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Review: Oriental Octopus

[Rating:3/5] Naheed and I popped over for a quick lunch to the Oriental Octopus, Sector 16, NOIDA. Its in the Savoy Suites, which is connected to McDonalds (structurally).

We started with a Tom Kha soup, which was subtly flavored with ginger, lemon grass and green chilli. Nice. Next in line were dim sums, stuffed with black mushrooms and what the menu described as ‘Chinese Greens’. Nice again. Finally, we settled for the ‘Set Lunch’ which comes with rice or noodles, one veg or one non-vegetarian curry, some sautéd vegetables and a spring roll. The curry was *hot*. Only negative was that the noodles were quite common in appearance and flavor.

Lunch took us exactly an hour and was good.

Meal for two: About 1000 | Rating 7/10

– Sid

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Definition: Stewing

In cooking, stewing means preparing vegetables or meat by simmering in liquid. Unlike braising, the ingredients are generally diced.

A stew may be either simmered in a pot on the stove top or cooked in a covered casserole in the oven. Stewing is suitable for the least tender cuts of meat that become tender and juicy with the slow moist heat method. This makes it popular in low-cost cooking. Cuts having a certain amount of marbling and gelatinous connective tissue give moist, juicy stews, while lean meat may easily become dry.

Stews may be thickened by reduction, but are more often thickened with flour, either by coating pieces of meat with flour before searing, or by using a roux or beurre manié, a dough consisting of equal parts of butter and flour.

White stews, also known as blanquettes or fricassées, are made with lamb or veal that is blanched, or lightly seared without browning, and cooked in stock. Brown stews are made with pieces of red meat that are first seared or browned, before a browned mirepoix, sometimes browned flour, stock and wine are added.

Stews are very traditional in the cooking of Iran, wherein they are called khoresh, and have evolved both parallel and with influence from Indian dishes such as mughal stews and the plentiful torkaris of Bengal.

Content Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Definition: Searing

Searing (or pan searing) is a technique used in grilling, roasting, braising, sautéing, etc. that cooks the surface of the food (usually meat, poultry or fish) at high temperature so that a caramelized crust forms. A similar technique, browning, is typically used to sear or brown all sides of a particular piece of meat, fish, poultry, etc. before finishing it in the oven.

It is commonly believed that this acts to lock in the moisture or “seal in the juices” of the food. However, it has been scientifically shown[citation needed] that searing results in a greater net loss of moisture versus cooking to the same internal temperature without first searing. Nonetheless it remains an essential technique in cooking meat for several reasons:

* The browning creates desirable flavors through caramelization and the Maillard reaction.
* The appearance of the food is usually improved with a well-browned crust.
* The contrast in taste and texture between the crust and the interior makes the food more interesting to the palate.

Typically in grilling the food will be seared over very high heat and then moved to a lower-temperature area of the grill. In braising, the seared surface acts to flavor, color and otherwise enrich the liquid in which the food is being cooked.

Content Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Definition: Poaching

Poaching is the process of gently simmering food in liquid, generally water, stock or wine.

Poaching is particularly suitable for fragile food, such as eggs, poultry, fish and fruit, which might easily fall apart or dry out. For this reason, it is important to keep the heat low and to keep the poaching time to a bare minimum, which will also preserve the flavour of the food.

The poaching liquid is called court bouillon and a classical court bouillon consists of: an acid (wine, lemon juice) aromatic (bouquet garni), poaching liquid, and mirepoix. The liquid should be around 160-185°F (70-85°C), and always remember that to serve chicken safely it has to have reached a temperature of 165°F (74°C) in the core.

Poached eggs are generally cooked in water, fish in white wine, poultry in stock and fruit in red wine.

Content Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Review: Never Ever Nirulas

[Rating:2/5] I have always had a very deep personal attachment to Nirulas. This was where I tasted my first Banana Split and probably had my first taste of Indianised fast food. I say ‘had’, because over the last five years or so, the quality of the chain has been descending to never before depths in just about every aspect of its operations. If its this bad, why do I go to Nirulas, you ask. Like I said, I have a deep personal attachment. Today, I end up going there once in six months, only to see if someone has taken notice of things and brought a great chain back to where it should be.

In order to ascertain this feeling I tried three different outlets this time:

  1. Potpourri, Connought Place [new location]
  2. Nirulas [fast food], NOIDA
  3. Nirulas [fast food], Panipat

In addition, we also observed hygiene practices, delivery statistics and personnel. I’m sad to say Nirulas fared abysmally on all fronts.

Lets start with Potpourri, Connought Place. The front staff were welcoming and friendly. Most waiters and other support staff however, were surly, non communicative and just stopped shy of being downright rude. The salad bar was just the same as its always been. NO change in the style of preparation or the quality. There was one additional soup. The breads were hard as rocks. The ‘chicken’ soup lacked chicken. The deserts were heavy and over sweetened. The salads themselves were without imagination and none inspired a second helping.

On to Nirulas, NOIDA. This is probably the only Nirulas I’ve seen, which has *never* been up to scratch. I have seen cooks in the background blowing their noses into their hands and then continue cooking whatever it was they were cooking. The burgers are nearly always crumbling to pieces, with the insides coming apart at the first bite. The Mutton Mahaburger, which was (and probably still) only available at Nirulas, is sadly neglected, with lower than ever quality standards. The deliveries from this unit are on average 50 – 60% late, some taking up to double the time quoted and reaching stone cold. When questioned personnel grudgingly offer a 10% discount. Sit in dining is another excruciating experience, with food nearly always late and when it does come it is uneatable. Rock hard paranthas, cold dals, disintegrating burgers, watery pizzas et al.

