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Around the World in 23 Curries

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:28 pm    Post subject: Around the World in 23 Curries Reply with quote

Around the World in 23 Curries: The Best From New York to New Delhi

Bloomberg | Richard Vines

Order a curry in southern India and the waiter might just stare at you for a bit.

The dishes we know and love as curry—fish, meat or vegetables flavored with glorious spices—have individual names back home on the Indian subcontinent. But the idea of curry has conquered the globe and is an international favorite.

The word “curry” might derive from the Tamil word kari for a side dish with rice, or it might be based on the old English word cury, referring to a stew. An English cookbook, The Forme of Cury, was published in the 1390s. All hot food was called “cury” from the French word cuire, meaning to cook, according to the BBC.

Where to find the best curry, or other Indian foods? We asked leading chefs to name some of their local favorites. We shamelessly expanded the definition of curry to encompass snacks, kebabs, biryanis, and whatever else they fancied, along with the saucy creations that Anglophones lump together under the term curry.

Here are their picks.


Uncle Cafe, Guangzhou
Chef Andrew Wong of A Wong restaurant in London is a fan of this informal restaurant in the Hensheng Commercial Centre. “I ordered the mutton curry and enjoyed it a lot,” he says. “It’s Pakistani-style, with robust spicing.”


Indego by Vineet
Vineet Bhatia is one of the world’s most respected Indian chefs, and this beautiful restaurant at the Grosvenor House hotel can hardly be described as a hidden gem. You can dine on a terrace overlooking the Dubai Marina. U.K.-based chef Romy Gill, of Romy’s Kitchen, can’t resist going back for his starter of 3 Chaats vegetarian nibbles. “These snacks were a very important part of growing up in India,” she says. “The flavors dance in your mouth, and the dish is beautifully presented.”

Student Biryani
This Pakistani fast-food chain, which was founded in 1969, has three outlets in Dubai. The meal deals and garish decor might put you off, but the food is very good. “The Bihari Kebab is the star of the show,” says Chef Vivek Singh of Cinnamon Club in London. “They use chicken on the bone, marinated in a paste of fried onions, garlic, ginger, papaya and chili for hours, then cooked over low charcoal embers. It’s one of the finest kebabs I have ever eaten.”


Aaheli, Kolkata
This smart Bengali restaurant is housed in the Peerless Inn, a luxury hotel in the heart of the city. It’s the pick of Chef Abdul Yaseen of Darbaar restaurant in London. He enjoys the bhapa ilish, steamed fish like salmon, in yogurt and spices. “It’s a classic Bengali dish and this is as authentic as it gets,” he says. “It’s fresh fish from the Bay of Bengal with fresh ingredients. You will fall in love with it.”

Arsalan (Circus Avenue branch), Kolkata
This popular mini-chain of eight restaurants serves Mughal food from north India. It’s bright, it’s brash and it’s been popular since the first branch opened in 2002.

Bademiya, Mumbai
This is a legendary late-night food stall near the Taj Hotel. “People order their kebabs & breads and enjoy them while standing on the street or using their car bonnet as a table,” chef Vineet Bhatia says. “My favorites are lamb brain & liver masala with roomali roti (handkerchief bread), finished off with a shahi tukda (Indian bread pudding) which is light and divine.” London-based chef Atul Kochhar of Benares restaurant in London is another fan. He goes for the chicken reshmi tikka.

Bhel Puri at Juhu Beach, Mumbai
This beachside seafood stand is a destination for food lovers in Mumbai, including Bhatia, who grew up in Juhu. His favorite dish is bhel puri puffed rice tossed with green chili, coriander, onion and fine sev (gram flour) vermicelli. “It’s an experience to eat this at the beach as the wind blows and the seawater tides clash and the water sprays on you,” he says.

Bukhara, New Delhi
This is a very posh Indian restaurant in the luxurious ITC Maurya hotel. It’s about as far from being a hidden gem as the Koh-i-Noor diamond, and Bill Clinton is among the many world leaders who have dined there. (Just don’t call it a curry house.) You don an apron and eat with your hands. The meaty barrah kebab is the pick of chef Karam Sethi, of Gymkhana, in London. Chunks of leg of lamb and chops are marinated in yogurt, malt vinegar and other spices before being char-grilled. “They are the best lamb chops in the world,” he says. Gunpowder’s Harneet Baweja is another fan. He goes for the dal, a blend of black lentil, tomatoes, ginger and garlic, simmered overnight and finished with cream. “It is decadent and could easily be my last meal,” Baweja says.

Dum Pukht, New Delhi
This is the other posh restaurant at the ITC Maurya hotel in New Delhi. It specializes in the historic royal cuisine of the rulers of Awadh, in north India. Dum phukt is a method of slow cooking in sealed containers for deep flavors. This richly decorated room is Kochhar’s pick. “Their lamb biryanis are to die for,” he says. “It’s the best place in the world to have biryani.”

