The Art of Making an Authentic South Indian Chicken Curry (But Not on April Fool’s Day)




Like fleeing husk from chaffed rice in a sudden whorl of wind. The past surrounds and suffocates – cloudy, thick and sullen.


I try to shake it off.


I tried. I really did.


I have been trying for the last 14 years.


Here I am on the first day of April showing you how to cook a South Indian chicken curry. But the smell of garlic and ginger, all finely grated, stings with visions of yesteryears.


When I was ten, appa, taught me the finer aspects of South Indian cuisine. It all began with seeds and roots and rhizomes and buds and barks that had to be fresh.


Curry pods, bought from Teka market, had to be first washed at home. A few rinses— not just once—or I get a disapproving look. Dried red chilies—those too had to be rinsed by hand. We never wore gloves. So you can imagine just how red hot our hands were when we finished cleansing the chilies.


Then, Raja and I had to take them down to the bottom of our HDB flat in Toa Payoh, all the way down from eight storeys, and dry them out on the grassy field. We spread old newspapers out on the ground, weighted them down with rocks on the edges, and poured out the moist spices on the paper, evening them out to a thin layer.


Like scarecrows, we sat to watch over them. Pigeons watched too catching the scent of spices, and waddled towards them. But they could never get too close.


My older brother always had his football with him. Raja would juggle, toss and tackle, and I ran along. Occasionally the ball landed on the spices, sending them flying. We didn’t tell dad, else we would have to repeat the whole process of rinsing and drying. After getting smacked, of course.


What next? Pass me those shallots please.


What happened next? Read the rest of this short story when She Never Looks Quite Back by Mallika Naguran is out.