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!

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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!

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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.