It happened one evening

August 25, 2010

While Raj Kapoor and Nargis were serenading each other in Chori Chori, we were busy whipping a mean prawn pulao. We basically means Ma; my wife and i kept flitting between the story of the runaway girl and the kitchen.

Sunday evenings in our house are incomplete without films and food.

This time, we had zeroed in on Chori Chori to feel whether the Raj-Nargis chemistry had petered down after 14 films together. After all, this film was one of the last the pair acted together in (Jagte Raho, the last, was released a few months after Chori Chori) and significantly, by the time it was released (1956), Nargis was neck-deep in work (and love?) with Sunil Dutt in Mother India.

Raj-Nargis in Chori Chori

While we collectively chose the film, prawn pulao was Ma’s idea. The day before, Narayan, the affable fishmonger, fished out a fistful of chapra chingri (medium-sized prawns) “shudhu apnar jonyo” (just for father).

While fresh prawns are now widely available in Delhi (of course, for a price), chapra chingri is somewhat a rarity even in Calcutta. These prawns are white, appear a bit stunted but are softer and tastier than the golda (king-sized prawns but with a stiff feel) and even the bagda (smaller than golda but exported because they are delicious).

The catch generated a greedy debate on how to utilise the prawns (aquatic insects, not fish, for the uninitiated). Chingrir malaicurry (or, Malay-curry, as many say?), bhapa chingri (steamed prawns), the iconic lau chingri (prawns in gourd), chingri potol (prawns and pointed gourds), pui-chingri (a saag with smatterings of prawns) and fried prawns (my idea, because i love the insect even in its light-fried form with tea) were hotly discussed. When it seemed the votes were hopelessly divided, Ma broke the stalemate. “Let’s have prawn pulao tonight,” she said. We had no reason to object.

Another debate that often rages on between my wife and me is whether Mohammed Rafi or Manna Dey is the greatest. Hence, i was happy watching Chori Chori because Anant Thakur had prudently benched Mukesh in this film and let Manna Dey take over. Consequently, we kept on humming gems like Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum tum mile and Yeh raat bheegi bheegi… even as we munched on cookies with tea (we went light on snacks after a mutton curry in the afternoon).

Prawn pulao and fried rohu (Pic: Dwaipayan ghosh Dastidar)

The film is long and by the time we switched on the DVD player, it was already 8 pm. Ma made a mental note of when to start off with the pulao so that dinner could be served in the intermission. Readying the basic ingredients — basmati rice, ghee, garam masala and marinated prawns — she sat watching the film, noting with occasional exclamation how Chaoa Paoa, an Uttam-Suchitra film, and Dil Hai ke Manta Nahin were neat copies of the original.

I joined in (viewing films and sharing juicy nuggets go hand in hand in our house) and was told by my wife to keenly observe how similar Nargis and Dimple Kapadia look. Spicing up the yesteryear gossip — how the Kapoors hastily gave away little Dimple to Chunilal Kapadia after she was born to Raj-Nargis — were my furtive forays to my makeshift cellar.

Egg pulao, in case you are allergic to prawns. (Pic: Dwaipayan Ghosh Dastidar)

I poured chilled Appy Fizz into an apple-flavour vodka and took generous sips while watching the film, blind in the belief that you won’t stink with this drink in hand. I was ultimately cornered by my keen-nosed wife (believe me, it’s a compliment!) and my game was up just before Nargis started falling for Raj and dinner was served with a flourish.

PS: Prawn pulao is best had with a mild gravy of virtually anything (meatballs are a good idea), though it can be had as a standalone dish, like we did. I, though, forced Ma to fry some chunky rohu pieces. I liked the combination, but a bit of gravy would not have been bad.

Chapra chingrir pulao (serves four)


250 gm basmati rice

White oil


Whole garam masala

Tejpatta (bay leaves)



1 cup milk

½ tea spoon kesar

Prawn (medium sized) 250 gm

The recipe:

Marinate the prawn in salt and turmeric, light-fry in white oil and keep aside.

Wash the rice, soak it in water, strain and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Pour white oil (5tbsp) and 1 tbsp ghee in a pan, and when it starts spattering, add tejpatta, garam masala and the rice in it.

Fry the mix for two minutes.

Empty the contents in a bowl. Add the prawn, salt, sugar, a cup of water and a cup of milk, ½ tea spoon kesar and microwave the mix for 10 minutes in full power.

Garnish with cashew and red rose petals before serving.


4 Responses to “It happened one evening”

  1. Sharmi said

    See you can never keep films out of your life. And now you have even brought them in your blog, which is about food. Your post is as lipsmacking as the film 🙂

  2. netdhaba said

    @Sharmi: Thank you for your generous comment

  3. NP said

    What a coincidence…I just finished making egg biryani when I stumbled upon this post. Next time I’m going to try out this prawn pulao. Just like your Sundays are fishy-filmy, my Saturdays are dedicated to Bong food. This time I made shukto, aloo jhinge posto, aam daal and tangra mach bhaja. I’m still recovering from my gluttony 🙂

  4. netdhaba said

    @NP: Wonderful that you keep the ‘ghoroya’ cooking tradition alive!
    It’s also good to know that you get tangra maachh and all ingredients for shukto in the US.
    So next time we plan a trip abroad, we know where to go 🙂

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