Book Review | A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

IMG_0753.JPGThis collection of short stories, each previously published by The New Yorker, deals with Indian characters, mostly involved in love or interpersonal social issues. The eight included stories share common themes including love, physical relationships, arranged marriage, sickness and other threads of daily life.

These stories of varying lengths are direct and the writing easy to follow. The subject matter is best suited for adults, though scenes of intercourse are brief. Despite being a fairly quick read, I did not find this book to be very enjoyable. The dark humor I was hoping for seemed quite sparse. Certain reader’s may also find some of the female character’s situations to be depressing. That said, the book could serve to increase Indian cultural knowledge for an outsider. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A Life of Adventure and Delight, you may be interested in Malafemmena by Louisa Ermelino (2016).

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Making Homemade (Mutter) Paneer (cheese curds) with an Indian Mother

To my surprise, making homemade paneer from whole milk and vinegar or lemon juice is a very straightforward and fairly simple process. I will provide the detailed directions below that I was taught by a native Indian for making both the paneer itself and a sauce that goes along to make mutter (peas) paneer or similar dishes. Paneer is an Indian style cheese, similar to raw cheese curds or cottage cheese without the wet part. It resembles tofu in appearance.

Making the Paneer

Ingredients: Gallon whole milk, 2 teaspoons vinegar or 3 tsps lemon juice, 2 tsp salt. Yields about 2 cups paneer

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  • Bring the milk to a boil
  • When boiling, add 2 tsp vinegar and remove from heat
  • Let rest / curdle (visible separation should occur within 2-3 minutes, if not, put it back on the burner)
  • When it appears fully separated, strain through cheesecloth and press out excess moisture (be careful not to over squeeze, it will be very soft at this point)
  • Press the paneer in the cloth between heavy objects for 3-4 hours to remove moisture
  • When done pressing, cut the solid block into pieces
  • Put them in boiling water with 1 tsp salt for about 10 minutes, turning off the heat after 5 minutes.
  • Refrigerate over night and they are ready to go!

Making the Sauce or Making Mutter Paneer

Ingredients: 4 medium tomatoes yielding 2 cups grated, 2 tbs oil, 1 tsp cumin seed, 2 tbs grated fresh ginger, 2 tsp turmeric, 4 tsp coriander, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 bay leaves, 1 tbs yogurt /cream/ cashew paste, salt, 2 cups paneer, mutter/peas, extra tomato sauce as desired

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  • Use a grater on the tomatoes to separate the pulp from the skins, should yield about 2 cups
  • Peel and grate the fresh ginger, yield about 2 tbs
  • Heat the oil in a deep pot
  • When hot, add the cumin seeds. They should pop if it’s hot enough.
  • Add other spices and tomatoes. Mind the splatter.
  • Bring all to a boil and simmer 5 minutes before adding precooked peas, paneer and yogurt
  • Simmer together another 5 minutes
  • If not enough sauce add extra milk and 4 oz tomato img_6430sauce
  • When the oil starts to separate, it’s done. Remove bay leaves before serving with rice or roti

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Dancing Ganesha Now Serving Indian Food in Aggieville

Full dinner menu for Dancing Ganesha in Aggieville

Full dinner menu for Dancing Ganesha in Aggieville

*Update 9/3/14: New Menu available here*

Earlier this week the kitchen opened at Dancing Ganesha (712 Manhattan Ave) in Aggieville and Indian food is now being served for lunch and dinner daily. Dancing Ganesha has been a fixture bar in Aggieville featuring live music performers and drink specials. They announced last year that they would be adding a kitchen and serving food. This is not the first food venture for DG who already have a successful DG restaurant next to St Thomas University in Minneapolis.

Dancing Ganesha is open daily for lunch from 11am to 2pm and have several lunch specials that include chicken, fish, lamb or vegetarian fare with naan and rice. These specials are not listed on the printed menu, which shows options for dinner fare, served 5pm to 9pm. The full menu, pictured right, includes a few basic appetizers, a selection of entrees and two desserts. The drink menu is pictured on their Facebook page along with recent kitchen photos. Though I haven’t yet had a chance to try the food, I’m glad there’s now an Indian restaurant in Manhattan, KS.

Food Review | Ramen Bowls – Lawrence, KS

Lunch at Ramen Bowls left me with ramen on the brain all afternoon. Let me talk about a fabulous bowl of ramen. I’ve lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles and this is the most memorable bowl of ramen I’ve eaten to date.

Ramen Bowls Kitchen

Ramen Bowls Kitchen

It was by chance that my partner and I discovered Ramen Bowls just off Massachusetts on 10th Street. It was opened in September of 2013 by a couple who had lived in Hawaii and, now in Kansas, missed authentic ramen. I missed the myriad of ramen places on the West Coast and read through the menu (pictured below) in the window. Though there are other menu offerings beside ramen, all I could think was: Hot ramen, yum!

