Thursday, January 26, 2012

Garam Masala Powder

Garam Masala powder is a mixture of different spices ground into powder.  It is used a lot in Indian and South Asian cuisines. Everyone have their own version of spices and ratios they use, to make this recipe. It is not a difficult process and it stores pretty well. You can adjust the intensity and flavor of spices to your preference by making it at home.

My mom used to mix the whole spices, put them in a tray in one layer and keep them under direct sunlight for few hours before grinding them into powder. However, you can just roast spices lightly on stovetop before grinding them. Below is the version that my sister makes. Once you start making your own garam masala at home, I don’t think you’ll ever go back to a store bought version. 

I’ve listed some of the ingredients as optional in case some of us don’t use spices in daily cooking and don’t want to invest in them. I’ve found that Indian grocery stores have better value on whole spices.

Garam Masala Powder
Click on above image to enlarge

Makes:  Approximately 2 1/2 cups
Preparation Time:  30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup cumin seeds
1 cup coriander seeds
2 tablespoons whole cardamom
1 tablespoon clove
5 - 3” stick (0.65 ounce/18 grams) cinnamon – break into smaller pieces
1/2 cup loosely packed (0.15 ounce/4 grams) bay leave
2 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorn
1 1/2 tablespoon star anise

1 1/2 tablespoon mace
1/4 cup fennel seeds
1 tablespoon seeds from black cardamom – discard pod
1 tablespoon black onion seeds (also known as black cumin, Kalonji, Nigella sativa seed)
1 whole nutmeg – break into chunks

  1. Combine all spices except nutmeg in a large skillet.
  2. Dry roast on very low heat for about 10 minutes or until fragrant while stirring to make sure that the spices don’t burn.
  3. Remove from heat, transfer to a plate and let it cool.
  4. Using a spice grinder or coffee grinder, grind them into a fine powder.
  5. Sieve through a fine mash and keep the garam masala in an airtight container.
  • This version is little mild but if you prefer a hotter Masala, add more black pepper. Some people also add dried red chilies in their garam masala.
  • If you have powerful grinder, you don’t need to discard the pods of black cardamom, just grind them all together.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spinach Dip

Spinach dip is probably one of my favorite dips. It is rich, creamy and delicious. I got this recipe from a co-worker few years back. This is a good dish to bring to a potluck party. You can serve it with some bread pieces and vegetables.

Spinach Dip

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 4 hours

2 cups sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (1.8 ounce) package dry Leek Soup Mix – Knorr brand
1 (10 ounce) package frozen cut spinach –thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup fresh parsley – chopped finely
1/2 cup green onions - finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon dry dill weed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 round sourdough loaf

  1. In a large bowl, combine sour cream and mayo.
  2. Stir in dry soup mix and mix well.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
  5. Serve the dip with bite size bread pieces or, hallow out the bread center and pour the dip in and serve as bread bowl and a dip. Can also serve along with fresh vegetables such as; carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli, etc.
Note: Make sure to remove moisture from spinach. I just use my hands to squeeze out water.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Crab Curry (Burmese Style)

I’ve been craving for crab curry for a long time now and finally got a chance to make it. My sister used to make super delicious crab curries for us in the past. She usually makes it either Burmese style as below or Indian style with different spices. We usually use smaller hard shell crabs back home; buy them alive and cook them fresh. Smaller ones are little more work because you have cut and clean them before cooking and once cooked, you have to know how to get the meat out. Of course it is still fun to dig in with both hands and enjoy. However, since I’m really bad with that, my sister usually take out all the meat for us to eat.

Personally for me, since I don’t dare nor have idea on how to cut and prepare the live crabs, I like to use the King crab legs that are already cooked. The other reason I like the King crab legs is because of their size. You get bigger chunk of meat and also easy to eat, even if you’re not an expert on eating crabs. Since I don’t live close to my sister, these are pretty good for now.

