The Country Chicken Story

I guess no other child in Mangalore has waited as patiently for country chickens as you have. Two days back, I finally got three of them and you were so excited that you couldn’t even speak. Your three chooks lost no time settling down in their coop and run, and right now, they are the happiest chooks in the world. They get two snacks, a bowl of fresh water, and another bowl full of rice with husk and cracked wheat every day.

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When I promised to get you chooks for your birthday on Jan 1, I thought it would be as easy as nipping to the market and purchasing a couple of them. I did just that, but they died in less than a week despite my best efforts, including three visits to the veterinary, to save them. Finally, an old farmer I met at the veterinary told me never to purchase market chooks as they are brought from Tamil Nadu in filthy train compartments, where they contract all varieties of diseases. “These chooks have to be either eaten or sacrificed as they do not live long,” he explained.

Since you want to see a hen laying eggs and hatching them, I was left with no choice but to approach strangers. As I went from house to house seeking country hens, known as naati koli in the local tongue, I learned a lot about human nature. You would have thought that finding a young rooster and a young hen in a place like Kudla, which is widely acclaimed for its cock fights, bhoota kolas, and mouthwatering chicken dishes, is the easiest thing in the world. But it turned out to be a nightmarish task.

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Here is a list of some of the conversations I had with various people.

I

Do you know anyone who sells country chickens?

No.

II

Do you know anyone who sells country chickens?

Give me ten minutes. I will call you back.

(After ten minutes)

Hey, do you want them right away? I can give them to you in three weeks. They are too small now.

III

Do you have country chickens?

Well … yeah … but you see, they are too small. How can I give them to you? They need their mother, don’t they?

IV

Do you have country chickens?

Yes … but … you see, the hen hatched six, but the mongoose took away one and the crow took away two and two of the remaining three died mysteriously. So I have only one left now and I cannot give it away because we need it for the bhoota, you know. I would have given it to you, but you understand, don’t you? Why don’t you ask X and Y and Z? I know that X has plenty of chickens, but doubt if they will give you any because they like eating chicken. Why don’t you try Y and Z?

V

Hi, do you have country chickens?

Ah… ho… hum … well, I am a bit busy. Could you wait?

            (After half an hour)

You see, you can take the hen and the two chicks, but I want the white chick back. But I can’t give them to you today because you see, today is Friday and I don’t sell chickens on Friday. Why don’t you come on Sunday?

VI

Do you know anyone who has country chickens?

Well, I don’t have them here, but there are plenty in Karkal and Moodubidri and Yedapadavu. The next time I go to my wife’s father’s house, I will definitely get a few for you. You leave your number with me.

VII

Do you have country chickens?

Yes, I have them in my ooru (place of birth). How many do you want and how big should they be?

All I want is a perade (a female) and a hunja (a male) around 2 – 3 months old.

I can get you as many females as you like, but nobody will part with a male.

VIII

(Another priceless one on Whatsapp)

            Hi, does anybody know anybody who sells country chickens? I want a young pair.

            (After half an hour)

Hey, call me when you cook them. I will come to your house (chicken emojis).  

Why is it so difficult to find country chickens in Mangalore? I can make a few guesses.

  1. Not many people in Mangalore keep chickens these days.
  2. Those who do keep chickens just do not take proper care of them. They allow their chickens to forage in dangerous places, as a result of which many chicks are lost to eagles, crows, dogs, mongooses, and cats.
  3. Chickens that fall sick are allowed to die. Very few people actually visit the vet and get medicines for their chooks.
  4. Country chickens are very expensive, sold at Rs. 350 per kg. No wonder people do not want to let go of their chooks.
  5. There is a huge demand for roosters as they are either sacrificed at bhoota kolas or used in cock fights. Large, strong roosters are sold at rates as high as Rs. 1 lakh. No wonder it is tougher to get hold of a rooster.

My search for country chickens came to an end when I read an article on country chickens by Alfie D’ Souza of Team Mangalorean. I immediately called him and he assured me that his brother would help me. I am truly grateful to Alfie’s brother for finding these three chooks for me.

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And now you want a mother hen to lay eggs, sit on them for 21 days, and hatch cute little chicks, which is something definitely worth seeing. In fact, it is one of the greatest miracles of nature—a cute little chick emerging from an egg.

I just hope that all three of them won’t turn out to be roosters as they did last time, but that is a different story.

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My Version of Batata Poha

Batata (potato) Poha (beaten rice) is not a traditional Mangalorean dish. My father, who had been in Mumbai for several years, introduced it to us. It is one of my favorites, and I just love having it for breakfast. Although many Mangaloreans have never heard of it, it is quite popular in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Unfortunately, my son does not like it. So I usually make some Neeru Dosas or sweet wheat crepes for him whenever I make Batata Poha for breakfast.

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You need the following ingredients to make Batata Poha.

  • 3 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes
  • 10 – 15 curry leaves
  • 4 – 5 red chillies (the short variety)
  • A teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • A tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Salt to taste
  • A cup of grated coconut
  • 5 – 6 handfuls of beaten rice (poha)

 

Here is how I make Batata Poha.

  1. I boil the potatoes, peel them, and mash them slightly. Be careful not to make a paste out of them. We just want some large pieces.
  2. I finely chop the onion and the tomatoes.
  3. I remove the seeds from the red chillies and wash my hands immediately. Always wash your hands after handling chillies.
  4. I grate the coconut and keep it ready. We need it for garnishing.
  5. I take a tablespoon or two of coconut oil in a large vessel and place it on the stove. When it is hot enough, I put a teaspoon of mustard seeds in it. When they stop crackling, I add the red chillies and curry leaves. The onion goes in next. When the onion is slightly brown, I put in the tomatoes. I stir the mixture till the tomatoes are nicely cooked and mashed.
  6. I then lower the flame, put in the beaten rice, sprinkle some water into it, and stir the mixture really fast. I don’t want it sticking to the bottom. If I feel that the mixture is too dry, I sprinkle some more water into it. Never pour water into the poha. You don’t want an ugly-looking paste. Just sprinkle as much water as you feel is necessary.
  7. It is now time for the potatoes and the grated coconut to go into the mixture.
  8. I add some salt to taste, stir it once or twice, and lower the vessel from the flame.

 

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Batata Poha is ready!! It is the yummiest breakfast in the whole world, and I won’t listen to people who don’t like it.

Some Tips

  • Use the thin and flaky variety of beaten rice, not the thicker variety that requires soaking before use.
  • Take as much beaten rice as you can in each handful. You need around 300gms for this recipe.
  • You can garnish with coriander leaves if you like.
  • You can use sprouted green gram instead of potatoes.
  • When I cook, I hardly measure the ingredients. Do keep this in mind when you try out this recipe. You can increase or decrease the quantity of ingredients according to your taste.
  • Feel free to add more chillies if you like it hot and spicy. You can also use chillie powder or green chillies.