Saturday, 11 October 2014

Junglee Murgh and Sonar Kella

Last evening I had the house to myself. My parents were out with friends and my brother was off to his friend's place for the night. Such evenings are a treat, not that I do not enjoy spending time with the family, but I savour every minute I get to spend with myself. Usually when alone at home, I make myself a cup of coffee or pour myself a glass of wine if there is a bottle lying around, crawl into bed with a book, pull on the covers, lose myself in the pages of a novel. Nowadays though, Buddy, my two-and-a-half year old dog (the love of my life really)fit makes sure I do not get too lost, with his occasional licks and mattress-digging fits. Anyway the plan last evening was a similar one. I am currently reading Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul: Memories and the city. I had begun reading the book last year before I went on my trip to Turkey, but somehow hadn;t managed past a few pages. I started right at the beginning and I must say reading the book after visiting the city inspires a more involved perspective. Anyway last evening too I crawled into bed and started reading but couldn't concentrate. I was restless and my mind was wandering at its own sweet will. So I turned on the television, aimlessly surfing channels until I screeched to a halt at one channel, one I have hardly ever watched. The music, that tune, was so familiar, a tune I associated with thrilling excitement.

And I was right. They were indeed showing Satyajit Ray's Sonar Kella (Golden Fortress), one of my favourite film. i have watched it a million times, and I will watch it a million times more. For the uninitiated Sonar Kella the film is a cinematic adaption of a book of the same name, which is one among his series of detective novels that trace the adventures of  private investigator Prodosh Chadra Mitter aka Feluda. The story has reincarnation and past life at the heart of the mystery. A little boy Mukul is haunted by memories of his past life and his distressed parents are at their wits end. Mukul would wake up in the middle of the night and draw pictures of forts, houses, wars etc which he claims to have seen with his own eyes. The pictures are clearly reminiscent of Rajasthan but Mukul has never been there. As the news spreads a journalist comes to interview him and Mukul mentions precious stones he has seen at home, of course in his previous life. In the meantime Dr Hemanga Hajra, a renowned parapsychologist convinces Mukul's parents to allow the boy to travel to Rajasthan with him, for the purpose of his research on matters like past life regression.

However, things take a nasty turn when another boy in the neighbourhood, whose name is also Mukul, is kidnapped by two men. The boy is later returned unconscious, and it clear that the kidnappers were looking for the other Mukul, now on his way to Rajasthan. It is also clear that they wouldn't stop before they can get their hands of the right Mukul. Bewildered Mukul's father approaches the invincible Feluda and pleads with him to ensure Mukul's safety. Feluda sets off in pursuit of adventure along with his cousin Topshe (their relation is something like that between Holmes and Watson, the inspiration behind the characters anyway).

My earliest memories of watching Sonar Kella goes back to my Kindergarten days. Back then during Summer holidays they would telecast a special programme for children every afternoon. The programme was titled Chhuti Chhuti. Usually they showed a film is episodes through the week, a new one every week, along with puppet shows, creative tutorials, story-telling sessions etc. Ray Sonar Kella, Joi Baba Felunath (another Feluda Novel) and Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen were mandatory Chhuti Chhuti films. I would tell you all about my love for Feluda in another post, I must. For now it is enough to know that I adore him.

However, why I love Sonar Kella all the more is because it is while on this case Feluda meets Lal Mohan Ganguly, a crime fiction author who writes under the pen name Jatayu. Jatayu becomes a permanent partner is all of Feluda's adventures henceforth. Jatayu's idiosyncracies to me are the best part of all Feluda novels. And the late Santosh Dutta brings Jatayu to life like no one else can or have. (Ray in his lifetime turned two of his Feluda novels into films, Sonar Kella and Joi Baba Felunath, his son Sandip Ray has made a string of Feluda films with a different set of actors. And though Jatayu's ole has been essayed by Bengali cinema's comic greats like Rabi Ghosh, Santosh Dutta wholly owned that character). Anyway, the thing is everytime I watch Sonar Kella my desire to visit Rajasthan escalates. I haven't been there yet and I can't wait to. I was in Benaras in February this year, the setting for Joi Baba Felunath, and I was thrilled to walk the same lanes Feluda walked in the film, and sit on the stair of the Munshi Ghaat where Feluda brought villain Maganlal Meghraj and Machhli Baba to task. And now I can't stop thinking of a trip to Rajasthan. December might be a good time I am thinking. However, since there was no way I would find myself in Jaisalmer or Jaipur anytime soon, I compensated with some Rajasthani food.

I made myself some Junglee Murgh, a legendary Rajasthani delicacy. As the name suggests this dish is said to have been a staple on hunting expeditions among Rajasthan's royalty. Made with just three main ingredients, Ghee, Red Chilies and Garlic, this dish is perhaps the simplest dish you will make. Simple but delectable. And it is no secret how much cooking with fewer ingredients excite me. I have, however, added my own little touch to the recipe.Actually I had wanted to make Junglee Maas (mutton/lamb) but since there was none at home I made do with chicken All I can say the entire bowl of chicken,over a kilo, was polished off in the name of tasting, The Junglee Maas didn't make it to the lunch table, and we had to cook a quick fish curry for lunch.


Boneless chicken cut in small pieces - 1 kg
Coarsely minced garlic - 1.5 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
Peppercorns- 6-8
Ghee - 250 g
Whole Dried Red Chilies - 20-25
Salt to taste


Heat ghee in a deep bottomed pan.

Add the fenugreek and peppercorns.

Once they begin to flutter add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. We do not want it to catch colour.

Now toss in the red chilies followed by the chicken.

Fry the chicken for a few minutes in order to seal in the juices, add salt, reduce heat and keep frying chicken until tender and oil has separated.

Enjoy with piping hot parantahs or rotis. Or just on its own like people at my place did.

PS. It taste even better after it has rested for a while and the heat from the chilies has penetrated deep into the meat. So if you have time, let it rest for a while, and reheat before eating it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this dish. Made this for dinner and it was yummy. Can't wait to try your other dishes. Thanks once again.