Realization dawned on me this morning that it has been six whole months since we moved to this enchanted city, Vienna. That thought, coupled with the fact that we are on the third month of 2017, leaves me with my jaw on the floor. I cannot for anything believe that it has been almost a full year since I said goodbye to my bustling and not particularly exciting life in Mumbai; when my mom had come over to help me pack, into twenty thousand suitcases, all the earnings I had fetched for myself in the form of all sorts of garbage, over the seven years of my stint in Pune/Mumbai.
Today, as I sit around munching on a bowl of dried fruits and crunchy nuts, I get reminded that this will be my first spring ever. Spring to me, has always been confined within the hardbound covers of the books I have loved or behind the screen of the television. The closest I have got to spring was probably in my Social Studies classes in third grade, sitting in a boiling classroom in Kerala, when I was taught the four seasons. That piece of information obviously made little sense to that 8-year-old who came from that part of the world, where people would refuse to give the weather talk a break, if the temperature dared to fall as much as below a solid 30 degrees Celsius; where we wore the same kind of clothes all the year over; where we were taught to shower twice a day from January to December. Now that I am in a place where I get to witness spring for myself, I can finally accept that it is not as mythical as it seemed to that 8-year-old. Watching the trees, the shrubs and the grass coyly coming back to life, is as exciting as the child once imagined it to be.
Sorry, the powerful desire for an afternoon siesta took over my soul and I dozed off. Now that I am up and have stuffed my face with a second lunch that comprised another bowl of the leftover chicken pulao from last night with a cold glass of orange juice to wash it down, I am ready to talk more. Yes, coming back to what I was saying. I lived a score and six years of my life in India. Apart from the occasional holidaying abroad, I have never ‘lived’ anywhere else. So, it goes without saying that Vienna is a land of firsts, for me. It is probably my first time when I don’t know a single other person living in my building. Coming from India, where the line between friendliness and psychotic intrusion got blurred a long time ago, if I am honest I am sometimes torn between feeling the need for someone to know me by my name versus the absolute pleasure of just going about doing your own sweet thing. I can’t tell if this particular emotion is a tiny prick to the ego because I don’t seem to bear any significance whatsoever, in the lives of the people around or if it that feeling of utter cheerful abandon, where you are more than welcome to just do what your heart tells you without the constant anxiety of what the neighbourbood would say.
Something else that is a first for me, is the miraculous public transport system here and how people, irrespective of their designation or bank balance, use public transport. I remember, in Mumbai, I would rather stay stuck in traffic for 2 hours than get my visceral organs squished out of my mouth on a local train. I used to be the one to call for an Uber every time I sneezed. Back in Kerala, beyond a certain level in the social strata (not that high up either), using public transport such as buses is looked at with disdain. Utterly illogical but that is unfortunately how a group of insecure people, who have nothing to their credit apart from the money they happened to recently get a hold of, living together thrive; the criteria that are prevelant while making the progress report for a person’s worth is ridiculously funny in most parts of our country but I shall reserve that for another day. Coming back to cabs, I learnt as soon as I moved here that I couldn’t do that primarily because the public transport is on point and also because I can’t afford cabs by habit.
What I am about to list out next, is something that warrants a longer rant, so, I shall leave just a precis here which will be developed on another day. It is nothing but the bizarre Indian practice of keeping people who speak English reasonably well, high up on a pedestal with a garland around their necks, and treating them like gods. Don’t be surprised to see other measly beings touching the god’s feet every now and then too. It could possibly be the aftermath our colonial masters left behind them, but it is more often than not, atrociously funny. I am used to seeing people around me being apologetic and filled with shame when (if ever they do) they need to introduce some family member of theirs who does not know English. It is invariably this line. “Hey, sorry man, my mom does not speak English.” I have heard that umpteen times since my Hindi was at that point, negligible and a work in progress. Why were they apologetic?! I was pleasantly surprised to see the change in how the same sentence is framed in this part of the world. “Oh my parents speak only Italian!” Do you spot the difference or are you thick? That was a first. When a single language became the yard stick for a person’s worth, I will never know. Most people in this part of the world are multi lingual to the extent that they are people who speak as much as seven languages fluently. That, I feel is reason enough to be proud. But you, measly creature, who barely manages to scrape the epidermis of English and says with utmost pride that you don’t understand/speak even your respective mother tongues, please go hang your head in shame for a good two hours. It really does not count for anything. And for those of you who think you have conquered the world with your subliminal English speaking skills, let me assure you, you haven’t. 🙂
Back in to business. Today I share with you the recipe for a dish that can make you look nothing short of an Indian chef-extraordinaire. It is a Malwani Chicken Sukka. Malwani cuisine comes from the Konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa. Typically a coastal area, the cooking in this part of the nation is extremely flavoursome and uses coconut liberally, which I love. So without further ado, here goes the recipe.
Things you will need:
- Chicken- 500 gms
- Onions- 2 medium thinly sliced
- Fresh coriander leaves- 1/4 cup
For the Malwani Masala
- Dried red chillies- 5
- Whole peppercorns- ½ tsp
- Cloves- 5
- Bay leaf-1
- Mustard seeds- ½ tsp
- Cinnamon stick- a small piece
- Cumin seeds- ½ tsp
- Star anise- 1
- Coriander seeds- 2 heaped tbsp.
- Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
For the paste
- Coconut grated- a little more than half cup
- Onion- 1 small
- Green chillies- 2
- Garlic pods- 3
- A small piece of ginger
How to go about it:
- Dry roast all the ingredients from 1-9 under the head “for the malwani masala” in a pan till they start releasing the aroma. Let the spices cool, before proceeding to make a smooth powder in a mixer grinder. Add the turmeric to this powder and keep it aside. “malwani spice mix”
- Next we move to the coconut paste. In the mixer grinder, grind all the ingredients from 1-5 under the head “for the paste” and keep it aside. “coconut paste”
- Next heat some cooking oil in a wok and sauté the onions till they are a nice golden brown.
- Add the coconut paste to the onions, stir well and keep sauteeing till the coconut is beginning to change colour. This should take about 7-8 minutes on medium flame. Keep sauteeing to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
- Add the malwani spice mix to the wok and stir well to form a homogenous texture.
- Add the chicken to the wok and mix it well to make sure the masala is coated well on all the pieces uniformly.
- Add about half a glass of water, mix well and keep the wok closed till the chicken is fully cooked. Open and check once in a while to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
- Once the chicken is cooked, open the wok and fry the chicken on a higher flame to ensure the gravy is thick and the dish attains the desired consistency.
- Add the coriander leaves, mix well and take the wok off the heat.
- Keep wok closed for about ten minutes before serving.
- Dig in! 🙂