Welcome back to another post inspired by Trinket Studios’ Battle Chef Brigade! For those just joining us, Battle Chef Brigade is a story-puzzle-platform game that is like a mash-up between Dungeons and Dragons and Iron Chef where you hunt monsters and cook them into rare delicacies in front of an arena audience.
In January I joined my friends in Fandom Foodies with Victoria from Pixelated Provisions in a #BattleChefBuffet recipe link-up with my recipes for Cezar’s Dragon Shank Meatball and Thrash’s Armarock Ribs with Windfruit Mole. Today I’m delving into the culinary psychology of the acid-tongued Shiv Zaya with her recipe for Lantern Fruit Gulab Jamun!
Click here to skip to the recipe for Shiv’s Lantern Fruit Gulab Jamun!
The Acid Tongue
The chef of today’s recipe, Shiv Zaya, is an orc with something to prove as she skewers the competition.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love how the game developers embody the characters’ personalities so wholly into the story, including the food that they each cook. I’m also noticing a prevalent family theme emerging throughout the entire story. Shiv, as standoffish as she is to main character Mina Han, is no stranger to this theme.
Shiv’s great-grandmother, Grand Matriarch Kilin, united the orcish clans through cross-cuisine fusion. Constantly being reminded of her famous heritage inspires pride, anxiety, and resentment in Shiv. She was raised from birth to highly respect food, but the pressure to perform up to legacy makes her outwardly arrogant and subversive to prove herself and create her own legacy.
It is in our nature to despise those who display qualities we dislike in ourselves. Furthermore, it makes sense when Shiv accuses Kirin of winning due to nepotism. Shiv makes excuses for her losses, not necessarily because she believes herself superior, but because it lessens the pain from her own disappointment.
Toxic, yet Tempting…
So what happens when you keep getting compared to your family members? In Shiv’s case, you try to strike out and proclaim your individuality. Shiv’s famed for cooking unusual ingredient combinations and applying poison like it’s a condiment to her dishes. Despite this subversion, though, I find it interesting that the Middle Eastern and South Asian dishes she makes: Curry, Kabobs, and Gulab Jamun are all traditionally cooked and shared with family and friends.
I suppose you could say that Shiv cooks the words she does not feel comfortable sharing. On the one hand, in subverting the traditional with poison, she’s attacking her origins. But on the other hand, she may craft shareable dishes with the desire to connect and they are, in fact, an invitation to get to know her for her work, not for her ancestor’s.
The Versatile Lantern Fruit
You can find the Lantern Fruit hanging like spicy stalactites from the Cavern biome’s ceilings. Need to boost the firey flavors in your dish? Look no further than to this versatile ingredient. Just jump up, slash, and collect your bounty before a slime mold steals it away.
When I say versatile, I mean it. Battle Chefs of all colors and creeds use the juice of this glowing fruit to make a “thick and unexpectedly light” glaze that enhances both sweet and savory dishes. Boil it, roast it, stuff it with cragmor meat and candle gourd, the possibilities are endless.
The red bell pepper, Earth’s equivalent, is also surprisingly adaptable. Whether you stir-fry it, fire-roast it, or boil it down for jelly, its natural sweetness has permeated cultural cuisine all over. You can almost say that the bell pepper is kind the Grand Matriarch Kilin of ingredients in this sense, joining our world’s tribes together in flavor.
To bring this all together, I wanted to keep Shiv’s spirit for subversion and individuality in mind and recreate her version of Gulab Jamun. Gulab Jamun is an Indian dessert made from milk powder dough that’s been deep-fried then soaked for hours in rose syrup. The word “Gulab” means rose, while “Jamun” is a type of regional, red-brownish plum which bears a resemblance to the finished dessert.
Since Shiv always leaves some residual poison in her dishes, I chose to add nutmeg and coriander to the dough before frying. In large quantities, nutmeg is a toxic hallucinogen. Coriander is not inherently dangerous unless you have a cilantro allergy, but its citrusy notes go delightfully with bell pepper.
I then boiled bell pepper in sugar water to make this syrup. You know what unexpectedly delicious? Bell pepper and rose syrup. You know what’s even more unexpectedly delicious? Bell pepper cooked in that syrup. That crimson flesh absorbs all that floral, tangy goodness and skewers your tastebuds in a single bite.
Speaking of skewers, It would figure that it’s only after I made and shot this recipe that I found out that Shiv fights with giant kabob skewers rather than boning knives as I originally thought. Kabob skewers make more sense than knives, I suppose, given her affinity towards Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine. Pretend those two steak knives in the final photo are skewers for me as my photoshop skills aren’t that good!
Finally, I decided to garnish the whole lot with shredded mint instead of the traditional crushed pistachio. Feel free to use both, but the mint adds a subtle cooling note to balance the dish.
A Taste of Shiv’s Legacy
Shiv's Lantern Fruit Gulab Jamun
Equipment: Stovetop, one small saucepan, one large saucepan, flour sifter, mixing bowl, spatula.
- 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon melted ghee
- cooking spray
Lantern Fruit Syrup:
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 cups water
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon rosewater
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 2.5 cups vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup ghee
- Sift then whisk the flour, spices, milk powder, and baking soda into a mixing bowl. Pour in the melted ghee then work it into the mix with your fingers until it resembles fine crumbs.
- Pour in water a little at a time and stir with a spatula until you have a sticky dough without cracks. Spray your palms with cooking spray then pinch off 1-1.5 inch chunks of dough. Roll those chunks into balls and place on a plate. Let the balls sit for about 20 minutes while you prepare the syrup.
- Slice off the side sections of the bell pepper with a sharp knife. Dice half of the sides and cut the rest into 1.5-inch chunks. Discard the seeds and stems.
- Whisk the sugar and water in the small saucepan until dissolved, then add all of the bell pepper. Bring the mix to a boil on the stovetop over medium-high heat then turn to low to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the rosewater and lime juice. Cover the pot with a lid to keep warm.
- Warm the oil and remaining ghee in the other pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat. After about 4-5 minutes, lower one of the dough balls into the oil with a slotted spoon. If it comes up immediately, the oil is too hot. Remove the pan from the burner for about a minute or two to lower the heat if this is the case. If it comes up slowly, the oil is hot enough. Reduce the heat to low.
- Lower the other dough balls in batches of 5-6 into the oil and stir clockwise to cook on all sides. The jamun should double in size while frying and are done when they reach a golden brown color. Remove the jamun using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to dry.
- Transfer the jamun to the saucepan of syrup to soak for at least two hours (overnight in the refrigerator is better).
- If you wish to serve them warm, heat the pot of jamun and syrup over low heat on the stovetop for about 5-7 minutes.
- Serve Gulab Jamun in dishes of syrup garnished with cooked pieces of bell pepper and shredded fresh mint.