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Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World: the podcast that visits the great places on Earth to tell the story of our people, our civilization, and our planet.
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Now displaying: June, 2017

Please visit the show's official page at wonderspodcast.com

Jun 20, 2017

This recipe comes from the excellent Indian Home Cooking, co-written by Suvir Saran, who is a friend of a friend, and who has been personally kind and generous to me for years now.  Buy his book(s).

Indian cuisine is fantastic if you are a vegetarian, and one of the hallmarks of typical Indian cooking is dal, or lentils, stewed up and served over rice or with quick-fired bread.

This recipe is great for weeknight dinners.  It’s easy, flavorful, a little spicy, and totally good for you.  My 10-year-old son loves it.  I don’t have mango powder, but I find that the lemon works really well to bring that bit of acidity to balance the turmeric and cumin.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 whole dried red chilies
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 small garlic cloves, minced or 1⁄8 teaspoon asafetida powder
  • 1 cup dried lentils, picked over, washed and drained - I used green lentils, but brown is traditional
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon amchur (dried mango powder) or juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Steps:

  1. Combine the oil, cumin, red chiles and turmeric in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic or asafetida, lentils, cayenne, and mango powder, if using (if using lemon juice instead, stir in at the end), and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  3. Add the water and salt, bring to a boil and skim well.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft, 20 to 30 minutes.  Add more water during cooking if necessary. Taste for salt and add more if you need to.
  4. Ladle about ½ cup of the lentils into a small bowl and mash them with a spoon. Return the mashed lentils to the pot and give the dal a stir. Then continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to thicken.
  5. If you like a thicker dal, use a whisk to break up the lentils into a puree. If you like a thinner dal, add more water. Stir in the lemon juice, if using. Serve hot.

Try this out with rice - I like to use basmati and to do a pilaf (toasting the rice in cumin-studded oil before rehydrating).  I think you’ll enjoy it!

Recipe from: Indian Home Cooking, Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness

(I forgot to take a picture - I will next time)

Jun 20, 2017

Holiest site in Hinduism, Varanasi's riverside ghats are a swirl of color, faith, life, and death. We discuss the vedas, the great epics, and the development of Indian civilization with Vivek Vasan from the Historical India podcast. 

Jun 6, 2017

Traditionally, this dish requires carp caught from the Yellow River.  You won’t have access to that in all likelihood, so use any good firm mild-flavored fish.  Whole fish looks really cool, but if you’re not trying to impress, filets work just as well.  Bass, trout, halibut, all would work fine.  I used grouper, which worked fantastically well.  The recipe is for the whole fish, but cooking a filet is easier.

Basically, score the skin of the fish if you’re using whole fish, coat it with cornstarch and then flash-fry it in a very hot wok.  Then drain the oil, and make a simple lightly sweet and vinegary sauce in the wok and serve with rice and veggies.  The sauce is not fluorescent orange.  The key is the black vinegar.  I had never heard of this.  It’s a rice-based vinegar, but aged so it becomes dark and umami-rich.  It’s kinda like balsamic but more magical, and the way it mingles with the sugar, garlic, scallions and ginger… wow.  You can use the sauce on chicken, tofu, pork… I bet it’s really good with strips of lean beef stir-fried.  Try it.  You will like it.

Ingredients:

Fish:
1 whole or filleted fish (1 1/2 lbs)
1 tsp salt
cornstarch
oil for frying (peanut or vegetable or similar)

Sauce:
2 green onions, chopped fine
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/4 cup black vinegar
3 tbsp sugar (preferably turbinado)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 chicken stock (unsalted)
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water

Steps:

  1. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then using a sharp knife, score the fish with deep curved angled cuts along both sides.  Sprinkle the fish with salt, including within the cuts, and let it sit while you prepare the rest.
  2. Heat a wok over medium heat until it starts to smoke, then add about 3 inches of oil (which is a lot more than you’d think).  Get all your other ingredients next to the stove along with chopsticks and a slotted spoon and a serving platter, lined with paper towels.  Be ready because you’ll be moving fast.
  3. Hold the fish up by the tail so the slashes you made flap open.  Coat the fish with cornstarch, including the slashes, then drop a little starch into the oil to determine that it’s hot enough (you’ll want it around 300 degrees F).  If the starch bubbles and disappears, you’re ready.  Lower the fish headfirst slowly into the oil, letting the slashes open up wide.  Adjust the heat if necessary so that the oil is bubbling but  the fish is not browning too fast. Ladle hot oil over the fish to ensure even frying.  When one side is golden brown, use your spoon and chopsticks to gently turn the fish over.  Keep the tail raw for as long as possible, to keep it from breaking off - it cooks very quickly at the end. Once the second side is golden brown, carefully use your spoon and chopsticks to lift it out of the oil and onto your serving platter.
  4. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the wok - pour the excess into a large empty glass jar or two so you can safely dispose of it later.  Heat the remaining oil over medium-high high, then add the green onions, ginger, and garlic.  Stir them for about 10 seconds to release there aroma, then add the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and stock.  Bring to a boil and adjust seasoning if necessary - probably not needed, but just in case - then stir in the corn starch slurry.  As soon as the sauce bubbles, pour it evenly over the fish and garnish with excess scallions (the green parts of the green onions).
  5. Enjoy with rice and a veg - I sauteed broccolini in sesame oil, but you do you.

Adapted from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips

Jun 6, 2017

Looming over Confucius' home province of Shandong, Mount Tai is the holiest place in Daoism, which means we can tackle both great philosophies while discussing feudal China and Shandong cuisine.

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