Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Food Path: Cuisine along the Grand Trunk Road from Kabul to Kolkata

Look! Brahmins and chamaars, bankers and tinkers, barbers and banias, pilgrims and potters - all the world going and coming. It is to me as a river from which I am withdrawn like a log after flood. And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle. Rudyard Kipling in "Kim" >

Reading the book, "Food Path: Cusine along the Grand Trunk Road from Kabul to Kolkata" by Pushpesh Pant transports you to an exotic place. It is a colorful, beautiful book - full of pictures. As the title implies,the Grand Trunk Road starts at Kabul in Afghanistan; crosses Pakistan; and goes through most of northern India almost all the way to Bangladesh. According to the book, the man behind its construction was Sher Shah Suri. He usurped Humayun, the son of Babur (founder of the Mughal dynasty 1483-1530). To supply all the travelers, of course, there are places to eat all along the Grand Trunk Road. The book takes us along for the ride and we get recipes at every stop. I was so excited that I cooked the very first recipe out of Kabul, as follows:>

Chppal Kebab >

Beef, minced (keema) 1 kg/22lb Eggs 2-3 Coriander (dhaniya)seeds, coarsely ground 3 tsp/6 gm Pomegranate seeds (anaar dana), coarsely ground 2 tsp/6 gm Dry red chilis (sookhi lal mirch), coarsely ground 3 tsp/6 gm Salt 1 tsp/3 gm Onion, finely chopped 2 cups/250 gm/9 oz Tomatoes 2-3 Green chillies, finely chopped 2-3 Cornflower 2-3 tbsp/20-30 gm Vegetable oil for frying 1 cup/250 ml/8 fl oz
Make scrambled eggs with 2 eggs and slightly beat the other one. Keep aside.
To make scrambled eggs, heat 1 tsp oil in a pan; add 2 whisked eggs and stir lightly for a minute. Remove and use as required.
Mix all the ingredients together (except oil) including the eggs.
Divide the mixture equally into 10-12 portions and shape them into flat round kebabs. Heat the oil in large frying pan; fry the kebabs, a few at a time, on medium heat. Cook until both sides are browned. Remove and drain the excess oil on absorbent paper towels. Serve with mint chutney.
My evaluation: Well, these don't look as good as they tasted. They are too lumpy! I think that I "chopped" instead of "minced." I have had these before and they were smoother. In Florida, we had an Afghan family down the street and they made kabob feasts for us sometimes. Mine did not look like theirs! Having said that, these tasted great! The scrambled egg and pomegranate seem like odd ingredients to use with hamburger, but they really worked. This (pictured) was my dad's plate and he ate these and then all the broken ones. Also, I served mine with yogurt instead of chutney, because that is what I had on hand. >

After leaving Kabul (and finishing our kebabs), the book takes us through the Kyber Pass and into Pakistan - first stop, Peshawar. "Peshawar is the quintessential frontier outpost - landing stage and watering hole for caravans for centuries." pp. 22 >

We travel through Pakistan and come to Ralwalpindi. "This was the city that Alexander the Great passed through on his way to the Indian heartland." pp. 30 Here the book shares recipes for Roasted Leg of Lamb and Spicy Lamb Chops. In traveling along the Grand Trunk Road, we witness a unique phenomenon, Pakistani Truck Art. The book has cute little pictures of bright, colorful Pakistani Truck Art scattered among the text.
We travel through Lahore and cross the border into India. First stop, Amistar, for Chicken Cubes Flavored with Fresh Fenugreek. "Amritsar, the city, literally translated as a pool of nectar, derives its name from the sacred tank that surrounds the beautifully serene Golden Temple - the holiest shrine for the Sikhs." pp. 54
(As an aside: The Golden Temple - focus here on the reflection in the pool - reminds me of something from Salman Rushdie's "The Enchantress of Florence." Here is the quote, "... the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold…" I am a huge Rushdie fan because I think that his books are like fairy tales for grown-ups. It is no surprise that he is from this exotic locale.) >

The "Food Path" book continues on; taking us through all of northern India, all the way to the Bangledeshi border. We sample Spicy Quail, Dal, Paneer, and many other
dishes. There is not space here to explore all of India! But, this book really is an exotic escape! I recommend it.
I am linking this article through "Weekend Cooking" at Bethfishreads (push button in my right hand column(!)) and with "Cookbook Sunday," at Couscous and Consciousness! The http://couscous-consciousness.blogspot.com/

25 comments:

  1. I think I will stick with taking that trip in a book..
    But lumpy or not, that recipe sounds so interesting..pomegranate ...gee.