Kabab-e-Bahar, Hyderabad
Kochhar also likes this lakeside restaurant in the Taj Banjara hotel. The lamb shikampuri kebabs, with patties of finely minced lamb with roast gram flour, “are very moreish,” he says. “Hyderabad is the city where they specialize in creamed paneer stuffed kebabs. They are delicious.”

Jaffer Bhai’s Delhi Darbar (Dongri branch), Mumbai
This brightly lit and inexpensive mini-chain is a favorite of Gunpowder restaurant’s Baweja. He likes to order dabba ghosht, which features cubes of mutton in a mild gravy, garnished with egg and salt. “It’s melt-in-your-mouth,” he says. “The restaurant is an old-school joint with regulars that have been coming for years.”

New Kulfi Centre, Mumbai
This Indian ice-cream shop near Marine Drive has been popular for decades. “They serve the best kulfis I have ever had,” Bhatia says of the Indian dessert. “My favorite is the paan kulfi: betel leaf filled with coconut, dates, betel nut, fennel—basically a mouth freshener. People specially drive down and wait in cars while the staff come over to take your orders and serve you.”

Oh! Calcutta, Pune
An award-winning restaurant styled on the colonial clubs of old Calcutta and serving traditional Bengali cuisine. It’s the pick of Darbaar’s Yaseen, whose favorite dishes include bhapa ilish fish, marinated with fermented mustard paste and fresh green chillis, then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. “The flavors take me to the river banks and the fish market from where my aya (house maid) used to bring freshly caught fish to be prepared at home,” he says.

Tunday Kababi, Lucknow
This famous and lively cafe traces its history to 1905.


Munnar, Tel Aviv
Indian food isn’t big in Israel, but London-based chef Eyal Jagermann from the Barbary reckons it’s worth seeking out Munnar, a popular vegetarian restaurant. Jagermann says. “Everything was served with spiced yogurt, and it was fantastic.”


Jiyuken, Osaka
Osaka’s oldest Western restaurant is famous for its curries. It’s the pick of London-based chef Yoshinori Ishii, who holds two Michelin stars at Umu. His favorite dish is the meibutsu (specialty) curry, which contains beef, onion, spices and vegetables, stewed down and then mixed with white rice. It is served with a raw egg on top. “Whenever I am in Osaka, I visit this small place, which brings back childhood memories,” he says. “It is very much home-style cooking with simple, subtle flavors. If I am hungry, I order a side of beef and potato croquettes or curried beef cutlets.”

Shiseido Parlour, Tokyo
This Ginza dining room, owned by the cosmetics company, specializes in yoshoku Japanese-style Western cuisine. It’s a Tokyo institution, where you might order meat croquette and macaroni gratin. Or curry rice, a distinctively mild dish that appeals to the local palate. The rich sauce features onion, garlic, ginger and curry powder. Ken Yamada, of Anzu restaurant in London, came here as a child with his parents. “I love Japanese curry, and Shiseido Parlour’s curry is as old school as it gets,” he says. “I went back recently and it was exactly the same.”

Banana Leaf Apolo
This casual restaurant on Race Course Road serves its curries on a banana leaf, rather than a plate. It’s a favorite of British chef Alun Sperring of the Chilli Pickle restaurant in Brighton, who enjoys the fish head curry. “This dish has become famous since the ’60s when a South Indian restaurant owner offered it to entice the local Chinese clientele,” he says. “The gravy features lots of tamarind, chili, onions, garlic, tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and fenugreek powder served with okra and aubergine and a side of steamed rice. It’s delicious and as you work through the large bowl of thin gravy expect a nice burn to build from within.”

Banana Leaf Apolo’s signature fish head curry dish. Photo from Banana Leaf Apolo.


Curry Masala, Madrid
French chef Arnaud Bignon, who holds two Michelin stars at the Greenhouse restaurant in London, came across this restaurant in the center of Madrid. He particularly enjoyed palak paneer, a dish of fresh spinach with paneer cheese. “It had a perfect balance of richness and acidity,” he says. “The paneer was soft both in texture and in flavor but the spices really stood out in the spinach.”


Gunpowder, London
This tiny restaurant near Spitalfields market is always packed with diners drawn by its big flavors and modest prices. The spicy venison and vermicelli donut is a favorite of Romy Gill of Romy’s Kitchen. The snack features venison slow-cooked for 4 to 6 hours, flavored with curry leaves, ginger, chili and other spices. “Venison can dry out, and it’s difficult to get the spicing right,” Gill says. “Here, it is perfectly balanced: The flavors are subtle and the heat isn’t overpowering.”
Screenshot_2020-01-30 This Is Where to Find the World's Best Curries(1).jpg

Mirch Masala, Tooting, London
This casual restaurant in suburban Tooting has a large menu focused on spicy karahi dishes cooked in a deep pan like a wok. Cinnamon Club’s Singh is a regular and likes to order the Karela gosht mutton curry on the bone with bitter melons. “For gutsy, spicy, rustic cooking from the Punjab, this is as good as it comes,” he says.


