For all the readers of this blog, it may often appear that I don’t cook much. Yes I agree I don’t cook that much but it’s untrue that like “cometh the hour cometh the man,” I don’t help her out when it’s needed. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a family and by a mom, in particular, who always encouraged helping her in household work. She was a teacher, who had to sacrifice her career to look after her in laws and ran a household single handedly. Yet, she always found time to knit sweaters for everyone, read her favourite book or listen to Rabindrasangeet. Ma never had a house help and Baba was not the helping types at all in household chores. Setting up the table, bringing in glasses of water, tossing the vegetables on the kadhai while she is busy with something else or even keeping a watch on the boiling milk were my activities. These may sound silly and insignificant but at an early age, I realised doing small household chores gave me a lot of pleasure and dignity. It also gave me an understanding of the amount of effort that goes behind the scenes in a kitchen and before the food is served on the table.
What has all these got to do with Chingri Makha?
They say, you are always a prisoner of your childhood and these small steps in formative years, remain ingrained in you. Till now, I prefer making the morning tea for everyone. It was also a custom at the home that I clear the plates after every meal if there is no help around. I have even done that when guests are at home. I swear, for once I didn’t feel anything different. I realised that I love helping in the kitchen, doing my bits and pieces when necessary. I am possessive about my whisky and wine glasses. I don’t allow anyone to clean them after a party. So, when Madhushree and Debjani were holding their pop up, I helped massively in making the chingri Makha.
You cannot prep for chingri Makha over night and serve to guests
In most dishes, the prep could be done in advance and finally cooked in the end. However, for chingri makha, everything needs to be prepared fresh and served. The stars of the show from Madhushree – Fulkopi roast, Parshe Machher jhaal, Murgir dom; all were slowly moving as per the CPM chart and amongst all the chaos, we realised that not much has been done on chingri makha. I was contributing in whatever way possible during the prep. On the D day, I really wanted to contribute to making of the chingri makha. There are few preps which needs to be done and I started with them. First the onions had to be chopped small and fine and shredded, such that it can’t be seen but can be sensed as a smell and texture . I started with that, some tears in my eyes and laugh from Tugga and chops and re chops on onions made it possible. The coriander leaves had to be separated from the stem.
Deveining the prawns for Chingri Makha – the most crucial part
The toughest part was deveining and it took me some time to get into the act. To start off, it could be done with a knife but the prawns were so small and dainty, I preferred using my thumb and forefinger. Once that was done, the prawns had to be lightly steamed and then broken into smaller pieces. I was sitting with a large bowl and silently breaking the prawns into pieces. Another important ingredient, the grated coconut was already done and waiting to go in the holy trinity. The perfectionist in me was slightly apprehensive about the size but Madhushree assured me that rustic uneven cuts is the flavour of the dish. The final step involved adding mustard oil with chopped onions, green chilies, coriander leaves and salt to taste. The degree of spunk can be altered by levels of mustard oil and green chilies.
Chingri Makha for summers
Lau chingri, chingri malaikari and shorshe chingri are some of the very popular dishes which one can name in one breath. Chingri Makha never features in this list. However, once you have it, the taste lingers on and you would want to make it once again for another meal. For summers, this can be part of the antipasti platter. Yes, we don’t take antipasti but we start with the makha (mish mash) or bhatay (aloo, uchhe, korola, ol) the list is endless.
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