Soul Cocina

Eco Chef Roger Feely

Firni Funk

Bosc Pear poached in star anise infused white wine with cinnamon phirni.

I remember first arriving in Mumbai a few years ago and my friends brought me from the airport to a restaurant opposite a flyover [Indian addresses are cool like that, "next to the banyan tree" "opposite the cricket club" "around the corner from the temple"]. The meal was great after a long flight. Not too "street exciting" like the fish fry shop inside Sasoon Docks, the sev puri stand at Juhu, or Bademiya, nor was it too plush. A great first meal for Bombay. What was super remarkable was the phirni. I had never heard of phirni [or firni] before this. It is basicly a rich rice and milk custard that is slow cooked in a clay ramekin called a kulhar. These earthenware cups and ramekins are still found all over India, but there used to be a lot more back in the day. Used for warm chai, warm dhood and various drinks and sweets sweets, these cups made basically from dried, molded mud are a pleasure to drink from. Calcutta uses a lot more than bombay. The warm milk that steeps all day long in giant vats on the streets of Calcutta are served in kulhars. Sugar cane juice too! Now chai is often served in plastic cups instead of the clay cups. The train tracks are full of plastic cups taht have been thrown overboard after comsumbpion. I think they were trying to pass a law that would bring the kulhars back to the rail system. They give work to many families who survive off of kulhar production rather than the big plastic cup factories and they drastically cut down on liter. Those scenes in Slumdog Millionaire with all the garbage were not filmed on a set, that is the real everyday life in many parts of Mumbai. And the kulhars add to the flavor and help with the slow cooking process of phirni, as the clay cunducts heat well and is poreous. But it's all about the great milk of India. The custardness comes from khoya and the reduced milk, which is common in so many Indian desserts. At the Cidade de Goa kitchen, there were always a few 50 gallon buckets filled with half liter bags of milk [dhood in Hindi, dhooda? in Konkani] and they were always broken open by the dozen or more. I always asked why they didn't just get milk in larger containers, or better yet, reusable barrels or bottles. They wasted so much plastic everyday. It's like that with little individual wrapped candies and snacks too, which are rapidly replacing many hand made snack stand fare. Although the chaatwallas will never die, they are taking a bit of a beting from the mass produced packaged snacks. So all these packages of milk are slashed open with a knife and used to make paneer, khoya and tea. For firni, the milk is cooked down and the rice is broken and simmered in the milk to create a gloriously unique texture. This firni was flavored with saffron. The place was close to Victoria Station. Now I remember! It is a place called Saffron. Or maybe Zafron. It is next to a Bengali place that serves great banana flour fritters. I may have forgotten the name of the place. But I will never forget the firni. A few weeks after my first taste of firni, I came across a a part of Mumbai where there are a bunch of shops that specialize in making firni durring Ramadan along Mohammed Ali Road. They have huge pans lined with clay ramekins filled with the delicacy.

2 liters of milk
150 grams [about 3/4 cup] basmati rice
125 grams khoya
2 teaspoons ground cardomom
a few pinches of saffron
sliced pistachios for garnish

grate the khoya
soak rice for 4 hours, drain and roughly grind.
simmer milk slowly with a tiny pinch of saffron until reduced by almost half
add rice and simmer over very low heat, stirring often until rice is almost cooked
add the khoya, sugar and cardomom, mix well
pour into kulhar or ceramic ramekin
top each kulhar with a tiny pinch of saffron
bake in a water bath @ 300 degrees for one hour
cool to room temperature
garnish with pistachio
can also be flavored with rose water, almond extract, vanilla, cinnamon......

Silence is ......

I have been excited for the release of Slingshot ever since I saw this trailer a few years ago. It finally debuted in SF and I missed it.

Tune: War In The Poppy Fields by Dub Gabriel from Bass Jihad off of Azra Records

Tune: Make Dub Not War by Quantic from Death of the Revolution

Don't sleep. Get hip to this Quantic album today. If we did best of 2008 lists at Soulcocina, this would be up there in the top ten with Ticklah [even though Ticklah vs Axelrod was late O7]

Tune: Stop the War by Okokan Sound System

Born Here by DAM - Da Arab MC's

Palestinian by Ja'afar Hassan from Choubi Coubi (Flok And Pop Songs From Iraq)

Radio Diffusion has a few tunes by Ja'afar Hassan up along with a bunch of great Indian Slide Guitar music, tunes from obscure Indonesian records, and a bunch of great music from North Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Check the records from Algeria, Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Tune: #$%& a WAR by The Geto Boys

Tune: War feat. Nas by Saigon

Tune: WW4 (Dirty) by Saigon feat. Lil Fame from A Rosenberg Oddisee EP
Oddissee always on point.
"it's brothers like [Oddissee] that keep the movement moving forward in an authentic way" - Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Warlord's Daughter (Krishna XL remix) by Lexie Lee from Di Preparation

Tune: Yo Ka Ka ka by Mighty Ki La

Tune: Se Está Acabando el Mundo by Principola

.....and just for fun:
Tune: Tienes El Culo Aguao by Japanese

Tune: Sa Péké Passé by by Mighty Ki La

And another unforgettable spot for grub in Mumbai: