January 17, 2007
Meen Chaar/ Fish Curry w/Coconut
T his is one of the favorite fish curries in my family. Fish curries in Northern Kerala are made with Tamarind, Mango, Gooseberries,Yoghurt, Ilumban Puli etc for sourness. The fish curries from South Kerala are more commonly made with Kodum Puli. I am not very familiar with all the other souring agents, so do let me know. I like both styles as my mother makes one way and my mother in law makes both ways. But I am sure there are traditonalists who don't like the tastes mixed. In that case, you could use just one kind of souring agent.
I have used both Kodum Puli and Tamarind in here, which is my innovation to make a spicy and tangy fish curry out of the frozen bland fishes here.Just one piece of the kodum puli changes the taste, so use it with care. I have to simmer for a while to let the flavors seep in, else the curry and the fish stay seperate. Hence the need for a sturdy fish.
You will need:
Pompano/Pomfret/King Fish or any firm fish steaks- 1 lb or ½ kg( or even prawns)
Onion- ½ of a medium onion
Green chilies- 4
Garlic- 2 clove
Turmeric- 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder-2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds-1/8 tsp
Fennel Seeds or powder-1/2 tsp
Coriander powder- 1/8 tsp (optional)
Grated Coconut– 1 cup
Curry leaves- 1 sprig
Coconut oil or Canola oil- 2 tbsp
Tamarind extract- 2tsp or as extracted from a lime sized ball.
Kodum Puli-1 piece soaked in water for 15 minutes.
Salt- ½ tsp or to taste
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 half the salt, a pinch of the chili powder and turmeric for at least 15 minutes outside the refrigerator.
2. Grind the ginger and garlic to a paste. Keep aside.
3. Grind the coconut with the aniseed and ½ cup water till it is a very fine paste. If you are using frozen coconut, make sure it is at room temperature before grinding to avoid clumping. Add water only as needed and not all together.
4. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a shallow pan (clay pot or meen chatti) till medium hot and add the fenugreek seeds, onions(not the shallots), sliced green chilies and sauté till the onions become transparent. Then add the ginger garlic paste and the dry spice powders. Add 2tbsp water and let the spices cook on very low heat for about 3 minutes.
5. Then add the tamaring extract or water and the kodum puli and let it simmer. Adjust the sourness and add salt as required. Add 1cup water and when it is boiling, slide the fish pieces gently into the pan and add the ground coconut. If the ground coconut is a thick paste, add 1 cup water to it, else omit additional water. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover and let it cook for about 15 minutes.
6. Heat the remaining coconut oil in a pan and sauté sliced shallots and curry leaves till slightly brown. Pour over the prepared curry.
P.S. On a daily basis, this step can be combined with the initial seasoning ingredients to save time. Just saute the shallots then with the curry leaves and fenugreek.
Kodum puli is a souring agent similar to Kokum but not exactly that. I use both kodumpuli and tamarind in this recipe as I like the slight zing of the kodum puli and the sweetness of the tamarind together. U can omit either of them as per taste.