Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rice and Shine

Practically every culture has a quintessential rice dish staple to the area, one that is a complete meal in itself satiating every aspect of the palate and offering a certain sense of roundedness that perhaps few other starch-based dishes provide.

There's paella from Spain, risotto from Italy, nasi goreng  from Indonesia, bibimbaap from Korea, and jambalaya from Louisiana in the United States to name a few. But most of these are quite region specific. Perhaps the most widely consumed rice preparation in the world with maybe a few subtle variations across borders is the biriyani (pronounced be-ree-a-nee) - a dish made with rice and a kurma (mixture of meat, seafood, or vegetables cooked with spices and yogurt in a thick sauce) arranged in layers, mixed together, or sometimes even cooked together.

The exact origins of biriyani in Persia several centuries ago are shrouded in myths and masala. Perhaps the nomads dug  pits in the ground and placed covered pots with rice, meat, and spices in the morning only to find delicious aromas seeping out by evening. The dish was later brought to other parts of south Asia by travelling Iranian merchants. It found its way to Northern India via Afghanistan  and has since spread all over the country and evolved into distinct recipes in every nook and cranny. As one could expect, each region swears by the superiority of their version. But seriously, mine's pretty darn good!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Critiquing the Food Critic

Now that I've resolved to writing restaurant reviews during the little time I have away from working in the kitchen, it is quite fitting that I dedicate a post explaining how professional food critics formulate them.  I've also outlined my own reviewing style here so that readers can decide how to judge my own assessments of restaurants I decide to write about.

First Time's a Charm

Most professional critics visit restaurants several times before compiling their reviews, and they are able to do so because the publication they work for takes care of the bill. Unfortunately for me, I work solo. So I literally cannot afford multiple visits especially when it's an expensive restaurant I decide to review. This may work for or against the restaurant's favor based on which dishes I choose to order. 

Me Me Me

Reviews are written so that readers can make better choices in selecting which restaurants to spend their hard earned money at. Yet, the irony in this is that the articles will always be rooted in the reviewer’s own opinion and based on his specific experiences only. It is impossible to separate the element of subjectivity from a review or the critic from the critique. You have to simply trust him based on his authority and the quality of his previous work.