Friday, October 28, 2011

Dinner & a Movie - Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom / "Eyeball" Soup & Chilled "Monkey Brains"

Film - Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom
Travel Tie-In - Indiana travels from Shanghai to the Himalayas to northern India.
Food - "Eyeball" Soup and Chilled "Monkey Brains"

(Pardon the fact that the video is in French; I couldn't find one in English.)

"Temple of Doom" is actually my least favorite Indiana Jones movie (and yes, I'm including "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", which I thought was fun). It features a completely vapid annoying romantic interest (Kate Capshaw, a feminist, said her character was "not much more than a dumb screaming blonde."), a really dark violent plot, and more cultural offenses and inaccuracies than one can count. However, it offers a perfect opportunity for a Halloween-themed Dinner & a Movie tie-in! Also, any movie with Harrison Ford is (in my opinion) a movie worth at least casually watching.

In Pankot Palace, Indy and his friends are served a rather disgusting feast, including baby snakes, eyeball soup, beetles and chilled monkey brains. While this is certainly not traditional Indian food (at least half of India consists of vegetarians!), I thought it would be fun to try to veganize a couple of these dishes for this post.

Let's start with "Eyeball" Soup. I think that a good start would be this recipe for Pepper Rasam soup. For "eyeballs", start with 2 or 3 blocks of extra firm tofu (*not* silken) and press it to get all of the water out of it. Freeze it, thaw it, and then use a melon baller to get as many "eyeballs" out of each block as you can. You can put the tofu balls directly into the soup, or you can go the extra distance and stick a sliced olive onto each ball with a little peanut butter.

For desert: Chilled "Monkey Brains"! To be *really* authentic, you'd need to get bowls shaped like monkey heads, but I haven''t seen any and have no idea where one might get them. (Ideas, readers?) To start, you'll need a brain mold, and you can get either small brain molds or a large brain mold - it's up to you to decide what kind of monkeys you'll be (not) using. For the "brain", you've got some options. There are many different gelatin substitutes out there; you can make your own with 2 cups of apple juice (or any other juice that would be "brain" colored) and 2 tsp of agar-agar powder (following this recipe or this one, which also uses kuzu, or you can get a box of vegan fruit-flavored gelatin if you don't mind it being red or orange. A third option is to go to your local Asian grocery store and buy some of the packaged agar-agar desert mixes there - they come in interesting flavors like coffee, red bean, almond, and coconut, and aren't translucent like regular vegan gelatin. Just make sure to check the packaging, since some are vegan but others have agar-agar *and* gelatin or even dairy. Make the vegan gelatin of your choice, pour into the brain molds, and chill.

I didn't try to veganize the snakes or beetles, because I couldn't come up with any convincing substitutes (although vegan gummy worms are an option). If you've got any ideas for those, I'd love to hear them!