October 11, 2006
Fish Molee/Fish Stew with Coconut Milk
Fish molee is a very light fish stew, flavored with coconut milk. Maybe the name 'molee' is derived from the spanish word "mole" which means stew. Central kerala had a flourishing trade with the Portugese in the olden times, so a cultural exchange and local ingredients may have resulted in this recipe.
The stew derives its characteristic taste from the freshness of the fish, the coconut milk and the black pepper. Compromise on one and it becomes a cloying imitation of a fish curry. I wouldn’t recommend trying this stew with the canned coconut milk at all. The canned coconut milk has the stale aftertaste of rancid coconut oil, whereas anyone who has used the milk from fresh coconuts will vouch for its light taste and texture. If I don’t have fresh milk, then I use the coconut milk powder and mix it in low fat milk instead of water to get a creamier texture.
This is the Malabar version of the stew, with a little bit more spice. Traditionally made for breakfast with lacy pancakes (appams) or bread in south Kerala Christian homes, we have it with rice breads (Pathiri) or steamed rice cakes (Puttu) also. My mom fries the fish a bit so that it doesn’t break up in the cooking process, and now I like the slightly crisp flavor of the fish as opposed to the raw fish cooked in the stew.
And it does taste excellent with the rolls here.
Try it both ways and let me know which one you would vote for. I make it with black pompano(Pomfret) fish but any fish cut thin without too much skin should be good. The skin would give it a bitterness. It can be even made with shell fish or shrimps.
You will need: For the Marinade:
Pompano/Pomfret/King Fish/ Fish Fillets- 1 lb or ½ kg
Turmeric- 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder-1 tsp
Salt- ½ tsp
Oil- 3 tbsp
For the Stew:
Onion- 1or 2.
Green chilies- 6
Garlic- 1 clove
Coriander powder- ½ tsp
Fresh Ground Pepper- 1tsp
Salt to taste
Thick Coconut Milk – 1/2 cup
Very thin coconut Milk- 1 cup (Dilute the thick milk with water)
Lime Juice or Vinegar-1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- 1 sprig
Coconut oil or Canola oil- 1or 2 tbsp
1. Preparing the Fish: Clean and slice the fish. Wash it and toss with lime juice. Pat dry the fish with paper towels and marinate with the salt, chili powder and turmeric for at least 15 minutes outside the refrigerator.
Heat the oil in a shallow pan till medium hot and gently pan fry the fish fillets for about a minute or two on each side, just until it changes color and firms up. This step can be skipped if the fish is very delicate or if you are using skinless fish fillets. Drain onto paper towels and keep aside.
If using fresh or frozen grated coconut, make two extractions of coconut milk. First extract 1/2 cup and then second 1 cup. Thin coconut milk is the second extraction with shredded fresh coconut and water which is considerably thinner than the thick milk from the first extraction. Keep aside. Slice ginger, garlic and onions. Slit the green chilies and chop the tomato into quarters.
2. Stew: Heat oil in a pan and sauté sliced onions, garlic and ginger, curry leaves. Add the coriander powder and continue stirring for a minute. Add the second extraction of coconut milk, lime juice and salt to taste. The thin diluted coconut milk will not separate, so when it starts to boil, add the sliced fish and cover. Cook on a slow heat for about 5-10 minutes.
When done, add the tomatoes and pepper; check taste and remove from the stovetop. The tomatoes should not get cooked and the pepper added in the end gives it an irresistible aroma.
3. Ensure that the heat is absolutely low or even off, before adding the thick coconut milk or first extraction of coconut milk. Do not let it come to full boil after that. You could continue simmering for another 5 minutes.
I use the claypot (Meenchatti) which holds the heat and continues the cooking even after I take it off the flame. Remove from fire and serve hot.
This curry’s taste is hinged on the fresh flavors so it may not taste the same the next day. This is not one for the long haul.
P.S. You cold even replace half the coconut milk with low fat milk to reduce the cholesterol factor. If it is good quality coconut milk, once the flavor is set, adding a lot more (for more gravy) will not increase the flavor.
Related Posts: Shynee's Fish Molee.
Fish Stew, Fish, Food Blog, Indian Recipes, Kerala Recipes