Mohabbat at Malerkotla:
Malerkotla in Punjab had a 70% muslim population which is now approx 55%.It is reported to have have had communal harmony before partition, during partition later under the Nawab of Malerkotla and right until now.
I had to go there, Colonel Tiwana my CO was from there, we got our accoutrements, cap badges, zari name tabs, ceremonial flags from Malerkotla.
Many years ago on a flight I read the Namaste magazine (for Alliance Air) published by Chandan Mitra on the legendary Bhatti Murgh. The pictures looked nice it was baked in a industrial size oven used for making breads and biscuits. More research on the internet led to another article in Outlook Magazine to Ebrahim Rahis’ legendary Bhatti Murgh. Now, the trip was planned to go to Patiala and a trip to friends farm near Sangrur.
The options we now had were, Malerkotla to check out Ebrahim Rahi’s Bhatti Murgh ( about 40 kms from the farm) or Kulwant Singh’s Royal Atta Chicken at Kotkapura (this was about 70kms from the friends farm). Everyone discouraged us to go to Kotkapura (will leave it for another discourse)
We enter Malerkotla we are guided to the Sufi Dargah….. our destination is pre-determined Bhatti Murgh. We stop at a Muslim Dhaba, the owner a Mianji with cap and beard speaks in chaste Punjabi we find the town cool food everywhere on Stalls in Deghs in Dhabas. We inch close we seek directions from Sultan Dhaba…. Its evening…. We see big burly sardars partaking alcohol and eats at a Muslim Dhaba. We find that really cool. The whole town shows a easy relaxed bonhomie, hence the Hindu Muslim Sikh Mohabbat in Malerkotla and food contributes a lot. Also, we chased the gourmet trail like paramour hence Mohabbat at Malerkotla.
Fellow travelers Abhijeet Singh and our host’s son Angad Singh inch up close to Kamal Cinema and enquire from Rahi Sweets and bakers and we are guided to a large courtyard and present ourselves to Ebrahim Rahi and ask for the Bhatti Murgh,
He sizes us and says, I have not fired the bhatti (oven more like a kiln) ever since his Walid (father) expired. We are disappointed to say the least. He says, Hang on I can fix things I am going to make similar stuff and you will not know the difference we yield. We anyway can’t tell the difference as we have only seen pictures. We are hungry and he gets to work, a small distinguished gent with specs, looks more like a middle aged bank clerk. He speaks and works with the same agility.
We are presented the piece-de resistance in a noveau style, first steamed and then lightly fried. He also offers a lemon chicken. Keep's emphasizing very little oil. Very little oil we thought this was the cholesterol capital with all the food on the streets as an approach march.
We dig in, superlative, soft flavorful, crumbles enchanting moments the new or modified Bhatti murgh is superlative. We try the healthier lemon chicken it’s tangy and ordinary though it travels better than the bhatti murgh. We eat, chat and chat more with him he does all the talking. Talks about his father's and then his gastronomic quests and conquests. We enquire about our commercials; he politely refuses and then accepts. We eat some and we pack and take back some for accompaniments with Glenlivet.
Quick quiz what do you know about the Atta chicken at Kotkapura ?