TODAY -

In pursuit of that nostalgic taste and aroma

Samarjit Kambam *

Meitei Yen Thongba - Chicken Curry Meetei Style
Meitei Yen Thongba - Chicken Curry Meetei Style



We the Meeteis are a narcissistic lot. Whenever things or living objects are more beautiful or better in any respect then we use to attach the tag "Meetei". Mention may be made of Meetei Yen (chicken), the ones tastier than the squalid Broilers, Koilers, Layers and the likes. Then there are Meetei Nganus (ducks), those that looks more beautiful and taste far more better than the Bilaitis (the common ducks reared in houses of most families).

Again, the more beautiful, rare and more delicious fish called among the Sarengs are called Meetei Sarengs even though they swim down from the hills. Again, there are Meetei Ngamus (a kind of fish) because they are colourful and more dainty than the common Ngamus. There are Meetei Cheng (rice). The only nasty nomenclature is Meetei Pung(time) where coming late on any occasion be it social, personal appointment, festival is in vogue. In fact, there are many "Meetei this, Meetei that", the list is endless. Luckily we don't have Meetei Air, Meetei Fire, Meetei Dust, Meetei Storm, Meetei Fart et al.

Now coming to Meetei Yen, the irony is that we don't have any original Meetei Yens in the valley or its vicinity. Some may look strikingly original but they always turn out to be some kind of hybrid. The insipid taste is testimony to that. Even if the original breeds are reared, the feed of Broilers and Koilers are given, thus they taste like Broilers or Koilers.

The chicken which we are eating today are chicken only in name. Insipid, bland and zero aroma are its characteristic features . As of now, the original Meetei Yens are the ones brought down to the valley by our hill brethrens. Such are the breeds that are not given any hormone mixed feed. They are reared openly in the open space of the hills, eating natural vegetables and insects. The result they are strong, beautiful and the biggest plus point is that they are very very yummy.

When we were kids, eating chicken, particularly Meetei Yen was a privilege. During those times there were no chicken centres cum chicken slaughter houses. Those were the times when we used to roll worn-out bicycle tyres semi-naked till we get completely worn out. If there were news that chicken would be the dinner's recipe, the whole evening would be an evening of euphoria, a bonus evening, the evening of all evenings.

It was quite delightful to watch our elders dressing the plump chicken, most preferably the male of the species till it got completely naked. Then we would watch it to be cut into pieces with unblinking eyes. Just like over obedient kids we would get too enthusiastic to help the elders by doing our parts on the spices, onions, garlics, chillies, tomatoes, potatoes etc even though we were not called upon or invited for any help.

Once the process of cooking starts, we would gather and sit around the frying pan as if the fire and frying pan were about to tell us some beautiful stories. Course it was sort of a story, only that we listened with our noses, I mean, the aroma which was a well crafted story in itself, in fact a story of all stories. Oh! How much our bellies rumbled at the aroma.

How much we wanted the chicken curry to reach the 'ready to serve' stage. Now, coming to the eating part. The aroma was spellbindingly enthralling, the taste made us reach cloud nine. We got so engulfed in the flavor and deliciousness that we lost count of space and time, oblivious of the ambience.

Even if a bomb had fallen down from a fighter plane due to technical error and exploded right at the kitchen, we would not have minded a bit about the impact, splinters, deafening sound, flying limbs or body bags for we were too lost like living in another world.

We wanted the dinner to be a never ending one. We would get over the session only when our bellies bulged to the point of seaming apart and explode. One of us would keep on holding the leg with multipronged toes and keep on chewing it till before climbing on bed.

We used to call it "Vivian Richards Chewing Gum" because during those times when there were no cable TVs and DTHs, we used to watch cricket on Doordarshan and Vivian Richards, the skipper of South Africa, one of the best and prolific veteran batsman in the world was always seen chewing a gum, his jaws always moving, thus the nomenclature.

And then the era of Broilers, Koilers, Japanese Koils dawned opening a new chapter in the world of chicken consumption. Even the Broilers seemed to be quite sumptuous and delicious. But as time passes by, the taste got blander and more insipid and the shocking part is that there is no end to that.

As of now, they taste like saw-dust or clump of paper with the kitchen smelling like a clinic because of the chemicals and growth hormone in the meat. Some researchers have even revealed the fast-growth hormones in the chicken feed make the kids to grow too fast defying the body mass index and ratio of growth with age leading to premature puberty, obesity and the likes.

So, who or what is to be blamed for this unwanted scenario in the chicken world? Well, the feed overloaded with torrents of chemicals and hormones is one generic factor which we all agree definitely. But could there be other factors at play?.

As per my opinion, the sprouting of chicken centres at every nook and corner of the streets is also one factor for the insipid and tasteless world of chicken. It's natural that things are more precious when they are hard to find. But, nowadays, one can get access to dressed and chopped chicken instantly, the easy availability thereby bringing down its appeal and value and the frequency of consuming chicken by all and sundry makes it a scooped up meat.

The only option to get that nostalgic aroma and taste is to buy the ones brought down from the hills by our hill brothers and sisters usually at the roadsides Khuman Lampak Stadium road. Am not dictating homilies, but if you are also in the quest of that nostalgic 'real chicken' taste, please try purchasing from the above mentioned place albeit at a higher cost.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 09 2015.


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