Nirulas Panipat. Order for Chicken Fillet burger filled in as a ‘French Flip’ burger. Tandoori platters come with smashed-beyond-recognition shammi kebabs and mutilated seekh kebabs. The chicken is raw, red and bleeding on the inside. The manager did respond positively to my returning the food and insisted on replacing it and refunding the order.

The ice creams and shakes however remain wonderful at all outlets and I have never once had a complaint on this front.

Conclusion: Visit ONLY for ice creams and shakes.

– Sid

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Definition: Double Steaming

Double steaming (also called double boiling) is a Chinese cooking technique to prepare delicate food such as bird nests, shark fins etc. The food is covered with water and put in a covered ceramic jar. The jar is then steamed for several hours. This technique ensures there is no loss of liquid or moisture (its essences) from the food being cooked, hence it is often used with expensive ingredients like Chinese herbal medicines.

Cantonese calls double steaming dan. Note that the Cantonese usage of this Chinese character deviates from its original meaning which is simmer or stew in Mandarin. This technique is also common in the neighboring province of Fujian.

Cantonese cuisine is famous for its slow cooked soup. One famous dish of this kind is called the Winter melon urn. It is prepared by emptying the inside of a winter melon to make an urn. The outside of the winter melon is often carved with artistic patterns. The inside is then filled with soup ingredients such as Chinese cured ham, and several Chinese herbs. Winter melon is believed to be nourishing and it is seldom cooked with ingredients that are believed to be too yin or too yang. The whole urn completed with its original melon lid is double steamed for at least four hours. The flavor of the soup is soaked into the “flesh” of the melon. The whole melon and its content is brought to the dinner table. The soup is served by scooping out the liquid and the inside wall of the melon. In this case, the edible melon takes the place of the double steaming jar. This application is possible because winter melon has a waxy, thus waterproof, rind.

Content Courtesey: Wikipedia

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Definition: Rotisserie

Rotisserie is a style of roasting where meat is skewered on a spit and revolves over a flame or other heat source. The rotation cooks the meat evenly in its own juices and allows easy access for continuous basting if desired.

Historically, rotisseries were turned by hand or by clockwork contrivances. Nowadays, they are usually driven by electric motors.

Horizontal rotisserie: This style of rotisserie mounts the spit horizontally. They are often used to cook whole chickens or roasts of various meats including beef and pork. The design may include a single spit mounted over an open broiler or grill, a single spit mounted within an otherwise-conventional oven, or many spits mounted within a large industrial oven. The latter are commonly used to mass produced roasted meats for sale to consumers. In this style of rotisserie, balance is important. If the object to be cooked is far out of balance, it will impose a heavy load on the drive mechanism or cause the mechanism to fail to turn. Loose chicken legs or wings can also cause the mechanism to jam. For these two reasons, some skewering skill is required. High-end consumer ovens commonly come with a rotisserie (or allow the installation of a rotisserie as an option). In these cases, the motor drive mechanism is usually concealed within the oven. The rotisserie is used by removing the normal cooking racks; a special carrier may be needed to provide one or both bearing points for the spit.

Vertical rotisserie: The other common style of rotisserie is the vertical rotisserie; here, the heat is applied directly from the side (as shown in the picture) or, less-commonly, convected up from below. In this style of rotisserie, balance of the load is less important than with a horizontal rotisserie.

Content Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Pasto – Second Visit [Closed]

[Rating:4/5] We paid a second visit to Pasto [sector 18, NOIDA] this past Friday. As with the previous visit, this one was worth the time and money spent.

We started with a Minestrone Soup [weak flavor] and a Velvety Prawn Bisque [good flavor, could be a bit thicker, slightly over cooked prawns, lots of prawns]. This was followed by small platters of Caesar Salad [good] and Meatballs [very tough], accompanied by Lemonade [salty!!] and a Lemon Cello [good].

The main course was ham wrapped in chicken with oregano sauce [good, chicken could be more tender], fillet of sole in a tangy tomato cruda [good] and grilled vegetables on a crisp potato base [base wasn’t as crisp as the name, but good nonetheless].
Desert was Tiramisu [good].

All in all, a good experience, with attentive staff and great ambience.

Rating: 8/10 | Meal for Two: 2000 [includes all taxes and service charge of 10%]

– Sid

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Definition: The Maillard Reaction

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat. Like caramelization, it is a form of non-enzymatic browning. The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar interacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and interesting but poorly characterized odor and flavor molecules result. This process accelerates in an alkaline environment because the amino groups do not neutralize. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry, since the type of amino acid determines the resulting flavor.

In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds in turn break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to create artificial flavors.

Although used since ancient times, the reaction is named after the chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who investigated it in the 1910s.

The Maillard reaction is responsible for many colors and flavors in foods:

  1. toasted bread;
  2. malted barley as in malt whiskey or beer;
  3. roasted or seared meat;
  4. dried or condensed milk;
  5. roasted coffee

Content Courtesy: Wikipedia