of wining and dining...
We are caught between the tug of war that's been raging between mobile courts, newspaper reports and restaurants maintaining poor standards of hygiene. It's obviously a campaign well stirred up. It gives me the shudders to think that posh restaurants or popular food haunts in Dhaka serve us stale tepid cuisine in such style.
And look at us. We never say a word. We never raise an eyebrow if we pay Tk. 30 for a cup of jasmine tea or Tk.60 for a stale sour éclair or chocolate mousse. It's almost like we are ashamed to talk to them and hit our point home, always thinking what if the others in the restaurant think that we are 'cheap and tacky', that we don't know that the food is supposed to taste like this. Now that would be sacrilegious (to our image in the society). Thus instead we either gulp it or leave but definitely pay for it. Guess this is the reason why the restaurant wallas in town are so indifferent towards customer service and not to forget so very loaded to the full. Anyway these are altogether an entire range of articles, for today let's just focus on our plight without restaurants.
The poor couple on a date or the youngster who spends most of his adda time in food joints with friends, the almost sabbatical Friday family outing- all's been ruined, because Dhakaites know no other way of entertainment other than eating out. And now with cockroaches and dead chickens and fungus-coated sauces and rotten shrimps ruling the eating out scenes, some of us are scared even to breathe. Come to think of it even that is a subject of concern because most certainly the air we breathe is impure and oh! the water too.
Now that's it, we can't take it any more, either they clean up their act or we are bringing the restaurants home, and why not? Fine dining at home is a fine way of entertainment. Women who love to play hostess and whose kitchens are the hearts of their home find this a fascinating alternative to going to restaurants. And even if you don't like the kitchen and you get the jitters thinking of cooking then too, there's a way out to avoid the restaurants and enjoy dining at home.
Be it your evening tea or hurried lunch or late dinners just make an effort to add a little drama to your menu of the day or to your leftovers and you have it. Garnishing is what makes the hotel food so appetising and home cooked ones so bland.
Since we miss cafes in Dhaka let's host tea parties. This is my personal favourite. Sometimes when I am late from work and have not given my daughter some quality time, I shift my guilt by inviting her to a tea party on the roof or the terrace. We arrange small tables and stools, bring out our favourite mugs, my daughter brews a pot of earl grey with a dash of honey on the electric kettle, I warm up some sausages, make a couple of cheese or club sandwiches and add home baked cookies to complete the menu. With her favourite song in the background, the sunset, the cool breeze, the birds flying back home, the entire ambience puts us in a romantic mood. At times my daughter will gleefully remark, 'It's like Café Mango, ma.'
All this takes us less than 45 minutes. And sometimes on weekends we invite her father or grandmother and bake a cake. We enjoy serving them tea like they do in real cafes. It's extremely fun. You should give it a try it too, and maybe just maybe, hand the hubby a bill, (just to make it look authentic if you know what I mean!).
For a quick fun dinner with your regular 'bhat-daal' add a little twist and change the flavour. To jazz up your steamed rice, fry it in olive oil add some green chillies, onions and scrambled egg. If regular vegetables bore you stir fry them and add capsicum, corn kernels, spring onions. In addition, throw in a couple of shrimps to give it a different flavour. Daal will no longer be dull if you add a twig of mint leaves and a dash of butter to your lentil soup. And as for that chicken and potato curry, simmer the spicy chicken and potato curry in white sauce or add oyster sauce to its spicy gravy and you have it.
Remember to serve it in single entrees with rice at one side, the vegetables on the other along with the chicken and the lentil cup in a single soup bowl. Switch on the corner lamps, light a few scented candles and there you have a casual Friday family dinner and the best part is you can watch Star World, HBO, or MTV but you control the remote.
There will be times when you miss the outings with friends, instead of lamenting on their absence, invite them over to watch a movie together. I mean isn't that why you bought your home theatre? If you have kids make sure the movie you select to watch is suitable for all, or you have enough computer games and play station to keep them occupied. It is wise to come to a consensus on what to watch or else your guests might feel bored. Whether it's sappy romances, action packed thrillers or hair-raising horror flicks, keep it entertaining.
For food, popcorn, Doritos, home-made salsa, even roasted papads, are fine starters. After the movie you can serve them jumbo burgers, grilled chicken, fries and banana splits. You can also think about serving pastas, or spaghetti in meat sauce. The idea is to give them a different menu, one which they are not expecting. That ought to bring in a nice drama. However the usual pilao routine is also fine.
Fine dining at home, we believe is all about creating an exceptional meal that can be simple, fun, and inexpensive. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook, you will appreciate the simmering sauces, infused oils, chutneys and relishes. Use them to create your own fabulous meals or follow your favourite chef's recipes.
So your other option is to bring the same delightful culinary experience to your family. Whether a novice in the kitchen, or a busy professional with little time to cook, you will appreciate this small visit to your own kitchen. Cooking, garnishing, setting the table, stirring up the mood, fixing the ambience at home, dressing up for the dinner is quite therapeutic and helps you to de-stress as well. So roll up your sleeves, open the imagination door and bring the restaurants home.
By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Munem Wasif
Special thanks to Nazneen Haque Mimi