Peruvian Quinoa Soup

You should have seen my face a couple of months ago when my boss told me I had to travel to Peru for work. It was a happy face – too happy, perhaps. It was the face of someone who won the lottery. Why? Because I love Peruvian food. And because I’m a food hedonist. And that’s what Peruvian food is to me: pleasure, joy, and excitement. So I added a few personal days to the trip.

I started out at a hostel in Cusco. On the first morning at breakfast, I waited until every guest had left and approached the chef. Her name is Doris, and she taught me how to make quinoa soup. Continue reading

The Power of the Pupusa

It’s hard to say pupusa with a straight face. It’s like saying pupu platter without giggling a little. But funny words notwithstanding, this tasty soft tortilla stuffed with cheese and pork and served with pickled cabbage and tomato sauce is an explosion of flavor. It’s got great texture. It melts in your mouth. And it’s a lot of work to make. But the experience justifies the labor that goes into preparing this typical Salvadoran dish.

Ever since I ate my first pupusa in Somerville almost 20 years ago, I’ve wanted to learn how to make the real thing from a Salvadoran cook. My opportunity came just a few months ago, when my coworker José told me that his Salvadoran wife Janneth makes the best pupusas. So I asked him to have me over for dinner. Continue reading

Parmjit’s Secret Vegetable Pakoras

Sometimes when I interview people for this blog, I get so immersed in their stories that I forget to think about what recipe I want them to share with me. That happened again a few weeks ago, when I was sipping chai with Punjab Palace owner Parmjit Singh and he asked me what I wanted to cook. I couldn’t think of anything fast enough, so he got up from his chair and told me to follow him into the kitchen. The moment I walked in and smelled the pakoras frying, I knew what I wanted. Continue reading

Nepal’s Best Exports: Ambikaji and Her Momos

If you’ve never tried Nepalese food, you’re missing out. So do yourself a favor and try a momo – or a “Nepalese empanada,” as I now call it – a dumpling with a variety of delicious fillings, often vegetables or minced meat, that can be steamed or stir-fried and is often served with spicy dipping sauces.

Sound good? I learned to make momos from a Nepalese lady who is a maverick in the kitchen. Her name is Ambika (but I respectfully call her Ambikaji), and she makes the most mouth-watering, velvety momos you’ll ever try. Here’s the best part: she didn’t just share a recipe with me; she showed me how to make them in person. Continue reading

My Love for Eggplant Realized

The eggplant has a devout group of followers, and I’m happy to count myself among them. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember – from the vinegar pickled ones my grandmother used to make during season, to the crispy and tangy eggplant parm I request every time I visit Mom. I love this vegetable in all its forms. So, when on a recent trip to India I tasted Achari Baingan for the first time, I was immediately smitten. I asked to meet the chef. Continue reading

More Dominican than Mangu

Until very recently, when the Dominican Republic came up, I thought of beautiful beaches, baseball, and bachata. Now I think of Mangu. Popular in most Caribbean cuisines, this mashed plantain side is a staple of the island’s diet. And it makes a great meal – especially breakfast – when served with eggs, onions, cheese, and sausage.

Here’s how Dominican émigré and Allston business owner Gloria Rivera makes it, and why. Reader, be warned: if by the time you finish reading this you think I’ve glorified Gloria, you’re right – and you will also understand why. Continue reading