Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 41, Tuesday, October 18, 2011




A soup story

I am a soup person; I simply love slurping a bowl of hot noodle soup and getting high on all its goodness.

The piping hot chicken stock is where my bean sprouts, bok choys, chicken pieces and rice noodles are lightly soaked and then lavishly poured in a big bowl garnished with soy, red chilli and spring onions. Well, for me that is literally the chicken soup that not only satiates my soul but also my body. It instantly perks me up and I feel almost euphoric.

However, I am such a soup person that I even go for the cold, starchy corn soup I get from Cooker's 7 in Karwan Bazaar -- only place in the area that flaunts soups on the menu card. From the ugly pink hot and sour soup to vegetable soup to starchy corn -- you name it this mini Chinese cum Thai cum Indian and Continental coffee shop has it all.

And I, being their faithful customer for ages now, buy their soup and gulp it down. I finish it at one go, as if it's the yummiest, creamiest malt drink, or like a shot of homeopathic bitter medicine. Because you see, in my mind I feel refreshed and recharged; it's all mental I say.

Although my rolling stomach has a different story to tell; anyway, bad soups are not what I want to talk about, or how I make my colleagues who dilly dally with deadlines drink that stale cup of soup as a punishment. Like I mentioned earlier I am mental. Neither do I want to linger on the sadistic pleasures I get from seeing them squish and squirm.

Let us simply go back to my yummy bowl of hot noodle soup and how my love affair with this light entrée full of antioxidant is vied upon by all. Like all love stories mine constantly gets criticised and is always on everybody's radar. The moment I try to sneak in a bowl all beeping red lights are on me and I get busted.

Tell me, is it my fault if my colleagues, friends, family hate soup? When they eat their lunch of beef bhuna khichuri or that awful thing which is a cross between chowmein and khichuri called lumsum at work, do I make a face? No! Then why my pale vegetable soup with a single chunk of chicken meat or my starchy corn soups kill them, I fail to fathom.

Whatever; I decided to just let them be, no matter what they say I will continue to make my bowl of hot happy soup and share my happiness with others, even if I have to force it upon them.

And now that there is a slight shift in the air and rains are still heavy it is the perfect time for some hot chicken soup with the added bonus of noodles in it. And with the season change comes the nasty cold; that is when my bowl of hot soup is appreciated the most.

I will just add a recipe to this note today but you can feel free to add and subtract ingredients of your choice and dislike. By the way I am not a cook at all so this is what I have downloaded from some website and tried to give it my twist; trust me, I am still perked up from last night's bowl.

Pour the stock into a pan- but before you do that I hope you know how to make the stock; if not, just boil a few veggies and chicken in a stock pan, let it simmer for a while, the liquid you get is the stock. Then add the chicken, ginger and garlic to the stock and bring it all to the boil. Reduce the heat, partly cover and simmer for 20 minutes till the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken to a board and shred into bite-size pieces using a couple of forks. Return the chicken to the stock with the noodles, corn, mushrooms, half the spring onions and the soy sauce (or Worchestershire sauce this is my touch, one cube of soup stock is fine too). Simmer for 3-4 minutes until the noodles are tender. Ladle into two bowls and scatter over the remaining spring onions, herbs and chilli shreds. Serve with extra soy sauce for sprinkling.

Although my family hated dinner, I am still trying to teach them to appreciate the finer points of life; working on that.

-- Raffat Binte Rashid



Quick fix

Chicken and corn soup
125g can corn
1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce
375ml salt-reduced chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Combine corn, chicken, soy sauce and place corn mixture and stock in medium microwave-safe bowl. Cook, uncovered, on high in microwave oven about 2 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with parsley.

French onion soup
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium brown onion (150g), sliced thinly
2 teaspoons brown sugar
375ml salt-reduced beef stock
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh chives
Heat oil in small frying pan, add onion; cook, stirring, until onion softens. Add sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until onion caramelises. Place onion mixture and stock in medium microwave-safe bowl. Cook, uncovered, on high in microwave oven about 2 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with your favourite herb.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small brown onion (80g), chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 trimmed celery stalk (100g), grated coarsely
2 medium carrots (240g), grated coarsely
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 cups (500ml) beef stock
1 litre (4 cups) water
½ cup (65g) short pasta
2 medium zucchini (24g), grated coarsely
300g can white beans, rinsed, drained
? cup shredded fresh basil

Heat oil in large saucepan; cook onion, garlic, and celery, stirring, about 5 minutes or until vegetables just soften. Add carrot, undrained tomato, stock, the water and pasta; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until pasta is just tender. Stir in zucchini and beans; remove from heat. Stir in basil. Serve with toast, if desired.

