December 30, 2012

Life's Dirty 30 & Kung Pao Chicken Wontons with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Do you make New Year's resolutions? You know, 'I'll work out at least 5 days a week,' 'I'll read more smart-people books,' 'I'll fly to the moon,' 'I'll stop partying like it's 1999.' Yeah, when I do that there's always a tiny voice in my head snickering, telling me, "Yeah, fat chance, sucker!"

Last year was different, though. There was all this hoopla about the world ending in 2012, so I figured that before I went up in flames, I'd make a couple of frivolous promises to myself. I mean, they do say you should live every day like it's your last, right? And since the Mayans were kind enough to do the math and precisely pinpoint when the clocks would stop ticking, I decided to keep it simple; I just wanted to have an awesome time before the apocalypse ate me alive.

Did it work out?


This year, there were three big three's. I marked three decades of dawdling on this planet, my husband and I celebrated three years of marriage with the birth of our baby boy, and after three years of joblessness, I caved into the unconventional culinary career I've been contemplating since college. So yes, it's been a big, beautious year.

More than anything though, I've learned some life-altering lessons along the way. My words of wisdom might not be wow-worthy, mostly because they're obsessive observations, but reflection relaxes me, especially at end of the year. Of course, it would be kind of depressing if I only found one fun fact for every year of my existence, but I purposely kept this list current. It's not fair to curse you with my countless hours of contemplation. 

December 24, 2012

Santa's Little Helper: Muneeze Khalid & Her Gorgeous Gingerbread Cupcakes

God, I love Christmas. The carols, the chaos, and my personal favorite, the crazy consumerism. Come on, isn't that what it's all about? The presents? And the bigger, the better, right? These days though, I'm more of a "good things come in small packages" kind of girl. 

Probably because I stopped growing at age 10.

I'm small enough to fit into a suitcase. If that sounds like a stretch, I'd like to inform you that I have tried and tested my theory. Yes, I literally curled up into my 'case and had my college roomie zip me in. Yeah, that was fun for about five seconds. Then the claustrophobia kicked in.

All in all though, being tiny can be pretty terrific. So much so, that I seek out other small people, selecting them to be a part of my secret society, simply on the basis of size. What can I say? I'm fiercely loyal to other little people. 

This year, in the spirit of good will, sharing and of course, my psychological issues with baking, I've teamed up with a petite patisserie whose stunning, gravity-defying confections leave me speechless. And you know it's a feat to shut me up.

December 16, 2012

The Wicked Witches of Winter Weddings & Wasabi Cream Fish Cakes

A couple of years ago, attending the one millionth wedding of the season, a fuming and frustrated friend most eloquently described December in Lahore: mating season. That's right. The young and available coming out and strutting their stuff. Come on, we've all been through it. The primping, the preening and the peacocking. Who hasn't fluttered those feathers, right? And seriously, who can deny donning designer duds, downing decadent dinners and dancing till dawn, right? Right?

I fell for my other half at a winter wedding. Go figure.

Now of course, thanks to the infuriating idiots of the Punjab government, the first order of frugality is fewer festivities. That's right, in Lahore you can be fined for having fun after 10 p.m. But the real death of decadence is limiting dinners to one dish. Happy hedonism has been hijacked by the hairless, holier-than-thou hooligans!

Personally, I dread December.

I also dread November, because that's when the onslaught of invitations ensues.

You guys already know that I have a habit of hiding out, but I swear to you, sometimes partying seriously feels as painful as slowly being poisoned.  I'm awful at small talk. I'm not socially savvy enough to dance and look cool at the same time. And I can't carry a big designer bag because frankly, I look like a hobbit wearing body armor.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, about this season gives me the willies worse than the Wicked Witches of Winter Weddings.

The predator that hunts in packs, stalking its prey in the night, stealthily springing in for the kill...with vicious gossip.

Her best friends forever? Bleach, Botox and b****ing.

You know who I'm talking about, right?

December 10, 2012

Talking Over Tea & Scones

Women talk. Go ahead, deny it, but you and I both know it's the terrible truth. This week my sister is in town and what's about to go down is not done justice by simply referring to it as "talking." We will be performing a highly cultured ritual where the females of the tribe will convene for endless chai and chatter.

