Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unakka-Meen Curry - Dried fish cooked with raw plantains in a curry sauce.

Start the first recipe post of the year with something sweet…..weave the words with a poetic touch…… speak from the heart and write to my glory .....hmmmm. Well, sat at my desk few days back, trying to find my missing writer’s cap and kept wondering when that auspicious moment would strike me like the streak of heavenly lightening from the sky. Nothing magical happened and the blank screen stared at me and seemed to be teasing me.

And this morning I called home; after a long talk, just when my father had curled up to his slumber and at that last minute of wrapping up the conversation, my mother asked me .

….edee….annu nammal onakka-meen curry vechappo thenga arachu chertho? “ (…did we add ground coconut to the dried fish curry we made that day? )

My impulse would have been to say “which one ? did we really make that ? I don’t remember…“. had I not spotted the picture of the same, last week or so, while digging into my ‘yet-to-post’ folder (that has a galore of pictures marked from 2009, most of them taken during my parents’ visit) . As I hurriedly flipped the pages of my little yellow notepad to check the recipe for her, I could hear my mother from the other end recollecting how much I enjoyed that dish, with a plateful of boiled rice, consecutively for two days, while pregnant with my Little King !! Her exact words were, “…nee annu payasam kazhikkunna poleyaa kazhiche…” !!!

Knowing that my mother wanted to make that curry once again , this time to satisfy my sister-in-law’s pregnancy cravings, I quickly ran her through the recipe and brushed her memory. At the end of the call, she asked me “ ….athokke post cheythoode…? “ (“…why don’t you start posting all those recipes…?”). Though I gave her a set of excuses at that time, bits and pieces of that conversation has been playing at the back of my mind , all through the day.

Few minutes back, I found myself walking up to the desk and keying in again………that conversation with my mother gave me the nudge I wanted……. her words refreshed my taste memories and here I am ready to make one more post!!

Though my mother prepared this dish during her stay with us, the framework of the recipe indeed belongs to my mother-in-law. Years back, she had given me a rough idea about this dish, with roots tying to her Kuttanadan background, and I had jotted it down hastily in the drafts folder of my mailbox (yeah, I use my mailbox for non-mailing purposes too). Somehow the combination of dried fish and plantains sounded quite appealing and appetizing to my palate, not to ignore the fact that a fish curry with dried fish itself was completely new to me. I love such rustic food , especially when seafood is combined with a vegetable.

Here’s the details of the recipe, as my mother made it:

Ingredients: (Approx.)
  • 150gm dried fish /Unakka-meen
For cooking:
  • 1 ¼ cups raw plantain, cut into crescent shape ( Soak as per the directions noted below)
  • 3 green chillies, split lengthwise
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 -2 pieces of Kudampuli/Gamboge (adjust as per the strength of Kudampuli as some are very tart)
  • 1 cup water
For Grinding:
  • ½- ¾ cup freshly grated coconut
  • 2 – 2 ½ tsp red chilly powder ( adjust as per your tolerance)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • Around ¼- ½ cup water
For seasoning:
  • 1-2 tbsp Coconut oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dry red chilly
  • 2-3 small red pearl onions/kunjulli
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • Soak the cut pieces of plantain in some water with a couple pinches of turmeric, for about 15 minutes, before rinsing and draining.
  • Soak dry fish in water , for about 30 minutes, along with some newspaper sheets. This is to soften the dry fish; also the newspaper sheet absorb all that salt from the fish. Cut the fish into pieces, as per your choice.
  • Grind freshly grated coconut with chilly powder and turmeric powder , along with water, to make a fine paste.
  • In a curry chatti/earthenware or a sauce pan, cook plantain , with all the ingredients listed under “ For cooking”, and bring to a boil, on medium heat . At this point add the dry fish chunks and cook along with plantains and herbs. When it is half done, pour the ground paste and bring to a boil again. Now reduce the flame and let it simmer and cook till the fish is completely cooked. (Note: Please make sure that plantains and fish pieces are cooked just right and retain shape) Do a taste test and add salt if needed. In another pan, heat some coconut oil , crackle mustard seeds , followed by dry red chilly and small onions and sauté for a minute or till onion slices turn transparent, now switch off the heat and immediately tear some curry leaves and throw them into the pan. Pour the entire thing into the curry chatti , over cooked fish and plantain; please DO NOT stir immediately after pouring the seasoning and let it rest for atleast 30 minutes.
  • We served with some warm rice.
See you soon with more :)


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  1. Happy New Year! Though i aint a big fan of unakka meen, I absolutely love this curry...literally just the curry...hehe...My own lil subsitution for unakka meen is fresh small prawns and tapioca, its awesome!! Do try that some time wen u want a change from this :)

  2. I had to leught while reading what you mom said aobut you eating this dish like payasom ;-)
    Curry looks supe super yummy, i rememver mom made curries like this with unakka chemmen but dont remeber with meen.
    You know i am not pregnant but i am sure if i had this curry and rice i would eat same like you as it looks so so good.