Indian Accent, New York
Will Bowlby of Kricket, in London, is a fan of this modern Indian restaurant in Le Parker Meridien in Midtown. It’s an import from New Delhi, where this fine-dining establishment is the best Indian restaurant in the world, according to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. “The standout dish was the pulled jackfruit phulka,” Bowlby says. This soft bread is more normally served with pork, which is also available. “The consistency and flavor of the jackfruit emphasized again the fact that veg is often the way forward, especially when it comes to Indian food.”

Junoon, New York
This Michelin-starred Midtown restaurant is a favorite of Gill. The lal mirch ka paneer is a starter of house-made cheese, tandoori pepper coulis and confit peppers. “Paneer can be tasteless and rubbery,” she says. “This is beautifully made and prepared. It melts in your mouth and the spicing is just right.”

Richard Vines is the chief food critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.

This article was originally published on October 18, 2017, by Bloomberg.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inquiring Chef

The Ultimate Guide to Thai Curries

Published: Feb 27, 2020 · Modified: Aug 11, 2021 · by Jess Smith

Thai Curry Infographic

Ever wondered what the difference is between Thai curries – Green, Red, Yellow, Panang, and Massaman? The Ultimate Guide to Thai Curries is for you!

It’s been a week filled with Thai Curries here (Green Curry, Red Curry, and Massaman Curry all made an appearance), but we’re rounding out the week with an overview of this delicious category of Thai cuisine.

And while I’m calling this the “ultimate” guide to Thai curries, it’s really a guide to the most well-known Thai curries. There are as many types of Thai curry, and variations on those types as there are palm trees in Thailand. Curry is a rich and diverse food and this really only begins to scratch the surface. Every family has their own unique twist, but the basics are pretty consistent. And if you’re wanting to learn more, this is a great place to start!

So let’s jump right in and talk curry!

What are the flavors of Thai curry?

As you can see in the image above, most Thai curries start out with a similar flavor base consisting of lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, and other aromatics pounded into a smooth paste. Layered on top of those ingredients are the flavors that make each curry unique.

Red Curry is bright and heavily spiced with dried red chilis.
Green Curry uses fresh green chilis and is bright and herby from fresh cilantro root and kaffir lime leaves.
Massaman Curry is mild in heat and loaded with spices found in Indian cuisine like cinnamon and cardamom.
Yellow Curry draws on turmeric and dried curry for a rich, savory flavor and yellow color.
Panang Curry has the nutty, mellow flavor and texture of roasted peanuts ground right into the curry paste.

How to Make Thai Curry Paste

The steps for making Thai Curry Paste are:

Soak dried red chili peppers (if using)
Roast Shrimp Paste
Toast dry spices in a skillet or wok
Grind dry spices in a mortar and pestle
Grind all ingredients together until a smooth paste forms

Mortar and Pestle, Food Processor, or Blender

If you’ve decided to make homemade Thai curry paste, you’ve already decided to take on a bit of a project by tracking down and preparing your ingredients, so don’t stress over the method you use to make it. The traditional method for making Thai curry paste is to pound everything together using a mortar and pestle, but more modern tools can certainly be used to make a very good version.

A food processor will finely chop the ingredients, leaving the paste with some texture. A high powered blender will usually result in a much more smooth paste than a food processor. Either way, it’s a good idea to first grind the dried spices with a spice grinder so that they can easily incorporate with the rest of the ingredients. The other difference if using a food processor or blender is that you often need to add liquid to the machine so that the ingredients reach the blades. If needed, add water a bit at a time to help the paste form. (The water will cook off during cooking, leaving just the paste behind.)

(The batches of curry paste shown below were made in the food processor with 2-3 Tablespoons of water added to each batch.)

How to Store Curry Paste

The storage time for curry paste varies slightly depending on the ingredients. Green curry, for example, uses fresh green chilis and will start to discolor and lose some flavor as it sits in the fridge. However, most homemade curries can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a week and in the freezer for 6 months to a year. I like to store mine in 8-oz jars with tight-fitting lits.

Shrimp Paste in Thai Curry

Shrimp paste gives Thai curry pastes a distinctive, authentically Thai flavor. It’s also a source of “umami” that adds depth to the curries the paste is used in. It should always be roasted for a few minutes before being added to the curry paste. The easiest way to roast the shrimp paste is to wrap it in foil and fully enclose it. Then place the packet of shrimp paste on a hot skillet and cook on both sides until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. This helps to release the flavors.

