June 12, 2007
Meen Molagu Chaar/ Red Snapper In Red Curry
A real basic and simple curry, made everyday in my house back in Kerala. The taste varies dramatically with the kind of fish used. It is colloquially called Moliyaar, a corruption of "molagu chaar", meaning red chili sauce. Also called "puliyum Molagum" by others (tamarind and red chili curry). Hardly any oil, no coconut and no strong spices. Just a watery sauce made with red chili powder and tamarind which flavors the delicate fish beautifully. It also suits the summer heat with minimal prep work.
This is a curry I don't make often here as it doesn't taste good with fish frozen into a hundred years of sleep on huge slabs of ice. I generally fry the onions and spices to get rid of all excess water and to concentrate the curry.
But my mom is here and its time to break out of the rut. So for the first time, we got a snapping young Red Snapper fish which she identified as a larger version of "Pudiyappila Kora"(Literally translated as Bridegroom Fish) available back home. When we got home, while I was debating whether to fry it or make into yet another masala curry, she had already got the chatti(claypot)out and ready with an assortment for a molaku chaar or red chili curry. I just had enough time to react and reach for the camera, my recipe book and follow her words (That's why the photos are blurry.)
Ever tried following your mom and writing down a recipe while she zips around the kitchen adding hidden ingredients the moment your back is turned? The curry took 15 minutes from beginning to end and tasted good despite the simplicity and US fish.
So here is the recipe but there is a disclaimer. I am not responsible for how this curry turns out in your house (unless you prepare it in front of me and show me the fish). The curry hinges on the freshness of the fish and will not taste good with frozen fish. So how do u know fresh fish? The experts start poking into the skin and eyes but queasy me does neither. If the fish looks firm and doesn't fall apart while washing or cutting, its fine. If you start preparing the curry and the house stinks, its not fresh and you better throw the curry out. A fresh fish curry should smell of the sea and not of the beach.
You will need:
Half of a Snapper-1 lb
Onion- 1/2 medium size, sliced
Ginger-Garlic paste-1 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds-1 tsp
Red Chili Powder-2 tsp(use less as per taste)
Tamarind-lime sized ball.
Coconut Oil-1-2 Tsp
Salt to taste
Curry leaves, Cilantro -one handful
1.Rinse the fish and drain well. Soak the tamarind ball in 1 cup warm water and extract the pulp.
2. In a clay pot or any sauce pan, mix the onion sliced,green chilies sliced, ginger garlic paste, fenugreek seeds, chili powder, turmeric powder, chopped curry and cilantro leaves, salt and the tamarind water.
3. Cover the clay pot/pan and place on high heat. Let the water in it come to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then add the fish. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Shake to combine the fish and gravy. Adjust the salt and remove from flame.
4. Heat the coconut oil in a pan and fry the shallots till they turn brown. Pour over the curry. Let the curry sit for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. This goes well with rice on the first day and with anything on the consecutive days.