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Sweet Sixteen

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We got married in the year 2000. Isn’t it sort of freaky to say that out loud? Sounds futuristic. Except that it was 16 years ago! :-O

To celebrate on Saturday, I ran my ass off again to train for this marathon that I might or might not be doing (ok, that wasn’t really part of the celebration and a good chunk of my ass still exits.)

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But in the evening we went out for dinner and ate huge steaks with steamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Heavenly. I didn’t come close to finishing my steak, but the rest came home with me and landed in breakfast and lunch the next day. The restaurant (Theresa Grill, btw, highly recommended), also served a delicious liver pate with the bread before our steaks came out. I asked for the recipe and the chef came out a few minutes later with it written up and gave me in-person instructions! (wow!) Needless to say, this will be tried out sometime this week. Recipe below in hand-written format:

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In English: 500 grams of liver (they used goose, I guess I will use chicken), 2 red onions, 2 stalks of celery, 200 milliliters cognac, 150 grams of butter and salt and pepper. Cut the onion and celery into small pieces and brown them with the liver in a pan. After everything is cooked, pour in the cognac and let cook. Take off the stove, blend with a handmixer, and then mix in the butter. Season with salt and pepper (they used a very grainy sea salt which was delicious), and then let chill in the fridge.

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In the last weeks I have been on the road again with my teammates. Giorgio (catching Pokemon over there while we waited for our train in Stuttgart) and Jonas (with me on the train to Belgium last week) have been keeping me entertained, which has been a lot of fun. Next week I head to the UK alone for a day or two, which will be a grueling couple days without colleagues to work with.

Some lovely new dishes have been created recently, although homemade pizza is still appearing with alarming frequency.

One of the better ones recently has been an easy Ottolenghi recipe: za’atar roast chicken with onions and lemons. Plus I made a flatbread to go with it – also seasoned with the Israeli Za’atar spice blend.

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Here’s the recipe over on Bon Appetit.

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Basically you just mix up the marinade ingredients:

 

  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • a couple tablespoons of Za’atar spice mix

Mix it with you chicken, and let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Then you bake it for about 50 minutes at 400 F, 200 C.

 

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Serve with yogurt (or green tahini sauce, as in Ottolenghi’s original recipe), a green salad or really ripe cherry tomatoes, and some flatbread to mop up the juices.

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It’s a practically no effort meal if you just buy the flatbread rather than making it yourself.

Just mix, bake, done.

The weather here this week in Munich is supposed to be spectacular. So happy I am not traveling.🙂

 

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Nothing rhymes with Okinomiyaki

sad

Friday night I felt…unsurprised. Resigned. It felt like it was only a matter of time before the craziness in the world would actively hit Munich. And then finally it did. I was home before I realized what was happening, although it even happened before I left work. I was riding my bike home around 6 pm, just minutes after the shooter at the Olympia Einkaufszentrum was putting people to death. Police car and ambulance and fire trucks all crossed by me and I wondered why so many of them…but it had seemed like so many of them anyway in the last days that I did not wonder too much.

When I got home, I cooked dinner. Like any normal evening. And then I checked email at 7:30 finally, when I noticed that siren after siren screamed its way by the apartment, without pause. But I feel too much nothing. I have been numbed to the tragedies after the most recent incidents in just the last couple weeks. Nice, Turkey, Republican Convention, Würzburg – all very different tragedies, but somehow they add up to numbness and inability to process what it all means and what one can even do. I can hardly compare, though, in my little insulated and sheltered world. It feels like a big farce to live here in the bubble sometimes.

So the next day you go out there and move on and don’t concentrate too much on the craziness. I moved.

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A lot. Getting ready for a marathon run in October. Maybe. My first moments of doubt came with yesterday’s half marathon training run. It was hot, close to 30 degrees. And I was careless with hydrating and eating enough and timing things correctly in the morning before leaving. When I hit 17k, I ran out of water. Still a good 4k from home, no money, no id, nothing but a phone and a key with me and a Powerbar. In the end, I could have gotten help had it really been critical, but I was frustrated that I wasn’t going to make my goal time, that it wasn’t feeling as good as it had the week before.

We went to a movie last night – Star Trek Beyond – no, I don’t recommend it. I woke up in the morning and heard that the shooter had shot himself, so wasn’t roaming the city anymore. So I said “ok” to going to a movie at night. Feeling like I was playing in a TV show of unreality. How can this be the world? A guy kills 10 people and himself 3 kilometers from where you live just hours before and the next night you are going to a movie as if nothing has happened. Well, but life goes on, right?

