Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pepper Fish Fry – Kuttanadan Special & An Inspiring Video Clip !

Act I: Scene I
A newly married couple comes to Chennai after a grand wedding to commence their much dreamed about life together…….the girl, though loveable is quite a spoilt one and one of her priceless possessions is a notebook, scribbled with some basic everyday recipes, which she prepared under the guidance of her mother and aunts just two days before marriage; but it is to be appreciated that she has a heart to learn cooking and make her husband happy….. Honeymoon days are going on… her advantage, she has the beginner‘s luck in the kitchen and everyday tries to whip up something and make it look edible and interesting when husband comes to dinette …..After a week of cooking mainly vegetarian dishes and managing with Mom and MIL's fish pickles, she thinks her life is smooth and can manage the show easily…….one evening, the ‘fish-aholic’ husband comes up with a very interesting idea, “Shall we buy some fish and make curry or fry?” …"hmm…not at all a bad idea”, says the girl, based on her experience in the kitchen and the newly acquired confidence. Both hit the famous Fish ‘O’ Fish in the neighborhood……….girl starts to get a bit uncomfortable now……some weird smell….the whole place STINKS !! she hesitates to enter the store…….husband makes all sugar-coated talks, trying to get her into the store….finally he loses patience and gives her A LOOK !! Girl gets the signal and very obediently, though with little hesitation, forces herself inside the store and makes the purchase ! Also she comes to the realization that life is not all about that honey dipped and sugar-coated words !!.

Act II: Scene I
The couple comes to Uncle Tom’s land after a short stay at Chennai, and life has been very good for both of them…. previously spoilt girl has now transformed into a perfect home-maker and a good wife who sure can host a decent dinner…. the couple makes adjustments and adapts to the new culture and life style but something seems to be missing …….somehow the bland tilapia fillets available in the stores do not bring smiles on their faces…..but as the saying goes, half a loaf of bread is always better than none, and hence they try to make adjustments…..years go by and one fine day, they happen to spot an International Store with Asian groceries in the radar and both decide to check out the store……on reaching there, the girl's face beams with glow and exuberance……the sight is incredible…. a big tank full of live fishes and lots of variety on the frozen section too and some of ‘em are varieties that are available back home in kerala!! You name it, it is there….Sardines, Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, King fish, Pomfret, Smelts, Shrimp, Crab and what not !! The whole scene appears to be someone seeing a light at the end of the tunnel or finding out the last clue in a treasure hunt or finding the treasure itself!! At that moment, the store gets their most loyal and most frequented seafood customers!!

-The End -

Are you still wondering who the main characters are ? :P If you are still having no clue, read more here.

Till my marriage, fish fry was something that looked reddish brown in colour. During my ‘irregular visits’ to the kitchen, I remember Mummy making a marinade with chili powder, pepper powder, turmeric, garlic paste et al….but after marriage, CJJ kept raving a lot about a particular type of fish fry, his grandma used to prepare and I wanted to get that recipe, mainly to impress him and show that I ‘can’ also cook and make it tasty! His grandma is from Kuttanadu, "the rice bowl of Kerala" a place near Alappuzha and though I have never been to Kuttanadu, CJJ has described the place so eloquently that, for me, this place is all about narrow canals and small rivers… lush green paddy fields……locals traversing in small country boats……. men herding a flock of ducks and the tail wagging and quacking of ducks ..:) and for many others, it might be the delectable duck roasts and crispy ‘Podimeen’ fry (a small variety of fish), Meen Pollichathu (fish wrapped in banana leaves) et al ….:) Anyway, his loving grandma was ready to share her secret to taste; fresh pungent peppercorns ground with a stone mortar and pestle and then mixed with the fresh ginger and garlic paste and yes, it is quite luscious. I got to taste the one with fresh peppercorns last time when we went home. But since the fresh peppercorns were something that’s unavailable here, I substitute with dried ones and still it was appealing to us.

Ingredients (Approx) :-
  • 4-5 steak pieces of King fish/Seer fish/or any fatty fish, washed and cleaned
  • 4tsp freshly ground pepper powder OR preferably ground paste of fresh peppercorns
  • 1tsp fresh garlic paste
  • 1tsp fresh ginger paste
  • 2tsp lemon juice
  • 2-3tsp water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying, preferably coconut oil :)
Mix all the ingredients and make a thick paste; marinate the fish evenly on both sides and keep it for atleast 2 hours to let the fish slices absorb the marinade. Heat oil in a flat non-stick pan and when it is steaming hot, place the fish gently and shallow fry at medium heat by flipping each side when it is done; do not crowd the pan and give some room for each slice; The cooking time varies depending the thickness of the slices and also depend on how crispy and firm one wants it to be. Overcooking the fish will make it very crisp; those who want it firm but soft and moist, may remove the cooked pieces when the oil stops spluttering.

For more of grandma's Kuttanadan recipes, CLICK HERE.

Here is a link that I came across recently... Thought it's quite a novel idea and inspiring as well. Click Here...

UPDATE: I have posted grandma's original version of this recipe, using fresh green peppercorns HERE.

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