Ayam berempah /goreng / KIND of …k…fried C WITH A tonne of flavour

The name is not really accurate it’s like saying grill fry chicken. Berempah is grilled goreng is fried so this is kind of hybrid version of them both.

Ideally made with chicken with the skin on cos the fat from the skin slowly melts as you cook it and bastes the chicken and gets cripsier yeah that’s an actual word that some folks have invented .

So in the world of takesaway and fried chicken places galore this sticks out like a sore thumb cos it’s slow not deep fried and needs some effort to get right.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say and it’s the same with me goreng..( see the pun there).

  • Chicken cut into 12 skin on ideally roughly 1-1.2 kg
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Garlic5-6 cloves
  • Ginger – 1 piece roughly 25 g
  • Turmeric – 1/4
  • Coriander stems- 5 g
  • Red chilli fresh 2-3 ( not very hot but not mild either)
  • Cumin-1/4 t
  • Star anise- 2-3 small petals from 1 star.
  • Chicken stock powder/ji jing – pinch

Ok we need to grind the above except chicken to a kind of paste / marinade and then add in….

  • Oil 30 ml approximately
  • corn flour- 10 g/ 1/2 T
  • rice flour- 20 g/ 1 T

Marinade and keep overnight atleast ..12 hrs.. the longer the better.

The next day , take the chicken out of the refrigerator atleast 30 mins before cooking. then line a cast iron deep saute pan with baking paper and arrange the chicken on it skin side down. Heat the pan , and keep the lid on so it stays moist and juicy. after about 10 minutes turn the pieces over to see that they are not burnt and cook some more. How much more , youll know it when the juices from the leg , when pierced run clear( or use a meat thermometer – to cook until 75 C/ 165 F internal).Chicken is not something you cook rare or medium..

You wont need any extra oil as you already had oil in the marinade and the trick is to slow cook it so that the skin fat melts aand bastes the meat and keeps t moist and juicy and gets crisped. the Rice flour and cornflour also help with that. If you want it crispier you can add a bit more of those and as in all recipes feel free to play around a bit to get it to the taste/ flavour profile you are looking for. This is recipe is not the stairway to heaven , merely points in the general direction .

You have to love the food , so that you get make it good!! thats the trick.

Nasi Goreng- just like INdo style

So there is this rice, fried rice, some say from Indonesia and some say,’Gulp, dare i say it Malaysia”Oh god, well in any case we arent here to argue over the provenance, but rather to look for the best way to cook it.

Since i learnt to make this from my Indonesian Chefs, one Nety Rudat and Harryson Tobing , im dedicating this to them.

  • Shallots or small red onions- 6-8 or2 medium/ 100 g
  • Red chillies non spicy banana pepper kind- 5-6
  • Garlic cloves -8 large ones peeled….with all of these there is room for give and take, depending on how hot the chillies might be or how pungent the garlic and so on.

We peel the shallot/ onions and grind it to a paste with very little water.

  • Cooked Jasmine rice- 2 cups/ raw approximately 1 cup/ 100 g
  • Oil for cooking- 30 g
  • raw chicken cubes- 100 g
  • peeled and deveined prawns – 100 g
  • spring onions -2 green separate and white separate sliced
  • Prawns krupuk- as many or as few as you like look for the ones wit mst prawn content, not the cheapie ones.( fry these in advance and hide them, they will disappear otherwise )
  • Kecap Manis ABC- ive put a photo of this in the saus kacang recipe- how much to put…is dependant on how sweet you want the rice too be.. it gives it caramelly tones and colur and offsets the heat from chilli garlic.
  • Salt or Light soy sauce-little.

The way to make it very simple. Heat the oil and add the chilli paste and saute it till fragrant. Add in the chicken and cook till done., when the chicken is nearly done add in the spring onion whites(no greens yet)

Add the prawns then too saute for a minute or two till they turn pink and add the rice and rest of the imgredients..saute it so it doesnt burn because Saus ABC is very sticky….