We didn’t have time to eat dinner before leaving for the film and afterwards it was too late. So I have been hungry the whole day somehow after burning 1700 calories in about 2.5 hours yesterday. Trying to fill in the hunger with fruit and nuts. Nothing seemed to help. Finally I began assembling dinner at around 5:30 tonight, dreaming of fat and carbs and protein and just feeling… not hungry anymore.

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That’s the beginning of Okinomiyaki. Yeah, I know, it’s hard to say without practice. Well, it’s a Japanese pancake. Made with a special Japanese yam and cabbage and in my case, seafood and a bit of ham. The easiest and fastest recipe is over here.  

The name is derived from the Japanese word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked” (cf. yakitori and yakisoba).

It does require a trip, most likely, to an Asian supermarket, if nothing else for that weird yam, which you need to shred into the batter.

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It shreds very quickly, and is gooey. You add it to the flour, salt, sugar, dashi broth, and baking powder and then let it all chill in the fridge for about an hour.

And then you add the cabbage, the eggs, the seafood, etc.

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In the end, to cook it, you pile it into a saute pan and let it cook for about 10 minutes or so in total. It should be a nice fat pancake. 2 centimeters thick. You can dig into it.

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A giant pancake.

Which you then take off the stove and garnish with a special sauce (recipe with the recipe above), some mayo, some green onions, some pork floss (or bonito flakes are more traditional).

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And then you sit down, ideally when it is still piping hot, and eat it.

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Ideally with a very cold glass of rosé. Or two.

I am no longer hungry.

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Hot. Hotter. Rome.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

I don’t know why, but 33 degrees in Rome last week felt like someone had dragged me into the pit of hell. There’s some point where I just totally lose it when it comes to heat. I thought I had everything under control – careful use of umbrellas, stepping into the air-conditioned apartment or shop when needed, drinking lots of water, etc. But on the last morning before I left, I walked around outside for about two hours – last minute shopping –  and ended up back at my aunt’s hotel absolutely dripping. And not in a sexy steamy shimmery way, instead sporting more of a drowned poodle look.

I could relate to this sign which we ran into during sightseeing.

Pepper scale

Pepper scale

Yeah, that’s me on the right. At least during dinner, when drinking wine and wondering why they couldn’t turn the air-conditioning up a notch.😉

Despite this, we had a good time. I just had to think back to Singapore and realize that *nothing* is that bad. The tours were great – our guide was great – it was amazing how she packed in a whole eight hours of the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, etc. without making us lose our marbles from the heat and crowds. My aunt Sue very generously sponsored that part of the trip along with all the lovely dinners we had with her and my cousin.

Joshua and his ancient Roman cousin

Joshua and his ancient Roman cousin

Yes, Rome is PACKED with tourists during the summer. I really look forward to going back sometime in the late fall or early winter, when the city is more of just an amazing city and less of a tourist destination.

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Here we are, somehow reasonably sweat free after an hour walk in the evening to The Forum – before our official tour. It was wonderful to walk around for a weekend even before my aunt arrived and we did the tours just to see the architecture and try the food for a few days. Experience it without the official learning part first.

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The Colosseum had just been cleaned in the past year or so – and the grey/black soot was gone from must of the facade. In the early evening sunset it glowed orange and gold, as did much of the city.

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Inside, a few days later, we braved the heat and had a look at the huge space that used to hold up to 70 thousand people at a time to watch the fights and the spectacles. Can you imagine the wonderful odor of the crowd watching the games during the summer? Ummmmm…..

Two of the best things we ate? Well artichokes were everywhere. In the Jewish quarter during lunch we ordered the “jewish” artichocke preparation – essentially just a deep-fried artichoke that was amazingly crispy and salty and oily in a frech-fry kind of way.

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And even better that that was a seafood pasta with fresh shaved truffles that we found and ordered in a little trattoria near the apartment we stayed in. It competed with *the best pasta I have ever eaten* near Milan some years ago, coming close but not topping it.

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I’m back home now, and the heatwave has followed us, although it’s far more tolerable here, and not as hot.

But I still wanted something cool and refreshing for dinner tonight so I went with a spicy raw fish bibimbap that I love. Chopped vegetables, steamed rice, raw fish, and a delicious garlicky sauce all come together in this yummy creation.

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The recipe is from Maangchi – the little Korean YouTube sensation. The link takes you to her simple 8-minute video where you too can learn how to make this dish, called Hoedeopbap 회덮밥.

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As long as you have the ingredients for the sauce on hand, the whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes – the time it takes to make the rice.

Cool, refreshing and filling with both the rice and the fish, it’s more than a salad, but light enough that you walk away from the table without feeling like you need a nap.

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Next trip begins in about a week and a half, although I’m not yet sure where I am being sent. Around Germany, from what I hear. Stuttgart and…? No idea. Hoping to stay cool.