Vegetarian / Vegan Thai Curry

If you want to make a vegetarian or vegan curry paste, all you have to do is skip the shrimp paste. You can always add other sources of umami flavor to the curry later – some soy sauce is a good option. (Don’t add soy sauce to the curry paste itself.)

What Can I Make with Thai Curry Paste?

I’m so glad you asked! 😉 If you haven’t already, be sure to hop on over and check out the full recipes for the Thai curry paste and the curries that go along with them:

Thai Green Curry with Chicken
thai green curry in a dutch oven
Thai Red Curry with Chicken
Thai red curry in a large sauce pot on a grey tabletop
Thai Massaman Curry with Beef
Thai Massaman Curry in a blue bowl with rice

You May Also Like:
Thai Massaman Curry over rice in a blue bowl
Thai Massaman Curry with Beef
thai red curry in a white bowl with rice
Thai Red Curry with Chicken
Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry over rice in a white bowl
Instant Pot Thai Panang Curry
Thai Massaman Curry with Beef
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ingredient Guides Cuisine Guides Tea

Why Tea Addicts Go Crazy for Pu-Erh

Max Falkowitz

Published: August 20, 2015 Last Updated: October 31, 2019

In the war on rot, aging food is a tactical retreat. We can't beat nature at its own game, so we join it, and let microbes have their way with meat or cheese in the hopes of developing deeper, more complex flavors than the fresh versions can offer.

There's less rot involved when we age drinks like wine, beer, and whiskey, but it's still a testy alliance with nature—giving up the fresh, fiery tastes of youth for something deeper, layered, and more mature. Age, though it manifests in many forms, has a character all its own. You know it when you taste it; you're drinking time.

The Western world's long been keen on aging all kinds of drinks, but up until the last couple decades or so, the idea of applying the same principles to tea was largely unknown. Head over to China, though, and you quickly see that aged tea is as much a part of life as 21-year-old whiskey and prized vintages of Champagne.

Why age tea at all? Most tea doesn't so much age as turn stale and dead. But with the right environment, and the right tea, you get something utterly unique: a drink that slinks down your throat and hugs your belly, relaxes your muscles and calms your mind. The best aged tea is medicine you want to gulp, full of bitter chocolate or stonefruit or wet, sweet soil. And for the complexity of what you're drinking, it can cost way, way less per serving than that bottle of old Scotch.

While you can age many kinds of tea (I'm sitting on some lovely oolong almost as old as my parents), none is more lusted after than the pride of Yunnan Province, a tea hundreds—if not thousands—of years in the making: pu-erh.

Pu-erh, which is processed in a special way to encourage microbial fermentation after the leaves are dried, ages more dynamically than any tea out there. It does not have fans. It has junkies who buy kilos of the stuff at a time to bliss out on days-long brewing sessions, only dropping out of their highs long enough to argue over the best pu-erh blends, growing regions, and storage methods. There are grasping amateurs who buy, gift, and drink the tea to gain social status among Chinese elite. And there are pu-erh investors, too, gambling on a particular tea's aging potential, who build booming futures markets and, in the case of a major bust in 2007, crash them.

Over in the West, pu-erh is a niche market within a niche market. But its devotees are growing. And if there's a tea that's ready for the big time outside Asia, this is it.

A Tea Like No Other

For a tea to be called pu-erh, it must be made from the large-leaf subspecies Camellia sinensis var. assamica and grown in Yunnan Province in China's southwest, where Han Chinese as well as many ethnic minorities share borders with Burma and Laos. It's one of the few teas to be designated a protected origin product by the Chinese government, a rarity in an industry run wild with loose, unregulated terms and limited oversight.*

*Not that these regulations are all that effective; knock-off pu-erh is an enormous problem, just like in other famous tea-growing regions.

Those factors restrict the tea's general character and terroir to a set of parameters, but the real trick to pu-erh is what happens after it's picked. Fresh leaves get tossed by hand in giant woks long enough to halt the tea's oxidation, but not so long as to drive off all moisture and kill natural bacteria. The tea is then left to dry in the sun, but the bacteria live on, and over years and decades, they'll help completely transform the tea from a fresh, bitter green into something more dark, mellow, and rich.

Most tea farmers sell their dried tea directly to vendors or wholesalers, but with pu-erh there's usually a middle step. Farmers sell their finished loose leaves (called maocha) to processors who often blend leaves from several sources, steam them, then compress them under heavy weights into a variety of shapes, such as frisbee-like cakes, square bricks, and small concave nests. This Ming Dynasty-era practice was originally developed to make tea easier to transport over long distances, but these days is reserved for teas designed for aging; the compressed form makes for a more stable and portable aging environment as time does its thing.

A cake of pu-erh is in a constant state of change, and as you chip away leaves to drink over the months and years, no two brews will taste the same. Some pu-erh is delicious to drink when fresh: it's vegetal and fragrant with gentle bitterness and a tickling sun-dried pungency. Other pu-erh needs years of aging for profound bitterness or harsh, smoky flavors to mellow out into something smooth, sweet, and dignified. Half the fun of drinking the stuff is watching your tea grow and change as you do.

