The prawn dish that we do, Ambot Tik, isn’t really the authentic Ambot Tik. There, I’ve said it and already my heart feels lighter. Every time I look at our menu, I feel a twinge of guilt because of this. I have always taken pride in bringing utmost authenticity to the food we cook, but I made a mistake 6 months ago and it’s time I confess.
Let me explain how this happened.
In May, when we were planning a menu for our new beginning post lockdown, I wanted to come out of our comfort zone of Hyderabadi food and bring you more exotic curries from the whole of India. In the process, I found this very exotic dish - Ambot Tik, a popular Goan dish more traditionally cooked with shark. It had both Portuguese and Goan influences and the more I read about it, the more excited I got, so I decided to do a prawn version of it.
But over the next few days, with all the planning going on, organising the packing materials, sorting out the new equipment needed, working on the website and the new ordering system, I somehow forgot to do trial runs for this dish. I was probably a bit overconfident that I could pull it off.
We announced our website on Thursday 14th of May and were taking our first orders for delivery the following day. Since we’d been closed for 2 months by then, we were flooded with orders. I spent the whole day cooking and by midnight, the prawn curry, the Ambot Tik, was the only one left to cook.
With a mixture of tiredness and a misplaced recipe, I carried on cooking but it was a disaster. The moment I tasted it, I knew it was all wrong. I had somehow messed up a popular dish and I just knew my customers wouldn’t like the end result. But it was already too late - we were supposed to pack and start delivering the next day.
I gave up and prepared myself to make an apology the next day and issue a refund for everyone who had ordered the curry. I went home and slept, but my tortured brain kept on thinking about it and then, in my sleep, I realised that with a few modifications I could turn the dish around and make it tasty.
I played with it the next morning and discovered some tweaks - one of which was that adding coconut milk modified the dish drastically and I personally loved the taste. If any one remembers, we were really late in doing our first day deliveries: this was the reason for that.
To cut a long story short, all the deliveries went out and the feedback started pouring in and the prawn curry which was supposed to be Ambot Tik - but wasn’t! - emerged a clear winner. Everyone seemed to love it. And now I had no choice but to keep doing the modified version.
The thing is, there never was or is coconut milk used in preparing Ambot Tik. And so I always feel like a fraud whenever I hear someone say good things about this dish. That’s why I’ve never actively promoted this dish. Many times I’ve thought about removing the dish from the menu but many people love it and it’s one of our bestselling dishes, so I convinced myself to keep doing it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful dish. I have enjoyed it with some coconut rice many a time. But I would be doing a grave injustice to Goan cuisine and to Ambot Tik if I kept selling something else going by that name.
So recently I did a reverse search - I started looking for a dish that matched the final ingredients that I’d ended up with. And surprise surprise! I found a curry cooked exactly the same way in my home state, the beautiful coastal region of Andhra Pradesh called Konaseema. It’s nicknamed ‘God’s own creation’ and its one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, filled with coconut trees everywhere. The people from there are among the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met. If you want to see how beautiful it is, click here.
My Dad’s first posting as a bank employee was there and I was there from the age of 1 to 5. My sister and brother were both born when we were living there. My dad in fact took me back there 15 years ago and showed me every little place associated with my childhood - I still rate it as one my best holidays.
You all know how much I love sharing stories about every dish we cook and I feel happy to have found one by accidentally cooking a dish that already exists, a dish that is associated with the earliest years of my life.
So without further ado, this is me coming clean and re-introducing our beautiful prawn curry from one of the most beautiful places on earth filled with lush paddy field's, coconut plantations and Lotus filled backwaters. At last I can give it its proper name - Konaseema Royyala kura,
One day I will cook the authentic Ambot Tik for you all, but in the meantime I can sleep at night!