 

 

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Posted by on July 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Duck, Duck, Pizza!

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The next president of the United States up there? Sammy does a good impression. I certainly hope not. But after the outcome of the vote in the UK just a couple days ago, everyone is beginning to get quite scared about what might happen. So far away, I feel pretty innocuous, even if I am able to do my civic duty and vote from here. It makes me mad to hear now in retrospect about the ignorance of the British who voted to leave the EU. But I know it’s no better in the USA.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

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Crazy things seen all over Europe in my travels these days. A second trip to Australia was taken off the table on Friday, which makes things easier in July. Even if there will be a few more trips ahead to Milan.

Which are always amusing in one way or another.

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And the other day, in Turin, even though we were frantically prepping in the last hours up to our meeting,

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There was still some time to look out the window and enjoy the view.

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And now I get to do that from home as well – all the rain keeps our surroundings in our new place beautiful and green.

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When I have time again – soon! – I look forward to spending some more time in the garden next to our kitchen. I need to plant all the herbs into the bed next to the deck.

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Thankfully on the weekend, there is still time to try out new dishes here and there.

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Lady and Pups is always an inspiration to test out new dishes. She published a really delicious and unhealthy pasta dish the other day that I decided I needed to test out right away.

Simply a carbonara – but made with duck egg yolks. I served it with some juicy duck breast and a celery and fennel salad with lots of lemon and herbs. Good indeed, but these days I’m actually rather addicted to a food that I didn’t think much of in the past.

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But with the pizza stone in the new oven, these suckers are done in 7 minutes flat. I mix up a batch of the dough, separate it into 5 or 6 balls, freeze them, and take them out of the freezer when I want to make a pizza. Which is rather too often these days because of how easy and delicious they are.

And I keep trying out different combinations of toppings. Most of the time I’m not really planning in advance, rather just throwing whatever I have in my refrigerator on top of the pizza. Which generally turns out quite well.

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Hungry yet? If you have any suggestions for my pizza, I’d be happy to hear.🙂

 

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Pass me the Vegemite, please

Beach relax

Hello and welcome back to reality. I mean, Germany. After a week in Australia, where Jonas and I again nailed over a dozen interviews, I’m back here, getting used to our new place, which is not hard to do at all.🙂

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We were in Melburne. Oh, no, it’s spelled Melbourne! But pronounced “Melburne,” and Jonas never let me forget it. There, the coffee and food culture is beyond compare. The city was spectacular and we had time to explore during the weekend in between work days. They take their coffee very very seriously there. On every corner you find a coffee shop filled with patrons. Each place offering more or less the same assortment. But apparently they are all unique as people will swear by the coffee place they visit every day, the barista who works there, probably the cows that create the milk that they use in their “flat whites.” I tried a flat white. Bah. Just a Latte. Obviously I’m completely ignorant.

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But I must say, they are beautiful – these coffees shops every where. And they serve up some gorgeous coffee as well.

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I can’t say that we ever had an AMAZING meal. We were pretty busy seeing the sights and pretty tired in the beginning, getting over our jetlag.

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Which was maybe a touch easier for me, as the company was willing to fly me business class while my poor intern colleague had to sit in economy. Just down there – breakfast before landing in Abu Dhabi, the 1/3 of the way there mark.

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Etihad does a fairly good job of spoiling biz class passengers. The hard part is trying to decide between trying out a bunch of things or just sleeping. On the way there I was curious and probably ate more than I should have. On the way back, I simply slept most of the way.

The city was beautiful. A combination feeling of California, Singapore and Munich somehow. The hustle-bustle of a city plus the strong influence of Asia (Singapore), with the beauty of the coast nearby (California), but still a laid-back feeling (Munich).

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We rented the city bikes to get around, which was easy and convenient.

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And saved a little of our per diem money simply by eating breakfast in our room/s. So we could spend it on sight seeing.

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Yeah, and I learned to actually like vegemite. Words I thought would never come from my mouth. But indeed, spread very thinly under a few slices of avocado and a boiled egg…wow.

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Back home now, I’m learning to use all my new kitchen appliances. The stove is awesome. And even with little energy now that I am jet lagged again, it’s easy to saute some quail breasts, slice them thinly on toast, and put the rest in the fridge or freezer for another day/meal.

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I love the Togarashi spice blend I bought in California a few weeks back. Spicy citrus and seaweed flavors plus a touch of salt. Saute after sprinkling on both sides, done.

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Tonight will be the first test of the steam oven.

And now, time to run.

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2016 in airplaine food, Asian, Travel

 

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Hot and Sour April Blahs

There has been an awful lot of this in the past month:

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That is, the finalizing of all the elements for the apartment…meetings, managing installations (actually, husband has been doing more of that, I have been baking cakes for the various installation teams to keep people happy and sugared up.)