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  2. Yea. The trip is better by book at this point in history...what with annoyances like the TALIBAN ruining your holiday. :)

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  3. This is a new to me book and sounds fascinating. The flavors in those kabobs make my mouth water. I think I *need* to track this one down.

    BTW: I owe email about Clovis points, anthropology, etc. ...

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  4. Exotic indeed! Sounds like a worthy cultural feast. Perked up at the mention of "Rawalpindi." It was the name of our favorite Indian restaurant in Wimbledon, England. And such a fun word to pronounce :). Thanks for the review!

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    1. My Pakistani friends just call it 'pindi for short, which I always think is so cute of them!!

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  5. I love Indian cuisine and this book looks like the perfect accompaniment! I will have to look it up now... perhaps your kabobs didn't came out perfect in size, but I bet the taste was wonderful! (And yay, another recipe for pomegranate :))

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  6. I have to look up the Grand Trunk Road, as I have never heard of it before. But it sounds like an interesting route and I love how you described it. LOVE the truck art!

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  7. This sounds incredibly fascinating, and despite not looking the prettiest, the dish sounds delicious!

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  8. Delicious food feast. Yep, I'd definitely stick to the book in this case :) Book sounds great!

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  9. What a feast, lumpy or not! I'm sure they were delicious. Think I'd like to take a look at the book, but not necessarily take the trip myself ;-)

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  10. Wow- this is one interesting post. I love pomegranate, but putting together with eggs and hamburger is not something I would have ever thought to do.

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    1. Weird combo-right? I think other cultures do more fruit with savories. And I think Westetn Europe did that more in the Middle Ages. Though pomegranates would have been really exotic I think.

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  11. I've never eaten a recipe with pomegranate, and pairing it with hamburger sounds a little strange, but it does look good. I'll give it a try.

    The Golden Temple is beautiful, but that truck is awesome!
    Here's Mine

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  12. This is my favorite kind of cookbook, one where there is more than just a listing of recipes. I like that this one takes me a place I've never been or even though about going.

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  13. Oh yum. Your kebab sounds and looks delicious! I just love exotic foods.

    That has got to be the prettiest truck I have ever seen! Wish the trucks around here looked like that!

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    1. They used to have fancy horse carts. And when trucks caught on they just transferred the art to them. Look how the truck is shaped- as though it has a little front roof to cover a wagon driver sitting out front. There are lots of pics on the net.

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  14. Wow! What an adventure! I am so intrigued by pomegranate in hamburger.

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  15. I love how you keep coming up with such unique dishes. Please keep them coming!!

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  16. India is one of my favorite destinations and heaven for a vegetarian. Your post reminded me of our trip. Great memories, so thank you!

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  17. Wow, what a fascinating book, and this recipe sounds utterly intriguing - it's certainly one I'd like to try.

    Thank you so much for sharing this at Cookbook Sundays - I do hope you'll join in again.

    Sue :-)

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  18. Sounds like a fascinating book - definitely one I'm going to look out for as I love the food from that region.

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  19. Wow!!! All those different flavors together! I love pomegranate but I've never bought one before because I don't know how to use them or even eat them (other than scooping out the seeds). Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I have a food that I feel the same way about...artichokes. I love them and buy artichoke HEARTS all the time. But, I've never bought a fresh artichoke and prepared it even though I have read about how to do it and I think that I could manage. I should just GET an artichoke and give my self permission to possibly mess it up; and you should just get a pomegranate and cut into it and pull it apart and find something cool in a cookbook or online to do with the seeds. You can't really mess it up! Well, the only thing you COULD mess up is clothes, carpet etc. My kids have wandered around the house with them before and have done a lot of damage(!) because the juice really stains! Other than that, you are good. You can look at youtube videos on preparing them. But they are pretty fancy (the videos). I just cut mine in half and start pulling them apart :)

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