Thursday, October 20, 2005

Today's Rants: Worse than Instant?

Rant #73:

Several asian cuisines have pastes that come in jars or tubs that can be used as the basis of a sauce if one is lazy. I've done this with Thai curries (green, red, yellow--sautee a bit, mix with coconut milk, stir, add meat and vegetables) and with different Indian food (tandoori--mix with yogurt, or different curries, also to be mixed with yogurt, marinate and grill for tandoori, just cook for curries). The results are not as good as when made from scratch, which I've occasionally done also, but those recipes do go on and on...(and you don't really want asafoetida in your house anyway because it stinks.)

So what continually amazes me is how restaurants can serve food with a straight face that is worse than one can make with one jar of paste, one can of coconut milk or tub of yogurt, maybe some marinading, and straightforward cooking. How is this possible? My only thought is that the pastes (especially the Thai ones) are usually as hot as they're supposed to be, and if your restaurant caters to people who don't like spicy food, maybe you can't use the premade pastes. Does that sound plausible? It could be the cost, I guess, but the Thai pastes especially are quite inexpensive per serving, and the Indian ones aren't too bad either.

Rant #73a:
There's a place that serves chaat next to an Indian grocery warehouse store in West Berkeley called Vik's Chaat Corner. It's an amazing place, as long as decor isn't what you're after. What I also found amazing is that the woman working behind the counter at the grocery store told me that their Indian frozen entrees were better than at most local Indian restaurants. I tried them, and she was right! (They were made by Deep in New Jersey). What's up with that?