Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Open letter to Jeff Alford

Open letter to Jeff Alford.

This is poorly written and disjointed, but the spirit is here and I will edit later rather than delay publishing….

Although I try to stay with Ottawa restaurants, because of the lack of decent ones, I have started to try new recipes at home…. (and you all know how much I dislike cooking at home…)

Carlo Rota’s Great Canadian Food Show for a love of food….. NB scallops and lamb, NF berries, cod, cod tongue and cheeks….. other shows are mediocre at best…. Especially the one on Domus and the ‘freshness’ of Ottawa groceries…. Quebec City show was not bad…

And the one with Ken Roth’s Glenora distilleries in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton, I think, the only place in North America to distill single malt whiskey is good from the single malt perspective, but really shows how little the Scots and by implication the English Canadian knows how to cook or eat! The shameful destruction of wonderful organ meats like kidney and liver, with wonderful lamb and other ingredients, drowned in scotch or malt whisky and stuffed into an oversized sausage called a haggis is a terrible waste of food…. I have had haggis in Ottawa before and well, to be very polite it’s an acquired taste, but to find out that it has such wonderful ingredients… it is wonton destruction of great ingredients…. And deep fried all else, the Scots cannot cook!

Point there was to lead into my comments:

But have to go to Jeff Alford for a combination of travel and food….. especially as an ‘outsider looking in’…..

Been reading Alford’s book…. Hot sour salty sweet (HSSS) … got the idea from Martha Stewart

Tried ‘your fav noodle’ for breakfast.

But deconstructed it to veggies, meat, noodles and sauce…

The sauce is the key….

It is very much like all other Asian noodles, like cha chuan mien…. (chinese spaghetti sauce, no tomatoes, with brown bean paste and minced pork)

It is fine when combined, but you need to know that it can be de-constructed… and that the sauce is a basic ingredient… it becomes less exciting then…..

And the primary secret in south asian cooking is the garlic and scallion roast …. I think to prepare the sauce and took some out before adding the dao ban jian (I used hot DBJ rather than the basic black salty one…)… etc… and it is a basic condiment in south asian cooking…. It goes with everything and certainly makes this noodle of your’s ‘superior’ rather than just ordinary…

I have seen this condiment in keao suie..… it is a very traditional Burmese dish used in eastern Indian, Burma and northern Thailand… basically a curry chicken coconut sauce over noodles… (your ‘Chiang Mai curry noodles’ or thai ‘khao soi)….. which you also have a recipe for… I have not tried but I think the secret in the sauce there is the red curry paste, which I shall buy and try… but the condiment of fried garlic and onion is a standard that went with that when I was in Burma….

I have a recipe from Charmaine Solomon’s Far Eastern Cookbook and a lost traditional recipe from my ancient brother’s Burmese (called panthee kowshwee) servant, circa 1800, but have not been able to try… I shall do so soon and report….

The store purchase red curry paste turned out great… and beats blending the individual ingredients…..
I don’t think your book really covers this, although you address the ‘stuff’ the locals put on, which is quite true… but short of doing your circuit, I cannot critically object to your analysis….

By the way, the deconstructed Thai ‘guaytio ladna’ (‘our fav noodles with greens and gravy’), turned out great… but for one person… deconstructed is better….!!!

The net link…. http://www.hotsoursaltysweet.com/ … although they have not deemed it appropriate to share some of these recipes out of context… which I agree with….. but that’s a shame as we all need net access to recipes…. After we buy the books…. Mangoes & Curry Leaves (MACL)….. India; and HSSS… South East Asia, are the two of the best books I have read on cooking in the region…. Although very short on details but good for context…

Kowshwe….. or Khao Soi (northern thai) in Alford’s HSSS.

The operation was a success, but the patient barely survived… lol.

I got the sauce and taste right, but after deconstruction, the chicken was not browned enough and probably should have use bone in rather than breast meat and the veggies were missing… though the deep fried accouterments were great…. Didn’t use the correct noodles, but that’s just the starch component and as long as it’s au dent…..

To cut the story short, the Holy Grail reference was that this was one of my brother in law’s favorite dishes as a child… he was Bengali and had a Burmese servant. Anyway, I loved it when I went to live with them in India….. Like my father’s cooking I suppose. When we went to England for our honeymoon, one of the requests was to get the recipe from him so that we could do it when we came back to Canada. For whatever reasons (being polite here), my ex never made it and the recipe was lost forever….. Just sort of like the Holy Grail story, eh? So it means a lot, that after all these some 40 years… that I am able to reconstruct at least the sauce of this dish and the flavour of a long lost treasure……

Found a recipe from Jeff Alford’s HSSSS that does not require a blender but uses red curry paste and fish sauce……

And Jeff…, Thanks for the Memories…..