Crab Curry (Burmese Style)

Serves: 2
Preparation Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour


4 large cooked King crab legs, about 1 1/2 pounds
3 to 4 tablespoons oil
1 large onion – grind using food processor
2 large tomatoes – cut in big chunks
6 cloves garlic – cut in half
1 inch ginger – sliced
5 Thai chili or any green chili – roughly chopped (adjust to taste)
2 fresh Lemon Grass
Pinch of salt
6 Kaffir lime leaves (if available) – tear them with hand from middle
2 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Fish sauce to taste
Few sprigs of cilantro – roughly chopped
Lime wedges to serve

  1. Cut the crab legs from joints to a manageable size. Pierce with knife in some parts of the shell so that flavor can go in.
  2. With blender or food processor, grind tomato, garlic, ginger and green chili to a fine paste and keep aside.
  3. Remove one or two outer layers of lemon grass and cut off few inches from skinny tip and discard. Smash the root ends with a handle of your knife to release flavor and cut it in half.
  4. Heat oil in a large pan over low heat and add grind onion. Add a small pinch of salt and sauté the onions over low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes until they are cooked through and lightly golden.
  5. Add chili powder and turmeric powder. Stir once and add the tomato mixture and cook for a minute.
  6. Add Lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaves, and fish sauce to taste. Stir and cook covered for about 10 minutes on medium low heat.
  7. Add Crab and cook covered for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring few times in between.
  8. Garnish with cilantro and cover the pot for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve with steam rice and wedges of lime to squeeze on top.
Note: Taste while adding fish sauce because too much of it will make the dish salty.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012


I learnt making ghee from my mother-in-law, who is a great vegetarian cook. Making homemade ghee is not difficult or complicated but does require a bit of time. Ghee has slightly nutty flavor and is used a lot in Indian cooking. Ghee can be kept unrefrigerated for few months, refrigerated for over 6 months or over a year when frozen.

The cooking time table below is from the book of Great Vegetarian Dishes by Kurma dasa.


1 to 3 pounds of unsalted butter – cut into large chunks

  1. In a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat, melt butter stirring to make sure it melts slowly and doesn’t brown. Continue to stir and bring it to a boil.
  2. When the surface of the butter is covered with a white foam, reduce heat to as low as possible.
  3. Simmer uncovered and undisturbed for required amount of time as stated below until the milk solids have settled to the bottom and a thin crust appears on top. The finished ghee will be golden in color and clear.
  4. Turn off the heat and skim off the top layer with a fine sieve in a bowl and keep aside.
  5. Carefully ladle the ghee into an airtight jar without disturbing the solids on the bottom and pour through a fine sieve to the jar. Allow it to cool completely and keep it airtight.
  6. Combine the bottom milk solids with the reserved top crust and use within few days. Keep this refrigerated. This can be used in cooked vegetables, soups and grains.

Butter Quantity
Cooking Time
1 lb
1 ¼ hours
2 lbs
1 ¾ hours
3 lbs
2 hours

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mini Chicken Spring Roll

Few years back, my sister gave me recipe for these super addictive mini spring rolls. It is best served hot but we like to make these for our road trips. I usually make about 40 spring rolls per batch for the two of us because once we start, we can’t stop eating them.

It is best to eat with Maggi’s Masala Chilli Sauce but any of your favorite sauce will do. You can buy the Masala Chilli Sauce in Indian grocery stores. I’ve tried making these in regular size spring rolls but they don’t taste as good as the smaller ones. It just requires a bit of patience and time but worth every effort.

Mini Chicken Spring Roll

Makes: 20 mini rolls
Preparation Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Cooking and Frying Time: 30 to 40 minutes

1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 0.6 lbs), cut into 3” chunks
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (adjust to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated or finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro leaves and stem – finely chopped
4 Thai chilies or any green chili – finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon butter or grated cheese
6” square spring roll sheets
1 tablespoon any type of flour (all purpose, wheat, rice etc.)
Oil for frying

