Saturday, April 26, 2008

Memories: Of a birthday and tandoori chicken

Yesterday morning I phoned my daughter Rosemary to convey birthday greetings. A few hours later I found the latest CGH Earth communiqué in the morning’s post. What caught my immediate attention were the memories of ME Augustine, who worked in the CGH chain’s Casino Hotel Cochin for 40 years, and particularly his words “The tandoori chicken… was the most famous dish”.

My mind raced back to April 25,1962, five years before Augustine had joined Casino (See Dominic Joseph checks out) My wife Annie had been admitted to the Lissie Hospital that morning for her first delivery. I had to rush to the airport to pick up an important client. After lunch at Malabar Hotel (now Taj Malabar) the client asked me why I was so preoccupied. When I told him about Annie he said something like: Please go and come back with good news.

When I returned to the hotel in the evening my client was playing snooker with an American he had befriended – the Chief Officer of a ship that was in the port. I announced the arrival of my first child and the three of us went over to Casino for dinner to celebrate. The guests left the ordering to me and I chose tandoori chicken.

Those days Casino used to serve this delicious dish on a bed of ‘masala’ that included a generous quantity of cashew nuts, mashed eggs and other things that went well with the chicken. I have never come across this accompaniment to tandoori anywhere else. It used to be so tasty too.

But there was a problem. The American refused to touch the food, which looked chili hot. It took a great deal of persuasion from the two of us to make him taste a tiny piece.

Then man rolled his eyes, smiled and went after the chicken with gusto. We had an enjoyable dinner and washed it down with some fine Cognac.

I don’t know how much Casino charged for the tandoori chicken in 1962. Augustine says that it was priced Rs.8 in 1967. May be I should visit Casino to compare the current price and taste with that of the past.


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