So the other day I cooked up a huge pile of food, roughly nine different appetizers that may or may not appear on a menu of a restaurant that may or may not be opening this year. Some things I had made here before, but most of them were things I was familiar with but had never tried to cook here. As I am still waiting on a shipment of cheese from the US I had to forgo making quesadillas, or anything that has cheese as a major component. I did get some very poor cheddar to top off the potato skins, and I picked up some very over priced danish blue cheese to make some home made Blue Cheese dip.
As much as I would like to keep some things exactly like they are made and served back home, there are a few small places that it makes sense to make compromises. For instance when making a Ranch Dip or the Blue Cheese dip I would normally use buttermilk in the recipe, but it just isn't all that affordable over here. On the flip side you can make some really high quality yogurt at a decent rate, and if mixed correctly with slight adjustments to the other ingredients you end up with a healthier product that is just as tasty and maybe a bit creamier in texture, which I actually enjoyed. Another thing is that you can't get celery stalks, so wings get cucumber and carrot sticks instead.
One thing that was a first for me was the use of beer batter. I've never been a fish & chips kind of guy, and have always opted for an Italian style breading over beer batter on my fried foods. Since what we are looking to open will be modeled after a pub, I thought it only right that I start experimenting with the stuff to become familiar with how to flavor it and what temperatures to cook it at in the oil. The good news is that it seems quite simple, and I was happy with the consistency of the onion rings I made with the stuff, and was even more happy with the Aioli dips (one cajun one plain with chives) I made to go with them. I also did a few shrimp with the batter and they came out just like many of the seafood places make them back home along the coast. Surprisingly the frozen shrimp I've been purchasing here has been quite good, and doesn't have that horrible fishy taste one who grew up along the coast often associates with frozen seafood. I may have to try and get my hands on a sample of local trout and some frozen stuff to see how it cooks in the batter.
If I do nothing else, I'm most excited to be making real Buffalo sauce, not that sh!t that is made with chemical butter flavoring. Although the cost is a touch higher to have to import Frank's and use real whole cream butter, it produces a product that is vastly superior to any imitation- not that anyone is even doing an imitation of it here. In fact, since anyone who hasn't been to the States isn't even aware of what the stuff is and it is common to have "buff" or buffalo on the menu's here as water buffalo is a common meat I very well may have to have an aside on the menu explaining that Buffalo sauce is not sauce made from buffalo's but one that comes from Buffalo New York. Yesterday I made Bikini Atoll Shrimp (named after the famed nuclear testing site- thanks for the awesome name Donnie) which is coconut breaded shrimp doused in Buffalo sauce- and damn was it good. Also was able to make Buffalo wings- both classic and boneless.
Most of the days work though went into making all the dips and sauces from scratch. There was blue cheese, ranch, honey mustard, marinara, BBQ, sour cream, tzatziki, pomegranate-lime reduction, pico de galo, Buffalo sauce, Cajun & plain aioli, and chili. Some I had made for the market- so the tzatziki, chili and pico were taken care of. I wanted the marinara sauce to be something better for dipping, so in the blender it went, and I was really happy with the consistency as a result, nice and smooth but not at all watery. Of all the sauces the only one I can never seem to make and have it live up to what you can just buy at the store is the BBQ sauce. Maybe it's the light amount of liquid smoke and other chemical flavoring they use, but there is always something about my home made BBQ sauces that leave me just wishing I had used Sweet Baby Ray's or something similar instead.
Kim also made a spiced brownie with Kahlua-cinnamon frosting (the frosting was awesome) and a Pina Colada cake that was excellent. I had all the ingredients to make pina coladas as well, but didn't have the time while I was cooking, so I just fired up the blender and made a pitcher full of watermelon martinis instead. That wasn't bad to drink on a hot Kathmandu night. Even though we had more people show up than I expected, I had made far too much food. The difference between cooking for a group of men and a group of woman can be vast, and on top of this I tend to get carried away. So the next day much of the feast from the night before was had as breakfast, lunch and even dinner.
So the cooking continues, and hopefully some time in the not so distant future some of this will be on a menu in central Kathmandu. Might have to do another cooking night once my cheeses arrive to test out burgers, quesadillas, and pizza!