Serve with some krupuk, and maybe a Telur bawang/Fried egg, ( i dont put it on mine because i dont like eggs ).

Zereskh pollo aka berry pulao

This is a magnificent rice dish which comes from Persia or as it’s called these days Iran.

This country has an amazing history of food and influences of these foods are seen in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent and the Ottoman empire. The pulao and the biryanis have originated here or in the Ottoman empire and travelled with the many invaders to the sub continent.

There might have been rice which went there and saffron which came back who knows what happened with the old trading routes invaders and all of that. What we do know is we have some amazing food that we can use today.

I learnt to make this when post gulf war two our hotel in Dubai was running empty and restaurants were suffering. Our director ops got the bright idea to sublet our banquet rooms to an Iranian restauranteur / caterer to whom we had to to assist with the food production in our banquet kitchen .

They came or rather the one chef they sent came with their pots and A charcoal bbq which was quite amazing. Had a shallow pit and an electric blower to help light the fire faster .When they left we arranged for this to get hidden so we got the proverbial fell off the back of the truck amazing bbq. I also got the design to custom make two BBQs which 15-16 years later are still in use in my hotel then.

I used this recipe also for the 1st curry cup competition at the Nz culinary fare. The judges had never seen zereskh berries before and we’re blown away. My students Simaranjit Singh and Shamika Ratnayake Palliyage went on to win the inaugural cup , gold medals and best in category award..much joy and happiness. Boom boom bang..fast fwd to recipe before you fall asleep.

  • Basmati rice get the good quality one- 200 gm/ 1 cup. Wash with room temperature water till it’s clear this gets rid of the excess starch because the rice when cooked should be individual grains.
  • saffron -1/4 of a gram.or a bit less.. toast this in the microwave for 20 seconds ..this makes it easy to get the maximum colour and flavour out. Then add in a few spoons of warm water and cover and keep for atleast 15-20 mins
  • Zereskh berries – a good spoonful 2- gms or so.. if you can’t get these you cannot really use cranberries because they taste so different..it’s like using pears for apple pie because it’s a pip fruit. U can buy them dry from a persian shop but keep them on the fridge they get brown and yucky otherwise
  • Oil and butter 20-30 gms together ..can go a bit higher too..

Heat water in a heavy bottom pot and add some salt to it and 1 bayleaf and 2-3 cardamom.

while it’s boiling soak the zereskh/ barberries with some clarified butter and some warm water.just to rehydrate them.

When water has boiled add in the rice and cook till 80 %done and drain it. Then in that same pot add some of the oil butter mix and pour the rice over it.. the traditional way they put the saffron and berries underneath but sometimes that kills the delicate saffron or zafran as it’s called . This slow cooking of the base forms a cripsy rice cracker like crust called “Tahdig,”.so In my way we put the saffron on the top of the rice and the berries right in the end .pop a lid on and low heat ,6-8 mins ..et voila..

zereskh pollo

Nairobi , and the misadventure at Wilson airport/ langata Prison

So when I lived in Dubai, one year my mum and dad or rather Aai and Baba as I call them we went for a fabulous Safari in East Africa. I had been inspired by my friend from a long time Chris Francis and his wife Ashwini who went the year before and came back with hordes of videos on their handycam of sorts on mini dv tapes that we sat at their place near Lamcy Plaza and i said this must be done. We saw dem and said Wot men, we have to do this thing..

So the plan was I would set ff from Dubai and meet my folks in Nairobi and then we would go on a tour together to Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara, to see the big 5. To cut a long story short it was a great safari we saw all the big 5 , we cheetah’s chase down and make a kill everything was amazing. Unfortunately my brother couldnt make it, since he was caring for the dogs( we had 5 back then) at home ..

So the next year we planned to do the safari again this time with Deep and I. so everything was set, I booked it through a customised safari company called Suntrek Safaris and we would goto Mountain lodge , first then come back to Nairobi and thrn proceed to Masai Mara, and hopefully get to see the migration through the river.