When I speak, it's almost like I'm hard of hearing. I laugh even louder, but that's because I have a theory about laughter; like a sneeze, it must be loud to be truly satisfying.

Also, I talk a lot. I'm not sure if that's because I come from a family of women who love to yap or if I married into a family of one? Maybe it's because I went to college at the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement?

Really, the reasons don't matter because it boils down to something pretty simple; verbal out-pour just makes me feel a little bit lighter.

When M comes home, all the ladies in my clan instantly develop MMS (Manic Motor-Mouth Syndrome). Three generations of women sit down, lingering over bottomless cups of tea, chatting about everything from men, make-up and motherhood to saucy scandals, sob stories and psychotic staff members.

To the untrained ears of an innocent bystander, our volume and pitch can be deafening.

So how can these sessions still be so soothing? For one, I don't know of a safer setting in which to laugh, cry and generally unload. But what I love most about our heart-to-hearts is this: zero censorship, no holds barred.

Sometimes I'm purposely obnoxious. Believe me, it's totally worth it. Watching my grandmother squirm and pretend to be a prude, secretly trying to hide her amusement behind a look of damning disapproval, is absolutely priceless. It doesn't even take much. Just something casual like, "Hey Nano, wanna go have a smoke?" I don't even smoke...anymore, but you get the picture.

Here's the thing though, I'm horrible at taking advice. I'm even worse with criticism, but in my defense I have the tendency to be so harshly self-critical that sometimes my self-esteem threatens to go on strike. So when these mile-a-minute marathons start to become liberally peppered with some really *ahem* creative solutions to all my fantastical little problems, I reflexively turn into a stubborn mule, refusing to listen.

This week though, in an extremely rare occurrence, I'm willingly going to solicit someone else's opinion. Namely, you.

December 8, 2012

Hunger & Haw Hai's KARACHI VS. LAHORE TOP 10 Contest

Ah, Karachi! The city be the sea. The land of crabs, chili chips and chaat. And good ol' Lahore. The walled wonder. A city of tikkas, tawas and tandoors. There's a fierce rivalry between two of Pakistan's most cosmopolitan cities and they just can't agree to disagree! From super-sophisticated social scenes and designer divas to spectacular scenery and of course, fabulous food, Lahore and Karachi relentlessly vie to be crowned king.

Based on your votes, Hunger & Haw will crown one city the Food Culture Capital of Pakistan 2012. Your comments decide the top 10 dishes that best define your city. I'm looking for the Top 10 Can't-Be-Missed food experiences in Karachi and Lahore. Nominate a signature dish and if you make it on to the list, you could win a Rs.5000 cash prize**!

Collect the Food Culture Crown or a Rs.5000 Cash Prize!

Log on to Hunger & Haw Hai's facebook page, vote for your city and make sure to share the link with your friends. The city with the most votes will be crowned the Food culture Capital of Pakistan. Don't forget to represent and rock the vote!

Nominate a signature dish for your city by commenting on any of the Karachi vs. Lahore Top 10 contest pictures. Hunger & Haw Hai wants to know which dish you think deserves the top spot. Speak up, speak out and you could win a Rs. 5000 cash prize!



December 5, 2012

Love in the Time of Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Part 2

If you haven't already, read Love in the Time of Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Part 1!
Daydreaming delights my soul.
There she stood, eyes only half open, her hand outstretched. I limply deposited one earring into her open palm.

"Where's the other one?" she mumbled. I had never been more tempted to blatantly lie. I wanted to say something casual like, "Oh man, I left it in my purse," or "I only wore one tonight. It's the latest fashion." But I know my mother. In her eyes, the only sin graver than irresponsibility is insulting her intelligence. 

And in a moment of fear and weakness, I blurted everything out. She listened, stone-faced. God, I dread that look. I just call it The Look. It's her version of a comic-book villain's super-power. One stare and you crumple to the floor in agony.

When I was done, I prepared myself for the verbal assault that was about to ensue in approximately t-5 seconds. Instead, she just turned around and disappeared into her dressing room. 

Was I off the hook? Was I actually being shown mercy? I dawdled in my delusions. 

Before I knew it, she was back and she had something in her hand.

