Feeling pleased — patty dough + seeni sambol + egg = very tasty. Will write up experiments when I get a chance, but for now, must finish grading.
Mas Paan is literally ‘meat bread,’ and is a favorite snack sold at roadside stands, hotel cafes, and transit stations across Sri Lanka. The yeast bread may be filled with whatever curry you like — fish and vegetarian options are also common. This batch, I made with some leftover pork and potato curry, but most often, I would make this with beef and potato curry. Regardless, having thirty mas paan in my fridge and freezer means that I’ll snack happy for a few days, take them with me while traveling — they’re great to have on the road — and be able to pull some out of the freezer to toast up when I get home again. It’s best piping hot, but may also be happily eaten at room temperature.
Note: If you don’t want to make the dough by hand, and your grocery store carries frozen loaves of bread dough, I’ve thawed and used a pair of those for this recipe to good effect. This recipe adapted from Charmaine Solomon’s _The Complete Asian Cookbook_, with very little change.
Note 2: Minal Hajratwala has a fascinating chapter that explores the political significance of similar buns in South Africa, in her book on the diaspora, _Leaving India_. Highly recommended.
(about three hours + currying time, makes 30)
1 batch meat and potato curry (about 2-3 lbs. meat, 3 russet potatoes)
1/2 c. milk
3 t. sugar
2 1/2 t. salt
3 oz. butter
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 packet (about 2 1/4 t.) active dry yeast
5 1/2 – 6 c. all-purpose or bread flour
1. Make curry, if needed; it’s tempting to make it while the dough is proving, but the timing can be tricky, since the curry needs to cool down, and your dough may overprove, turning yeasty. (I admit to risking it on occasion, though, for efficiency’s sake.) The curry should be cooked until it is very dry, and then cooled down to room temperature.
2. Make dough: Scald milk, stir in sugar, salt and butter and cool to lukewarm. Measure warm water into a large bowl; stir yeast into water until dissolved. Add milk mixture and 3 c. of flour; beat until smooth. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured board, and knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Grease a bowl with butter, then put the dough ball in, turning it to make sure it’s all greased. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and allow to prove in a warm place until doubled in bulk (inside a turned off oven works well), about 1 – 1.5 hours. (This recipe is also used for making breudher in Sri Lanka.)
3. Divide the dough into 30 equal portions, flatten each portion to a circle and put a spoonful of meat and potato curry in the center. Bring the edges together, pressing to seal. If you keep the dough thinner at the edges when you’re flattening it, that’ll help keep it from being too bready at the bottom.
4. Grease baking trays and put buns with the join downwards on the trays, leaving room for them to rise and spread. Cover with a dry cloth and again, leave in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until nearly doubled in bulk.
5. Brush with egg glaze (egg whites or even heavy cream may be used instead) and bake in a hot oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Lovely with hot, sweet, milky tea.
I’m not sure this problem ever came up in Sri Lanka, but we eat Western food about half the time, and I like lots of it, really I do, but then sometimes I go to the fridge to eat some leftovers and there is no curry to be found and I am sad. Over the years I’ve learned that it’s actually easy to take a standard plain-cooked meat, chicken, or fish, and turn it into an acceptable curried version. When a girl is desperate for curry, she does what she needs to do — she makes a curry sauce, adds some cut-up leftover cooked meat, simmers it for a little bit, and eats happy.
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 T ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t. mustard seed
1 t. cumin seed
1 dozen curry leaves
3 cardamom pods
1 2-inch piece cinnamon
1-2 T chili powder
1 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
1 t. salt
1/4 c. ketchup
1-2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 – 1 c. (or more, if you like) coconut milk
2-3 lbs. leftover cooked meat, cubed (may also be left on the bone)
3 russet potatoes, cubed (optional)
1. Sauté onions in oil or ghee on medium-high, stirring as needed, with ginger, garlic, mustard seed, cumin seed, curry leaves, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, until golden-translucent, about ten minutes.
2. Add chili powder, Sri Lankan curry powder, and salt, stirring for a few minutes more.
3. Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and coconut milk, stirring each ingredient in. You now have a basic curry sauce, suitable for meat, chicken, or fish. (It also works with seitan or young jackfruit, for vegetarian options.)
4. Add leftover cooked meat, stirring until well combined. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and let cook ten minutes or so; the meat will impart some flavor to the sauce, and vice versa. Add water if necessary to prevent burning.
5. Add potatoes (and probably more water) if using, bring to boiling, then turn back down and simmer until potatoes are cooked through. (You can speed this part up by par-cooking them in water in the microwave earlier, perhaps while your onions are sautéing.) Cook sauce down until it has a thick consistency, like gravy.
Serve hot, with rice or bread.
We had crepes for dinner last night, and I started with my favorite, lemon + sugar. Delicious as always, but then I thought, what if I desi-fy’d (desified?) it? So I tried lime + jaggery, and reader, it was good.
We also had some ripe persimmon, which I love, so I tried that — interestingly, the version I did with nutmeg / cinnamon / allspice, which I thought would work well, didn’t excite me. But the version with persimmon / salt / pepper was surprisingly delicious. I think it’s because the persimmons were so sweet?
Trifle topped with pomegranate seed and edible silver stars. Twinkly lights, little houses, polar bear. Kevin’s note left for me about what he did and didn’t get done after I went to sleep Saturday night. Four big brownies from the bakery section, cut into fourths, topped with little candies from Michael’s. (Best petit four cheat ever — took five minutes, and the kids loved them.) Array.
Charcuterie — Harry & David’s sesame honey mustard with pretzels (a holiday gift from Pam, our contractor) is addictively good, and pairs beautiful with some olives and cured meats from Costco (I really love how the Costco antipasto meat comes in separate little square packages, making it really easy to refill your platter only as much as needed during the party, saving the rest for another day. It’s the little things that make hosting easier).
