vallom, vanji) would paddle by my grand parent’s home to sell fish. I am talking about 1980’s. I used to love running all the way to the river bare footed, straight out of bed, with tousled hair and a puffy morning face to watch the spectacular display of fish on his boat. He would have some sea and fresh water fish. Sardines and mackerel from the sea and a myriad of fresh water ones. Of course, he would be carrying only a few varieties at a time but would bring something different every day.The man on a black ferry (
There would be some haggling for the prize and then ‘mamachi’(that’s what I called my maternal grandmother) would settle for some prize and she we would walk back with her earthern shallow pot (chatty) brimming with fish and an excited me bobbing up and down beside her. I still remember her chattayum mundum with the fan gathered behind the way this is worn. The smell of her crisp, white, lightly starched, sun dried clothes is still fresh in my memory. She had peppered hair gathered back in a bun and wore a beautiful rosette designed earrings studded with crystals and long gold chain with a prominent cross sign. She would tell me whever I fiddled with her earrings or kept looking at them admiring that I can have it when she is gone. I am her eldest grand daughter and I own the earrings now.
We would sit outside on the pebbled courtyard with the fish, to clean them. She on a low stool (called korandi) and me squatting close by listening to her stories and closely watching her trim the fins and tail dexterously off the fish and lay them into a clean pot nearby. There would be a whole lot of cleaning rubbing it on stone and then twirling it around in the pot with rock salt until she was satisfied. Karthiyani (her help) would quickly grind this peach colored coconut gravy on the stone swaying her whole body forward and backward. Her grinding style was a joke because only she moves like that with the stone all the others learned the trick of holding the body still and just moving your hands to get the job done.
Anyways, today I have the fish fillets, store bought grated coconut which my grinder will help me blend in no time to cook the same curry. I am thankful for the conveniences but the memories of those days and the taste of evenly ground coconut can never be replicated. Or maybe it’s my grand mother’s love that I am missing. On days when I feel home sick I pick up the phone, call my mom or aunt, figure out some old recipes and concoct them and feel instantly at home. Here is a simple yet delicious fish curry my family makes mostly with fresh water fish but now we use all kinds. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
A dried fruit I have used,kudampuli(Gambooge- Garcinia gummi-gutta), gives the sourness to the curry. Please click on the link to read more about it. The tartness the kudampuli lends is what makes this dish stand apart from similar dishes made with tamarind or tomato. I have no words to describe the taste but just say if you like coconut gravy chances are you will enjoy this too.
I couldn't help but get carried away with my memories talking about this fish curry. Click on the links to see pictures of the vallom and chatta and mundu if you do not know what I am talking about. Also, the curry is not peach in color because I forgot to add chilli powder while grinding the coconut.
Tilapia Fish fillet - 4
Coconut - 1 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Red chilli powder - 1 tspn
Green Chillies - 4 nos
Ginger - 1/2 Tbspn
kudampuli - 2 pieces washed and soaked in 1/4 cup water
Garlic - 1 - 2 pods optional
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Salt - to taste
1. Cut the fish fillet in two
2. Grind chilli powder, turmeric, garlic and coconut to a fine paste
3. Mix the fish and all the other ingredients together and cook on medium high heat to bring to a boil and then simmer on low till fish is cooked
Notes: You may grind the ginger to a paste as well I prefer to have it in pieces
2. You may do a tempering with coconut oil or oil of preference with mustard, shallots, dry red chilly and curry leaves
3. You could use kokum instead of "kudampuli", they have similar taste, being from the same family.