December 2, 2012

Love in the Time of Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Part 1

In Rome, studying the menu. 
"There's a reason we refer to "leaps of faith" - because the decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable, and I don't care how diligently scholars of every religion will try to sit you down with their stacks of books and prove to you through scripture that their faith is indeed rational; it isn't. If faith were rational, it wouldn't be - by definition - faith. Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark." 

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabet Gilbert

My husband is traveling this week and I miss him like a fat kid misses cake. What can I say, I'm a stage-5 clinger. 

When I travel, I always pack a book, even if I don't end up reading much of it. I purposely pick a travel-tome mindless enough to skip entire chapters and still not lose the plot. I find it's fantastically useful for looking obviously antisocial on a flight

As utterly unsophisticated as I am, a lot of my friends are literature-snobs. For them, fiction is frivolous and I'm pretty sure they have some secret code that mandates they only read stuff published in an era before electricity, or set in an age of corsets and cravats, or written in cipher-like English.

My requisites for selecting a read? Peer pressure. Most recently, I got suckered into the Fifty Shades trap. So really, I'm a literary mongrel. For cool points, I occasionally pretend to have read and understood the profundity of books I've never even heard of, but the truth is, best-sellers are my best friends.

One girl's trash is another girl's treasure.

One of my all time favorites? Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, LoveHere's the gist: sad, emotionally-damaged thirty-something travels the world trying to "find herself," and love. Sounds cheesy,right? Well, before you jump to any conclusions, I'm going to ask you to take a tiny leap of faith. 

Do you have faith? Do you believe in miracles? Me? Absolutely! I'm not sure it's possible to answer yes to only one of those questions. And trust me, after what I'm about to tell you, by the end of this little chit-chat,  I'll have made a believer out of you too.

November 26, 2012

Confessions & Coconut Curry

A really, really long time ago, author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." I'll get to what that means in a minute, but first I want tell you what I'm not. 

I'm not your average woman. Go ahead, roll your eyes and judge me for being an ego-maniac, but seriously, I speak the truth. If the 21st century is about the strong, independent glamazon, I'm anything but. Men still make my world go round. I have a measly grand total of two BFFs. And I'm only 5 feet tall.

Still not convinced? Ok, how about this? You let me plead my case and I'll let you play both judge and jury. Fair trade, right? Awesome!

I'd like to begin by submitting exhibit A into evidence. Ladies, brace yourselves, and gentlemen, prepare to rejoice because my world is still a man's world. And like the world, my explanation for that statement is twisted.

November 22, 2012

Road Runner: Braving Lahori Traffic So You Won't Have To

If there's anything I can testify to as a born and partially-bred Lahori , it's that our laziness is legendary. If you look up "bumming around," in the dictionary, there's a little map of our city next to it.

I'm just as guilty as rest of you. Probably worse. I live in the DHA area and wandering into mysterious lands, lands with exotic names like Gulberg and Model Town, strikes fear in my heart. I brood like a brat when something cool opens up outside my vicinity. And as the self-appointed queen of convenience, I never learned to drive. P.S. to all the car-crazy types who insist that the non-driving population is handicapped; I'm not paralyzed, I'm posh!

Of course, I can't be this bourgeois without an army backing my behind. I need a brave unit commandeered by a king of the roads, fending off hordes of vehicular savages, tirelessly defending my right to rest and relaxation, and bringing peace and home-delivery to my land. At last, the Good Lord has answered Her Majesty's prayers and I have finally found my knight in shining armor!