Upon entering, we were offered a table downstairs (there are just a few) or seating in the upstairs loft. We chose the loft, which offered an inviting island feel with colored paper lanterns and light wood. Our server was a delightful Japanese girl who attended to us promptly and with a big smile. My partner ordered the Veggie Ramen and I ordered the Haole Ramen with braised tofu instead of chicken and no onions. The ramen arrived much faster than I had expected and we both enjoyed our first bites. Our server asked if we would like to add some spice and offered Sriracha and house-made chili oil. The addition of the chili oil was really what made the dish outstanding.

Chili oil

Chili oil

Veggie Ramen photo by Stephie G. on yelp.com

Veggie Ramen (by Stephie G. on yelp)

Haole Ramen by John M. on yelp.com

Haole Ramen w. extras (by John M. on yelp)

The Haole Ramen had straight house-made noodles, a chicken and fish broth, and expertly cooked braised tofu (plus the spinach I stole from my partner’s bowl). Add the chili oil and I couldn’t stop eating until the solids were gone and I’d slurped up just about all of the remaining broth. My partner’s veggie Ramen had squiggly noodles, veg broth, spinach, mushrooms and green onions. His broth was tastier than I’d expected and the fresh spinach was great, I just wish his noodles had been cooked 30 seconds or a minute longer. I could not shut up all afternoon about how much I loved the ramen.

Further Reading:

Baan Thai to Open New Thai Noodle Restaurant in Aggieville

[As of March 1, 2014 Thai Noodle is OPEN and the complete menu is pictured below.]

sign being installed at The Thai Noodle - photo by Baan Thai

Sign being installed mid-February at The Thai Noodle – photo by Baan Thai

In November of 2011, Baan Thai Restaurant opened in Manhattan, KS. Since then they have been doing well and accumulated a mass of customer followers. Baan Thai is located at 1620 Ft. Riley Blvd. in the same strip mall that houses the People’s Grocery Coop. The restaurant is modestly sized and often full at peak dining times. Perhaps this success is what led owners to begin work on The Thai Noodle at 1126 Laramie Street (previously Bull Chicks) in Aggieville, which, according to their Facebook page should be opening in the next few days. I visited the spot last week and the outside was in good order – brown paper sheeting still blocked all of the windows. On February 20th they posted an ad on Craigslist to hire servers. Today I called Baan Thai to see if Thai Noodle is open yet. The lady who answered the phone said not yet and that she didn’t know when it would be. Keep your eyes peeled, this ought to be a good one.

post script

Thai Noodle opened on March 1st, 2014. They can be reached by phone at (785) 320-2899.

Full menu below, click on picture to see larger image.

Film Review | Key of Life (Kagi-dorobô no mesoddo) by Kenji Uchida

key of life dvd coverI had been waiting for months for this DVD to be released in the US after having seen it in the line up from the 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival. Key of Life is a Japanese film that focuses on two men who essentially trade lives. Sakai‘s character is down and out living alone with no money and unable to find acting work. After a failed suicide attempt, he heads to the public bath where he witnesses an accident. A rich hitman (Kagawa) slips and hits his head which lands him in the hospital with amnesia. Sakai assumes the hitman’s identity and Kagawa gives his hand at acting while he tries to regain his memory. A relationship with a magazine editor (Hirosue) ensues and ultimately propels him back on track as Sakai gets in over his head crime-wise.

It was refreshing to see Teruyuki Kagawa in a more serious role than in Tokyo Sonata. He performed solidly as both the dangerous fix-it man and the struggling actor. Sakai and Hirosue seemed to be a bit flatter, but this may just be in comparison. The film itself was entertaining and easy to follow. Dialogue kept the film flowing and the plot was not overly obvious. It showed various settings in Yokohama and glimpses into otherwise unfilmed areas. Look for Key of Life at your local library or watch the streaming version online from Film Movement.

Film Review | Kantai (Hospitalité) by Koji Fukada

Hospitalite dvd coverTitled in English Welcome to Our House, Hospitalité tells the story of a Japanese family whose hospitality is tested when an employee hired with room and board brings numerous others to live in the family home. After the death of his father, Kobayashi is running the family printing business out of his house where he lives with his daughter, younger second wife and divorced sister. Things seem balanced enough until the printing apprentice takes ill and Kagawa is hired on and given a room. Sequentially, his English speaking “wife” moves in and soon seduces Kobayashi, putting him in a position where he cannot argue Kagawa’s outlandish decisions. Kagawa continues to bring more residents into the house until it is overflowing and culminates in the events of a birthday party for Kobayashi’s wife.

Fukada does a good job in this film of portraying a bizarre series of events without being overly dramatic. The dialogue is more ample than in most current Japanese films and interesting scenes and relationships keep the audience’s attention. Billed as a comedy, you may find yourself laughing from time to time. Check out Hospitalité from a library near you.