Drinking Time

Though pu-erh is one style of tea from one province, it's tricky to make generalizations about how it tastes. Regional variations in terroir, processing styles, and age all come into play, and the world of pu-erh is maddeningly complex, even by fine tea standards. As Jinghong Zhang puts it in her excellent Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic, an elucidating academic treatment of the tea's socio-political-economic history, "Pu-erh tea has been packaged by multiple actors into a fashionable drink with multiple authenticities." But to paint with the broadest of all possible brushes, here's a very rough breakdown of the three major pu-erh categories:

Young 'Raw': This looks like green tea more than anything else, and it's either brand new or not old enough (under, say, two to three years) to develop any of the aged characteristics of more mature pu-erh. It can be floral and sweet or as bitter as amaro, but there's an undeniable youth and grassy freshness to the brew. Some pu-erh people hate the taste of bitter young sheng, but others specifically seek it out for those bitter qualities. And some of the best young sheng out there should be drank fast, like green tea; not all pu-erh ages well, and time can just flatten out its snappy, vegetal flavor without adding anything new.

Aged 'Raw': There are many schools on how to age pu-erh, but all involve controlled heat and humidity to smooth out the tea's rough edges and make for a darker, deeper brew that tends to register lower in your throat and body. Aged pu-erh raw usually has some woodsy, earthy qualities and camphor or dark fruit notes, but rather than specific flavors, the important thing here is the depth and body the tea develops. There's enormous range in how that character manifests; a seven-year-old pu-erh likely won't be as murky and moody as a 30-year-old one. So the only way to get a sense of how aging affects pu-erh is to drink a lot of it.

'Ripe': The deep, dark, basementy pu-erh favored by the likes of Hong Kong drinkers takes decades to mature, which is why in the 1970s, tea processors developed a shortcut: shou ('ripe,' as opposed to 'raw' sheng) pu-erh, in which dried pu-erh leaves are piled in rooms and left to effectively compost for months in the heat and humidity from their own biomass. The process cuts maturation time down from decades to months, though shou pu-erh usually winds up tasting less complex than good aged sheng, and it's typically made with lower grade leaves. But a good shou pu-erh can be thick and luscious as a latte with a rich, mushroomy sweetness that sinks to your belly, and it's usually cheaper than comparable quality aged sheng pu-erh. Note that you can age shou pu-erh just like sheng, but since it's already been 'pre-aged' in processing, its character will evolve far less over time.

Fortunately, no matter what kind of pu-erh you have, brewing it is relatively straightforward. Like other fine Chinese teas, it benefits from using a lot of leaf in small pots, brewing for short times (15 to 60 seconds) over a series of as many as two dozen infusions with boiling or near-boiling water, adjusting as you go. (More on this kind of brewing right this way.) More than most tea, pu-erh is built for change, not just over months and years, but over a single brew session.

You can use a scale to weigh out your leaves to the gram, but I usually break off a six- to 10-gram chunk with a butter knife for a 100-milliliter gaiwan or clay teapot.* Even relatively simple fresh, young sheng pu-erh will develop in your pot as you keep re-steeping, and more mature aged teas can travel from dank and mushroomy to spicy-sweet to grapey-floral.

*Here's a video on how to break apart a pu-erh cake. There are plenty of online resources on the subject, but this one has the best soundtrack.

Buy it With Care

Buying quality tea is always tricky business, but this is especially the case with pu-erh. The most challenging part of buying good pu-erh is knowing who to trust. Since it's such a trendy tea in tea circles, and vendors typically buy from other sellers or middlemen processors and factories rather than farmers directly (remember, those processors are the ones who press the tea into its final form), there's a lot of opportunity for someone to lie along the way and either upsell their goods or completely misrepresent what they're selling.

Do a little reading about pu-erh and you'll see some vaunted names come up again, such as famous teas like Menghai Factory's 7542 cakes or lusted-after antique 88 qingbings, or noteworthy growing regions like Yiwu and Laobanzhang. All justly celebrated, but without much regulation, there's no guarantee that the $300 aged cake you just bought is actually the tea being advertised. Even pu-erh experts can get fooled by fakes, a rampant problem in the industry.

Pu-erh can get expensive. Since the tea is formed into a compressed shape, you have to buy it in fixed amounts. Small nest-shaped tuo forms are usually 100 or 250 grams, and cakes, the most common form, are over three quarters of a pound. While many vendors offer smaller samples of their pu-erhs, those samples come with a substantial markup. Oh, and those big name teas? Some of them can command astronomical prices: four or five figures for less than a pound of tea.

