1) In a large mixing bowl,
combine the honey, hoisin
sauce, fish sauce, garlic,
spring onions, oyster sauce,
salt and pepper, mixing well.
Add the pork, coating the
slices well. Cover and
marinate for 1 hour.
2) Meanwhile, start the
barbecue fire. Soak the
3) When ready to eat, thread
the meat strips on the skewers.
Don't be tempted to overload
the skewers; skewers which are
too generous will char on the
outside by the time the inside is
4) Grill over medium-hot coals
for 3 to 4 minutes, brushing the
meat with the marinade. When
browned and cooked, remove
from the fire and serve.
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled and
2 spring onions (scallions),
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground
1 lb streaky pork, thinly sliced
16 bamboo skewers
Welcome to the Alexandra Greeley Website.
Asian Soups, Stews & Curries:
By: Alexandra Greeley
The Subcontinental Divide: India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal
Separating Europe from the rest of Asia, the countries of India,
Sri Lanka, and tiny, mountainous Nepal may be the true Asian melting
pot. Through the centuries, foreign traders, armies, explorers,
colonists, and immigrants crisscrossed the Indian Subcontinent in
search of their own treasures. In their wake, local cook pots began
to simmer with some very new ingredients.
Perhaps the best example of this melding comes from the kitchens
of Northern India, where in the sixteenth century, nomadic Tartars
set about building India’s Moghul empire and kitchens. With
its Persian roots, the cuisine they created was both elegant and
sensuous, fit for the Maharajahs who feasted on it.
But this Moghul food—with its slow-cooked silken curries,
complex seasonings, and tandoori-grilled meats and breads—is
only one portion of India’s culinary tradition, for in every
region, every state, every village, and every home, daily foods
reflect countless influences: geographical, spiritual, cultural,
religious, medical, and agricultural. As a result, there is no single
Indian cuisine, certainly no single national dish. There is just
one national reverence for seasonings and textures and one vast
Indian buffet that casts a spell on the hungry.
Because New Delhi is the capital, many visitors end up in the North,
stopping in Delhi to gaze at history, and certainly to sample some
sublime cooking. I was certainly one of those visitors, hoping to
grasp the essence of this extraordinary cuisine in a crash culinary
course. To do that, I spent several days in the inner sanctum—that
is, its several kitchens—of the Maurya Sheraton Hotel &
Towers. I also partook in hours of food talk with Indian food historians
J. Inder Singh (Jiggs) Kalra and Dr. Pushpesh Pant.
In the end, I learned that seemingly more than anyone else, Indian
cooks have perfected the subtle art of seasoning. And watching the
hotel’s cooks at work confirmed this: frying yellow dal brightened
with splashes of turmeric; tempering curries with ghee, mustard
seeds, slivered garlic, and wrinkly dried chilies; beating vats
of yogurt enriched with asafoetida, green chilies, and chopped ginger;
stretching and twirling blobs of dough for tandoori baking; and
accenting potato masala with handfuls of mustard seeds and diced
Then the gentle and kindly master of the South Indian kitchen, chef
N. Rajan—with his graceful walrus mustache—showed me
his distinctive dishes: the sambar, kabhi, avial, iddli, sadan,
wada, and saviya kheer he was preparing for a buffet, all foods
with a much more aggressive level of seasonings than their Northern
counterparts. Though we did not speak a common language—except
food—his gestures told the story.
Later, I watched chef Raminder Malhotra preparing pots of curries
in his dhaba kitchen on the outskirts of New Delhi where the ubiquitous
cow strolled by. This little stand—a physical, but not a gastronomic,
equivalent of an American fast-food place—attracts a large
following because of Malhotra’s genius. In a site not much
larger than a closet and staffed with a surfeit of workers wedged
together by the cook fires, this dhaba turns out a remarkable number
of dishes, including the most dazzling rogan josh and butter chicken
Such is the magic of New Delhi’s food. I can only dream about
the rest of India.
Poised off the tip of India like a drop of golden water, the island
of Sri Lanka—once described by the Chinese as “the land
without sorrow”—is a hot, tropical country where the
cooking mirrors that of South India, resplendent with curries, coconuts,
and chilies. For those who love pungent curries and an abundance
of seafood, Sri Lanka could very well be gastronomic paradise.
Of course, other influences come in to play as well, for over the
years, this island has been home to many different nationalities—the
Dutch, Portugese, British, Malays, and Arabs, to name a few—each
of which has contributed to the local cuisine. So don’t be
surprised to find the Muslim-inspired dessert Wattalapam (page 00)
or the famous Dutch-inspired multi-course feast, Lampries (page
00). Western influences also show up, said one Sri Lankan woman
now living in the United States, and most modern kitchens in large
urban areas have food processors and other labor-saving gadgets.
In fact, she noted, freshly ground spices, grated coconuts, and
brewed Ceylon teas—all that a slower, simpler lifestyle implies—are
giving way to convenience foods. In today’s cities, for example,
few women use the mortar and pestle for pounding and grinding spices,
favoring instead the faster food processor.
It would seem, however, that many Sri Lankan cooks respect and adhere
to the traditional ways. This same Sri Lankan woman still shreds
her own coconuts and wring sout her own coconut milk, making it
fresh on the days when she plans to cook with it. “I never
use canned coconut milk,” she said. That may be a gesture
to the old ways, the old flavors, but it also indicates that many
Sri Lankan cooks still revere the richness and brilliance of a cuisine
based on a kaleidoscope of spices, on the superlative creamy richness
of coconut milk, and on the blaze of chili fire.
Whenever I think of Nepal, I fantasize about trekking into the Himalayas
and finding Shangri-la. I also think about the Nepalese Gurkhas,
the tough Nepalese soldiers enlisted by the British Army as much
because of their mountain endurance as for their courage. For years
the Gurkhas have seemed a part of my Himalayan dream, as much a
romantic image as fact. They are not fantasy, of course, though
perhaps fantastic, and when we lived in Hong Kong, we saw them often,
parading at public festivals and playing their skirling bagpipes.
I even once spent a day amongst the Gurkhas in their Hong Kong camp,
judging their cooking contest at a country location near the Chinese
border. Moving from one cook fire to the next, I sampled steaming,
chili -laden dishes that, at the time, seemed hopelessley exotic.
Today, of course, I understand more about their robust cuisine developed
to counter the frigid temperatures of their homeland. It closely
resembles North Indian cooking, with an emphasis on savory vegetarian
fare, yogurt, and rice.
As elsewhere in Asia, so it is in Nepal: Rice is queen of the kitchen.
With that as the primary starch, the Nepalese often serve rich lentil
soups and a variety of meats—goat, sometimes yak, poultry,
but never beef in this Hindu country. To complement or substitute
for rice, the Nepalese may prepare tsampa, a raw grain that is ground
and mixed with milk, tea, or water. Chilies seem to play more than
a minor role, for the Nepalese food I’ve tasted has been extremely
Breakfasts may be simple, a snack of corn popped in a clay pot or
maybe some leftover rice. But a mid-morning meal the size of a Western
brunch really fuels the day, as it consists of rice, lentils, pickles,
and a curry or two, said my Nepalese acquaintance, Jamak. Should
hunger strike before evening, the Nepalese may nibble on sliced
bread; or chiura (beaten rice); or boiled eggs. And the day closes
with a meal much like breakfast.
Besides rice, the other constant in the Nepalese diet seems to be
hot, strong tea: Mugs of this brew, enriched with milk and heavily
sweeten, keep the Nepalese company from dawn to dusk.