking anything in its own juices with minimum addition of extra liquid. This is a commonly used technique in Creole cooking.

The flavor base for an étouffée is the ‘holy trinity’ of Creole (and Cajun, a similar cuisine, also developed in Louisiana) cooking: onion, celery and green pepper. Diced into uniform size, they are sautéed in butter to get a dish started. Sometimes the trinity is enhanced with garlic, parsley, or shallots. 

They form the base for other Creole-Cajun dishes like jambalaya and gumbo as well.

Étouffée can be made using different shellfish, though crawfish which are specific to Louisiana, are most often used. However, shrimp is an equally good replacement when crawfish are not available.

There are differences of opinion regarding the addition of tomatoes in an étouffée. Also, about roux. Even when there is agreement on the inclusion of roux, opinion differs as to do so at the beginning or towards the end. This version includes tomatoes and a roux, introduced half way through the recipe.

Creole seasoning elegantly blends an array of flavors to come up with a perfectly balanced spice mix. Make this a staple in your spice cabinet, as you can use it for fish, chicken or vegetables.

Étouffée is mostly served with cooked white rice, but you can try mashed potatoes as well.

To make the Creole seasoning, mix together: 2 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp onion powder, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp dried thyme, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt.

E is for Étouffée 

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:4 servings



  1. Heat a pan over medium heat and add the butter.
  2. Add the onions, celery and back pepper. Cook till the onions turn transparent.
  3. Add the garlic and stir into the mix for 1 minute.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the ingredients in the pan and stir well. Continue to cook for about three more minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan.
  6. Add the stock, Creole seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir and cook till the liquid thickens. Simmer for 5 more minutes.
  7. Add the shrimp and continue to cook till the shrimp is fully cooked and turns pink, for another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning if required.
Keywords:Creole, Etouffee, Seafood, Shrimp, Louisiana

D is for Dongnae Pajeon

Dongnae Pajeon (Korean scallion seafood pancakes) has its origin in the Dongnae region of Korea. Legend has it that the residents threw scallions that grew abundantly in the region, at the retreating Japanese army. Dongnae pajeon was created to honor that victory. And the dish was presented at the king’s table. 

Scallion seafood pancakes must be one of the most popular items in any Korean restaurant. However, the regular haemul pajeon differs from dongnae pajeon in that while scallions and seafood are mixed into the batter for the regular haemul pajeon, they are layered and crisped for the dongnae pajeon.

The batter is made from a combination of glutinous and non-glutinous flours. I have used equal quantities of rice flour and all-purpose flour to make the batter for this recipe.

You can use a variety of seafood in the dongnae pajeon. Clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, squid, and scallops are all perfect for this dish. I have used shrimp and scallops for this version. 

Traditionally, minari, a green leafy herb sometimes known as water celery or chinese celery, is an ingredient in the dongnae pajeon. As the pajeon is very flavorful even without the minari, I decide to leave it out. If you want to, you can use watercress in its place.

Being around Koreatown in Manhattan, I’ve eaten many a pajeon over the years. And I have tried to perfect the recipe and the method of preparing it.

The secret is to get the batter to the right consistency of a thin pancake batter. Then you start going across the scallion pieces in lines, till you have almost covered them. Almost, but not quite.

Then you quickly lay out the seafood over the batter and follow up with another set of lines of batter over the seafood. A drizzle of oil over that, and cover and cook for two-three minutes when it will be time to turn the pajeon over. You are almost there!

Serve with dipping sauce on the side. 

To make the dipping sauce, mix together soy sauce (2 tbsp), rice vinegar (1 tbsp), mirin (1 tbsp), and gochujang, the Korean chili-soy paste (1 tbsp). If you prefer a less spicy dipping sauce, you can use any fermented soy paste instead of gochujang. On the other hand if you prefer it spicier, add a spurt of sriracha. 

