venturing into the unknown, again.

i know woefully little about indian cuisine; i really do enjoy the food, but the opportunities to eat it are scarce in these parts--there's only one restaurant, and i don't really know anyone here who cooks or eats indian food on a regular basis. even when i was in los angeles, i rarely indulged in it, as there weren't (aren't) many good indian restaurants; it was only when i started visiting the uk and hong kong more that i discovered how exceptional and varied the cuisine could be.

i've toyed with cooking some of the simpler dishes at home, and even purchased a couple of cookbooks, but nothing came of it. i've read through some of my favourite indian food blogs, but am still trying to get my head around all the regional specialties, the wondrous array of spices, and other exotic ingredients.

samosas indian breads chevro

lately, though, i've been coming across a lot of indian food. at the salcedo market there was a stall selling meat and vegetable-filled samosas, flatbreads like naans, parathas, and pappadoms, and a spicy snack mix called chevro. my blog trawls show that the evil jungle prince has been concocting some tasty treats, roboppy's been carb feasting in the east village, and barbara's been examining an interesting leaf. locally, my friend, ronnie, had offered a tasty three-course dinner menu at her resto, and i read in the paper about a new-to-me indian foods and spice shop on island.

so i went to pomika sales, as mentioned in the article. it turns out that it is across the street from where i work, conveniently located adjacent to the golden motel (half-hourly and hourly rates available), inside meena's jeans for guys and gals (it's a clothing store--get your mind out of the gutter). meena's has been around since the eighties, and it looks like most of the stock as been around since then too. not that there's anything wrong with that--i'm told the eighties are back in fashion. there are also some fabulous cheapie beaded ethnic-y boho clothes, but i'm not sure if there's any traditional stuff (if they did i'd been making a joke about sari-saris and saris that three people would get, and no one would laugh. okay, moving on). anyway, pomika is in the back, in a room that has never seen daylight, where perhaps the saleswomen have lunch during the day, and perhaps the local chapter of the fight club meets at night. it's a bit...dire, with just barely adequate fluorescent tube lights, a hodgepodge of bare, makeshift shelves and an alarmingly large display of outdated products (forty percent off). stock takes up about half the room, there's a small display of indian dvds for rent or for sale, and the saleswomen...are having lunch on the other side of the room. anyway, so what if the room reminds me of the movie "hostel"--the vibe is one of complete disinterest (one point in its favour), it is clean despite appearances (2 points), the inventory is surprisingly good (97 points), and very, very affordable (A+ for effort). i ended up buying a bottle of rosewater, some methi (fenugreek seeds), whole cloves, and a packet of mixed whole spices for garam masala, all for slightly under $5.

although i bought all this stuff, i didn't actually know what i was going to do with it. it took j's post about her homecooked indian meal to spur me into action. unfortunately, one of the main ingredients--paneer--can't be bought on island. damn, skippy. what's a lactose craving island girl to do?


ah, blessed are the homemade cheesemakers, for they will blog. heidi, clotilde, and sam have all made ricotta cheese at home, and since that is what paneer basically is, i tried the same recipe they did, and goshdarnit, it worked. the only difference was that after squeezing out the whey, i kept it in its cloth and i placed it in the fridge overnight, under a weighted plate, to compress and dry out further. in the morning i had a fat slab ready to cube for my spinach dish.

paneer, cubed

the saag paneer, was excellent (thank you, j!), and much easier to make than i had expected. buoyed by a double success, i looked around the nets to see if i could find another recipe using the cheese. i found that paneer, if kept slightly softer with more liquid in the curds, is often used in desserts, so i set out to make two similar sweets that caught my eye: rasgulla and ras malai. since i'd never made either, i decided to read as many recipes online as i could find, then experiment with the most common directions amongst them.

i again made a batch of cheese, but this time i didn't drain it as well as the previous batch, and instead of refrigerating it immediately, i kept it in the cloth, and kneaded it, to make it into a smooth dough. i shaped this dough into small walnut-sized balls, taking care to keep them as light as possible, then dropped them into simmering water. as soon as they puffed up a bit and floated to the surface, i placed them in a shallow dish. i poured a slightly-reduced simple sugar syrup, flavoured with freshly ground cardamom over them, then put them in the fridge to macerate overnight.


the first dessert was rasgulla: the cold syrup-soaked paneer balls were served as is, with some of the syrup, and a sprinkling of rosewater and chopped pistachios. it was sweet, dense, lightly flowery, lightly nutty.

ras malai

the second was ras malai: instead of serving the paneer with the macerating syrup, i drenched the balls in cream infused with cardamom and cinnamon, then slightly reduced and cooled, along with a splash of orange flower water. this was fantastically rich, with a surprising bit of heat from the spice coming through the cool cream. although i enjoyed them as these were, it might be interesting to try these warm, with a fine grating of orange zest on top.

i'd never had either dessert before; i found the paneer balls slightly firmer than i prefer, but i'm not actually sure what the texture should be like. jeffrey steingarten once complained that these little balls had the texture of "day old bubblegum" (i assumed pre-chewed, but maybe not)--if that's what they are supposed to be like, these definitely fit the bill. i know that proteins toughen up under heat, so i'm wondering if i cooked them for too long; two subsequent batches (one with the addition of a couple tablespoonfuls of flour as suggested by some recipes, one without), proved that a shorted cooking time helpful, but i still found them a bit...bouncy for my liking. i think i would like these to be a bit spongey, but truthfully, i found the warm, just-made ricotta's texture to be really ideal for something like this.

my reservations and uncertainties have not set me back; if anything, i am now made more curious, and eager to expand my indian palate, both at home and beyond.

pomika sales,
inside meena's,
chalan san antonio, tamuning.


