Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Tag-a-dag for breakfast?

On the first morning in Islamabad I went exploring with my colleague in the neighbourhood where we were staying.

He was pretty hungry and we were drawn to a set of food stalls serving mysterious food. At one stall, a dish of sizzling meat and veg was being served up for a customer and this was just too tempting for my colleague. "I think I'll have one of those!" he announced.

A guy was summoned from another stall to communicate and my colleague was able to order one of the tasty looking dishes - "You want one tag-a-dag?" he was asked. That sounded great and one tag-a-dag was duly ordered.

We stood by watching to see what this was and how it would be prepared. The cook started by taking 6 tomatoes, roughly chopping them with a cooking implement which was very like a wallpaper stripper. They were thrown on the piping hot and very large wok over a high gas flame. Water was poured on and the cook expertly picked off the tomato skins as the tomatoes sizzled and cooked. With a flourish which any TV chef would be proud of, the cook took some offcuts of meat including liver, brain and testicles, and these were added to the tomatoes and more water. These browned quickly and another wallpaper stripper appeared in the cook's other hand. Placing the sharp sides downward he started to chop at the contents of the wok with rapid and rhythmic movements making a distinct tag-a-dag, tag-a-dag, tag-a-dagga dag-a-dag noise, understandable in any language.

A rather large chunk of butter appeared and was tossed into the pot, followed by chillies, garlic and coriander and in a few moments the whole meal was swept onto a plate beside a steaming nan bread.

There you are sir, one tag-a-dag for you - balls and brains for breakfast then, cooked by percussion!

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