Mango-ginger shortbread, our very classy holiday chains (Kavi wanted to make some, and I wanted some that would go with the white and silver decor in the dining room, so I found some pretty metallic paper in silver, gold, and pink…), fresh flowers (I like how the bells of Ireland look like little trees), Ellie patiently waiting for the party (and the food-dropping) to start. Ellie LOVES parties.
I forgot to take photos of people until close to the end, but I think we had about 70 folks over the course of four hours. It never got too crowded, though, because people mostly only stayed for an hour or two; there’s so much going on around here this time of year, and people had multiple commitments. Lots of ebb and flow, which means, I think, that the house could probably handle double that number of people without too much trouble for this kind of party. Good to know!
Kavi and I were sparkly reindeer antler twins (and that adorable mistletoe dress, because I know someone is about to ask me, is from Modcloth and I love it). MagnaTiles happily occupy children of all ages (and adults too), but are particularly nice to have around for the toddlers, so their parents can get a break and breathe a little.
Pam’s daughter was perfectly iconic in her little Christmas dress, and cheerfully posed in front of our tree.
With Deno Andrews and Anand Whyte.
Kavi and Kevin’s marshmallows.
People are actually ordering these. So cool. So far, most popular is either the 4 oz. curry powder bag, or the 4 oz. curry powder bag + cookbook combo. I’m planning to fill the first orders today, and have Chris take them to the post office.
I haven’t really thought about the vagaries of holiday shipping, but if anyone wants it for a Christmas gift, maybe make a note when you order, so we’re sure to at least get it in the mail quickly. And if you want it overnighted or some such, we can do that, we just need to add on a little more (or, I guess, a lot more). Probably better to just order today, to be safe.
Woot! I am legal. In the end, it took about 1 minute at home filling out the form, 5 minutes at Village Hall, giving it to Business Services and then paying the cashier my $25, plus travel time there and back. 30 minutes max. Thanks to the various folks at Village Hall who talked me through my confusion — I hadn’t found the Home Kitchen form initially, and was trying to fill out the Cottage Food form, which is more complicated and requires you to take an 8 hour food safety certification course and pass a test.
The Home Kitchen (aka ‘cupcake law’) is a relatively new ordinance that lets people in Illinois (if their local municipalities adopt it, which Oak Park did about a year ago) sell a small amount of food cooked in their kitchen directly to the public — spices, spice blends, jams and jellies, baked goods, that kind of thing. I’m allowed to do up to $1000 / month, selling directly to the public (no wholesale businesses). If I wanted to do the Cottage Food form (and certification course) as well, I could then sell an additional much larger amount at Farmer’s Markets, but I have no plans to do that. Although I suppose if Kavya & Anand want to pick up some money as a teen, it’d be an interesting option to think about…
You know, the Thanksgiving meal is really well-designed. If you’ve been through it a few times, it’s relatively easy to cook the sides and turkey, to have the turkey rest while the sides heat up in the oven, to make the gravy from the pan drippings and bake some crescent rolls, to have it all come out at the same time, nice and hot and ready to feed a couple dozen people.
And I’m assuming that it’s not that some bright soul sat down and figured this all out from scratch. It‘s cooking wisdom that was developed over an entire culture, over decades or even centuries. It just works, and it works because it’s been made and refined a gazillion times.
After the events of Black July, tens of thousands of Tamil refugees fled their homes, many ending up in other countries — Canada, America, England, Australia. It was, among other things, a massive disruption in food culture.
My own family didn’t come here as refugees; we were simple economic migrants, who came a decade earlier, because my father got a good job here, and never ended up moving back to Sri Lanka. But my knowledge of Sri Lankan food culture was disrupted too. And sure, I can roll a simple sushi roll now, or make a decent pasta sauce, or serve chilaquiles for breakfast. We make a basic Thai curry once a week or so. I’ve gained a superficial understanding of many different cuisines, and the variety is delightful.
But there’s a depth missing. That’s one of the things that became clear when I was researching for the cookbook — that you could make hoppers and serve them with all kinds of things, but an egg hopper with seeni sambol is sheer perfection on its own. There’s a reason why that same combination is served across the island. No culinary school laying down the rules, but the wisdom of many hands stirring and seasoning, and many hungry souls eating, and giving feedback. A little less salt, a little more lime.
How long does it take a people to recover their food culture, after a massive disruptive event? Are some elements lost forever? Or can we trace out the path of what is missing, and rebuild the breadth and depth of it?
Soup-er satisfying swapping. It was a small soup swap, just five participants, but that still meant I got a bunch of interesting soup to try — my curried squash and my Vietnamese chicken noodle have been joined by a kale-sausage, a barley-mushroom, a chicken tortilla-squash, and a carrot-ginger. Yay.
(1 hr, makes about a quart)
This is an end-of-season chutney, using up the tomatoes that didn’t have a chance to ripen, along with other fall flavors. It’d be delicious at the Thanksgiving table, alongside a honey ham, and also yummy in a sandwich on a crescent roll slathered with a little bitter, with ham or leftover roast turkey. Serve with a little green salad for a nice light lunch.
2 small onions, chopped
2 T butter
1 tsp black mustard seed
2 green tomatoes, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 green apples, chopped
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
1 c. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp jaggery
2 tsp crushed red pepper
3 star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1. Sauté onions in butter with black mustard seed in a saucepan on medium-high high until onions are golden-translucent, stirring regularly.
2. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook 45 minutes.
Will keep refrigerated for a week or two in the fridge; follow proper canning instructions to store safely for months in the pantry.