Have you ever gone to the International Market and thought it’d be a great idea to buy frozen crocodile steaks and cook them yourself?
It was interesting.
See, when you try cooking crocodile without knowing how to cook crocodile (because why would you?), you get something that tastes exactly like what you’d imagine from being told in Jurassic Park that dinosaurs are more closely related to birds than reptiles - you get fishy chicken.
I mentioned this to Raj, owner and Head Chef of India on the Green in Ballater, when he mentioned he served crocodile.
He told me: “It can taste like fishy chicken. You have to marinate the thing before with garlick and ginger and rosemary.
“I do it in an Indian-style then serve it with split peas.”
He went on to tell me that when he first started in the industry, all you could ever order in Indian restaurants was chicken tikka, chicken biryani, chicken kourma, etc.
Which made me think: what’s so Indian about a chicken anyway?
In Australia, they eat kangaroo, in Cambodia, they eat fried spiders, and my cousins who live in the wildest, most inaccessible part of Canada hunt, kill and eat moose, boar and elk.
Now India has chicken, but so does everywhere - if I’m trekking to Ballater to have a meal cooked by a man who describes his restaurant as being “like no other”, I’m having the most Indian thing I can find on the menu.
And when I think India (having never been near there), I think of Kipling’s Jungle Books, and my favourite story is ‘The Undertakers’, featuring the Mugger of Mugger-Ghaut (a massive crocodile, widely feared and revered in the story), having a blether with a mangy jackal and an adjutant-crane.
But it was Saturday when I went, and Raj told me they only get crocodile, delivered fresh, on Tuesdays, 15 to 20 pieces, selling out fast.
And that it wasn’t a Tuesday would be as close as I could get to a complaint.
I eventually settled for Venison Mishty Kodhoo Kazana, cooked medium-hot for my main course, and I was honestly floored. I think it’s meaningless to affix adjectives to a meal that will taste different to every palate, but I’ll say this:
I’ve boycotted a few restaurants that I won’t name because I thought the food was dire, restaurants in the city centre, 20 minutes from my flat, but I’m definitely returning to India on the Green, well over an hour-and-a-half on the bus for me.
It’ll be a Tuesday, and I’ll be getting there early.