Sunday, April 29, 2018

Robibar er Murgir Jhol -- Sunday Chicken Curry

Bengali Chicken Curry, Murgi r Jhol

Bengali Chicken Curry | Murgir Jhol

The Bengali Chicken Curry is the most simplest of Chicken Curries popular in Bengali homes. While the Goalondo Steamer Curry or Railway Chicken Curry has now gained popularity, those were not how chicken was cooked in most Bengali homes. This chicken curry recipe is the curry that millions of Bengalis in the 70's and 80's grew up with, their Mothers cooking this dish for lunch on lazy Sunday afternoons

A few months back I got an email.

This is exactly what it said


Apnake Jodi Bengali Sunday dupurer chicken curry ranna Korte hoy , family r jonno . Apni ki bhabe ranna korben ?

What is the best recipe apnar kache ? Kindly ektu information dile khub Khushi hobo .
(Didi, If you have to cook the Bengali Chicken Curry for Sunday lunch, how would you do it?)

At first I was a bit irked by this email. Not by the reader as I guessed he was a much younger guy and yet had not called me "Didi" and not Mashima !!. But you know how this "Robibar er Mangsho" has been done to death and restaurants now have it on the menu and folks who have no idea what "Robibar er Mangsho" means order it on a Wednesday night and eat it with naan and a bottle of chilled beer while watching "Didi No.1" on the telly.

It totally sucks the joy out of the whole thing. Honestly it doesn't really make much sense if you are cooking it on a non-Sunday or eating it at a restaurant or using your "food delivery" app like Swiggy to order "ek plate Robibar er Murgi dena".

As chicken slowly started replacing goat meat/mutton in the Bengali household's shopping list, due to affordability or being a leaner choice of meat, the Sunday Mutton Curry was replaced with a rustic Chicken Curry instead.

MurgirJhol, Bengali Chicken Curry, Indian Chicken Curry

Murgir Jhol | Bengali Chicken Curry

Tell me, what is a Robibar er Mangsho aka Sunday mutton Curry if not followed by hours of bhaat ghoom (siesta), bangla natok on Kolkata "Ka", and lingering turmeric colored aroma of a jhol on the tip of your fingers until Monday morning ? And most importantly, what is a Robibar er Manghso if not Goat meat!!!!

So this is what I replied

Eita trick question kina bujhlam na !!! Sunday to Sunday to exactly same hobe na. Eikhane ekta mutton er dilam. Chicken diye mostly ei rokom i kori, konodin moshla beshi, konodin jhaal beshi, konodin duto gajor instead of aloo, je rokom Sunday sei rokom jhol :-D
(I don't know if you are asking me a trick question. Whichever way you cook your chicken on a Sunday that will be your Sunday Chicken Curry!)

Bengali Chicken Curry, Murgi r Jhol

But then I cooled down. I realized the world has changed a whole lot since the times when we used to have meat only on Sundays. In the late 70's,  in most middle class Bengali families like ours, everyday lunch and dinner would be dominated by fish. And when I say fish, I don't mean Malaikari or Kaalia for dinner everyday. Simple fish curries with mustard paste or vegetables in season were the usual norm.

Now Sunday was a red-letter day as that was the only day that offices and schools were closed and so lunch would be a family affair. That was also the day when goat meat was cooked for lunch in most Bengali homes. Meat, in particular Goat meat, was not something we ate every day. It was both expensive and also considered a food rich for daily consumption. Chicken or Murgi was not cooked in most Bengali homes that had matriarch like my Grandmother's. She allowed goat meat but considered "murgi" foreign and so it was banned from her kitchen.

So mutton curry aka "pa(n)thar mangsho" on some Sundays(usually the Sundays earlier in the month soon after payday) was something we lived in anticipation for. By the sheer magic of being a rare and thus much awaited occasion, the Sunday Lunch of Meat Curry and rice took a special position in our heart.

Things changed a fair bit after "chicken" started being used widely in Bengali kitchens. Chicken was cheaper than goat meat, cooked faster, and so it could be cooked on any other day too instead of fish. Often on Sundays, goat meat was getting swapped with "murgi", making it a "Robibar er Murgi'r Jhol". It was not a recipe with unique ingredients, nor was it a heirloom one. It was just a chicken curry, cooked fresh with freshly ground spices, that was had with rice for lunch and led to long hours of siesta afterwards. Yes, the siesta part stayed the same.

As we became global and more connected, that humble chicken or mutton curry was pushed aside for what seemed more fancy names like "karahi gosht" or "chicken rezala" or "coq au voin". Meat wasn't special enough to be cooked only on Sundays any more. You could have it any time. If not at home then outside. And since we all know that familiarity breeds contempt, we didn't really bother about "Sunday Dupur er Mutton Curry" any more. Until that is we grew older and nostalgia struck big time. We didn't want to eat mutton curry whenever we could, we wanted to wait, to build up that excitement for we finally understood that
Happiness is not in getting something but in the waiting.

In my home here, we eat chicken a couple times a week. Strangely we eat mutton maybe once in a couple of months. On a Saturday or a Sunday, when I cook chicken or mutton I usually stick to that same age old recipe my Mother followed on her Sundays.Nothing extraordinary, no special ingredients. I also cook with a lot of jhol. My daughters call this "Weekend er mangsho'r jhol". For them, it is a curry that has potatoes and enough gravy to be mixed with rice.

Here's the recipe of Sunday Dupur er Chicken Curry for the next gen. After wading many waters and making onion paste, grating onion, blah, blah, I have realized the easiest and simplest recipe works best. After all, who wants to waste all of Sunday making Chicken Curry for lunch ?

I also use a Radhuni Meat masala, which my friend had got for me from a Bangladeshi store. It is really good. In its absence use any other Meat masala.

To read about the Sunday tradition and goat meat curry click here - Bengali Pa(n)thar Mangshor Jhol
Another simpler recipe from my Ma-in-law of a mutton curry -- Robibar er Mangsho'r Jhol