Chicken and vegetable soup
1 cup (250ml) water
1.25 litres (5 cups) chicken stock
2 trimmed celery stalks (200g), sliced thinly
2 medium carrots (240g), chopped finely
1 large potato (300g), chopped finely
150 g peas or beans, trimmed, chopped coarsely
3 green onions, sliced thinly
310g can corn kernels, drained
3 cups (480g) coarsely shredded barbecued chicken

Place the water and stock in large saucepan; bring to a boil. Add celery, carrot and potato; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Add peas, onion and corn to soup; cook, covered, 2 minutes. Cool, stir in chicken.

Place soup in medium heat for 2 minutes or until piping hot and then serve.


Of noodles, soups and soupy noodles

Growing up we have watched the 'dui minute e toiri' Maggi noodles ad a million times and we were convinced to have the noodles a million times. We have loved it and now for those of us who have grown up, joined work, gotten married or had children, noodles is still a part of our lives.

A likely scenario, nowadays, is that of a young married and working couple returning home after a hard day's work. Even though their stomachs growl with hunger and their taste buds desire something delicious, the energy required for cooking such a thing would frankly suck the life out of them. Thus, noodles and soup come to the rescue. Easy to make and filling, this is what the poor souls have to turn to given the circumstances.

Remember the times when, long back, only Fuji and Cocola Noodles were all that was available? Now, that is no more the case. Companies, both local and foreign, have rushed to fill the shelves at super stores and grocery stores at every nook and cranny of the city in hopes of grabbing the huge noodle-loving market that we are!

The rise in noodle-lovers, also augmented the desire for a quick bowl of soup. Not only ideal for when you are hungry but it can also be used as a starter before the main course at home. These taste especially better if a little butter or ghee is added along. The soup brands usually found on shelves in the city are Knorr and Maggi soup, boasting their varieties of flavours.

For people lacking the time and energy to even cook the two-minutes noodles, there are cup noodles available in the market, mostly imported.

Those who have children know how difficult it is to get them to eat. Other than that, kids also just seem to show up at the most absurd times asking for something to eat. This problem seems to have been solved to a great extent with the advent of instant noodles and soup. A lot of mothers choose to customise their noodles. These mums now have a number of names to pick from other than Maggi. Local ones such as the Sajib Barbeque and Tandoori noodles, Fu-Wang or Kolson noodles can also be considered. Then there are the foreign ones like Koka, Top Ramen and Thai stick noodles in spinach and carrot flavour to add variety. Knorr's soupy noodles are something that you might try if you want something extra filling.

Since people are getting busier by the day, these dishes will probably not be going away anytime soon. Till then enjoy slurping away!

By Karishma Ameen


Because food matters

What is served on the dining table is an extremely important discussion topic. It is not a matter to be treated lightly, ever. Therefore, when a man is irritated at the dining table, it is a very serious matter. It doesn't in any circumstance mean that he is being childish or silly. No, he is not. Because food matters.

Readers can probably relate to the following scenario; man sits down to eat at the dining table and sees a bunch of vegetables and no meat. There is anger. Then, a tiny 'deshi murgir' leg piece is served. And it seriously lacks salt. There is some more anger. The last straw is the fact that the 'daal' or pulse, is just not sufficient and someone thought it wise to serve the leftover from last night. Total Anger Explosion. That is exactly what follows. The question then arises; was the anger justified? Isn't the fact that there is sufficient quantity to fill one's tummy, enough? No, it isn't. A bar below perfection is acceptable, but a level above tasteless and bland will just not do. The anger that follows is perfectly justified. We have to fight for our right…..to eat good tasting food.

