February 21, 2023
After binge watching Iron Chef Mexico and Iron Chef Brazil over the weekend, any dream other than me cooking and winning the coveted swords would be cheating my brain. Voila! true to its behavior the subconscious brain didn’t cheat on me.
I had the most beautiful dream with beautiful people in it, including Eddie uncle!
For those who still have better things to do in life, than watching Netflix, Iron Chef is a show where every contestant, a renowned chef challenges an even more well-known chef. There is a secret ingredient that has to be the highlight of every dish and the first dish has to be served in 20 minutes. That was insane. Some of us usually take up 20 minutes just to peel and chop onions!
Anyway, Eddie uncle and I were partners in the competition and defeating hundreds of other candidates we somehow made it to the grand finale. We are against 5 great chefs – surprisingly none of the chefs were from Iron chef. All of them were from the other show called “The Final Table” and all of them were ladies, needless to say – pretty!
When the secret ingredient was announced amidst much suspense, Eddie uncle and I were elated- It was FISH, our staple. How hard could it be?
Eddie uncle as always was bustling about getting fish and I had to calm him down “Arre uncle, we need not go the market, they will provide us with whatever we need”
“I hope they give us good rates” Eddie uncle was in his element.
“Let’s hope so” I just went along with his flow.
As we sneaked a peek to the other side, those 5 ladies had already begun cooking and there we were, without even knowing what we wanted to cook.
“Bloody hell, Anil. What do we cook?” Eddie uncle asked.
“Well, we can make some nice fish curry” I replied.
“That is one. What about the other 4?” he enquired. We had to make 5 dishes.
“Oh My” I replied “What about masala tawa fry?”
“Two done!” Eddie uncles confidence soared.
“Three rava, four pulimunchi and five ghee roast” I was quick on my feet.
“You idiot. Do you think the judges have come to Machali to eat thali?” he fumed “think different”.
“That is all I have eaten all my life, uncle. The most innovative I can think now is fish with butter and garlic”.
We both were quiet for a while.
The other side were cutting and chopping vegetables, making broth and sushi and what not. We had already wasted 3 minutes reciting the menu of any fish-curry restaurant in Mangalore.
“How did we even get here, Uncle?” I began to panic. Our 20 minutes would go by, just by thinking. Inspite of having eaten fish all our lives, we weren’t able to think beyond fish fry and fish curry.
I could hear Eddie uncle taking a deep breath! Ah! That breath. A semblance of peace and order engulfed me.
Eddie uncle took charge of the proceedings. “Just do what I say”.
Our first dish was Galmbyachi chutney- a mildly spiced, coarsely ground coconut chutney with dried prawns and a bowl of Pez or Ganji, decorated with two coriander leaves and two thin slices of raw mango. When Eddie uncle could not find enough dried prawns, he threw in some dry shark pieces into it along with freshly chopped onions.
Oh my god! My heart was pounding when we served our first dish, a dish we ate almost every day with pez. The accompanying story got the judges and the pretty hostess teary eyed. “You know, I come from a poor family and when we don’t have anything we quickly make this and eat with watery rice called Ganji”
“Oh! my Eddie and Anil, this dish is so…...” the old judge choked on the raw mango “comforting. It reminds me of your childhood in a country like yours”. I was about to rush and defend my country when Eddie uncle nudged me. I wanted to tell her that probably the shows software was developed in my country, but then realized that she is right, we still have a long way to go.
“The crunchy onions elevate this dish. I have never eaten a dried shark before. Very good”
The first round was ours. The other sides raw fish with tomato water didn’t stand a chance!
We rushed back to our stations and while Eddie uncle whipped a fish curry with coconut milk, I marinated bangde with one side masala and the other side Rava. We still had two dishes to go!
This is when the true genius of Eddie uncle came to the forefront. He asked me “Khube is considered fish here, right?”
I nodded. I honestly don’t remember where we were cooking. All the judges and hostess were from a foreign land.
He made bite sized Khube mutli or Marwai Pundi. He masterfully concealed the khube curry inside those mutli so that when the judge cut it, the curry and khube oozed out.
For the last dish we made King fish grilled over fire with nothing but salt, pepper, lemon and coconut pieces- all wrapped in a banana leaf. The banana leaf was charred to ashes while I felt the king fish was a bit undercooked for my liking.
The judges were floored!
“This rice dumpling is so well formed and this coconut gravy with clams is so refreshing. It is like a river in my mouth” said one judge with a mouthful of clams and gravy. “However, the dumpling could have been softer”
In my mind, I was like “What? Mutli are supposed to be that way. If you want soft, you might as well eat balls made of Uppit”
“The techniques used in the fish fry. I have never had such a unique fish fry with so many flavors. Though it was slightly spicy, it tingled my taste buds. Thank you,” said the other judge. “However, the coconut oil is overpowering the dish. Olive oil could be milder and also healthier”
In my mind I was like “Any oil other than coconut oil for fish fry is crime. How can one fry fish in olive oil which is incapable of even infusing flavor to a salad – a untouched side dish for us, mostly untouched in our meal”.
“The use of indigenous ingredients- Wow, I am floored. However, usage of coconut in your dishes is a bit overwhelming and that might be something against you”.
I had restrained myself till now, but I could not control it any longer. How dare he speak against my coconut. I charged at the judge, held his ponytail and began drowning him in the same indigenous yet overpowering fish curry bowl!
That was it!
We lost the Iron chef battle! But the crowd was with us.
I could hear them cheering us “Eddie Eddie” “Anil Anil”.
Amongst the crowd I heard a very familiar voice.“Get up, you dimwit. Eddie uncle is here to accompany you to the fish market”. It was my wife!
What a dream it was. Refreshing and soul warming just like all those episodes of Iron Chef.