Road Runner is the hottest thing on wheels since Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder, offering same-day delivery in Lahore for everything from groceries and meals, to books and movie tickets. The service is my dream come true, but how does this curious magic work? Personally, I imagine an army of wired elves, taking calls, making calls, roaming the aisles of my favorite grocery stores, picking up exactly what I need, and secretly delivering to my doorstep while I sleep. Of course, Zahra and Adnan, the rockstars running this road-show, told me otherwise, but my version makes my inner child happier so, I'm sticking to it. And now, a quick salute to the courageous soldiers at RR who support my slacking off:
  • Good for: Planning a fun night in with latest in DVDs and best-selling books or a great night out with tickets to the hottest blockbusters in theaters now. 
  • Great for: The luxuriously lethargic and the agoraphobic. Now there is life beyond a 1 mile radius, with Road Runner delivering from almost every major grocery store and an impressive list of restaurants around the city.
  • Thumbs up: My book of choice AND the ingredients for my brittle at the click of a mouse! Makes my determination to dodge driving totally worthwhile. And it's the perfect smack-down for anyone who's ever mocked my inability to operate an automobile
  • Thumbs down: Restaurant menus and price lists for grocery items aren't available yet, which means it's pretty easy to blow your budget. 
  • Don't bother: If you have some sort of philosophy on how driving makes you feel free and independent. Being trapped in a log-jam of cars doesn't sound super-liberating to me.
The official Road Runner website  is still under construction, but you can place your order online by logging onto their Facebook page or calling 03341310131 (alternate number: 0334-1311131). And if you're not in Lahore, keep an eye on the roads because the service is slated to zip around the streets of Karachi and Islamabad soon. 

As for me, I'm off to cozy up with Russel Brand's, My Booky Wook, and a jar of brittle. Ciao, ciao!

Connect with Hunger & Haw Hai on Facebook, for all the latest posts, recipes, photos and more.

November 21, 2012

Salted Caramel Peanut Brittle

This brittle is blonde, buttery, and studded with salt-roasted peanuts, making it the perfect little bite of sugary sweetness and satisfying crunch. For a brilliant brittle, use the freshest, highest quality nuts possible and measure out all the ingredients before you get started. 
Salted Caramel Peanut Brittle (approx. 1/2 kg or 1lb)
Adapted from The Kitchn's Salted Caramel Pistachio Brittle, by Kristin Silverman

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup (available at Esajee's or click here for a recipe to make your own)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup salted, shelled peanuts (or nuts of your choice)
- Line a baking sheet with butter paper and  it set aside.

- Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and butter in a medium sized saucepan. Don't use a small saucepan because the caramel bubbles up and you really don't want searing hot sugar burning through your skin!

- Over a medium-high heat, cook the caramel until it starts to turn a deep amber color. This takes about 10 minutes. Avoid the temptation to stir the mixture too much and be warned, this process isn't for the faint of heart. What you're looking for is the faintest hint of a burnt aroma. No, your caramel isn't ruined. Far from it, this is when your caramel develops a divine buttery sweetness.

- Remove the caramel from the heat and CAREFULLY stir in the baking soda. You might want to step back for a second (but only a second) while the the mixture bubbles .

- At this point it's important to work quickly. Stir in the peanuts and immediately pour the mixture out onto the pre-lined baking sheet.

- Using an oiled spatula, spread the mixture into an even layer.

-Cool completely (approximately 30 mins). Break into shards.

If you've never made caramel before, check out David Lebovitz's awesome tips and tricks for making the process pretty foolproof.

For storage, seal the brittle in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. But really, this brittle is so divine it's unlikely you'll have anything left over to store. 

Happy munching and crunching, gals and pals!

Connect with Hunger & Haw Hai on Facebook, for all the latest posts, recipes, photos and more.

November 18, 2012

The King of MY Castle & Keep-Me-Cozy Mac 'n Cheese

This Sunday I want to start out by saying thank you. Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting Hunger & Haw Hai!. I'm living the dream and it's all because of you guys! And of course thank you God, for finally helping me work up the nerve to write for someone other than myself.

Speaking of God, I truly believe He has a great sense of humor. And when it starts to get a little nippy outside, I imagine a big booming bout of laughter. See, when I got married I didn't ask for jewels, or cars, or whatever else some superficial succubus would ask for. All I wanted was true love's kiss and my own bathroom. In retrospect, I think the Big Man Upstairs thought I was being a tad greedy. Why didn't I just settle for the bathroom?!?

Now, I don't know about you, but my bathroom is my secret haven of serenity. A place of comfort and contemplation. And I swear, I do some top-notch thinking in there. But every winter, like a needy nomad, my husband invades my  pagoda of peace and desecrates it's sanctity. Don't get me wrong, I love winters in Lahore. A lazy haze settles over the city. The blaze of the sun dims. Holiday season kicks off. And all is warm and fuzzy...until I stumble over a pile of wet towels.

It's not fair! Lahore only has two seasons! In the summer, LESCO's load-shedding schedule dictates when I shower. In the winter, it's my number one man.

