three-pot chitnis and his famous madras curry
Taarrank Chitnis arrived in Nambucca Heads on the 23rd of July 1980 from Mooradabad in Uttar Pradesh, India. Paperwork a little on suspect side.
Taarrank said he was seventeen years old and both his parents had been killed in the 1980 riots. His brother and little sister had fled for Turkey in the back of a container with thirty others while he headed south on his Tod. He hopes they made it but seeing they don’t know where he ended up he’ll most probably never find out.
The O’Brien twins, both good Catholic boys, planned to row him to their camp across the estuary after a farmer found Taarrank sleeping rough under Murrays Bridge at South Arm and got in touch with the local St Vincent de Paul outfit.
This was after he told them he was the best Madras Curry cook in India and there wasn’t much in the way of good Indian tucker in the Bucca those days for those that liked it.
To prove it he showed them his three pots, all battered and blackened from woodfire on the outside yet scrubbed silver inside.
So the brothers named him Three-Pot on the spot, and after shelling out thirty dollars for some shopping they waited for the Vinnies bloke and Three-Pot to get back to the river with the makings.
Tom O’Brien remembers the preparation.
‘The bloke’s got a bag of food half his size, being a little bloke, and after me and Geoff got a good sized fire started he’s chucked about half-a-dozen chicken pieces into one pot and a chopped up carrot and onion in another – this after splashing a little veggie oil over ’em – that done he lays out all the tucker on a couple of towels and arranges it into some sort of order. Fussy little bloke and not too strong on the English. Just as well the tins and jars had pictures on them.
So as soon as the chooks were cooked, he whips them out and cleans the pot, then fills it with water and tosses in a couple of spuds and six eggs – lets that rip for a while.
Now he’s seen the carrots and onions are soft and that’s when he lobs in two big spoons of this Madras Curry Paste, the stuff comes out of a bottle over here. He stirs the bastard up hard, and mate, the smell of it would make a sharks’ eyes water. This is looking like a BIG chilli number so help me.
Then it’s bang smash wallop into another pot. In goes everybloodything.
A can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato soup, a big spoon of tomato paste – to look at you’d swear the little bloke was boiling blood!
Then some lime leaves and a good squirt of fish oil, half a bag of frozen peas and he’s stripped off the kernels of two big ears of corn and in they all go, then a sliced up zucchini, never liked that shit but I’m for giving it a shot today, then the cooked chook goes in, all boned out and ripped up into fair sized chunks.
The little bloke sorts food as quick as a Baccarat dealer sorts cards. Smiles a lot too. Beats me how a bloke can stay squatted down for so long without getting cramped up.
That done he has a taste, screws up his face, and lobs in a big pinch or three of brown sugar. He was raising a sweat by now and Geoff and me are beginning to like the look of lunch. The smell coming out of the pot was beginning to take shape as well.
The spuds are done so after slicing them into quarters in they go, and the hard-boiled eggs are peeled and same for them. Then he opens a large can of coconut milk and eases that into the mix with a handful of chopped up coriander.
Now it’s time to go for a walk he says, two hours please men. So off we go. Two hours around the back-beach should be enough for a few waves on that little bank nobody knows about.
When we get back Three-Pot had filled his third pot with water and banged in a couple of handfuls of rice.
Then Geoff fishes out a couple of plates for the bananas and yogurt plus a handful of raisins and a cup of lychees. These are his side-dishes. I’m getting worried now that some of the no-hopers over in town are getting a whiff of the tucker and thinking of coming over for a free feed.
And he was right the little bloke, he’s gotta be the best Madras curry cook in India, he is in Nambucca and that’s for sure.
A couple of days later we got him a job on one the local trawlers and the way I hear it now is he’s got his own prawn boat running out of Coffs.’