​The age-old chicken curry

So pretty much everyone has a chicken curry that their moms, grandmoms, aunts, MILs, dad, granddads, uncles, FILs (possibly?) have taught them. I have one too! Mom-inspired.

Is mine different from the rest? Possibly not. You see the taste of any chicken curry will always be different as that depends completely on the person who’s cooked it and what mood they were in.  You see food, is a mood business. I believe every flavour you taste in each morsel is a culmination of the thoughts of the individual who was cooking and whether they imagined themselves in sunny Greece, or snowy Canada or maybe their small home in the shanty town of Dharavi in Mumbai, or their kitchen in the middle of a big city like Tehran. Yes, the flavour of the food is very much inspired by your thoughts at that particular moment.

I’d like to say I’ve perfected my chicken curry and it should taste the same every time I cook it, but there is a subtle taste of difference every time.

Stuff you need:

  • Chicken thighs
  • Mustard oil/vegetable oil (Mustard oil makes it the mom-inspired Bengali chicken!)
  • Dry spices – bay leaf (optional), cumin seeds, cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick
  • 2 large red onions
  • The usual curry spices – turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ginger and garlic paste
  • Baby pearl potatoes (optional)
  • Secret ingredients – English mustard and yogurt

 

Toss in your dry spices in the warm oil and fry till the aroma fills the kitchen. After that, in goes your red onions which you’d need to fry till they soften.

IMG_2798

Now add your chicken thighs. There is a debate on whether to add the ginger and garlic before adding the chicken, but I prefer adding the chicken. It gives an opportunity to fry the chicken with the onions in the oil.

IMG_2797

Once they have lost their pink colour, add the ginger and garlic paste and top up with all the curry spices.

IMG_2796

At this point, let it fry in the oil for a few minutes. The chicken will start releasing its own juices and you will see the water collecting. At this point, I usually add a little boiling water. Just a little as too much water takes away the taste of the chicken juices. And then add the potatoes. Potatoes are optional, but mom-inspired chicken for me is a complete miss if it doesn’t have baby potatoes in it!

IMG_2800

I usually cover and simmer for 10-15 at this time and let the chicken cook. After that, I add in my secret ingredients – a mix of yogurt and English mustard! Now, this is my invention, mom didn’t have access to English mustard when she used to make it. But I’ve discovered it adds oodles of flavour during all my cooking experiments with chicken. I usually add the two – 1 tablespoon yogurt and around 2 tablespoons mustard, in a bowl and add that to the chicken just 5 minutes before i want to take it out.

IMG_2799

So that’s my take on the classic chicken curry. Possibly the one thing which adds that extra zing, are the potatoes. If you have the time, fry them in some oil beforehand and then add them just 10 minutes before you want to take the chicken off the gas. Take a fork to check that the potatoes are boiled though, a classic mistake I have made many times!

Poulet au curry est pret!

 

 

 

 

 

Reliving the WWII Munich


Munich wasn’t a tourist destination for me
. If it were, I would have chosen some of the chief city attractions and within 48 hours, worked my way down the list and headed back to the airport or taken the train from Hauptbahnhof (Munich Central Station), onward to other German and/or European cities. No, I am a resident of Munich, albeit for a limited period of time.

Even before I have the vaguest idea that some day I might be living in Germany, I was historian by choice. The love for that began with a father at home who taught me the chronological order of the Mughal dynasty emperors, starting with Babur, culminating in Aurangzeb who razed the empire to the ground. Along with Indian history, WWII and the Allied and Axis powers always made for great dinner time conversation back in my childhood days. At the age of nine, I knew the significance of the war and who made up the two sides. While growing up, I devoured any book I could find on Hitler and Winston Churchill. As I grew older, and moved towards higher education and my career and the internet pervaded our lives, I drew up a list of the War films that I needed to see. Schlinder’s List and The Pianist still makes me cry. Life is Beautiful, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Enemy at the Gates, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, U-571, Pearl Harbour, The Bunker, Inglorious Bastards, Atonement, Valkyrie, The Way Back, King’s Speech, Shutter Island – the list of films were endless. The genre didn’t matter, anything remotely related to the period of 1938 – 1945 and I was hooked.And not to discount the hours spent on watching documentaries on Adolf Hitler, cumulatively I must have spent more than 1/10th of my life till now on material related to WWII.

Hence one can understand my anticipation and utter historical delight once I was offered the opportunity to work in Germany. And nature colluded with the ration that I chose Munich as my base location. A week into my German “holiday”, and my first visit to anything remotely considered touristy in nature was Dachau, the very first concentration camp established by the Third Reich. For anyone who has never been to a concentration camp memorial site, the feeling cannot be described. It’s a surreal one. A cataclysm of emotions, of reverence for those who suffered, of loathing, of awe, of indignation, of anger, of sorrow, of helplessness and so much more. All those images on the screen, which I had relived through those hundred or so films that I had seen, were there before my eyes. I was walking the path, where thousands of Jews and political prisoners had marched, to morning and evening roll calls. I was wandering around their living quarters, where hundreds of these men had cramped into tiny wooden cots to sleep on half-empty stomachs every night with thin potato sacks doubling up as blankets. I was traversing through their rooms which were the torture chambers used mercilessly by the SS officers to extract secrets or just have some fun. And I cried silently for all those people who had suffered so many many years ago, for no fault of theirs, but to be born a Jew.And right at the center of the camp is the plaque proclaiming “Never Again” in five different languages. I would like to believe that it is a heartfelt apology for all those horrific crimes committed during those 12 years at Dachau.

Dachau concentration camp was the first Nazi concentration camp which opened in Germany in 1933, located on the grounds of an abandoned factory near the medieval town of Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich. Its just a 20 minutes journey from Hauptbahnhof on the S2 line towards Petershausen and then a shuttle bus drops folks directly at the camp memorial site. It was the only camp which functioned for the entire 12 years of the Holocaust period. Today, the camp is open free of cost to all tourists, open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 5pm.

In the bright summer sunshine, it seemed as if the trees had forgotten the atrocities committed so many decades ago
The dream window to freedom?

I returned to Dachau with my friends one late summer afternoon. The surreal feeling returned. The rooms were just the way I had seen it in the cold harsh winter of January. The Never Again gleamed even brighter in the bright summer sunshine. The tourists flocked in huge numbers as usual. Nothing had changed, and never will. We cannot rewrite history, we cannot forget. All we can do is go back and visit places that remind us how lucky we are to live in a world free from genocide, a world where we have the freedom to choose our future, a world where we are not discriminated on the basis of our caste, creed or color. I live in the German land today, whose people would like us to remember them for their engineering, their Oktoberfest and beer, their fantastic cars and their strong economy which is continuously bailing out troubled European neighbors. Although I have never had the privilege to know the contemporary Germans’ feelings towards their inglorious past, furious readings on the internet and discussion forums have led me to believe that they know their history, will never forget it, and move on in their lives to create goodness for times immemorial all those years of atrocities which they regret.

My fantastic sojourn in Munich continues. I am looking forward to Oktoberfest, just a week away. And I see all that is good German around me. This city has been a lovely host to me and I hope to take back some valuable memories.