The good news, though, is that quality pu-erh costs less per-gram than many other quality teas that a) can't age well, so you have to drink them fast, and b) don't last nearly as many re-steeps as pu-erh, so while you may pay a higher upfront cost, even pricey pu-erh can come out cheaper per cup than some other celebrated tea styles.

So it's worth buying your pu-erh with care, which is why I typically do so from vendors who specialize in it and who either press their own cakes or have long-established relationships that have a proven track record of quality. To get you started, here are five reliable sources to seek out. If you're brand new to pu-erh, don't get too hung up on the terminologies and labels you'll find as you start shopping. Instead, set a budget, order some samples and maybe a couple cheap cakes to start, and drink with an open mind. The addiction comes later.

Pu-Erh Sources to Seek Out

Crimson Lotus: Reasonably priced quality aged and fresh raw pu-erh as well as some good affordable ripe styles. The 2005 Changtai Top of the Clouds is a solid introduction to the complexities of aged pu-erh, as is the 2008 Bulang for deep, sweet ripe. Crimson Lotus also presses their own raw pu-erh for aging or drinking right now; the 2015 Hidden Song is a tasty fresh tea that will appeal to green tea fans, while the already enticing 2015 Slumbering Dragon will only get better with time.

White2Tea: Another boutique shop with a wide (but carefully selected) range of pu-erh: just-pressed and decades old, raw and ripe, budget-friendly and "second mortgage on the house" pricey. Many of the house pressings are great (the 2015 Tuhao as Fuck in particular; White2Tea also has the best pu-erh names in the business), and most interesting for pu-erh beginners will be the company's four-cake starter set, which at $40 for 400 grams of tea is an especially affordable way to get a sense of how picking season, age, and leaf grade all affect a tea.

Chawangshop: Wide, wide selection and some very friendly prices mean it's easy to go overboard at this China-based vendor, which also carries a good selection of other fermented aged tea to try beyond pu-erh. Not all the offerings are equally good—there's a $4 brick of tea that unsurprisingly brews up like horse food—but the house Chawangpu pressings are rather nice budget offerings to swig on a daily basis, such as the 2015 Hekai Gushu or the 2005 Bulang.

Yunnan Sourcing: With literally hundreds of pu-erhs available, Yunnan Sourcing sells more pu-erh than just about any Western-facing vendor. This is a good place to get a sense of just how varied the world of pu-erh is, from big factory pressings by Menghai and Xiaguan to more obscure regions to the company's own label. Learning about pu-erh means paying some tuition, and a comprehensive site like Yunnan Sourcing can help you see what's out there.

Tea Classico: On the more high-end side, with some 1980s and '90s pu-erh that's aged into remarkable maturity (and worth ordering samples of for a couple brews of deep tea education). The budget offerings, such as the 2013 Zhangjia, are worth looking into as well, good reminders that a pu-erh doesn't have to be expensive to be delicious.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Chili powder: ancho chile, paprika, cumin, and Mexican oregano

Za'atar: thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac

Herbs de provence: rosemary, marjoram, thyme, oregano, sage, and tarragon

Garam masala: chinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, mace, peppercorns, coriander, turmeric, and cumin

Ras el hanout: cardamom, clove, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric

Curry powder: turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper

Cajun seasoning: black pepper, paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, and thyme

Chinese five spice: cassia, clove, fennel, star anise, Szechuan peppercorns


Sweet onions are best for frying. Use for: onion rings, gratins, and roasted veggies.

Red onions are best for eating raw. Use for: guacamole, pickled onions, salads, and sandwiches.

White onions are crunchiest and have the sharpest zing. Use for: salsas, chutneys, and stir fries.

Yellow onions are the best all-around cooking onion. Use for: meat roasts, braised meat dishes, sauces, soups, and stews.

Shallots are milder and more subtle. Use for: vinaigrettes, egg casseroles, and garnishes.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marinating: A Guide to How it Works and What it Does

Jessica Gavin
Published on July 9, 2018

There’s no easier way to make everyday food sparkle a little brighter and taste a little bolder than by using a marinade. Once you’re familiar with the fundamentals of marinating, you can ditch the store-bought stuff and make your own with ingredients that are already in your pantry.

Pouring marinade over chicken inside a zip loc bag

Marinades are more than just a pretty face. In fact, this simple blend of ingredients can work together to add flavor and moisture to almost anything. Certain ingredients like salt penetrate beyond the surface of the meat and adding a whole new level of deliciousness to what you’re cooking.

Here, I’ll talk a bit about what each part of a successful marinade does to your food, as well as some tips for making marinades at home. It’s easier than you might think! Marinades used judiciously can work to tenderize meat, add moisture, and enhance the flavor of food, making tough cuts of meat much more palatable.
What is a marinade?