Mountain lodge was great and we had a day to kill when we were back at the Hilton Nairobi waiting for the next day to go to the Mara.So through our company Suntrek i booked a day day trip deluxe of nairobi which included a trip t Sheldrick the animal orphange where we met delightful baby elephants and rhinos, followed by a trip to Giraffe Manor where we can hand feed the giraffes, a crocodile farm ,an ostrich farm where one tried to peck my toes .Luckily my red wing shoes saved me feet.What was going to come next was an overwhelming adventure which we never had thought would happen.

Since this was Deeps first trip out of india , naturally he was excited and was clicking photos on the 35 mm camera , like it was never going to end.

We finished the ostriches and were on our way to Nairobis most famous restaurant ” Carnvivore”, when we started passing Wilson Airport , Nairobis domestic airport. Now unbeknown to us, since 9-11 , British airways had cut all flights to Kenya and were restarting on that day, so there was heightened security around all airports.

Deep saw some red and yellow propellor kind of planes and wanted to photograph these. by this time i was fed up and said you go ahead and do it quickly , because we are already behind schedule. A few minutes later the driver got out to see what was happening an 5 minutes later i lost it and stormed out to see an airport police man with a big gun talking animatedly in Swahili to the driver. It turns out that photography around there isnt allowed and the guy wanted some baksheesh from the dirty foreigner tourists. I said ok i apologise but im not paying any money and if you want you can keep the film. so this goes on for sometime until there is a big truck coming up, and more policemen and more Swahili.

Then the three of us were sent to Langata which is the closest police station and apparently one with a ” reputation”.

The inspector there looks us over like were the scum from Waka Chaka land and interrogatedus, took our belongings and keep us in a room. Form here it got even more and more crazy. Then we were interrogated as a group and individually , to see if there are any inconsistencies in our story, which got very frustrating for us.

The drivers cousin brother is also at the same station and he informed the tour company, who in turn informed our uncles from a long distance who incidentally was working for USAID and an diplomat or some sort .

So by the time all these things had been worked out we had been put in a holding cell, with all our belongings taken away and a handwritten piece of paper given to us , with the warning, ( if we lose the piece of paper we dont get our stuff back) . The inspector wanted to know why i had the big swiss army knife with me and his eyes sparkled when he counted all the $$ in the wallet. we were also hobbled by being allowed to wear only 1 shoe/ boot so in case we broke through the walls we would not be able to run far or very fast.

The cell itself was wonderful , about 5 m x 2 m and 1 window 30 cm or so high up on the wall and a bunch of colourful folk inside who wanted to know what we were in for.with nt much to do we had to sit down on an ammonia scented floor ( God knows how many folk wouldve peed there).

Then in the evening we were summoned to the office where the tour companys people had gotten s some food ( but having used the toilet before ) i didnt want to get even close to there. Deep pleaded with the inspector for a better cell and the guy wanted to his palms greased which ” no way jose”, from me which peeved him off even more and he locked us away from the others in our own private cell. We were also able to talk with our uncle who said theat they would be able to do nothing until tht next day at the earliest , because there wasnt anyone to speak with .

We then went back to our cell to suffer in silence .Luckily our passports were safe in our hotel safe and I used to at time carry a miniaturised photocopy of mine in my wallet, but never the original.

The maybe at 10 pm we were woken up.I had decided to goto sleep because there was no point in sitting and worrying. Then go back to the desk and put on our shoes , but no belongings yet.

Then we have to go in the back of an army truck with three soldiers, by which time Deep says” now they are going to do an encounter with us and we are gone” . I said well if they do would be your fault i think for taking those stupid photos..or something along those lines.

Those army dudes kept taunting us saying hey you guys are from this and that and then we stopped at the petrol station and were asked to get down. Next we get into a car with some plainclothes guys and we drive to the Hilton and goto reception and upto our rooms.