  3. I know that waiting thing Mish, been there,it was especially hard for me after taking a long break. But see, at the end you got back to your usual self, poetic and eloquent ! And also your recipe speak volumes,love you even more when you explore very traditional,from your roots dishes. Keep blogging regularly,you are much needed in the blog world.

  4. Happy NY! I have to say it is a coincidence that I thought of you yesterday while baking a cake,just a thought of what you must be doing when it snows as it was snowing here then (as you live quite close by) and now I see this new post! :D [Basically I think of you and you come up with a new post! :D]

    My grand aunt used to make unakkameen curry like nammude sadharana kodampuli etta curry pole. It's very tasty.

    Amma has her version of Unakkameen chathachathu, which is so good and lasts very long! I sometimes think I should buy some dried fish, but when I reach the Oriental store, I am thoroughly confused because half the names are in Chinese and I don't want to experiment :D

    Hope you are well! As Archana said, keep blogging, you are much needed in the blogosphere :D


  5. Looks sooooooo yummy!I am pregnant and craving for some tangy fish curry and kuthari choru...
    which dried fish did u use? also, where do we buy it from?

  6. Glad you are back with another smashing recipe.Got all the stuff here so I am going to make it today.

  7. Hi Shn, Welcome back!! What an awesome treat to the eyes, no wonder you had it like payasam !! well lovely post and lovelier dish, I just wish I could taste, it has got me craving for some fish curry and rice.
    keep posting
    and hugs to your cutie pie

  8. extra cool and so authentic! also used to prepare this occasionally :)

    Happy new year!

  9. sound the where do we get the earthern pot and dry fish

  10. Happy New Year..You really are making me crave for this "unakkameen kaaya kootan". it was my father's masterpiece. He would make this for me.. yeah, just for me. I am not sure its the same way he cooks. i cant wait to call him and ask for the recipe.meanwhile i will try your version.. it looks real yummm..

  11. Shn,

    You can use brinjal instead of raw plantain as well, tat also tastes good.

  12. Cardamom Hills, Thank you...wish you too a fabulous year ahead :) I would love to try your combo ...but no more stock of dried fish :(

    Happy Cook, re so sweet ..thank you...:)

    Archana,dear friend , you made my day!! Sending you a tight hug...:) Thanks a ton for inspiring me and supporting me :)

    Ria,you and archana lifted my mood that day :) thanks lot :) and yes, pls keep thinking of me, if there 's some connectionn b;wn you thinking about me and me coming up with a post, coz i really wish to update the place more frequently :D My latest post is for you and coz of you :))))

    Anon 1 & Anon 2, Thanks a lot :) I understand your craving well, I wish I could send you some!I don't remember what variety we used that day, mummy broght two packets and the last one left in the fridge was a packet of "bral" fish. Kerala stores , if any, in your area would be good may check at oriental/Asian stores too. Earthenware , I got from Kerala, India.

    Poornima, so did you try? waiting for your feedback.

    Rekha, if you like the old rustic fare, then you would surely love this dish. do you get dried fish there? Hope you and family is doing good :)

    Home Chef, Happy New year to you too...thnx for coming back again :)

    Free Spirit, thanks a lot for coming by and telling a bit about you and ur father...hope you called up home and got your dad's recipe and cooked too :)

    WW, Thanks alot for the suggestion, but you know what I bought brinjal only twice after marriage, CJJ doesnt enjoy it :(


  13. Hi Shn: Happy NY.. Nice to see u back in action :)This unakkameen n kaya curry seems to be a standard craving for pregnant malayali girls as I had a strong craving for both this n unakkameen chathachathu.. Mom also makes unakka ayila n potato in coconut sauce..

    Hugs n Kisses to LK

  14. I simply crave this curry.It was my grandma's masterpiece.U should try unakkameen with "Irumban puli" is yummy

  15. Hi Shn,
    How come there is such a long gap after your last post, Hope you will soon resume your blog, Waiting hopefully


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