Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

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Nothing depicts the culture of a people better than a wedding. The festivities that surround the occasion are littered with elements from history as well as some reflecting recent trends (something old, something new). Pakistani weddings are no different and the use of the Marigold flower (both yellow and orange) is as essential to the wedding as water is to plants.

These traditions help define our identity, our individuality in this global mix of cultures, and should be nurtured and appreciated. For this week’s photo challenge, I present two arrangements of this beautiful and at times, under-appreciated, flower. Enjoy!

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My (Cousin’s) Big Fat Pakistani Wedding

Unlike weddings elsewhere, Pakistani weddings tend to be spread over a period of one or more weeks, and can be as grand and elaborate as you can possibly afford them to be. Here are a few photos highlighting the decor and ambiance taken at my cousin’s wedding. As I’m not a wedding photographer, per se, I’d like to mention that this was my first, and possibly last, wedding photography (unpaid) gig ever.

Enjoy!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

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Each day that we get to live can be broken into unique instances, moments that leave us changed forever. Even though each experience is unique, there are but a handful that we end up remembering and cherishing till our very last breath.

Marriage, especially one that is a celebration of love rather than a mockery of the institution, is one such occasion. I spent the whole of last week executing my cousin’s wedding and it was fabulous. Everything from the decor to the food, the ensembles to the venues, wasout of this world. Here is one shot I particularly love and I hope it does justice to this week’s theme.

The Singaporean Rice Saga

Karachi wedding receptions are very different from those in any other region of Pakistan, as even though the bride and groom are (supposed to be) the main attraction, it’s the food that takes the limelight. A menu can either make or break a wedding, and you’d be darned if you selected something the guests end up hating; and don’t even get me started on the menu-bashing uncles and aunties who’ll torture you for weeks (and even months) to come!

Keeping in view the Karachiite’s mindsets, caterers try adding new and exciting dishes to their portfolios, giving the gossip-mongers something positive to talk about. ‘Fish with lemon sauce’ and ‘Chimichangas’ are two such recent inductions, but what really took the wedding world by storm a few years back was the in(ter)vention of Singaporean Rice (a.k.a. SR). Till today, seven out of ten weddings you go to will have this dish.

Since this dish is not available in mainstream restaurants, you either have to wait for the next SR wedding or make a batch at home; and then you turn to Google! Ever wondered why your Google search for a top-notch Singaporean Rice recipe always returns results from Pakistan? It’s because technically, there is not such thing as Singaporean Rice, at least not in Singapore! However during the course of my research, I did stumble upon a recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice, a popular Singaporean staple dish that is miles apart, in taste as well as in presentation, from what we are led to believe is ‘Singaporean’ Rice.

Our caterers know that associating the word ‘Singaporean’ with a dish gives it an exotic, oriental twist, no matter how mundane it really may be. But origins aside, this is one mean rice platter, with each aromatic and creamy spoonful resulting in a taste blast, a wave of pure unadulterated pleasure, leaving your heart wanting more even if your stomach’s had had enough. Being an SR connoisseur, you have to take my word for it; this recipe that I’m about to share with you is perhaps the best SR recipe around and I’m sure you’ll believe me once you give it a try.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg rice
  • 1 bowl macaroni
  • 4-5 boneless chicken breasts (cut in ¾ inch cubes)
  • 1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 6 tomatoes (ripe and medium-sized)
  • 3 carrots (medium-sized)
  • 3 capsicums (large)
  • 14 kg cabbage
  • 7 stalks of spring onion
  • 20 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
  • 3 onions (medium-sized and chopped)
  • 3-4 green chilies (thinly sliced vertically – remove seeds)
  • 8 tbsp chili sauce
  • 10 tbsp soy sauce
  • 8 tbsp chili garlic sauce (only Knorr works best)
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Chinese salt (msg/ajinomoto)
  • 1 tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground red chilies
  • salt to taste
  • cooking oil (for frying and cooking)

Method

  • Fry thinly sliced garlic in oil on medium flame till golden; set aside on a plate with a tissue to absorb excess oil
  • Fry sliced green chilies in oil till they have a nice and crispy coat; keep it with the fried garlic – let’s call this component A
  • Put 4 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the chopped onions till it becomes translucent
  • Add cubed tomatoes to the onions, along with the ginger/garlic paste
  • Add in 3/4 of the soy sauce, the chili sauce, 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce, red chili powder, ground red chilies, Worcestershire sauce, Chinese salt, and some salt to the mixture
  • Cook this mixture until oil surfaces
  • Add all the chicken to this mix and cook till the chicken is tender
  • Add in diced carrots, capsicum, cabbage, and spring onions and cook till the vegetables are slightly tender; this is now ready – this, we’ll call component B
  • Boil the rice and strain it
  • Put 3 tbsp oil in a utensil and add the boiled rice to it
  • Add the black pepper and some salt, the remaining soy sauce and a dash of Chinese salt to the rice, and mix well; take it off the stove once ready – we’ll call this C
  • Boil macaroni and set it aside in a bowl – let’s call this D
  • In a separate bowl, add the remaining chili garlic sauce to the mayonnaise – we’ll call it E
  • Once you have all the components from A to E ready, take a deep serving dish and add a layer of the rice (component C) at the base
  • Cover this rice layer with the gravy (component B)
  • Add a generous amount of macaroni on top of the gravy (component D)
  • The mayo-sauce comes next (component E)
  • To finally bring the dish together, sprinkle some crispy garlic flakes and some fried green chilies on top of the sauce (component A)

Your Singaporean rice is ready to serve! As always, I hope you try this dish at home and enjoy it thoroughly. Also, it does have a slightly high chili content so you may adjust the spices according to your taste.

Ciao!