The guy who took is in the car checks ur passports and then returns them and says ok , you can stay here now and come tomorrow to Langata and then the secret service office or whatever they have t collecect your stuff.

Pheww , was like a spy movie gone wrong . we then got a knock on our door and was the owners son Nish Lakhani. they had to pull a lot of strings to get us out but they did it. Thank you once again .

The advnture though had not ended until the safri was done and we were back at the airport to go back , me to Dubai and Deep to India.

At the airport , the immigration police guy tells me i dont have small pox vaccination so i cannot board the flight and by now i know what they are wanting , but im nt going to budge an inch. I said i need yellow fever vaccine and heres the boklet for that which says clearly i dont need the other. He says i can help you if you help me. i said no.. i can wait here at the ariport and you arrange the vaccine for me , and ill just take the next flight to Dubai,…hehehe.. the dude decided i was to stubborn and the Emirates guys came to look for me and he said ohhh just get out of here..

Im waiting for the next chapter when i go the next time , with Viraaj and Ananya my kids and get them introduced to the wildlife outside the Mara river ..

Pescado Verracruzana / How Arturo tamed the mighty fish beastie

When i started working in Dubai 20 years back, my immediate boss was a wonderful guy called Arturo Cristiane, from Mexico. He was the man behind the menu at most of our restaurants at the time , till after he left and we made some changes . I remeber in our Latin American restaurant “Pachanga”, we had a brazilian churrasco(vertical spit),a mexican section and the Argentinian grill and a Cuban cigar bar.

On the menu or before rather we got from our Fish supplier Gerard Vouyoukas, a huge snapper one day and Arturo cooked it for lunch with an amazing sauce with onions, tomatoes, peppers and capers.

To a gringo from outside all south america seems the same..Mexico and half baked understanding of nacho chips and not much else. Luckily since id worked for Oberoi Hotels, where we had Casa Mexicana, i was exposed a little bit to Sabores Latinos( or the Flavours of Latin america), some of what Arturo would say made some sense.

so in essence we are making a spicy tomato sauce(not with chilli as such ) but peppers and capers and baking the fish with this sauce so it stays nice and moist.

  1. Fish either whole or fillets -500 g marinade with some lime juice salt and pepper.. How much you ask.well how long is a piece of string..u need approximately 10 g of salt per kg of meat or fish and 1 g of pepper but that is approximate.. some need more some less. Cooking is not an exact science its more about tinkering with combinations and sometimes experimenting till you find the next best thing.
  2. Olive oil-25 ml
  3. onion brown- 1 approximatley 125 g.. a little more or less wont make a huge diffenece
  4. garlic cloves peeled- 3-4 chopped
  5. canned diced tomato- approximately 250 g
  6. capers drained- 1 tsp/ 3 g
  7. olives- 2 tsp / 5 g
  8. capsicum/ peppers- 1 sliced thick approximately 75 g
  9. bayleaf
  10. oregano
  11. epazoate


clean and wash fish with cool water. marinade with half the olive oil, salt, pepper and lime juice. if you are using whole fish we cook it like that.

For the fillets its probably ood to just pan fry and then bake for a few minutes with the sauce/ sofrito

Heat the remaining oil and sauted onion , garlic, bayleaf and add the tomato. simmer for 15-20 minutes. then add oregano, epazoate , peppers, capers and can also add optionally some paprika or chile serrano.

The sauce is savory and tangy and just right for snapper or for that matter any sort of white fish.

Then with the whole fish you can score it and put the sauce on top and bake fr about 15-20 minutes .Serve with some arroz con tomate and you have a wonderful lunch or dinner ready..Have a glass of chardonnay or maybe some dry-ish pinot gris/grigio alongside .

If it was a fillet then after you pan fry you top with the sauce too and bake also its just that you woould bakke for lesser time to make sure the fish does not dry out.

stories of foods from the world over, laced with a hint of sarcasm and some black humour, its not for everyone, but then never was meant to be..