I grew up in a Gujarati household in Zimbabwe. As an immigrant, I’ve all the time struggled to really feel at house within the U.S., however by no means extra so than final yr when my husband and I moved to Maine, the whitest state within the nation.
Mainers name individuals who aren’t born within the state “from away.” At first, I discovered this endearing. But quickly, I spotted that regardless of how lengthy I lived right here I might all the time be from away — not like my husband, whose pale face and blond hair allowed him to cross as native.
Knowing the solace I discover in meals, my husband promised that lobster can be the salve for my isolation. In the summer season of 2021, lobster roll costs peaked all through New England. It was regular to spend $34 on a single roll. Still, on a damp weekend spent unpacking our new home, I insisted we deal with ourselves. The rolls appeared decadent: pillowy, buttered buns hugged beneficiant piles of cool, creamy lobster meat. On the primary chew, I closed my eyes, ready for the fragile blandness to present method to an explosion of taste.
But quickly, the lobster roll vanished. I discovered myself unceremoniously utilizing my finger to wipe up flecks of mayonnaise from the plate.
The explosion by no means got here.
Undeterred, I attempted lobster each manner I might discover it. Doused in butter. Boiled with corn. Coated thickly and thinly with mayonnaise. I sensed a touch of magic every time, nevertheless it was all the time fleeting. I felt responsible that I wasn’t having fun with it as a lot as everybody else was.
After a number of months in Maine, I developed a nagging sense that lobster would style higher (to me) if it have been curried. When I used to be rising up, my household would haul seafood from Mozambique; we curried crabs, langoustines, and crayfish. The tang of tamarind unlocked layers of taste that lemon juice couldn’t. But I used to be embarrassed to ask Mainers in regards to the concept: I nonetheless remembered the cringe I felt as a child when my father would take out his personal sizzling sauce at a French restaurant and slather a fragile, buttery sole meunière along with his spicy elixir. Locals insisted that lobster needed to be eaten with minimal added elements in order to not overpower its subtlety. I felt déclassé for even contemplating in any other case. Once, I’d ordered a lobster roll with butter (Connecticut model) reasonably than mayonnaise (Maine model). “This isn’t Boston,” stated the lady behind the counter. “We don’t make that nonsense here.” Can you think about if I had requested her, “Enough to make lobster curry for four, please?”
Eventually, although, I couldn’t assist myself. Over Skype with my mom in Zimbabwe, I spent hours creating a curry sauce tempered with contemporary curry leaves, coconut, and mustard seeds — flavors our household borrowed from the coastal cities of Kerala. The trick with the tempering (or vagaar) is to attend till the mustard seeds pop and little wisps of smoke seem above the oil; add the onions earlier than the spices burn.
Recently, I served the curry to 4 white American company. Two have been born-and-raised Mainers who labored in native politics. I used to be nervous as I watched them determine it out. At first, they have been mild, utilizing silver spoons to swirl the garlicky tamarind broth — an ideal stability to the sweetness of the meat and brine of the ocean.
I grabbed a claw cracker and felt the stiff shell give manner in my palms. Creamy curry dribbled onto my proper hand and midway down my arm. I remembered my grandfather in Zimbabwe who would eat dal with such gusto that he would lick his arm from elbow to wrist. I used a serviette.
Soon, our company adopted swimsuit. All you can hear on the desk was cracking, slurping, clinking of wine glasses. As I watched a contemporary tablecloth grow to be destroyed, I spotted that this was an intimate expertise. To get pleasure from this meal, we would have liked to go away Western concepts of dinner desk propriety on the door and revel within the raunch of all of it. It made me snort extra deeply than I had since we moved to Maine; I lastly felt at house in my very own home.
I hadn’t realized simply how a lot our company have been having fun with themselves till Nicole, whose household has lived in Maine for generations, noticed me combating the carapace of a tail. Without asking, she reached over and grabbed the tail out of my palms. With a swift wringing movement, she gripped it and twisted her fists in reverse instructions. As the shell fell away, brown curry sauce spurted throughout the desk and trickled by means of her fingers. A morsel of chicken coated in an excellent orange mottle plopped into my bowl and splattered my bib with sauce.
“There we go,” she stated. “That’s how you eat lobster curry.”
Lobster Curry Recipe
2 contemporary lobsters
For the vagaar:
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2 teaspoons dried, flaked coconut
5 contemporary curry leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 dry pink chile
1 teaspoon chopped contemporary ginger
1 white onion, diced
For the curry:
½ can chopped tomatoes, liquidized in a meals processor
½ cup rooster inventory
3-6 cups water, divided
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon garam masala
1 ½ teaspoons coriander-cumin powder*
½ – 1 teaspoon Kashmiri pink chile powder (to style)
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped contemporary cilantro stems
1 tablespoon Swad tamarind focus, or 2 teaspoons Tamicon tamarind focus
1 teaspoon sugar
1 can coconut milk
For the garnish:
½ cup chopped contemporary cilantro leaves
1 lemon, lower into wedges
Step 1: After humanely killing the lobsters (assuming you’re utilizing reside ones), lower them every into 4 items: head, claws, and tail. Set apart.
Step 2: Make the vagaar: Heat the oil in a big pot set over excessive warmth. Once the oil is sizzling, add the coconut, curry leaves, mustard seeds, pink chile, and ginger. Do not let the spices burn. Once the mustard seeds pop, add the chopped onions and switch the warmth right down to low. Cook till the onions are translucent and simply turning golden — don’t brown or caramelize them.
Step 3: Now, you can also make the curry: To the onions, add the tomatoes, inventory, and three cups of water. Stir, then add the garlic, garam masala, coriander-cumin powder, pink chile powder, turmeric, salt, and cilantro stems. Simmer till the sauce thickens to the consistency of cake batter.
Step 4: To the thick sauce add the lobster, tamarind paste, sugar, and sufficient water (2-3 cups) to cowl the lobster no less than midway. Bring to a boil for quarter-hour, stirring sometimes and turning the lobster items over in order that the sauce seeps into the crevices of the lobster shell and thickens once more to a gravy consistency.
Step 5: Once the sauce has thickened, add the coconut milk and convey to a boil as soon as extra.
Step 6: Garnish the lobster with the chopped cilantro leaves. Serve it piping sizzling with contemporary sourdough or basmati rice and a lemon wedge for every visitor to squeeze. (The squeeze of lemon on the finish is essential, nevertheless it’s good to let company do it themselves.)
Khameer Kidia is a Zimbabwean author and doctor. His essays have been revealed in venues corresponding to Slate, Los Angeles Review of Books, New England Journal of Medicine, and the Yale Review. You can discover him on Twitter @kkidia.
Louiie Victa is a chef, recipe developer, meals photographer, and stylist residing in Las Vegas.
Recipe examined by Louiie Victa