Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Indonesien zu hause

We were both feeling a little under the weather (despite the weather being uncharacteristically nice). Somehow it was determined that I felt less sick and thus, off I went for some take out Indonesian chicken soup. Little did I know that Tuk-Tuk was just around the corner from us. The restaurant is actually very cute, decorated with wood paneling and low-key murals. I was a little sorry not to be dining out, but this was a day for soup in bed, so take-out containers balanced precariously in a plastic bag, home I went. This not being Manhattan, I suppose Tuk-Tuk isn't overly focused on their take-out customers. Their chosen soup containers are really more suited for a non-liquid-based dish and the weight of the top containers caused most of the liquid to gush out of the bottom soup container and into the plastic bag. So, no points for take-out service. In terms of flavor, the soup was not bad. The broth seemed homemade and had a nice turmeric and ginger thing going on. There were noodles and hard boiled egg and bits of chicken. I could have passed on the shredded iceberg lettuce, which had wilted to nothing during the short walk home. Cabbage would probably hold up better in hot liquid, just a thought. Not a life-changing soup, but a decent change from the mediocre pho I'm usually subjected to when I'm sick (what I wouldn't do for a Jewish deli in the neighborhood...). We also split an order of gado-gado, an Indonesian salady dish of cooked vegetables and peanut sauce. I have to say, Tuk-Tuk's is possibly the worst rendition of this classic on the planet. Unless you like your vegetables for dessert. The vegetables were not really ok to begin with. The green beans were decent enough, but the iceberg lettuce (again!) had totally turned to mush under the sauce. There were also hard boiled eggs - this time drastically over-cooked so that the yolk was a really unappetizing green color. There must have been other vegetables, but they were few and far between. Still, the vegetables were the good part of the dish. The peanut sauce was so sweet, it was just disgusting. There just isn't any other way to describe it. Green beans are not improved with sugar. Neither is iceberg lettuce or rubbery eggs. I have to say, this "salad" really killed the meal for us. Thanks a lot, Tuk-Tuk, now it's back to my sick diet of mediocre Pho from restaurants that are irritated when I ask for more than one sprig of cilantro or (gasp!) a bit of lime (what I wouldn't give for an Eden Center (and no, Dong Xuan does not cut it) in this neighborhood. But that's another story. Tuk-Tuk Großgörschenstrasse 2

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Indien: ein Blue Curacao-frei Bereich

I know this will sound cranky-expat-food snob of me, but I sometimes think the Berliners/Germans deserve all the bad "ethnic" food there is here. I know if they demanded curries (or Pho or substitute most any "ethnic" delight) with any complexity or depth of flavor at all, immigrant chefs would be thrilled to provide them. But the thing is, most of the locals I know are overjoyed with the Indian food on offer in Berlin. Among the non-German residents of Germany, especially those familiar with Indian cuisine (coming from countries with Indian immigration, such as the US, UK, or Canada for example) Indian food in Germany has a laughable reputation. I for one, have refused to eat it since trying it early in my time in the Fatherland. Most every dish on the menu in most every restaurant tastes exactly the same and there is a suspicious amount of cream going on. I'm aware that cream has a place in some Indian dishes, but all of them??? One expat blog wonders: Do they pipe this sauce in from the currywurst place next door? They really do taste like ketchup seasoned with curry powder (and cream). And then there's my personal pet peeve: almost every Indian restaurant in Berlin serves all kinds of discount cocktails. I'm talking mai tais, swimming pools, and a lot of scary looking drinks with blue curacao. (I also find it exasperating that the locals insist on drinking mango lassis at Vietnamese restaurants, but I suppose that's another story). I'm not saying an "ethnic" restaurant has to remain firmly within the bounds of some randomly designated field of authenticity. There certainly are/have been Indian establishments in New York (and no doubt elsewhere) with cocktail menus. These restaurants mesh Indian cuisine with a more upscale New York restaurant culture and in my opinion it generally works (they've also put thought into which cocktails to serve, creating new drinks that pairs with the food they serve, not just haphazardly mixing the cheapest liquors available). And I guess who am I to say that you shouldn't drink a swimming pool with your creamed ketchup curried chicken? At the end of the day, both are attempts by restauranteurs to make a few extra dollars or Euros. Still, the cranky-expat-food snob in me gets irate every time I see this. After all this ranting, I do have some good news. Good Indian food does exist in Berlin, it just might not be in your neighborhood. I will admit that from the small list of potentially decent Indian restaurants I drew up, I chose to visit Satyam because it's website makes it seem decidedly un-blue curacao-y. Satyam is a vegetarian restaurant specializing in ayurvedic (I'm not sure that this impacts the taste of the food, but you can take a test to determine your your constitutional type or dosha and I suppose they would then help you order based on the result) and south Indian food. The restaurant isn't really all that much to look at and the service isn't anything out of the ordinary and I may have had better Indian food at various points in my life, but after such a long Indian food drought ... oh the food was good. I'd been under the weather and not craving much of anything, but I can't seem to get the mustard greens with panir (made in-house with milk from Rudower Farm - apparently long acquaintances of Satyam) out of my head. We also sampled an okra curry and the lunch special (4,90 Euros; changes weekly). This was a little more hit or miss - I could have done without the tofu something-or-other in peanut sauce, but the daal was better than average. The menu is immense and there are lots of dishes I'm eager to try: South Indian wild eggplant curry! Uttapam and Vaddai! I wasn't up for trying it, but I was excited to see that Satyam offers a few Indian wines - I'll take that over a neon blue cocktail any day. Satyam Goethestraße 5