When you belong to the family of food lovers you are likely to be satisfied during every casual gathering, for besides the idle chatter and jokes, food is a must. A visit to a restaurant or to some way side inn may bring equal amount of joy but nothing compares to the joy of cooking and eating together in the midst of aroma, and the steam filling the kitchen, it's altogether a difference experience when one is busy taking each bite in between the cooking, tasting for salt, chili, flavor and the joy of seeing the finished dish on the table which has been created from the ingredients which were spread before you in their raw state only a few moments ago. The rich flavors of the sauces and its' rich taste is the one to die for and the party continues, everybody eating and over-eating and still wanting some more till the tummy begins to protest and groan loud enough for us to stop.
Such is the beautiful moment that I experience each time I visit my family in Poona and this week-end it was no different.
It was the Easter week-end and this time, it was my nephew who volunteered to cook one of his specialties, steamed fish and wanton soup, which was decided after a reasonable thought given to many different options that included Dimsims too. For me, it didn’t matter, as long as I was to get some exotic food and that too at home.
The remarkable quality about my nephew’s cooking is that there is no recipe-book to refer to and all his dishes are made on instinct factor and of course there will be some accidents but all is taken in one’s stride, with due encouragement given periodically by his parents who themselves are good cooks, and can offer great culinary advice by just glancing at the dish.
So, when I went for evening walk with a friend down the lane (to be out of his way of cooking and prompting), I refused all the street food lined along the side-walks so that I could be hungry at dinner time and enjoy the flavors on an empty stomach.
At 9pm, the drool flooding my palate, I enter the house, to the sumptuous meal, only to see the kitchen with ingredients still scattered on the kitchen table. In moments like this a glass of drink would be an option, or should I nibble on something? I glanced at the wall clock and it stared back at me with a loud signal "Wait!"
The wanton were to be made of shrimps, but the frozen-last-minute-shopping-in-emergency shrimps were stale and after cooking they smelled terrible and had to find their exit into the garbage can, this had to be replaced by another-frozen-in-the-freezer-last-minute-no-choice-boneless-chicken. The wanton dough was rolled out into circles for the cooked-minced-filling but because the shrimps had to be replaced by chicken-filling, the wanton circles dried up during that lapse, therefore after filling, when they were dumped into the soup for boiling; it giggled and stubbornly oozed out the filling into the soup and it had to be remolded with wetting-and-making-it-behave-as-it-is-supposed-to-behave-that-means-not-sprouting-the-filling-and-floating-limply-with-a wrinkled-skin.
It was one of the worst days perhaps, because the mixie betrayed too and refused to work and all the grinding had to be done on a chopper, but the spirit did not drip and my nephew continued to cook, having promised to cook a tasty meal.
I waited, when finally nephew emerged from his kitchen, his face flushed red with steam and heat, nodding his head side-wise and announcing his regret at not being able to cook to perfection.
‘Aw’ said I,
‘Aw’ said his mom,
‘Aw’ said his dad,
All of us showing sympathy but encouraging him nevertheless adding that mistakes do happen even to the professionals.
We waited with bated breath as his dishes made appearance, one by one, at the dining table.
Nephew knows that the dish should be visually appetizing and his presentation did make us drool, The aroma that followed the steamed fish didn’t match the apology that came with it. The steamed fish was beautifully decorated with pakchoi, red capsicum, and spring onions. A spoonful of fish melted instantly into the mouth with the perfect flavors of sweet and salt exploding in the mouth. Within minutes, the fish disappeared from the plate leaving behind its bare bones; it was so tasty that only a yum was heard between the bites.
The soup was delicious too with wantons floating in the soup and the spring onion garnish making the dish more appetizing. The resulting dish was mind boggling and I was not surprised when I over-ate and didn’t stop until I burped. It was worth the wait, only two hours late.