M.F.K Fisher was on point when he said that “with our gastronomical growth will come, inevitability, knowledge and perception of a hundred other things, but mainly ourselves”.
Food is extremely multidimensional and it’s something that shapes us, identifies us, our cultures and in the end our society. The past decade has seen a rise in the Food-focused culture and media with various cuisines fusing and merging together to give birth to one universal food culture; a food explosion has surrounded us no matter where we look. It is no longer a means of survival but has also become a new found interest and enchantment in exploring cultures through food. I love how cuisines around the world adapt to flavours and spice blends of an entirely different culture in their own food culture frame. It encourages innovation and curiosity and leads ways to exploring new flavours and cooking styles and techniques. I guess it makes any foodie savour new and exciting flavours thoroughly. The past decade has seen such a booming rise in the Food industry that it has actually become something beyond nourishing the body or what we eat or who we eat it with. It has inspired and strengthened the bonds between individuals and communities and even countries. This is exactly why, no offense to my friends who believe that if a recipe isn’t authentic, it’s no good, I too believe that authenticity of any recipe is the essence of the dish because ofcourse without understanding it’s origin and history, the soul of the recipe is lost. However, I personally embrace whole-heartedly the innovations and creativity of authentic recipes passing down generations and turning into something more than just merely food, they have become a means of communication and bond between varied cuisines.
Asian cuisine is rich in flavours and spices and I mean really rich. We use extensive ingredients in one dish to bring it all together in bursting of flavours and trust me when I say, each spice plays it’s own individual and significant part. Let’s take biryani for example, a bunch of ingredients from whole spices to powdered spices to herbs and vegetables to meat to rice to flower essences, but it’s one of the most adapted and infamous rice dishes in the world. The exhausting list of ingredients seems all worth in the end, because it makes your senses tingle with exuberance, your palate just falls in love. Moreover, certainly nothing enters the East Asian cuisine without being Asianized. As a matter of fact, we Asians in particular, Pakistani and Indian, eat most western and Chinese food on a daily basis, but we change it to the satisfaction of our native palate.
This pasta recipe is exactly that. It is a pasta with Asian flavours, a perfect Pak-Chinese fusion of flavours. If you have been reading my blogs, you may know by now, that I had an aunt I lived with for 4 years while I was studying in Karachi, Pakistan. Those are the most memorable years of my life and I talk about her a lot because she was the one doing all the cooking back then and the one thing that made her cooking so distinct was that she loved putting an Asian twist on almost everything. With time she became very much aware of my likes and dislikes and she knew I was a nutter for Pasta. Back then, I would probably eat Pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I wouldn’t get sick of it. One day I come home after university to my aunt’s scrumptious pasta dish and as I enter the house this appetizing and inviting aroma grabs my senses and I ask what’s that and she goes, it’s pasta. At that moment I was so hungry and the aroma wafting from the kitchen wasn’t making it any easier on my appetite, I literally devoured that pasta down. It was so new to me because it had typical Asian spices and flavours all the while retaining the essence of pasta altogether. It was absolute heaven of flavour for my palate.
The next day, when I was having it for breakfast, only I realized what she had actually put in it, there was caramelized onion, tomato gravy, coriander, vegetables, chicken and spring onions with spices and sauces like white pepper, cumin, soya sauce, vinegar and hot sauce. It might seem eccentric having caramelized onion in the pasta but I tell you this, if it’s Asian pasta you are cooking, it elevates the flavour.
The dish is so colourful as are the flavours. You won’t be disappointed with this recipe. People in Pakistan have one thing in common throughout the country, we love to intermingle recipes of West and East. We will make chicken pie with Asian flavours and probably without any crust but it will be an explosion of flavours in your mouth. Yes, that is true, give us a dish from any cuisine and we will re-create it in our food culture frame and knock your socks off good.
This recipe is quite simple, it’s your usual spaghetti but with a twist. The chicken is boiled with a little salt, ginger garlic paste and red chilli flakes, which gives the boiled chicken an umph of flavour. Also, the chicken can be used in boneless as well ans stir fried with the same spices. The vegetables are lightly stir fried and added to the chicken. After that it’s all about cafamelizing the onions and cooking the tomatoes with spices and sauces and mixed with boiled spaghetti and the prepared veggies and meat. Top this off with a little ketchup and mayo and sprinkle on some black pepper and the shredded cabbage. The shredded cabbage gives a beautiful and refreshing crunch to the pasta. I would highly recommend this serving suggestion.
This is my go-to pasta dish, I have loved this recipe for more than a decade and I love it even more because it’s a part of my aunt that keeps living on with me. Everytime I make this, I am standing back in time watching her cook this in her kitchen with me chopping up the vegetables. I love recipes that are reminiscent of such fond loveable memories. It makes them worthwhile.
1. Chicken on the bones boiled — 1kg
2. Spaghetti — 500g
3. Cabbage — 2 cups
4. Carrots — 2
5. Spring Onion sprigs — 4
6. Green Capsicum — 1
7. Green Chillies — 2
8. Onion — 1
9. Tomato — 2
10. Soya Sauce — 2 tbsp
11. Vinegar — 2 tbsp
12. Hot sauce — 2 tbsp`
13. Red Chilli Flakes — 1 tsp
14. Cumin seeds — 1 tsp
15. Black Pepper — 1 tsp
16. White pepper — ½ tsp
17. Garam Masala Powder — ½ tsp
18. Coriander leaves A handful
19. Oil — 4 tbsp
20. Ginger and Garlic Paste — 1 tsp
21. Salt — 1 tsp
22. Ketchup — 2 tbsp
23. Mayonnaise — 2 tbsp
1. Prepare the chicken
a. In a cooking pot, boil the chicken with ginger and garlic paste, red chilli flakes and a little salt.
b. Boil until the chicken is done and there is a little stock left in the pot, about 1/4 cup.
c. Let the chicken cool down and shred it discarding the bones and reserving any stock left in the pot.
2. Prepare the pasta
a. Boil the pasta with a little oil and salt. Once done, drain and set aside.
b. Slice the onions and tomatoes.
c. Slice the cabbage, dice the spring onion, chop the green chillies and chop the capsicum and carrots into small cubes.
d. In a separate fry pan, stir-fry all the vegetables with a little oil, salt and pepper.
e. In a cooking pot, heat the oil and add the sliced onions and cumin seeds.
f. Fry the onions until they become brown and add the tomatoes.
g. Cook the tomatoes until it becomes soft and add salt, black pepper, white pepper and Garam Masala and cook for a few seconds.
h. Add the reserved chicken stock (or a chicken stock cube with 1/4 cup of water) and add the shredded chicken.
i. Add soya sauce, vinegar, chilli sauce, salt, Ketchup, mayo.
j. Mix all together and add the fried vegetables to the chicken mix.
k. Mix to combine and add the pasta.
l. Mix again to coat the pasta properly.
m. Chop the coriander leaves and sprinkle on top.
n. Turn the flame to low and let the flavours infuse and combine on steam for 10 minutes.
o. Serve by plating the pasta and pouring ketchup and mayonnaise on top with shredded cabbage leaves and sprinkling of black pepper.
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