Friday, February 27, 2009

The New Joint: Indian

The other night I had another food induced dream: saffron colored curries rolled like rivers around pakora boats and feather-weight rice rained from the sky. It happened again. I ate way to damn much Indian food before bed.

My stomach becomes a bottomless pit in the face of a good curry and naan and I am no match for the charms of Mehek Punjab de. Alas, I went to bed, slumbering with an overfilled belly and hallucinating sleep.

Mehek Punjab de is a gorgeous little spot nestled in a strip mall (what isn’t in Fresno?) offering up quaint yellow walls, north Indian handicrafts, substantial tables and a gleaming case of sweets that spans the length of the joint. It’s usually packed with old ladies in saris and doe-eyed Sikh kids with hair bundled atop their heads. Dishes are served on traditional stainless steel plates and in little metal bowls, providing all the glitz I need for a night on the town.

And then there’s the food. To start, try the paneer pakora: little sandwiches of fresh, firm cheese spread with a green spice paste, deep fried. I’m also a fan of masala mago chips which are basically Indian nachos served up with chickpeas, yogurt, and a rim of fresh vegetables to garnish. If you are brave, dive into the pickles on table which will blast your tongue with a salty prick through the snap of crazy veggies.

The breads are divine. Throughout your meal you can watch generations of ladies spinning and tossing varieties of elastic dough down a hot tandoori oven. Try the makki di roti, a thick corn tortilla, traditionally served with spinach as a breakfast food. Fall in love with the sweet naan stuffed with cherries and nuts or go for the ultimate, aloo paratha, flat bread stuffed with mashed potatoes and onions.

Out came the masala dosa, a giant sourdough-like crêpe filled with spicy spuds, served with a dab of poppy seed studded soup and two incredible sauces: roasted red pepper and creamy coconut. In your mouth, crispy and smooth, hot and soothing all come together to create a far-east flavor boogie.

Out marched the excitement of sholey blaock: black garbanzo beans smacked with raw green chilies. Then onto hahi paneer which held light chunks of cheese suspended in rich orange colored curry. All these flavors are flowing through the medium of homemade yogurt and sweet ghee washed down with impeccable chai and a banana milkshake (seriously).

Finally, onto the sweets! Black chum chum, mitti seerni, ladoo, neatly stacked on silver platters like rows of lace on a petticoat. Orange and white, pink and green, they are concocted from carrots, sweet potatoes, coconut, cheese, pistachios, rosewater, honey. Get on board with the jalebi, a dayglow orange funnel cake soaked in syrup.

Alas you see my predicament of overfilled belly and turmeric educed sleep. Sweet dreams, Fresno. Enjoy.

Mehek Punjab de
3173 W. Shaw Ave.
Fresno, CA 93711

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ten Things to Put in Your Mouth.

I don't have much in common with Oprah. I'm a fixed-income kid from Cali, without too much press. But like Oprah, I'm cool with my place in the world. And I definitely have some favorite things. Get ready to squeal with delight... see below for my Top 10 of 2008.

T&D Willey Farms Nantes carrots.

These suckers are fierce. Thick orange broads packed with sugary sweetness and a dense, moist snap. Cut into carrot sticks, they will leave a florescent film in their baggie. Look for the blue rubber band and snatch these up at Whole Foods or through their CSA.

Charlotte’s Bakery Sourdough Wheat.

I feel as though I am in a Bruegel painting each time I am lucky enough to sink my teeth through the chewy crust into the spongy interior. Robust, traditional, and brown. How bread once was. Find her in the Tower District.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fresno State Butter.

These kids know how to do dairy. Little tubs hold insanely fresh churned golden butter with a nice salty bite. It is heaven on toast or dabbed over vegetables. You'll have a hard time going back to sticks. Find it at the Rue & Gwen Gibson Farm Market on Barstow and Chestnut.

Organic Pastures kombucha.

Gnarly, energy giving, microbe housing, fermented tea served up in a brown beer bottle. It's a little sweet, pH tangy, and faintly fizzy. Rumor has it, it cures just about anything. Grab a bottle for breakfast at their stand in Vineyard Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tonno tuna in olive oil.

I once saw Julia Child on PBS touting the virtue of tuna packed in oil as a pantry staple. "Oil?" I thought, "how… fatty." I now see the error of my ways and slam down a can almost weekly. The quality of this fish suspended in such a flavorful medium makes it a meal unto itself. It bears no resemblance to its fishy, watery brother. No need to mess around with mayo and pickles on this one. Buy it at Sam's Deli, Piemonte's, or Trader Joe's.

Torani Blood Orange syrup.

A mix of sour punch, pithy bite, and true orange flavor makes this deep blushed stickiness a perfect addition to a cocktail... or in true 1994 fashion, an Italian soda. Pick up a bottle at Cost Plus.

FAGE Total Greek yogurt.

One bite and you’ll never go back to low fat again. Luscious, tangy dairy delves into your whole mouth for a rich and velvety feel. Dollop instead of sour cream, dab in cereal, or spoon with honey and almonds for dessert. Find it at most grocery stores.

Alternative Baking Company vegan cookies.

How do they make them taste so damn good without any of the crap in a normal cookie? Dare I say, better? Superiorly moist with top-shelf ingredients and a dense crumb, these things are seriously satisfying. Get them at health food stores or the occasional mountain general store.

Koda Farms Organic Nirvana rice.

The ancient tradition of growing rice is alive and well in Dos Palos, where they are cultivating heirloom varieties of plump sushi rice. The Organic Nirvana mix is floated with number of other old-school grains which result in a delicate creaminess giving way to a nutty chew. Get it while you can at Tower Health.

Spanish chorizo

Sliced wafer thin, little rings look like stained glass windows when held up to the light, dotted with translucent fat cubes, striped pork chunks, and crimson spice. Cooked, you’ll find its little orange oily trail marking your plate. Cold, it holds its own with cheese and anchovies. Olé! Find it at Sam’s Deli.