Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chef Bilal at Marari Beach

I met Bilal at the cooking demo. I was the only devoted attendee; no one else was there. He gave me an enlightening talk on korma and from the faint smile on his face I saw that he could tell what a novice I must be on Indian cooking, with all my silly innocent questions.

Then he proceeded to show me how to make Malabar korma – he whipped it up in a matter of minutes!

I asked him about masala and spices and he suggested that I buy the ready mixed ones from the Varkey’s supermarket (‘’not as super as in Singapore, but for us it’s super, ha ha ha’’) on my way to the airport. Imagine a chef suggesting ready made concoction – either he doubted my ability to make my own spice mix, or he goes for modern convenience! He wrote the names and brand – Eastern. ‘’It’s like Colgate for toothpaste you know, Eastern is a well known brand for masala. As for gravy paste, get the brand Sara. Just leave the hotel earlier and ask the driver to drop by the supermarket’, he urged.

He is a funny and cheerful chef. We started talking about Singapore, where his cousin is studying now. I told him we have ‘’banana leaf fish head curry there and he said animatedly , ‘’ya – that’s ours, that’s ours! Give me your email, I will ask her to email you…she is a good cook too and eats a lot and has put on so much weight. I told her to watch it, or you won’t be able to find a partner, ha ha,’’ he chuckled.

I asked him about a box of spices that I had bought from the gift shop at the resort. What could I use them for, I asked. What do they contain he asked. I named all three but forgot the fourth one. He asked, ‘’is the box heavy?’’

I said no, and would bring it to show him during dinner. As I left the demo area, I saw his staff busy setting up the buffet table and saw a plate of pretty coconut crisp. ‘’What is this, can I try?’’ I asked. ‘’Yes, go ahead and take one!’’

At dinner, I saw him behind the dosha griddle and I waved my box of spices at him. He waved his spatula at me and motioned for me to go over. He read the content and said, ‘’see – I told you the last item is either pepper or anise seed. OK, just roast the clove, cinnamon and cardamom and grind them together and add a little of the pepper and you get your masala. Now, would you like a dosha, m’am?’’


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