Food. Fooood. I even like the way the word rolls over my tongue.
My husband, Mr. Pink, says you eat first with your eyes and then with your nose and finally with your tongue. So I imagine that’s why some people don’t like Indian food. They either like ‘pretty’ plates where one food doesn’t touch other food and everything needs to be aesthetically presented – probably following some sort of a blueprint approved by the local civic authorities. Maybe they have very sensitive noses and anything that doesn’t smell like butter, boiled potatoes, salmon, rosemary and thyme is considered ‘My God! We have Indians living in our building!’. Or maybe they like to still retain their tastebuds for finer things like wine, wine reductions and… I can’t think of any other good-enough-reason to preserve your tastebuds.
Thankfully Mr. Pink, although likes to have pretty and neutral smelling food, LOVES Indian food. He discovered it (truly) only after we met and so I know for a fact that he didn’t marry me for it. I would really like to believe that!
So this post is about the the most elaborate Indian dinner I made for him. It is especially close to my heart since it is my grandma’s recipe and it’s so authentic that even writing about it makes all my senses tingle.
This dish is called Mangalore Chicken Curry. Mangalore is a big port in the southwest of India, located in the state of Karnataka. The region is called Tulunadu as the linguistic reference to people who speak the language Tulu – a very special language and probably one of the oldest languages still spoken in India. I don’t speak it, but I can read and write it. So weird! My dad hails from a village called Padubidri, located between the city of Mangalore and the town of Udupi (also famous for its Krishna temple). My father’s side of the family-tree is firmly planted in that land. Recent generations have ventured out but in their blood runs the Mangalore Chicken Curry. Also called Kori Rotti. In case you like random trivia – it also happens to be Aishwarya Rai (Miss World, actress, ‘The most beautiful woman in the world’ etc.)’s favourite dish. Yes, she’s a Mangalorean.
My grandma would make this for us every time we visited her in Padubidri and then in Udupi where we built a holiday home. It reminds me of banana leaves, coconuts, dried chillies, special smoke from the slow-dung/dried coconut husk-burning fire oven, sooty vessels and humidity. Oh! The humidity. There’s nothing as enjoyably tiring as eating spicy food in 90% humidity.
My father, who loves to cook and misses (his) home, asked grandma for the recipe. He passed on the recipe to me recently. So I went to work for dear Mr. Pink.
First you collect all the dry ingredient to make the ‘masala’.
I am rather OCD and I spent a lot of time trying to get the coriander seeds and mustard seeds from not touching the chillies in the middle. I tried and failed!
You need to fry these, one after the other, in a bit of coconut oil. Dad says vegetable oil would work but coconut oil would do wonders.
You of course need coconut (preferably fresh) and fresh green chillies (in case the red chillies are just not spicy enough).
Blend them, adding water just once, and annoy the neighbours.
Then it’s the usual Indian ‘curry’ base of onion, garlic, ginger, tomato to be cooked in the presence of cinnamon bark, cloves, bay leaves, curry leaves. Add salt to taste. SO EASY! I mean how do people get curry wrong? (Ha!) Add the chicken pieces, preferably with bone. Add turmeric powder. Add the paste you made earlier. Cook on medium flame and add water if needed. Then cover and let simmer on low flame, till ready. I hate that part of any recipe: what is “till ready”? I wait till I lose patience.
What I have described has a gravy component but you can also make it as a dry starter. And I DID! How lucky is Mr. Pink? Very, in my opinion.
The curry needs to eaten with rice (preferably parboiled or brown), or rice-based items. For example, rice pancakes (Dosa), rice dumplings (Idli) or the traditional way – with rice crackers (?), called Rotti. I can’t find the right word to explain them. They are made of crushed rice paste that is flattened and dried to form very very thin, almost transparent sheets of heaven. The hot curry that is soaking through cold crunchy rotti needs to be attacked right then and there for extra yumminess.
No cutlery, please.
Evolution gave you hands for a reason and it was to eat Indian food!
That was about 3 hours of work. And some more time for other stuff I made but I cheated and bought masala powders. It was a happy day and I made so much that we ate like kings for the next 3 days. Our digestive systems thanked us aplenty!
PS: If you want to try making Mangalore Chicken Curry on your own, please ask Google. I am not good at typing out recipes. I don’t have the patience – as you have clearly read.