Whisk mixing homemade marinade

Marinating is a process of soaking meats in a seasoned liquid, called a marinade, before cooking. Marinades often use an acid (like vinegar or citrus juice) or an enzyme (like mango, papaya, or kiwi fruit) to enhance flavors and change surface texture. The acid or enzyme in a marinade causes the meat’s tissue to weaken on the surface but must be used minimally and not for extended periods of time. Otherwise, the meat will become mushy, tough, and dry. A successful marinade has the right balance of acid, oil, and seasonings.
Flavoring the surface

Chicken breasts with surface coating of marinade

Soaking a piece of meat in a marinade will only penetrate so far into the surface of the meat, millimeters at best. It’s a technique that works well with thinner, flat cuts or pieces of meat that have been cut into cubes or slices. When you make a marinade out of ginger, honey, and soy sauce, for example, the ginger and honey remain on the outside of the meat, but the salt in the soy sauce can penetrate a bit deeper into the interior.
Flavor absorbing inside

Salt first draws out the liquid from the meat by osmosis; then the brine is reabsorbed into the meat while breaking down muscle structures. The brine draws water-soluble flavors further down below the surface into the cut, like onions and garlic. Oils are also used to transfer fat-soluble flavors from the seasonings like herbs, chilis, and some spices onto the surface of the meat.

Marinating a flank steak in a baking dish

Benefits of marinating meat

Taste/Flavor: Here’s where you can get super creative! There are endless ways to make your very own custom marinade that’s suitable for every type of cuisine out there. With just a few basic pantry items, you can add a gigantic boost of flavor to otherwise ordinary tasting meats and vegetables. The choice is yours: add spice, smoke, or sweetness.

Texture: When you marinate, flank steak can melt in your mouth, and a grilled chicken breast is the juiciest thing in the world. Marinades soften leaner meats that tend to be dry and make tougher cuts tastier.

Moisture/Tenderness: Similar to brining, marinating is an effective way to introduce extra moisture into meat that can get too dry when cooked, as well as making what you marinate more tender. You may know that brining relies on salt to do its work, but a marinade is so much more than that, using acid, fat, seasonings, herbs, spices, sugar, and salt to not only tenderize but enhance the flavor of the food you cook.
Health benefits of marinades

Making your own marinades lets you control what you put in them, which is far better than buying a jar of something off the shelf that might contain dubious ingredients or unwanted calories.

Also, using marinades can help reduce the carcinogenic compounds from high heat grilling and broiling, called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), providing a buffer for the food while it cooks.

Pre-portioned ingredients for a marinade

Basic ingredients in a marinade

Fat: You need some fat in a marinade because it helps transfer fat-soluble flavors onto the meat and also helps retain moisture. Fats help round out flavor profiles and keep sharp or acidic flavors from dominating. This could be olive oil, sesame oil, yogurt, buttermilk, tahini or mayonnaise.
Salt: Salt will help the water-soluble flavors in the marinade penetrate the tissues and remain behind after cooking. Salt also restructures the protein in the meat to create more gaps for moisture to fill in. It also loosens the muscle fibers to make tough cuts easier to chew. Examples of salty stuff include miso, pickle juice, sea salt, soy sauce, or fish sauce.
Acid: Weakens the surface proteins in the meat and naturally boosts flavors. This is a large family of ingredients such as citrus juice, pickle juice, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, hot sauce, and buttermilk.
Enzymes: Helps to break down the connective tissue in the meat, mostly on the surface. Papaya or papain (a protein-digesting enzyme that used as a common meat tenderizer) can be used.
Seasonings: One word- flavor. That dry rub mix can be turned into a marinade. Or add chili powder, adobo seasoning, peppercorns, ginger, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, curry paste, tamarind paste, and mustards of all kinds.
Herbs: Adding herbs to your food, no matter what it is, can only be a good thing. Used fresh or dry, herbs of every variety under the sun have the power to up a marinade’s ante. Thyme, chives, basil, marjoram, tarragon, dill, lovage, oregano, parsley, or mint are all good candidates.
Sugar: Adding some type of sweetener adds to the complexity of the food you’re making. Ketchup, honey, agave, barbecue sauce, molasses, even soft drinks can be used to sweeten up a marinade.

Advantages and disadvantages

Even though making a marinade is fun, easy and completely adaptable, there are some things to keep in mind.

Time: Marinating some food too long can result in tough, dry, or poor texture. That means that you can’t let those shrimp sit all weekend in their marinade, you have to cook them.
Adding Acid: Lime juice can do wonders for a pork tenderloin, but too much acid in a marinade can dry out and toughen chicken or meat, so finding the right oil/sugar/acid/salt balance is critical. It can also “cook” delicate meats like seafood and shellfish.
Sugar: Marinades containing sweeteners like sugar, agave, honey, or molasses will burn quicker, so keep an eye on the food and move whatever you’re grilling to indirect heat if it starts to burn.

