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April 9, 2009

Feast for the Magi

Filed under: Asian Food — Mr. Henry @ 3:33 pm

If like Mr. Henry you are partial to classifications, you could divide the world into three culinary groups: sweet-milk people, sour-milk people, and no-milk people.

Western Europeans and their descendants drink fresh milk and eat aged cheeses. Central Asians and Middle Easterners eat yogurt and fresh cheeses. Far Easterners can’t stand milk products of any kind.


Hosting a holiday dinner for native Wisconsinites Kate and Dan, the Henrys decided to surprise these dairy-staters with an exotic sour milk feast the Three Wise Men would enjoy, in case they happen to show up unannounced on the doorstep.

Those unpredictable Magi, they never call ahead. Like the British they come from the East bearing gifts, ever so tasteful and appropros, expecting you to reciprocate in kind.

Lacking confidence in his command of Persian cuisine, and lacking as well access to fresh pomegranate juice, za’atar, and other basic components of Middle Eastern food, Mr. & Mrs. Henry improvised a version of South Asian food that, while very spicy, was not so hot the kids would refuse it.

Interestingly, yogurt plays a central role in almost every dish from dahl to korma to naan, flat bread Mrs. Henry cooked on a hot dry skillet.

Lamb korma became the principal dish and was accompanied by red lentil dahl and aloo gobi, cauliflower in a spicy mix of potatoes, tomatoes, and peas.

For a gentle kid-friendly chutney Mr. Henry quickly stewed three diced mangoes with diced ginger, brown sugar, orange juice, and in lieu of vinegar a little verjuice, a sour grape juice. The result was mouth puckering and palate cleansing.

Then he prepared a simple raita with only four ingredients: cucumber, sheep’s yogurt, mint, and salt. Core the cucumbers and grate them coarsely. Mix with salt and let sit covered in the refrigerator for several hours. After this quick pickling, push out all the salty water and add chopped mint and yogurt, as much as you like. Mr. Henry likes a thick mix, mostly cucumber, less like a sauce than like a salad to lighten the meal and cleanse the palate.

For dessert, there was watermelon, clementines, mint ice cream, and the remainder of the pinot noir.


  1. “Dahl”…pardon my forwardness — perhaps you mean “raita”?

    Comment by ariun — April 22, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

  2. When you say dahl, I think you mean raita… anyway, lovely recipes!

    Comment by Sarah — April 22, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  3. Ayyyy! Yes, quite so. Mr. Henry knows the difference and will correct the post now. Thanks Ariun and Sarah.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — April 23, 2009 @ 8:22 am

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