And there has been an awful lot of this:

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Flying around the world and doing customer research with my colleague , (didn’t say “intern,”) Jonas. Which has been lots of fun and lots of work. We head to Australia for the final wave of interviews in two weeks, right after big move in to our new place is final.

So there hasn’t been much time for cooking, and when time has been there, not much desire. When you eat out for two weeks straight because you’re on the road, you come home and you don’t want to eat. Even if you have been on a treadmill most of those days for an hour, somehow you just feel like a piece of toast and cheese is JUST FINE, thank you.

But the typical April weather is here upon us Munich. Cold and damp and few hints of the sun. After two weeks of sun in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco and then a week of crappy weather in Hamburg, I needed to curl up under the covers.

But there is an instant fast cure that I remembered and even better is that it takes about 30 minutes to throw together, assuming ingredients are on hand. Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. It’s like instant regeneration. Fortified with the stuff, you can wait out another rainy day over here with a smile on your face.

Lucky Peach has an awesome recipe which I only tweaked a bit. Over here.

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • ½ C wood ear mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup other mushrooms – I’ve used shitake and King oyster mushrooms
  • 2 T neutral oil
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 1 T chopped fresh ginger
  • ½ C chopped scallions
  • 8 oz pork shoulder, cut into fat matchsticks (1″ long, ¼” wide)
  • 6 C chicken or pork broth – I used bullion cubes, which is just fine, really
  • 8 oz tofu, cut into fat matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1/3 C rice vinegar
  • 1/3 C black vinegar
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 2 T sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 2 large eggs (optional)

     

  • Cover the tree ear mushrooms with warm water and soak until plump and pliable, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the neutral oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring, until the aromatics soften and the pork whitens, about 4 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a simmer.

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  • Stir in the tofu, bamboo shoots, sugar, vinegars, soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, and sriracha. Add both types of mushrooms. Return to a simmer and adjust the seasoning.

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  • If using the eggs, beat them in a small bowl and drizzle over the soup while gently stirring. When the eggs set into strands, divide the soup among 6 bowls and serve.

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Posted by on April 10, 2016 in Chinese, Cooking at home

 

Wait wait, oh…no tell me

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How many days to go? Too many damn days. The architect says April, we’re pushing for March. This is the view of the new place from the back. Still some work inside to be done, as you can sort of see. Yes, we’re soon to be homeowners in Munich, rather than home renters. It’s a rather sudden and huge commitment to this city, this country, and to a bank. (OH GOD.)😉

But, in the end, it’s just an apartment, and a nice one at that, which can be rented out fairly easily based on the size and location and beauty and efficiency of the place. At least we tell ourselves that.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay warm over here, and not think about the fact that by signing the papers I have committed myself to yearly winters for the next X years. Damn.

One of the best dishes I experimented with recently was Chicken Paprikash. A dish from my Hungarian roots, and the inspiration to cook it was simply coming across this recipe. Did you realize that Chicken Paprikash has only…what…5 or 6 ingredients? Oil, onions, paprika, chicken, water…salt. Brown a chopped up onion, add 4 tablespoons of sweet paprika,

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(yeah, funny looking paprika…ehem…from Spain, not Hungary) stir, add a cut up chicken or 4 chicken legs and thighs, let the chicken brown for a few minutes, and then add two cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Let simmer 45 minutes.

One always should serve chicken paprikash with dumplings – Spaetzele would generally be called for, those little flour dumplings that are so irresistible in any format. But because I am doing my best to stick with whole grains and stay low carbish (is that a word? now it is), I decided to experiment with the dumplings.

Joan Nathan (no, no relation), had an interesting variation on chicken paprikash with dumplings – persian – that served as the inspiration because it puts spices and herbs directly into the dumplings.

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I decided to go with a mix of flours, none of them white. Mix:

2 cups of flour – I think I used about 1/3 of each,

2 gloves of garlic, chopped

a handful of cilantro, mint and parsley each, chopped,

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons olive oil

a teaspoon of salt

Add water if needed to loosen a bit. You want a dough that you can shape with your hands. The dark flours make it really look sludgy. Yes, very sludgy.

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Create balls – I used two spoons to form them because the dough was sticky. And drop the dumplings into boiling water.

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Cook for about 6 minutes. They’ll float to the top. Take out one to test the inside before you remove them. You will likely need to do this in batches.

Add the dumplings to the chicken after draining, stirring in some greek yogurt or sour cream depending on your preference – about 1/3 of a cup.

Like Indian food, it’s not the most photogenic of dishes, but it was sooo sooo good.

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