D is for Dongnae Pajeon

Difficulty:AdvancedServings:8 servings



  1. Sieve together the rice flour, all-purpose flour and baking powder.
  2. Cut the green parts of the scallions in long pieces, 5 to 7 inches long. All pieces need not be the same length.
  3. Cut the shrimp and scallops into small pieces.
  4. In a bowl, beat the egg together with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and gochujang. Add one and a half cups of water and mix well.
  5. Add minced ginger and garlic to the bowl. Season with salt.
  6. Add the flour mix to the bowl and mix well. Add more water if required, to make a thin pancake batter.
  7. Heat a griddle on the stove top, on medium heat. Oil the griddle.
  8. Lay down a handful of scallion pieces in parallel on the griddle.
  9. Start drizzling the batter in lines across the scallions till they are almost covered.
  10. Quickly place the chopped seafood on top of the batter.
  11. Repeat with another layer of batter on top of the seafood. Make sure you stir the batter before each use as rice flour tends to settle at the bottom.
  12. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil on top of the pajeon.
  13. Cover and cook for two-three minutes.
  14. Turn the pajeon over and continue to cook, uncovered.
  15. Check after two minutes. When sufficiently crisp, remove from the griddle and serve hot with dipping sauce.
  16. To make the dipping sauce, mix together soy sauce (2 tbsp), rice vinegar (1 tbsp), mirin (1 tbsp), and gochujang, the Korean chili-soy paste (1 tbsp).
Keywords:Dongnae Pajeon, Korean Seafood Pancake, Pancakes, Scallions, Seafood

B is for Bouillabaisse

Fish soup, anyone? Likely, you may not get many responses to that. Change the name to Bouillabaisse and it becomes an inviting dish with all the allure of French cuisine! So much for the power of words!

For that is what bouillabaisse is. A basic broth with vegetables and seafood. 

The name is composed of two words meaning ‘to boil’ and ‘to simmer’, supposed to describe how the dish is made. 

Bouillabaisse has its recorded origin in Marseille, being made by local fishermen using the bony fish which could not be sold to customers. The types of fish considered essential were rascasse, sea robin, and European conger. These are fearsome looking fish indeed, as seen from pictures on the net. 

An article in the New Yorker magazine ‘The Soul of Bouillabaisse Town’, by A. J. Liebling and published in 1962, talks about the importance of rascasse for a bouillabaisse and the search for it in the US. A very interesting read indeed. 

By and by there were so many versions of bouillabaisse in Marseille alone that in 1980 a Bouillabaisse Charter was drawn up by a number of prominent Marseille restaurateurs, defining the ingredients and method of preparation of this dish.

The identifying flavors of a bouillabaisse today are fennel and saffron. 

All ingredients except for the seafood are cooked in stock to form a delicious broth, which gets its beautiful color and enticing aroma from the saffron.

The vegetables are chopped small so that they blend well into the broth.

You can make your own stock. Any combination of fish bones and shrimp/ lobster shells will work for the stock. Just boil them up for about 30 minutes, in sufficient water with some garlic, celery, onions, black pepper – whatever you have on hand. Cool, strain and freeze, and there it is ready anytime you need it. I find using shrimp shells for the stock the easiest.

When making a bouillabaisse, I totally take advantage of the versatility of bouillabaisse and use pretty much any combination of white fleshed fish and shellfish. And any variety of scallops. Yum!

To serve, you can remove the seafood from the broth after it is cooked and serve them separately on a platter. I prefer to keep them in the broth to be ladled out into the soup bowls.

Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with thick slices of bread and a rouille made of olive oil, garlic, saffron, and red peppers. Cayenne can also be added to the mix to add an extra kick.

B is for Bouillabaisse

Difficulty:IntermediateServings:4 servings



  1. Soak saffron in a spoonful of stock or water. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a largish pot or deep skillet on the stove top.
  3. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, potato, and fennel to the hot oil.
  4. When the onion starts to turn transparent, add the stock, tomatoes and saffron (with the soaking liquid) to the pot.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook.
  6. When the vegetables are cooked, reduce the heat to a simmer.
  7. Add the fish to the pot and cook for two minutes.
  8. Add the shrimps and continue cooking for another two minutes.
  9. Add the clams/ mussels and cook till they open, about three to four minutes.
  10. Add the scallops and immediately turn off the heat.
  11. Serve hot along with slices of bread and the rouille.
Keywords:Bouillabaisse, Dinner, Fish, French, Soup, Seafood

Sinigang… the Tamarind Stew

What is with the onset of cold weather and comfort foods? Why don’t I crave comfort foods in the summer? And why are most comfort foods full of all those good things that we have been told over and over, are not good for us? Questions, questions…


Comfort foods are usually food items that we are familiar with, and I believe those that have strong associations with good times. So maybe we are trying to bring back those times, or at least memories of them, by eating the same foods. Yeah, the same old food therapy, looking to make things better with food! 🙂


Every culture has its own favourite comfort foods, which very often are not the best of their cuisine. And individual childhood memories also play into a person’s choice of comfort food.


