I have learned three things since starting this blog:
1. It is surprisingly easy for me to become obsessed with page views. After seeing a significant spike recently I thought there must be some people out there genuinely interested in what I was writing. It was a drug and I needed more. I started indexing my blog, and posting on foodie sites. Then reality hit like a Naltrexone shot. A large majority of the traffic was coming from google images, and the picture they were viewing wasn't even one of my own, but an image I copied from another blog. SNAP! Now, with the sudden realisation that I am not heading for my own movie deal starring Meryl Streep, I can get back to concentrating on my cooking, which brings me to number two...
2. I have become increasingly selective with the recipes, and more willing to try new ingredients. When I began I would be happy serving up anything with even the slightest connection to a country, and the easier the better. Now I am spending more time finding the right dish, as I feel a responsibility to the country that I present their best efforts when their turn comes. At the rate I am currently getting through the countries, new ones are going to start forming faster than I can cook through the list. I am particularly worried about the disputed political territory of Abkhazia, because alphabetically that would really mess up my journey.
In Australia we eat our national animal (kangaroo); In Bangladesh, national animal eat you! This illustrates the one thing I knew about Bangladesh before researching: that their national animal is the Royal Bengal Tiger. What I learnt that surprised me (also animal related) is that Bangladesh, or as it was then, the Gangaridai empire, was allegedly so powerful in ancient times that Alexander the Great stopped his advancement east fearing the multitude of elephants they had in their army.
As for Bangladeshi food, the only prior experience I have is through Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey. Inspired by Mr Stein I decided that it was time to have a stab at my first ever curry from scratch. Given I will be revisiting the subcontinent several times I wanted to find out if I was ready. I started making curries back at university by adding Keens curry powder to sausages and rice. This naturally progressed to the 'chicken tonight' style curry in a jar and from there I ventured to the curry paste and coconut cream for which I thought myself very clever. I can now proudly proclaim a successful first attempt at a curry made from the basic ingredients. The recipe actually said 'Bangladeshi style' so I can't really confirm how Bangladeshi this dish is but I found it delicious regardless. I also have to thank my sous chef Alice for her help in the kitchen with this one.
Bangladeshi Style Creamy Chicken Korma
500 g Diced chicken breast
Slivered or sliced almonds
2 Tbsp Vegetable oil
1 - 2 Tbsp Butter
1 Large onion, sliced thin
1/2 Tbsp Ginger paste (real ginger)
1 Tsp Garlic paste (real garlic...so proud)
1/2 Cup Plain Greek-style yogurt, beaten well
1 Large cinnamon stick
3 Cardamom pods smashed with mortar and pestle till seeds are visible (1/2 Tsp of ground if you cant get the pods)
1 Bay leaf
1 Tsp Salt or to taste
1/2 Tbsp Sugar or to taste
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
Boiling hot water
2 Small whole green chiles (ie. Thai bird or Serrano)
1 Tbsp Ground almonds
1 Tbsp Raisins
A few drops Kewra essence water (found in Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi stores)
Crispy fried sliced onions or shallots
Marinate chicken in yogurt, garlic, ginger, and mix thoroughly. Marinate for an hour up to one day.
Saute onion on medium heat in oil and butter until golden brown. Add cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf, stirring until fragrant.
Add marinated chicken and salt, raising the temperature to medium high. Stir frequently until water and juices separate from the chicken creating a gravy. Consistently monitor that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan or gets brown (about 10 minutes). Once the liquid has reduced, add a few tablespoons of hot water slowly (maintaining the bubbling of gravy) until chicken is partially submerged. The amount of water will vary because some chickens naturally give off more liquid than others. Bring to a boil and then lower to medium heat so that the gravy is at a heavy simmer but not boiling.
Cover and stir occasionally. Once oil droplets start to rise to the surface (about 20-30 minutes) and the gravy is reducing, add lemon juice, ground almonds, sugar, raisins and green chiles. Check to see if sugar has balanced out the tartness of the yogurt. Cover and cook another 5 minutes on medium-low and remove from the heat.
Optional: Sprinkle with kewra water. Garnish with almonds, more raisins and fried, sliced onion.
Serve with steamed basmati or jasmine rice.
...and lastly, the third thing I have learned since beginning. Chili burn bloody hurts! I managed to handle chili seeds then rub my nose and was in agony for a long time afterwards. In case this happens, lemon juice will fix it as the citric acid neutralises the alkalinity of the chili oil.