Ohh, I'm really looking forward to your adventures with Indian cuisine Santos... I've only just started cooking this sort of thing for myself, but I just love it. I've never had paneer (in a savory dish that is) before, but am anxious to try it. I have had one of those sweetened paneer balls and can't say that I liked it. It was from a can rather than homemade. It was achingly sweet and made my teeth squeak when I chewed it. But yours look so good - I may have to give the dish a second chance.

Nuts & Grains has a wide selection of Indian staples and Libby can order items that might not be available. This is where the local Indian families purchase much of their food stuffs. There is some great Indian food on Guam but most of it is in homes or on feast days at the Temple - the food is worth considering converting!

Santos takes on Indian cuisine :-) Can't wait!

i used to buy these from the Indian sweetmakers who lived in the next town. Their rasgullas and rasmalai tended to have a somewhat spongy, chewy texture, and squeak against your teeth(!) like the canned ones. if you make it at home, depending on how much whey you removed, you can make it softer. it's worked (occaisionally) using ricotta balls plunged into a thick sugar syrup, it might help to deep fry the ricotta beforehand...but then it might not be so authentic :-)

Saag paneer (aka palak paneer) is the best, isn't it? I think it might be one of my favourite things.

And well done on making your own paneer! (I'm lazy and buy it at the Indian grocery store.)

And you must make your own naan. It's dead easy to do!


P.S. Shameless advertisement to look at our recipe for palak paneer:


I'm so impressed with your cooking skills - making cheese at home! And the results of your experiments look quite delicious!

i love a good ras malai. good job on the paneer.

I just remembered that one of my favorite Indian restaurants is in Manila - it's been a few years since I was last there but I will try to dig out the name and location for you. It was a somewhat upscale place and the food was excellent. Tokyo also has a number of very good Indian restaurants if you ever travel that way.


I haven't had Indian food since that post. Sniff. My friend went back shortly afterwards, haha.

Nice one, Gustad :-)

why does she makes us wait for updates? whyyy??!!

hi santos, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention...i am simply blown away by your resourcefulness! the paneer recipes i've come across either use buttermilk or lemon juice to curdle the milk; am now totally inspired to go try both techniques and taste the difference! glad the recipe worked out for you - in case you're shopping for books ;), the atul kochhar number is excellent, a vibrant mix of traditional, regional, and modern spins...

Hi Santos,

You know most people in india get store-bought rasgullas and ras-malais...i mean who'd want to go through so much trouble to get the perfect texture when your friendly neighborhood sweet seller, who btw claims to sell everything fresh, doles out mouthwatering spongy treats with just the right flavors and sweetness. of course, not all of them can make the best sweets. frm my experience, these specialty paneer based sweets should be purchased frm a reliable store renowned for these kind of sweets. otherwise you're stuck with sub-standard syrupy, artificial tasting and styrofoam textured sweets. by the way, kudos for trying these at home. honestly i havnt come across one indian family making these at home. even my mom in law - the super cook would not venture! but great job nonetheless and the pics are outstanding! looking forward to more adventures frm your side. also, one more thing...your blog+pics are greatttttt! love em love em love emmmm!!!


hi cathy! i remembered our conversations about cooking indian food at home; i thought you might've been the one to try making paneer at home, but i guess that wasn't you! i've never had the canned stuff. i'm not sure i'm thrilled with making the actual balls (until i get the right consistency i guess), but i do like that i can control the sweetness and spiciness.

hi gail! you know i have a common conversation that goes like this:

"hey, do you know where i can buy bulk nuts and grains?"

"uh. nuts and grains?"

doh! no one ever thinks of it--neither did i. thanks for the tip!

hi flygirl--uh oh, i'm being watched :D actually, i'm glad you're around, because i really have no idea what i'm doing and i need all the help i can get!

hi ejm--thanks for the link, i will try your recipe next time. i don't think i would make paneer if i had it readily available, but it is easy enough.

anita, this whole cheesemaking experience has gotten me excited. i'm all primed to go out with a bucket, find a carabao, and make my own bufala mozzarella next!

hi gustad, i have a feeling you're teasing me! needs work, though :( hopefully it won't be a lifelong process.

gail, i heard that queens on jupiter street (it's a restaurant! again, out of the gutter, fools) is supposed to be excellent. could you be thinking of prince of jaipur in fort bonifacio? i haven't been there yet but i'm told it's quite nice.

robop, how long has it been? six, seven days? A WEEK?? OMG!! that is a loooonnnng time in roboppy units ;) (i thought i was kidding, but actually, it is a long time for you, isn't it?)

errrgh, flygirl, did i just stumble into a "goodness gracious me" moment? i just bought the dvds for the first series--haven't gotten to it yet!

j, i will definitely pick up the atul kochhar book. i'm giving up buying books, cds, and dvds for lent which means i've got 4 hours to indulge, indulge, indulge. i haven't tried using lemon juice yet, but i am curious as to how that would taste--i wonder if it would be a nice complement for a citrus tinged syrup.

anahita, i would *love* to have a friendly neighbourhood sweet seller who has freshly made indian sweets! right now i have a surly village shopkeeper who has stale chocolate :P

santos> yes! It was a goodness gracious me moment, from the first season - get thee to a tv!

Wow, nice work! I have been wanting to make my own cheese lately. I also was quite fixated with J's Saag Paneer. I will have to try it soon now that both of you have had such success!

There is a nice little Indian resto here in Cebu that has yummy paneer. I keep going back to that place for the samosas also. That, and their curried dishes that are an inferno! :)

flygirl, soon!

gemma, it was so much easier than i anticipated. i think you'll enjoy it--very satisfying.

hi bee! what is the name of the restaurant? if i ever go to cebu, i'll check it out!

Curried goat and the curdled goat milk are very good at most Indian restaurants.