However, there are common threads connecting all these food items, regardless of which part of the world you are from… they are invariably rich in calories and have high carb and fat levels. And also, they are mostly not complex and easy to prepare items. Say, fish and chips instead of bouillabaisse?


The term ‘comfort food’ was first used in 1977, according to Webster’s and Oxford English dictionaries. Whoever invented that, I like it very much; quite an evocative phrase!


I have a very straight forward approach to the concept… comfort food is for when you are uncomfortable. And what makes me uncomfortable right now is the slowly advancing cold weather. Which is the way it is every year. However, this year instead of going for my routine items, I’m planning to check out comfort food from different parts of the world.


Let’s see… Shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash and a jam roly-poly from the Brits, onion soup and a chicken liver pate from France, pierogies and potato latkes from Poland, blintz, borscht and vareniki from Russia, goulash and paprikash from Hungary, a seafood paella from Spain… the list goes on. Of course, not forgetting local mac and cheese, meatloaf, fried chicken and chicken pot pie.


And I’m starting with sinigang, a Filipino dish which truly deserves the name comfort food. A combination of many vegetables, it can include chicken, pork or beef. Fish goes well too, and shrimp sinigang is one of my favourites. The tanginess of tomatoes and tamarind combined with the hotness from black pepper, lots of it, will bid ‘paalam’ to any gloominess in no time! 🙂


Generally I prefer to prepare all my spice mixes at home, but in this case, I have used a packaged mix. In case you can’t find it, you can use the extracted juice of tamarind. A half-inch diameter round of tamarind or 1 tbsp of tamarind extract will work fine. And of course, as usual I have made some minor adjustments to the original recipe. 🙂


Now that you have read all that about comfort food, one question… do you believe comfort food makes you feel better? Here is a recent news item, reported right on NPR – National Public Radio! Interesting, right?



Sinigang... the Tamarind Stew
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Filipino
  • 2 medium sized red onions
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ lb yard long green beans (sitaw)
  • ½ lb radishes
  • 3 small red potatoes
  • 1 each red and green bell peppers
  • 2 banana peppers
  • 1 lb tail-on shrimp
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 packet tamarind seasoning mix (can be replaced with tamarind juice)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Slice the onions into thin wedges.
  2. Cut the yard long beans into 1 ½ inch pieces.
  3. Cut the tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, and banana peppers into bite sized pieces.
  4. Slice the radishes thinly.
  5. Crush the garlic.
  6. In a large pan, heat the oil and sauté half the onions, cut tomatoes and crushed garlic.
  7. When the onions turn transparent, add the vegetables and sauté for five minutes.
  8. Add enough water to cook the vegetables.
  9. Add the fish sauce and crushed black pepper to taste.
  10. Cover and cook.
  11. When the vegetables are almost done, check that there is enough water left in the pan. There should be enough water to make it look like a soup.
  12. Add the shrimp and enough salt.
  13. Stir and allow to come to a boil.
  14. Cook for three more minutes or till the shrimp is cooked.
  15. Check seasoning and remove from heat.
  16. Serve over steamed/ boiled rice or thick slices of bread. No weather blues for a long while!

Kerala Fish Meets Mediterranean Bulgur

We all know what we mean when we refer to the Mediterranean cuisine, though it is up to debate whether there is something called a Mediterranean cuisine at all! After all, the countries where the cuisine is supposed to be practiced – Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain etc, all countries around the Mediterranean Sea – have such diverse foods and recipes!


Still, Mediterranean food has been identified by study after study, as the healthiest way of eating in the world. And there are diet plans being marketed based on the concepts of Mediterranean food.

So what are the characteristics of the food style known commonly as Mediterranean cuisine? It is based on the traditional food items of the area and consists mostly of plant based ingredients like whole grains, tomatoes, olives, lemons and uses olive oil for cooking.


Also, most of the protein in the diet comes from lentils and fish, with meat, specially red meat, limited to small quantities. In fact, the word Mediterranean itself brings up lovely images of lemon trees and olive orchards, bright sunrises, and silvery fish swimming in blue waters.


One of the cereals that feature prominently among Mediterranean food is bulgur. Made out of wheat groats (hulled kernels that include the cereal germ and bran portion which are lost during regular milling), it is high-fibre, and has a light, nutty flavour. It is different from cracked wheat, which it resembles a lot.


A bulgur with some beautiful red and green components… perfect for a summer dinner!


And to add some protein to the meal, a fish fry from the shores another sea, far away in the south western corner of India!


Fish is one of the mainstays of the food in Kerala, located on the southern most western shores of India. With a long shoreline, fresh fish is abundant except for the few weeks at the height of the monsoon rains.


And as olive oil is typical of the Mediterranean, coconut oil is the main cooking medium in Kerala. At least, it was so till the numerous warnings about the cholesterol in coconut oil turned people towards other oils. I’m so glad to see the tide turning these days and the health benefits of coconut oil being recognised.


So these two items from so far away, but from similar backgrounds, work well together in this great dinner. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!





Kerala Fish Meets Mediterranean Bulgur
Recipe type: Dinner
  • 2 filets of white fish (such as tilapia or hake)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium sized shallot (quarter of a white or red onion will also work)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (available in Indian grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper powder (adjust according to tolerance for heat)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 1 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 cup chopped sugar snap peas
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. Grind together the shallot, garlic, curry leaves, cayenne pepper and turmeric powders, with salt to taste.
  2. Marinate the fish filets in the paste for at least 1 hour. You can keep it in the refrigerator overnight, but bring to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Bring 1 ¾ cups of water to a boil. Add olive oil, lime juice and bulgur. Mix well, remove from heat and let sit covered for about 20 minutes. Once at room temperature, add the chopped ingredients and mix well.
  4. Heat the coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan. When shimmering hot, add the fish filets (keep a splatter screen handy) and cook for about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove and serve with the prepared bulgur.

Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

There is this funny story about how humans first started cooking their meat… how a barn got burned down along with the animals in it and the sad owner burned his finger when he poked a dead (and apparently perfectly cooked) animal… and put the finger in his mouth… and went yummm… but I have not heard a story about how we started eating shrimp. Only thing I can say is, whoever started the trend, he or she must have been a courageous soul! To look at one of those grumpy looking things with all spindly legs and stalk eyed stare and think… “umm… that must taste lovely!” would have taken a truly adventurous mind.
Whoever it was, I’m eternally grateful to that person. For, that indeed tastes lovely! In fact, shrimp is the favourite of a majority of pescetarians.
The name ‘shrimp’ is used to describe a wide variety of species, often synonymously with ‘prawn’, though technically prawns are the larger cousins of shrimp. These days more than half of the shrimp in the commercial market is farmed and rather than caught in the wild.
Shrimp figures prominently in many cuisines like Chinese, Italian and Mexican. And the ways in which it can be prepared are so numerous. Elaborate preparations with complex flavours or simple salads with a basic dressing… shrimp can be the starring presence in any of them!
Here I combined the shrimp with avocado in a salad – a winning combination any day – along with some sugar snap peas.
And cherry tomatoes to add some colour, zucchini for a bit of body, and scallions for a mild heat.
Crushed garlic, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive oil make up the simple dressing.
Mix together all ingredients except the olive oil and slowly add the olive oil last and mix thoroughly.
It is an easy salad to make… just gently mix together all the prepared ingredients.
You have to be careful though, not to get the avocado pieces mushed by too much mixing.
Last step, just pour the creamy dressing over the mixed salad.
Ready to serve! A hearty salad willing to step in for a lunch any day!




Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
Recipe type: Salad
  • 12 -15 medium shrimp
  • 1 medium avocado
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Prepare the shrimp leaving the tails on.
  2. In a pan, cook the shrimp, covered, adding two tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt, for 4 to 5 minutes, till all water is evaporated. Keep aside.
  3. Deseed the avocado and cut into bite size pieces. Squeeze the lemon over the avocado pieces to prevent discolouration.
  4. Bring a pot of water to boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the sugar snap peas to the boiling water and cook for three minutes. Drain and place in iced water right away. When thoroughly chilled, drain and keep aside.
  5. Cut the zucchini into bite size pieces. Place in a microwave safe dish with a pinch of salt, and sprinkle with a little water. Microwave for two minutes.
  6. Slice the scallions into thin rounds.
  7. Mix together the crushed garlic, mustard and balsamic vinegar. Slowly drizzle the olive oil and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. In a large bowl, mix together shrimp, pieces of avocado and zucchini, peas and sliced scallions. Add salt and pepper as required.
  9. Pour the dressing all over the mix and gently stir together.
  10. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
  11. Ready to serve!