Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fish Curry - Central Kerala Style

Everyday around 11.00-11.30am my phone rings and without the help of a Caller ID, I know for certain that it’s from CJJ, calling in to see,"What’s for lunch, today?" and if the menu includes Fish curry, I hear him chuckling coz that’s his favourite dish :) Fish curry with 'Kudam-puli' (Gamboge is the English word for Kudam-puli, I guess) is a staple in our home and I'm sure it’s same with many households in Kerala. I remember those days, when we were kids, my mother waiting for the fish vendor, who comes on a bi-cycle everyday, and the series of bargaining that follows; it’s to be noted here that the same guy comes riding a Hero Honda these days!!! Ever since I started preparing this dish, I have been trying to reproduce my mother’s recipe, but honestly, I've never been able to reach anywhere near her version! Wonder what’s her secret ingredient, is it mama’s love?? Guess all of us know the answer!

  • 6-7 slices of cleaned fish
  • 6-8 small onions
  • 4 green chilies
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2-3 pieces of kudam-puli (Gamboge)
  • 2 tsp red chilly powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cups thin coconut milk
  • ¼ cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 –3 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

1. Heat oil and sauté finely sliced small onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies and some curry leaves and when it is transparent, add turmeric powder and red chilly powder and combine well. At this stage add 2 cups thin coconut milk (or sufficient enough to cover all the slices of fish) and pieces of kudam-puli and salt and let it boil. When it is boiling, check the level of sourness and adjust the same by adding/removing one or two pieces of kudam-puli.

2. Place fish pieces to this and cover with a lid and allow it to cook in medium heat; swirl the cooking vessel once in a while; avoid stirring as you may end up breaking the fish pieces.

3. When it is almost done, add the thick coconut milk and adjust the salt and let it cook in a low flame, without the lid, for 5-10 minutes until a thin coating of oil appears on top; Just 2 minutes before turning off the stove add some curry leaves. Serve with rice or tapioca and hey, don’t forget to add that secret ingredient :)

Fish curry is generally prepared in a 'curry chatti', an earthenware in Kerala and it tastes better compared to the ones prepared in a non-stick pan. The oil coating that appears on the dish at the final stage mainly depends on a fatty fish and the coconut milk extracted from freshly grated coconut. Please do not substitute small onions with big onion as it definitely alters the taste and a generous use of curry leaves is suggested as the dish gains a fresh irresistible aroma when it is added just before switching off the stove. Also the taste will not be the same if kudam-puli is replaced with the tamarind used in Sambar and Rasam.

UPDATE: Kudam puli or Gamboge, is actually a fresh orange-yellowish fruit in its initial stage, which is dried in sun and transformed into black, and later used to add sourness to dishes, in South India and in some part of Sri Lanka too, I guess. The sourness it brings to the fish curry compared to the ordinary tamarind is lot different and unique too. You can find it in most of the Indian stores if you are staying outside India. If the store bought ones are too dry, soak them in water before you start preparing the dish and when it is moist, add it to the dish along with the water. If using the ones prepared at home (like the ones in the pics) then one is enough to get the sourness. Hope this helps!

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.