Stop chomping on bhajiyas. Try monsoon treats from around the world

There are plenty of tropical countries accustomed to downpours, and each of them has a go-to treat for those rainy indoor weekends. As it pours, warm up with their recipes.

Warm polenta pie comes to us via Zambia and has all the comfort food qualities of the bhajiya, with fewer carbs and calories.
Warm polenta pie comes to us via Zambia and has all the comfort food qualities of the bhajiya, with fewer carbs and calories.(Photo courtesy The Orchid Hotel)

Muddy roads, traffic snarls, coughing colleagues, train delays – the monsoon can cast grey clouds over your mood too. But cultures around the world have their own antidotes for damp days. Which one will you try this wet weekend?

Polenta Pie from Zambia

Heat two tablespoons of butter and add ¼ teaspoon each of cumin seeds and curry leaves. Once they crackle, fry one small sliced onion until translucent. Add two cloves of chopped garlic and one cup cornmeal (polenta).

Sauté well and add 1 cup vegetable stock. Cook until the polenta fluffs up like upma. Then add ½ teaspoon chopped chillies, salt and pepper, ¼ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon lemon juice and one teaspoon chopped coriander and cook until polenta leaves the edges of the vessel.

Grease a flat round mould with butter, pour in the polenta and allow it to cool. De-mould it and bake in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes at 120 degrees Celsius. Serve with sprigs of coriander for garnish.

(Source: Navid Sayyad, executive chef at the Orchid Hotel)

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Kao Mun Gai from Thailand

Piping hot chicken on a bed of rice with sumptuous gravy on the side - now that is a monsoon meal. Seen here is the Kon Mun Gai as served at Pa Pa Ya.

Rinse 1 whole chicken (about 2 kilos) and pull some of the skin and fat off, especially from around the neck and tail. Save about ½ cup of skin and fat. Stuff chicken with two halves of a medium white onion and three slices of ginger; rub the outside with 1 tablespoon salt. In a large pot, boil the chicken in 3.5 litres of water and simmer for an hour. Rinse two cups of jasmine rice and half a cup of sticky rice together, drain and set aside.

In a dry wok, cook the chicken skin and fat over low heat until the skin is brown and crispy. After about 15 minutes, remove the skin. Add one tablespoon chopped garlic to the chicken fat, cook until it is golden brown and turn off the heat. Put the rinsed rice and 1 teaspoon of salt into your wok and mix it with the garlic and fat. Transfer the rice mixture into a rice cooker. Add enough chicken stock so it is about ½ inch above the rice and cook.

For the dipping sauce, pound 1 tablespoon each of fresh Thai chilies, garlic, cilantro and fresh ginger. Stir in 2 tablespoons yellow bean sauce, 4 tablespoons lime juice and ¼ cup dark sweet soy sauce. Mix well and add more lime juice if you need to.

Serve the chicken sliced, on a bed of rice, garnished with parsley, and accompanied by sliced cucumber. Offer a small bowl of the chicken broth, and a generous amount of the sauce.

* To create a vegetarian version, use stir fried seasonal vegetables instead of chicken.

Source: Sahil Singh, executive chef for pan-Asian cuisine at Massive Restaurants

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Bobo de Camarao from Brazil


On those damp, chilly days, warm up with a tapioca-based broth. Seen here is the vegetarian version of Bobo de Camaro as created at The Sassy Spoon.

To prepare the tapioca cream, in a large heavy saucepan, combine 1 kg of onions and 1 kg of tomatoes, 2 green bell peppers (seeded and chopped) and 4 tablespoons of coriander leaves with 1 kg of boiled, peeled and mashed tapioca root (or yam). Stir in 500 ml olive oil and 1 litre of coconut milk, then place on medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the cream begins to pull away from the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat.

In a large, deep saucepan, sauté 1 clove of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, 3 medium tomatoes, 3 medium onions, 1 green bell pepper and ½ cup olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add 2 kg cleaned shrimp and sauté a little more. Then, add 1 litre of coconut milk in ½ cup amounts, stirring after each addition. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add reserved tapioca cream to the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes. Just before removing from heat, mix in 2 tablespoons palm oil. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

* To create a vegetarian version, substitute assorted vegetables for shrimp.

(Source: Irfan Pabaney, director and head chef at The Sassy Spoon)

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Enchiladas from Mexico


Gooey and delicious, Mexican Enchiladas at LIMA with a sprinkling of fresh chopped tomatoes and edible flowers for garnish.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch pan with olive oil. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil until simmering. Add 1 chopped red onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 bunch chopped broccoli and 1 chopped red bell pepper, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low.

Cover the skillet, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 9 minutes, or until the broccoli is brighter green and just starting to turn golden at the edges. Add 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 bunch baby spinach leaves, a few handfuls at a time, stirring until it has reduced in size.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a medium mixing bowl. Add 1.5 cups of cooked and drained black beans, ¼ cup cheese and a drizzle of enchilada sauce (chilli paste + tomato purée). Season with ½ teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. This is your filling mixture.

To assemble the enchiladas, pour ¼ cup enchilada sauce into your prepared pan and tilt it from side to side until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. On an oven-safe plate, spread ½ cup filling mixture down the middle of a tortilla or roti, then wrap the left side over and then the right, to make a wrap. Place it seam side down against the edge of your pan. Repeat with seven more tortillas and filling.

Drizzle 1 and ¾ cups of enchilada sauce evenly over the enchiladas, leaving the tips bare. Sprinkle ¾ cup cheese evenly over them. Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let the enchiladas rest for 10 minutes.

(Source: Jerry Thomas, chef at Lima)

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Vegetable Pho from Vietnam



Mix 100 ml vegetable stock, 2 gm of young coriander leaves, 3 gm coriander leaves, 10 gm coriander stems, 2 gm cinnamon, 3 gm black peppercorn, 1 gm star anise, 3 gm ginger, 2 gm garlic, 10 ml dark soy sauce, 8 gm red chilli paste, 40 gm carrot and salt to taste, to make the stock.

Strain and add 16 gm bean sprouts, 6 gm green zucchini, 5 gm yellow zucchini, 9 gm mushroom, 15 gm bokchoy, 3 gm mint sprigs, 2 gm thai basil, 5 gm spring onion, 5 ml lime, 2 gm fried onion and 1 gm slit red chilly to the soup bowl. Garnish with spring greens, coriander sprigs and mint sprigs.


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