Saturday, October 18, 2008

Birishta: Tali hui Pyaaz or reddish brown fried onions

Birishta---browned onions, or bhuni hui pyaaz/tali hui pyaaz, are a key ingredient in a lot of South Asian regional Muslim cooking. Frying them fresh for each dish is time consuming. As a time-saver, I fry a large batch about once per month, store them in the freezer, and use as needed. To do this, I finely slice a whole bunch of onions. I deep fry them on high heat, then lower the heat once they have gone translucent (about 8-10 minutes). They cook on medium-low heat for about 20-25 minutes, needing occasional stirring. After that, and they become crispy fried, reddish-brown squiggles. I strain them and let them cool on some old newspaper. Then I put them in a plastic container in the freezer. When I am ready to use them, I simply pull out a handful for whatever dish. The oil prevents them from being destroyed in the freezer. I usually give them a quick sizzle in hot oil , as if they had been fried up fresh, then continue cooking whatever dish. I also grind them to add to certain types of recipes, like kofta. I don't think it compromises flavor, either. There are bags of fried onions available at desi grocery stores, but they tend to have a bitter under-taste. I use them occasionally, but I prefer my home fried onions. I also keep ginger and garlic paste on hand to use as needed. Taking these shortcuts certainly makes South Asian cooking easier and saves time.

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