The creatures were dead. The red exoskeleton covering their brains had turned light pink. There were five of them with their slippery abdomens turning a pale translucent hue under the running water in the sink. The crustacean corpses were jostling for space in a stainless steel container. I stared at their clipped walking legs. Their crusher and pincher claws were cut. They looked a tad helpless, their six-inch bodies lying motionless, packed together in a circle. I was cooking lobsters that day. And I was about to wash them under running water. With my own hands.
The cold tap water had possibly left my fingers numb because I couldn’t feel much as I lifted the shells of the poor creatures with my index finger and inserted my thumb into the spiny yet slippery region underneath to wash off any remnants of mud, slime or whatever gluey stuff there might have remained. The fish-mongers did a good job of the basic cleaning process. My job was to sanitize it further before I tossed them into the pan. I had been instructed to watch out for a single thread-like structure that runs through the entire length of the creature. That’s the main vein, and if left there, causes food poisoning and stomach ache. Check. No black threads. Now, time to marinade!
My dish was to be a mix of Lobster cream curry (Chingri Maacher Malai Curry in Bengali) and mustard curry (Shorshe Chingri) so I put the Lobbys in a steel pan, poured coconut mild, diluted mustard powder mix, salt to taste, five whole green chillies, a tablespoon of mustard oil and a pinch of sugar. I made sure all the Lobbys were properly covered in the icky paste. No, I didn’t flinch. I had conducted surgeries on pregnant toads in high school!
Once I observed that the creatures were neck-deep in gravy, I stashed the stuff in the fridge and washed my hands as fast as I could. I couldn’t believe it, I touched, felt up, groped and fondled lobsters!
In the evening, I took the Lobbys out from the fridge. I was struck by the sight. The animals looked happy inside that little tub of theirs, drowning in mustard and coconut milk. The gravy had turned to a golden yellow and the bright green chillies stood out. It was beautiful. I must’ve stared awestruck at the steel pan for another ten minutes!
I, then, readied the steam cooker and placed the steel pan inside it, adjusted the heat and switched it on. The contraption buzzed to life. The crustaceans were being blanched in steam. Lobbys taste best with coconut milk and/or mustard sauce. I had used both and was eager to taste the result. I had already cooked long-grained basmati rice to go with the Lobbys.
After about forty-five minutes, the cooker had switched off. I let the steam out and removed the lid to look at my handiwork. My my! The five ladies looked aptly sauna-ed and were glowing a bright orange while their rear portions (the actual meat) glistened white. The gravy had turned more golden, almost as if the Lobbys were immersed in liquid gold. The smell? Heavenly. I guess, I won’t be so reluctant to cook Lobbys, prawns, shrimps, crabs any crustaceans or fishes in future anymore!
Dinner was like a dream. Tender, succulent Lobbys and spicy, mustard-ey golden gravy. I’ve never had a better deal! Look-out, Nigella!