Sunday, May 25, 2008

Industrial strength cooking

I enjoyed having a long chat with a master cook, who specialises in cooking for hundreds of people. His frankness and willingness to share tips he has gained over tens of years enchanted me.
Here they are
1. For cooking south Indian wedding feasts for a large crowd, always start with the dal. It takes longest to cook and unless the dal is cooked, other dishes like sambars/ rasams cannot be cooked. After the dal is put to boil, vegetables for poriyals are boiled. Sambars / rasams/ morekulambu / pulikulambu are cooked next.

Rice is cooked just two hours before the feast starts , so that it is hot the time it is served.

If dal does not cook to a mush as demanded in many south Indian recipes, addition of coconut shells , grated raw papaya, crushed ginger or baking powder would help.

When too much salt has been added by mistake, a dry brick or a couple of sheets of newspaper are dunked in the curry and removed after a couple of minutes. They act as giant sponges and suck up some of the salt out. Though very unhygienic and not advisable, this technique is frequently used in many large kitchens. A more hygienic alternative might be to dunk in a loaf of sliced bread or a bunch of fresh tissues and remove them in a few seconds.

Padi- (a cylinder covered at one end) is a commonly used measure in Tamilnadu. One padi holds 600 gms of rice and can feed 6 people. 'Padikku Pudi' is the amount of salt that is sufficient for a padi of rice - that is, a fistful of salt is sufficient for 600 gms of rice.

One kg of rice can feed 10 people.

Cooking rice :
Large aluminum vessels which cook over huge wood fires can hold up to 25 kgs of rice. The rice is first soaked for half an hour and is washed a couple of times.

Meanwhile a in a huge vat, water is boiled ( 5 parts of water for 1 part of rice). When water starts boiling, the soaked and washed rice is dumped in, stirred a couple of times, covered and let to cook. It is stirred every 5-8 minutes. Raw rice gets cooked in 10-15 minutes and boiled rice takes around 25 minutes. when the rice is almost cooked, it is scooped out with huge buckets and dumped into large wicker baskets lined with gunny sacks. The water filters away and the rice continues cooking.

When rice has been overcooked, cold water is added so that any further cooking is stopped. Addition of some salt helps keep the grains separate.

I've been invited today to observe a cooking session for 450 people. It'll be interesting to watch large scale cooking.

2 comments:

foodwithapinchoflove said...

Hi Ramki, I have a surprise for you at my blog! :)

foodwithapinchoflove said...

The surprise is at http://foodwithapinchoflove.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/one-more-award/

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