August 03, 2009
Central Kerala Red Fish Curry...
For this post, I don't want to dwell on the house sale.. the status quo on that is still the same. It's been hot and humid here the whole of last two weeks.. hey wait, isn't that the weather in Kerala? Maybe the weather allocation got switched.. upside, I don't have to water my flowers, they are blooming like never before. Beautiful!! Downside.. my veggie garden is neglected and is attacked by weeds which are growing faster than the veggies. I didn't put down a weed fabric when I set the garden out and regretting it now. We did get some red delicious tomatoes and a gigantic cabbage was harvested this week.. the plant came from my kid's school as a competition to see who will grow the biggest cabbage. We just planted it and fed it and it grew big..
I have a bunch of posts to get thru but can't seem to find the time. This one is a post I started a year ago..:)it's only now that I got thru to it. The photo was taken awhile ago and it's just coincidence that I am on fishy posts. Every body around us is either on vacation or has family visiting and last year this time, we were in B'lore visiting our old friends.
That started off a train of reminiscence ...reaching B'lore in the early morning after a long but fun train journey from Calicut,(any train ride is fun for me as here in US, all journeys are by long back breaking, gas guzzling car rides or by flights as pointed out by another friend) we got picked up by our close friend Peedus and there started a non-stop session of jabbering and stories. SR, Peedus's better half was waiting at home to continue the stories. I could tell you a lot about them but I don't want to go into any personal details here. SR has a lot of varied interests ..flower arrangements, interior design, arch, photo blogging...she keeps up with her friends and classmates relentlessly thru wonderful photos and its stories ..........and to our delight, we found out that she is an ardent cook too. Not just cooking, which a lot of people may like, but we could obsess about the food and its merits among other things.
A clay pot simmering with ample shallots redolent in ample coconut oil.. That's the one image that is there still in my mind after one year...ah..(the luxury of having a ton of shallots all cleaned and chopped and ready.) I didn't know which curry the claypot was headed to, but was happy just to see the shallots.
It was a pleasure to see SR catching up on news with me...being in B'lore they are in touch with a lot of our college friends and at any time, it would take days just to get updates on all of them. She was cooking alongside, all the while adding some chili powder, manning another flame with erissery on it, requesting her girl Friday for the next chopped items...doing ten things at the same time.
I am always surprised when I see someone of our generation who loves to cook and feed. Especially considering that she had just fed us a full breakfast, she was just getting down to the lunch prep pronto. Old Soul SR.:)And absolutely yummy food. DH just sat and ate till he couldn't move. It's a wonder how much we can eat while on vacation. I bet a lot of her classmates and common friends who have stopped by her house on summer days will agree with me.
Anyway, to get back to the fish curry, it's the central Kerala kodampuli kind which is my favorite curry with King Fish. The recipe is from her friend, who is from Kottayam and is really amazing. My mom never used to make this curry but my M-I-L does and we just grew into it over time. King Fish being the big fat meaty fish, doesn't absorb flavors easily and resists most simple preparations. It does well with deep flavors, spices and marinades. The Kodam Puli is the best and strongest adversary it has faced. During their time together, the fish absorbs all of the puli's smoky flavor and power and thereby gets its tangy, spicy taste.
You will need:
Kodum Puli-2 piece
Shallots-about 20, sliced finely
Ginger Garlic Paste-1 1/2 tbsp(fresh paste)
Red Hot Chili Powder- 2 tsp( this is spicy)
Kashmir Red chili powder- 1 tsp
Curry Leaves- 2-3 sprigs.
Oil (coconut oil is preferred)
Soak the souring agent, kudam puli in half cup warm water. Blend half the raw shallots and 1/2 tsp of the ginger garlic paste along with the red chili powder and turmeric to a fine paste. Don't add water while blending or add just a tablespoon of water. Just enough to get it to a paste. In the olden days, I am sure this was done on the ammi/mortar and pestle, so water was added drop by drop.
Heat oil (about 3 tbsp)in a meen chatti or pan and add half the shallots and curry leaves to the pan. When the shallots wilt, add the ginger garlic paste and saute on medium heat. Add the blended paste to the pan and cook it on medium heat or low heat (depending on your stove) till all the water is evaporated and the paste gives out oil..about 10 minutes.
This step should be done with care without burning the paste. If there is not enough oil for the paste to cook, add a bit more. If the paste doesn't get cooked, the fish curry will taste too spicy with raw red chili taste..
When the paste is moving as one mass, add 1 cup water and just the kudam puli. Reserve the water it was soaked in to be added if you need more sourness. Add salt and taste. When the paste and the water dissolve and come to a boil, add the fish pieces one by one. Cover the fish with the liquid and let it cook covered for about 15 minutes. I just let it simmer on low heat after the first boil, on the back burner.
As you open, the oil should have risen to the top and the color should be a deep red. Taste the curry and adjust as needed. Take out the souring agent if you don't like it too sour later.
Serve with puttu, idaippam, appam or porotta. The curry definitely taste better after a couple of hours and even better the next day with Puttu. The more the fish sits in it, the better the flavors meld and get imbibed.