  1. In a pot, add chicken, lime juice, ginger, garlic, black pepper and salt and mix well.
  2. Add about 1 to 2 tablespoon of water, cover the pot and boil on medium heat until chicken is cooked and all water has been evaporated. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes. If there is too much of water, leave the lid open and turn the heat on high for water to evaporate.
  3. Let the chicken cool, and chopped it very finely.
  4. Mix finely chopped chicken with cilantro, green chilies and black pepper. Taste and add salt if needed. Add butter or cheese and mix well. The filling is ready.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the flour with little water and make a thick paste. This will be used as glue to close the spring rolls.
  6. To make the spring roll, take one wrapper and place it diagonally on a board such that the corner faces you. It should look like a diamond. (Keep the unused spring rolls sheets covered with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out)
  7. Place one heap tablespoon of filling just up from the edge of the corner. Shape the filling into a log shape. This will make it easier for wrapping the roll.
  8. Fold the corner tightly over and fold in the sides.
  9. Brush the open edges of the wrapper with the glue mixture made above, and continue rolling to form a tight roll.
  10. Keep it seam side down on a plate and cover with lightly damp towel while preparing other rolls.
  11. Once everything is rolled, deep fry them on medium heat until golden brown.
  12. Serve hot with Masala chilli sauce or any dipping sauce of your preference.
  • Spring roll sheets can be found in Asian supermarkets in frozen section. Follow package directions for defrosting.
  • Un-fried Spring rolls can be frozen. Freeze them in one layer in a zip-loc bag. When ready to use, heat them in microwave for 45 seconds or so and deep fry them till golden brown.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Crème Brulee

Crème Brulee is probably one of the tastiest deserts I’ve had. It is creamy, rich and melts in your mouth with a crunch on top. The very first time I’ve had this desert was while visiting a dear friend in Portland, OR. She made Crème Brulee for us and we’ve been hooked ever since. This is also one of my baby sister’s favorite deserts. It is always fun to watch my 11 years old sister and my husband quarrelling, who gets the last custard.

This recipe came with the Rodelle Vanilla Beans that I bought from Costco. Original recipe uses 1/2 cup of sugar, but I reduced it by 2 tablespoons. It is pretty easy to make and quite delicious.

Crème Brulee

Serves: 6 to 8
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: 40 to 45 minutes
Inactive Cooling and Chilling Time: 3 hours or more

8 large egg yolks
1/2 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Hot water

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out of the pod, using the backside of the knife. Keep this aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until smooth. Add seeds of the vanilla bean and beat to combine.
  4. In a heavy bottom pot, over medium high heat, heat whipping cream until almost simmering, and do not let it boil.
  5. In a very slow stream, gradually add whipping cream to the egg yolks mixture while whisking vigorously. This is called tempering the eggs. The key is to whisk continuously while adding cream slowly so that the eggs do not curdle.
  6. Divide the mixture equally into 6 to 8 ramekins, depending on the size of the ramekins.
  7. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and fill it with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides.
  8. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, just until the custard is set but still jiggles in the center.
  9. Remove the ramekins from the pan, let cool completely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
  10. Remove the custard from the fridge, 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar on top of each of the custard.
  11. Torch method: With a torch, melt the sugar until golden color to form a crispy top. Let this sit for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
  12. Broiler method: If you don’t have a torch, place the custards under broiler checking every 15 to 20 seconds until the sugar is melted and golden in color. Let cool for few minutes before serving.
Note: I sometimes add the vanilla bean pod while heating the whipping cream to get every bit out of the beans and remove it before adding the cream to the eggs. If not, the pod can be added to your sugar jar to flavor your sugar.

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Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream

Vanilla bean ice-cream is something that I wanted to make ever since I bought the beans online at I found Alton Brown’s recipe which has great reviews, so decided to try it out. It is so creamy, smooth, rich and fragrant. Probably, one of the best vanilla ice-creams I’ve had (that coming from a person that doesn’t like vanilla ice-cream). It would be a good base to start for any flavored ice-creams, although I have yet to try other flavors. It needs to be made ahead of time but it is pretty easy recipe.

Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream

Serves: 8
Preparation Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Inactive Time: 10 hours

2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heaving whipping cream
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

  1. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out of the pod, using the backside of the knife.
  2. In a heavy bottom pot, combine, half-and-half, whipping cream, vanilla bean (both the pod and the seeds), and place it over medium high heat. Bring the mixture just barely to a simmer but do not let it boil.
  3. Remove from heat and add sugar, pinch of salt and stir to combine. Taste at this point and adjust sweetness level to your desire taste.
  4. Let the mixture cool completely, transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate overnight.
  5. The next day, make ice-cream by following the ice-cream maker unit’s instructions. My ice-cream machine took about 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Once the volume has increased by 1/2 to 3/4 time and it has reached a soft serving consistency, transfer it back into the lidded container and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.
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