How and why all of  this conspires boils down to gas  and electricity shortages. As usual, the government is responsible for my misery. But this is not about that. This  is about what goes down in retaliation for being shunned from my sanctuary.

November 15, 2012

Pakistan Food Forum: Famished Food-Nerds Unite

My dad is pretty much your average Pakistani father, a creature of convention. And as is typical of most men with a mooch, he has a hierarchy for what qualifies as a "prestigious," career. Chef probably isn't even on the ladder. So it wasn't shocking when he just couldn't fathom why I might choose becoming a bawarchi over studying business at Berkeley. I could've just said, "Daddy, I love food," but instead, I majored in how to make money and, like a good girl, satisfied the Pakistani Pre-30 Prerequisites of husband, home, and offspring. 

I'm not going to lie, conformity can be very comfortable and it's scary to put yourself out there, but I'm still a rebel without a cause and my motto's always been, "Be loud, be proud!" So I, for one, would like to praise the Lord that times have changed! 

Food culture is evolving in Pakistan and I'm absolutely over-the-moon about it. Even the social mavens who dictate today's hit and tomorrow's sh** agree, food is the new "it" thing. And at last there's a place for all of us food-enthusiasts to flock together!

The Pakistan Food Forum  has taken local food-enthusiasts by storm. And with over 2000 members, the PFF is buzzing as food-fanatics from all over the country chime in with awesome information, opinions, and some great advice. Plus, it's a much-needed haven for someone like me. I enjoy filling my belly with talk about food just as much as eating it. So here's a quick review of what's hot and what's not at the Forum:
  • Good for: Sharing all your cannot-be-missed food moments.
  • Great for: Answering all your culinary queries, including restaurant reviews, recipes, and where to locate hard-to-find ingredients.
  • Thumbs up: Thank you for finally giving food-nerds a voice and the courage to come out of the closet.
  • Thumbs down: Moderation is a smidge totalitarian. 
  • Don't bother: If you eat to live and don't live to eat
Log on to the group's Facebook page for more information. 

As for me, I will be faithful in my love for food, now and forever. And I vow to wave my flag of adoration with pride, courage, and loyalty! 

Live long and prosper, my fellow food-nerds,. And may the Food-Force be with you.


Food News Today 11.15.2012

11.15.12 Pakistan isn't the only country with posh politicians! U.S. president, Barack Obama, to receive $300,000 mushroom as a re-election gift.

11.15.12 Laverne Brady reveals her cookie conundrum: A hilarious recount that confirms patience and pigging out just don't go together!

11.15.12 Come for the art, stay for the feast: Jennifer Rubell redefines food art with whimsical and edible installations. A feast for your eyes and your tummy!

November 11, 2012

Whining & Dining

Wow, I thought writing college application essays was super-stressful, but seriously, cranking this one post out beats all that grief by a mile!! If I told you how many posts I scrapped before finally hitting the publish button, you'd think I was a little neurotic. Which I'm not...OK, I am...and yes, the pressure's been killing me! But finally, after some serious soul-searching, a gazillion cups of chai, and being totally wired off all that caffeine for days, I came up with this: "Happy Sunday and welcome to Hunger & Haw Hai!"

Best burger on the block, the "Shack Burger" from the Shake Shack
in Madison Square Park.
New York, NY

Phew! It feels good opening up with something casual like that. Almost therapeutic. Especially before I dive into the hot and juicy stuff. 

So I thought it'd be fun if I got this show on the road with an innocent little confession, an appetizer, something you should know about my food love, a tidbit of information I conveniently omitted from my about section. It's really kind of hush-hush thing, but we're all friends here, right? And you totally won't judge me when I spill the proverbial beans, right? Awesome! 

Fresh jelly-filled donuts at the Ferry Building Farmer Market.
San Francisco, CA
OK, so when it comes to food I'm what some would describe as anal. Politer people term me judgmental. I'd prefer enthusiastic. Or passionate. But fine, I'm pretty gung-ho about my grub and a total stickler for culinary correctness. What does that mean? Basically, even though I'm not a picky eater, I'm fussy about my food. That might sound completely contradictory, but I have a perfectly illogical explanation.