His ancestors, who hailed from far-flung Chittagong, were, as he loved to flaunt to his friends with a pompous air of superiority, invited to Calcutta by Raja Nabakrishna Deb of Shovabazar. Possibly a couple of years after the Battle of Plassey.
The Battle of Plassey rewrote the history of the subcontinent for sure. However as far as my story is concerned, it marked the emergence of a new class in Bengal. A class of Babus. Diehard Anglophiles. Who took worship of their English overlords to new exalted heights. Fiercely competed with each other on entertaining their masters. The most decadent parties. The finest spirits. The most delectable food. The most graceful nautch girls.
Someone told the Raja of the Mogs.
A lawless race from Chittagong. Who along with the Portuguese had pillaged and plundered villages inland for several centuries. (Such was the ferocious intensity of their raids that even to this day Moger muluk refers to a lawless, anarchic land !!)
So the Mogs arrived in Calcutta as guests to Raja Nabakrishna Deb. To cook for his venerable English guests.
And the experiment was a runaway hit. Prolific cooks the Mogs were, already familiar with the Portuguese palate, before long they had tweaked and adapted, learnt and mastered exactly what would satiate the English masters.
But he was a wicked cook. Whose hands created magic and who learned with a vengeance.
So when the sahib threw the most ostentatious of parties which saw an overwhelming quantum of unconsumed meat, he knew he had to devise a novel way to deal with cold leftovers the next day morning.
Cold meat. Stir-fried with an abundance of chillies. A profusion of onions, enough to let your lacrimal glands go berserk. And tomatoes to moderate whatever they can of the fiendish heat.
Thus was born the Jalfrezi – jhal (hot, spicy in Bengali) frezie / parhezi ( suitable for a diet, in Persian) – Chinese stir-fry techniques in an Anglo-Indian kitchen. Created by the memsahib’s Mog bawarchi to deal with leftovers.
On my Anglo-Indian culinary journey, I cook a mean Prawn Jalfrezi this morning, luscious prawns, stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and an overload of chillies.
Enjoy my Prawn Jalfrezi, it shall leave your taste buds in a trance !!!!
Prawn Jalfrezi, the Anglo Indian Way
- 5-6 medium sized prawns de-shelled and de-veined
- 1 capsicum cut into long thick stripes
- 1 tomato cut into long stripes
- 3 big onions finely sliced
- 2-3 cloves garlic smashed
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2-3 dry red chillies coarsely torn
- 4-5 green chilies slit
- 1 tbsp black peppercorn
- 1 tbsp black pepper powder freshly ground
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp oil
- salt to taste
- Marinate the prawns with turmeric powder and a little salt. Keep aside.
- Heat oil in a pan, when smoking hot, flash fry the prawns, a minute or so, till they just change colour, keep aside.
- To the same oil, add the cumin seeds, red chillies and green chillies. Saute for a minute or so.
- Throw in the garlic, fry for just a minute. Add the sliced onions, cook till they are golden brown.
- Now add the tomatoes, sprinkle salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Throw in the capsicum strips, stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add the fried prawns, mix well.
- Cover and cook for another 5 odd minutes. Adjust seasonings.
- Serve hot.