Thursday, December 06, 2007

Not So Much With the Stars

I've been endeavoring to diversify my home cooking menu and it's been rather difficult for various reasons. One of the major reasons is that my husband is a picky eater and can't tolerate hot and spicy dishes. Both of us enjoy Indian dishes though they have to be on the mild side for him. I read Mallika's excellent Quick Indian Cooking site regularly and have attempted to make the dishes she writes about there on occasion. The main problem I have is that some of the ingredients aren't available in Japan. Even when most of the ingredients are in a shop, I've found spices are pretty low quality. I'm guessing this is because they aren't used in traditional Japanese cuisine and sit around the store for ages.

I have made Mallika's chicken pulao recipe twice before. I had to substitute ground cumin for whole and a dried red chili for the green ones. The first time, it lacked flavor because my spices were so anemic. The second time, I doubled the dried, whole spices and it was better. This time, I'm considering tripling the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and star anise to try and create some deeper flavor from what I'm sure are well aged spices.

A bottle of star anise, well, not exactly stars.

The only problem with my plans was that I was out of star anise. There's only one market nearby which carries it and I trekked over there and searched the spice rack. The only "star anise" they had was a bottle of smashed up little bits. While I'm sure this will add flavor just fine, it's going to make removing the anise (which is hard and bark-like) from the finished dish before eating rather difficult.

Nonetheless, the chicken pulao recipe is worth the hassle. If you're interested in trying your hand at some Indian cooking, it's a winner. If you live in Japan though, consider going a bit heavy on the whole spices.


Anonymous said...

Here is an Indian Food supply store (my husbands' coworker from Indian shops here when he is in Japan):

>>click in the lower left corner "Ambika Retail Outlet"

It is in Asakusabashi. FYI

Me. Who else? said...

You could put the star anise into a dashi pack -

(Or an O-cha pack, which is basically the same thing).

Shari said...

Thanks for the links and suggestions. I'll be checking them out. The food supply shop looks pretty promising but there are limits on how much I'm willing to spend (at some point, I'm better off going to an Indian restaurant and having someone else do the work ;-)).

mjgolli said...

Don't feel too bad about anemic spices, often the jarred spices here in the states can be on the useless side. I like to get spices fresh and whole whenever possible and loathe the dried powders. Unfortunately, many spices are only available as worthless little powders in jars.

I think that so many people are into prepackaged foods that real cooking has fallen out of favor, though I have to admit that I don't do much since my kitchen is pretty much worthess, but mom and I like to cook at her place quite a bit.