Piece of salmon marinating in a zip loc bag in the refrigerator

How to safely marinate meat

Because raw seafood, poultry, pork, and meat may contain harmful bacteria which could contaminate the marinade, it’s important to take a few safety precautions:

Marinate in the Refrigerator: Keeping raw food cold while marinating inhibits bacterial growth. Never allow the meat to marinate at room temperature.
Do Not Reuse a Marinade: By all means, make extra marinade if you’d like to serve a sauce alongside your grilled food, but put it in a separate container and don’t use it to marinate the meat, seafood, or poultry. Never serve marinade that has come into contact with uncooked meat, seafood, or chicken.
Use Non-reactive Materials: Acid in marinades can react with some metals and pottery glazes, therefore use glass or food-safe plastic to marinate foods. Never marinate in aluminum cookware or aluminum foil.

How long to marinate foods

Chicken breasts on a sheet pan showing the colors difference of marinade times

Depending on the type of marinade recipe you’re using, meats could be marinated in the refrigerator for anything from 30 minutes to overnight. Vegetables should only be marinated for up to 10 minutes or so. With both acid and enzyme marination, be careful not to over-marinate meat, as prolonged exposure to acid can cause it to become tough, or especially in the case of seafood, break down entirely.

Salmon fillet marinating in sauce

Types of food to marinate

Seafood: Fish and shellfish should marinate for only 30 minutes to an hour; any longer and the flesh might start to “cook” in the acid and yield mushy results.

Chicken: A chicken marinade is great for the whole chicken or individual parts. If you’re planning to cook a whole chicken, consider using a technique called spatchcocking to flatten the carcass. Furthermore, cutting a chicken into smaller pieces or removing the skin will help absorb the marinade. Two hours of marinating is plenty of time for the meat to soak up the flavor, but poultry can marinate for up to two days in the refrigerator. Very acidic marinades can toughen the meat over time, so read the recipe and follow the recommendations.

Beef and Pork: A steak marinade is ideal for tougher cuts like flank, skirt, sirloin, round, and hanger. It also does wonders for pork tenderloin and pork loin, if the loin is cubed into smaller pieces. These cuts can marinate up to 24 hours. Flat cuts of meat benefit the most from tenderizing marinades. Stay away from better-quality steaks, like porterhouse or ribeye, because marinating can ruin them.

Tofu: Unlike meat, tofu can absorb flavor and can be marinated for as long as 24 hours.

Vegetables: Avoid marinating soft vegetables longer than about 10 minutes; they will throw off water and become soggy before they hit the grill. Firm vegetables like potatoes, carrots, squash, etc. can marinate for up to 30 minutes.

Preparing foods to marinate

Size- Whole vs. Pieces: Marinating works best with thinner, flat cuts of meat, or more substantial cuts if they’re cut into uniform sized cubes or thin slices. Of course, this depends on what you’re cooking, but larger roasts don’t generally fare as well.
Skewers: Keeping smaller cut-up pieces of meat and shrimp in place and turning them while cooking on a grill can be a little tricky. I recommend using skewers to keep the parts out of the coals, even if you’re not making kabobs. The pieces can be removed from the skewer after they’ve cooked for serving.

Grilled flank steak sliced on a cutting board

Best ways to cook marinated foods

Grill: Go ahead and grill to your heart’s content! The heat of the grill can caramelize the sugar in some marinades, so watch the food carefully. Grilling is a perfect way to cook up some kabobs or flank steak to slice up thin and enjoy in tacos.
Broil: If you’re curious about the top feature inside your oven, by all means, broil! Try some garlic, parsley, olive oil, and lemon zest marinated shrimp which cook up fast under the direct heat of the broiler.
Bake: Chicken breasts can get very dry if baked all by themselves, so this method works well with a marinade. Try a yogurt, turmeric, garlic, and garam masala mixture slathered over the pieces.
Roast: Roasted pork roast might taste fabulous in a marinade of apple cider vinegar, coriander, honey, and garlic.

Tools for marinating

Resealable Bags: A zip-top bag makes marinating super easy and mess-free, and ensures that the meat gets direct contact with the marinade. You can mix everything without getting your hands dirty, too.
Skewers: Using a skewer is a wonderful way to grill marinated meat efficiently. Bamboo skewers should be soaked in water for at least twenty minutes, so the wood doesn’t burn on the grill. Stainless steel skewers can be used right away.
Whisk: A stainless steel whisk works wonders when mixing up all those herbs, mustards, and oils.
Bowl: Bowls of various sizes are always handy, and especially so for marinating without using a bag. Use glass. Make sure the bowl you’re using is glass, stainless steel, or food-safe plastic. Avoid pottery bowls that may have lead glazes or react with the acid in the liquid.
Baking Dish: A glass baking dish or casserole is a nice thing to have on hand for marinating a flank steak or larger cut of meat because it provides the space and surface area without crowding.
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