Julia Child in Delhi – Colleagues wali Curry, Hazrat Nizamuddin East
Experiment with fish.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Rotis are ready, as well as the rice. Dinnertime is nearing. Eggs have been boiled and shelled. The small portion of yellow arhar dal is only for the two vegetarians. Meanwhile, the karahi containing the main dish of fish curry is still on the fire.
It is around 8.30pm in the city’s affluent Hazrat Nizamuddin East. The men are preparing their night meal under the dim light of a solitary lamp. Labourers by profession, they are staying temporarily at this address as part of an assignment to lay the foundation of a new building. Their living quarter is right next to their work site. At this moment, the men are inside their makeshift camp of tirpal sheets and wooden poles, busy with the final stages of cooking (though two half-visible figures are idly huddled upon a corner cot).
In his late 40s, Harbar Lal is the eldest in the group. Everyone calls him “guru.” He has “tantric” powers, his colleagues say semi-seriously, explaining that the man’s hands are magical, and a massage by him instantly heals them of their body aches. Harbar Lal looks downwards, shyly.
For dinner tonight, one kg of rohu fish was purchased by Raja some hours ago at a nearby mandi. Gamely agreeing to share their recipe, a few of the men pose for a portrait alongside the curry-in-progress. From left: Rajgir, Ajay, Pawan Kumar Sharma, Rajesh, Ram Vilas, Harbar Lal, and Neeraj.
Rohu fish, 1 kg
Mustard oil, 5-6 big spoons
Ginger, 1 sprig, chopped
Garlic, 7-8 cloves, peeled and crushed
Onions, 3-5, sliced
Kali mirchi, to taste
Sookhi Lal mirchi, to taste
Jayphal, to taste
Ajwain, to taste
Mustard seeds, half-spoon
Wash the fish pieces thoroughly.
Pour the whole mustard oil into a karahi, and keep it on fire.
Deep-fry the fish. Add no spice.
Keep the fried fish on a thali and set it aside. Don’t throw away the oil.
Add all the spices into the bubbling oil, and stir nonstop for a few seconds.
Add ginger, garlic, onions into the karahi, stirring the mix till it gets slightly brown.
Add fried fish. Stir thoroughly.
Add water, and let the curry cook for 20 minutes.
Eat with rice or roti.