Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tasting Indian Food!!!

After being in US for nearly 17 months, homesickness has started to set in. And most of it is because of not getting 'typical' Indian food (the vegetarian portion is being considered here if you do not realize!) as seen in this image.

FOOD on Table

Look at all the Sweets: (1) Agra Petha, (2) Gazak, (3) Gulab Jamun, (4) Kaju Barfi/Roll, (5) Cake... & Namkeens: (6) Samosa, (7) Dahi Wada, (8) Cheese Toast, (9) Chhole, (10) Noodles... Maaannnn, if I were not as abstemious as I am, I'd be running out of towels to wipe off all my drool here in the apartment!!! So why am I  bringing this 'delicate' subject up in this post??? Good question indeed!!!

That is because I'm a self-constituted/confessed Sweet-Critic/Connoisseur. As a matter of fact, I taste all the sweets brought to home before anybody else. Now you may be thinking that's because I'm the youngest of all!!! (I hate these logical reasons...) Hell No... there do exist younger ones in the house (once in a while) but I am always able to snatch the first bite, Hell Yeah!!! Who do you think I am??? No one kids with me  when sweets are involved and that includes adults, kids and gods! There is a running gag in my family about offering 'प्रसाद prasad (offerings)' first to me and then to Ganesh!!!

OK, that's too much ranting about My Deserved Holiness (MDH: I wonder how many will get the pun in here)... Lets get back to the topic of this post: food and pick up from the first sentence of the last paragraph: ...seur. I tend to include any food item made of Paneer also in the definition of sweets much like the following usage of word 'sweet':

Someone: Hey, I got accepted/appointed/promoted/married to...

Someone else: Sweet!!!

So I could not stop myself from picking this "Amy's Indian Mattar Paneer" packet when I caught sight of it at Pathmark in the aisle (or 'path' as they like to call it there!) having frozen Pizzas.

Front: Amy's Indian Mattar Paneer

Being a Critic/Connoisseur, I just could not let go of this opportunity of tasting something whose origin is so delightfully explained on the back of the packet!

Back: Origin...

Carefully note that only Mattar Paneer is written on the packet's front but the image shows Rice (pulao) and Garbanzo Beans (chana masala) also. I thought they might be providing serving suggestions but then I read the ingredients:

Back: Ingredients...

It shows all the ingredients shown in the front image but still I did not realize/believe that I would get all the three items in one packet - I was hoping it would just have Mattar Paneer. Noting so many organic things in the ingredients, you feel doubtful of all the things you have eaten your entire life till now!!! Also, noteworthy is the fact that Amy states SPICES* in the ingredients and then in the footnote says (no hidden ingredients)!!! This can probably be produced as an example of  a figure of speech called Ironymoron.

I b(r)ought it home, opened the packaging and I was left with my mouth agape. It had all the three food items and arranged almost in the same format as shown in the image on the front of the box. Even the number of Paneer pieces was same (6)! I microwaved it and tasted all the three items in one gulp. That aroma, flavor, texture was as close as it could be (here in US!) to what I would get at home or a 'proper' Indian restaurant like those run by Haldiram's!

Let me explain first the 4 aspects which I use to classify Sweets (food in general) before I proceed further:

  • Aroma: The scent which you get even before you put the sweets in mouth. The smell of rose water or vanilla essence is the best!
  • Flavour: This has to be experienced by yourself and the best way to describe it is the feeling of uuummmm... as the taste gets unleashed in your mouth.
  • Texture: The quality of the sweet which is experienced as you chew it and roll it on your tongue. The best is when either the whey is rubbery and you realize you are chewing it longer than usual or the khoa dissolves in your mouth even before you realize you didn't need to use your teeth!
  • Bliss: This is the rarest aspect one ever considers but since I'm a connoisseur, I got to go ahead of the mere mortals and say something  unusual. This is not the quality of the sweet itself as such but the feeling you get after devouring your favourite sweet one piece at a time. Obviously, it has to be prepared in the best possible way such that you can close your eyes and murmur the immortal line: "Today's a good day to Die!".

Now lets check how many aspects of the Amy's 're-creation of Indian food' appeal to me:

  • Aroma: Excellent apart from the fact that I don't like Cumin's scent in my food!
  • Flavour: Excellent again. The mildly spiced curry had the correct composition of Spices - the way I'm used to!
  • Texture: Pulao and Chana Masala were perfect but it is the hardest aspect to infuse in Paneer, at least one that satisfies me! The raw Paneer used felt a little 'stiff' (my vocabulary of adjectives is limited so I cannot depict what I felt accurately but those thinking that microwaving it for some more time would have made it tender are wasting their thoughts!) which could have been remedied (I guess!) if they were fried which masks the 'stiffness' a little. But then maybe I should not expect much from frozen foods!
  • Bliss: It made me close my eyes but instead of murmuring the immortal line, it made me murmur the mortal one: "I'm not dying till I get to eat home-cooked food from my mother's hands one more time"!

So, what is the result of my assessment? I'd give 4.5/5 to this 'would have been magnificent' product... '.5' deducted because price is too damn high (~$6) and the whole thing is not even enough for one meal. Generally I can buy 3 individual packets of Vegetable Pulao, Chana Masala & Mattar Paneer from Desi Store for that amount and use each packet for nearly two meals... obviously I use some 'extra' Chapatis or Parathas!!!

I realize now that this was a pretty long post and Kudos to you my dear reader for be(ar)ing with me till now! So, here I end my review of an American-Indian Food!!!

As is the norm, Check these Indian Sweets out so you know what you are missing on this Earth which can make you feel like you are in Heaven:

List of Indian Sweets