Variety also matters. Certain members of the household constantly ask how it is possible to serve different varieties of food on a 15,000 taka budget. 'Jinisher daam' is apparently very high. Also 'shongshar chalano' has become increasingly difficult, given all the inflation. But, see, the point is, we don't need to know all that. If additional money is required, maybe we will just work twice as hard for it. Because, if we are deprived of the basic necessities of life, such as solid pieces of beef, tasty chicken breast pieces and scrumptious duck, then what's the point of working? A man works hard for his meal. But the meal obviously needs to have value for money. And in no country in the history of the universe can one even suggest that spinach, rice and pulse are value for money. We are not cows. Remember that.

After a long and hard day of work, the only thing that eases the pain is a tasty mouthful of some scrumptious goody. Disturbing pieces of 'potol' is not what the doctor ordered. As men grow older, their food habits change. In order to sustain their life-span, they cut down on almost all the good things in life. Like nehari, because it's high in cholesterol or something. Doesn't your heart just break, thinking of a man who cannot ever have three plates of nehari consecutively, again? Isn't that the saddest thought out there? Yes, of course it is. So, a man in his prime obviously needs all the good food in life. A single day wasted on spinach isn't as insignificant as it seems.

Hence, when a man is busy fussing about the food, he has every right in the world to. Imagine a baby deprived of his pacifier or Sachin Tendulkar deprived of needless media attention. That's how much good food means to men. Therefore, the next time you see a man getting annoyed at the dining table, serve him better food. Even if you are the reason for his annoyance, the food will ensure that he remembers nothing else. The only way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

By Osama Rahman


Going to the birds

Are birds scary? Do they control you? Most importantly, are they angry? No, this is not about the 1963 Hitchcock classic 'Birds', which gave the world a new perspective on our winged friends, supposed to be the symbols of peace and tranquillity. Forty years later, Hitchcock's vision has come true. Birds have taken over the world.

You might have noticed it, if you are not already one of the victims. People in traffic congestions, in office waiting rooms, even those working in offices, have their eyes glued to their 4-inch phone screens, tongues stuck out in concentration as they trace a finger across the screen, then let go only to watch with even greater interest as events unfold in the virtual world. What follows is either a glint of joy in their eyes or a frown of disappointment. Meanwhile, the phones emit hilarious sounds that may remind you of a bunch of mad cartoon characters going to war.

These people are most likely engaged in what has turned out to be the most addictive game in the world, 'Angry Birds'. If you have an iphone, an android or a symbian, you are probably immersed in the world of these avian lunatics. Right before you nod off to sleep, you probably picture snorting pigs nestled in flimsy structures, and birds cannonballing off your slingshot to destroy the swine.

In the game, players use a slingshot to launch birds at pigs stationed on or within various structures, with the intent of destroying all the pigs on the playfield. Why this animosity towards pigs? Because they stole their eggs.

Pigs as the villains of the piece were not incidental. In 2009 when the game was being developed, the world was in the throes of swine flu terror, and so the developers decided to pencil in pigs as the birds' arch enemies.

As players advance through the game, new birds appear, some with special abilities that can be activated by the player. These include firing off an egg bomb as the bird is flying over the pigs, homing in like a missile at its enemies, dividing into three separate birds or even just exploding like the old-fashioned bomb, all at the tap of a finger.

It is now the age of phones, with developing apps or games for these devices mushrooming into an industry growing at a blinding pace. Angry Birds was first developed and released for the IOS (the iphone operating system) by Finnish developers Rovio Mobile, and it proved so popular that versions were developed for other smartphone platforms such as android and windows mobile. Two years into its existence, it is now the most recognisable app on the market, and you do not have bragging rights if you don't have it in your device.

These trends often reveal much about the world in which they were born. As people get busier by the day, entertainment has moved from television sets and game consoles to our pockets. Also, the rise of the fiery feathered fiends reveals that while games with realistic graphics and complex gameplay vis-à-vis Fifa 2012 and Halo are all the rage in some quarters, the majority of people are still enticed by arcade style games such as Angry Birds that we can jump right into without worrying about the nuances.

Not that there aren't any; some levels are dastardly difficult but the focus has always been on fun, just like that other blockbuster arcade game that many believe to be the greatest of all time -- Pacman. It's only been two years for Angry Birds, so who knows, maybe it is time for the round, yellow gobbler to be usurped.



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