Monday, March 12, 2012

Kerala Fish Curry- Meen Curry,Central Kerala Style

To teach a Malayalee, how to cook fish curry, is like teaching a monkey, how to climb the trees ! It is such a basic recipe in any household, in the place where I come from. But it took a long time for me to post this here, even after so many repeated requests from the readers. If you blog, you know, the most common dishes you make might take the longest to get in your blog !

Fish/Meen Curry



Growing up in Kerala - considered one of the top 100 must visit places before you die - is among the best things that ever happened to me. Fresh fish is aplenty and Keralites make maximum use of it. Since our house is a bit away from the sea, we always make it a point to get "fresh" fish whenever we pass by the coast. After moving to Hyderabad and then to Boulder, I realized how much I had taken all those for granted.

Fish/Meen Curry-prep

Fresh sea-fish is hard to find, and even if you find the fish you want, in stores like Whole Foods, it is quite expensive. The erstwhile “bicycle vendors” used to bring the best selection they can find and they would even chop the gigantic "vila"(Emperor fish) or "neymeen"(King Fish) according to your culinary needs. How much I miss fresh "netholi"(Anchovy),"mathi"(Sardine)and other small fishes. When I reach the end of my craving potential, I get them from the frozen sections in Indian/Asian groceries.However when I taste them, I promise myself to stay away from those, a promise that is kept only until the craving hits me next time.

Fish/Meen Curry

The "kudampuli" or Gambogee that we use in this curry, makes it taste different from other fish curries.The curry gets its unique tanginess from Gambooge, which you will never get, if you replace it with tamarind or kokum. Though Gambooge is often mistaken as Kokum, it is a completely different fruit.You can read more about Kudampuli/Kodampuli here and about Kokum here.You may be able to find dried Gambooge in South-Indian groceries. I get my supply when I visit home, from my great aunt's Gambogee tree. Same is the case with Tamarind. I am at the verge of running out of my supply and I can't wait for this summer to go home and replenish it.

Kudampuli

Gambogee/kudampuli gets balck when dried.Below is the Gambogee tree and a ripe fruit in Sunitha's yard, pictures I took during my last visit to India in 2010.

Kudampuli/Gambogee

Just like any other authentic dishes, each household will have a different recipe for this fish curry, this being ours. My younger sis-in-law is an awesome cook and I can tell you without any doubts, she makes the best Kerala fish curry. This is her recipe and it is best when you make it in an earthen pot, which I never got around to do with my glass top cooking range. I poured the curry into a pot just for taking pictures, but if you have an earthen pot, I highly recommend that you make this fish curry in it. That makes a big difference !

Sending this to Indian Food Palooza, hosted by 3 great blogs Colors of Indian Cooking, Indian Simmer and Creative Culinary.Prerna, Kathy Gori and Barbara,so glad to be a part of this fun event !

Also sending to this month's Kerala Kitchen, hosted by dear friend Prathibha at Cook-Ezee

Preparation Time: 10 minutes if you buy fish fillet or cleaned fish
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 8-10


Ingredients:

Fish,your choice- 1kg or 2 lbs,cut into pieces
Kudampuli/Gambogee- 4,soaked in 1/2 cup of water
Coconut Oil- 4 tbsp,divided
Mustard- 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds-1/2 tsp
Ginger julienne- 3 tbsp
Garlic- cloves from one,cut lengthwise(~4 Tbsp)
Curry leaves- 4 sprigs,divided
Green chilies- 6-8,slit lengthwise
Red chili powder,Kashmiri- 3 Tbsp or more
Coriander powder- 1 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
Black Pepper- 3/4 tsp
Fenugreek powder- a generous pinch

Method:

1.Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a pan. Splutter mustard followed by fenugreek seeds.Add green chillies,ginger,garlic and 2 sprigs of curry leaves. Saute well.
2.Make a thick paste of chili powder,coriander powder and turmeric powder, using a spoon of water and add this into pan. Saute it for a couple of minutes to get it cooked.
3.Add kudampuli and water that you used to soak it.Add 2-3 cups of water.Let everything boil and add salt.
4.Slide in fish pieces and boil.Add more water, if necessary. Reduce heat,cover and cook for about 10 minutes.Do not stir in between. If you feel like doing so, just lift up the entire pan and swirl it. This will prevent fish pieces from getting smashed.
5.Switch off the heat,add 1 Tbsp coconut oil,a sprig of fresh curry leaves and fenugreek powder. Check salt and add more if required.Mix carefully, so that fish pieces aren't disturbed much.Let sit for at least a few hours before serving with rice and your favorite sides.Also this is the best accompaniment for Kappa Puzhukku (Mashed Tapioca/Yuca)

Notes:

1.You can use any fish you like, to make this curry. I used Tialpia.But definitely the curry tastes better when you use king fish or emperor fish. And sardine gives a unique taste of its own when used in this curry.
2.This is spicy. If you would like to make it milder, reduce chili powder or green chilies or black pepper.Or if you like it extra spicy add more chili powder.
3.If you want to keep this curry more than a day, at room temperature, it's better to avoid coriander powder.
4.The addition of raw coconut oil and fenugreek powder at the end,does magic to the texture and taste of this curry. If you really like coconut oil,go ahead and add one more spoon and a little bit more fenugreek powder too.
5.If you want your curry to be watery, add more water when you boil all the spices.

58 comments:

  1. I had to laugh Namita. You will have to teach some monkeys how to climb trees!!! :-D
    Recipe looks incredible!

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  2. recipe looks so easy, yet must be so good... Fresh fish - oh I so much miss it too!
    lovely , yummy fish!

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  3. I have been thinking that tamarind and kodumpuli are the same :) Thanks for the clear post Love the colour of the kuzhambhu/curry :)

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  4. we make fish the same way with gamboge
    deliciously done and presented
    I haven't seen the unripe fruit thank you for sharing

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  5. Ha,too yummy to resist Namitha.No prob whatever times you see and taste,fish curry is still a classic...truly nice presentation.

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  6. Love the authentic curry !!! Cute bowls !! Till date one of my favorite recipe is the Kerela fish curry !

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  7. Love the color! So gorgeous rich red. I never liked eating fish as a kid until I started staying alone away from home and didn't know how to cook. That was when I started missing it and started learning how to cook fish. I am so gonna try this recipe!

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  8. I love this with kappa. Looks so delicious...

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  9. Super curry..kothiyavunnu...Lovely presentation...

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  10. This is just mouthwatering! some of this with boiled kappa and that's all it takes! :)

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  11. wow...yummy n tangy fish curry.....well written post too...

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  12. So mouthwatering n spicy looking fish curry.....

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  13. So mouthwatering n spicy looking fish curry.....

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  14. This looks perfect ,Kerala is on my wish list since long :)

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  15. ravile eneettapozhe itha kandathu....ho..innu muzhuvan njan ithum orthondirikkum..chechi ivide enganum aduthu ayirunenkil..Super pics..

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  16. love the color...tangy fish curry...mouthwatering.

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  17. This is such a wonderful recipe..Thanks for posting it..Bookmarked..

    Aarthi
    http://www.yummytummyaarthi.com/

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  18. ha ha ha, loved your first sentence ;) Jokes apart raavile thanne kothippichu kalanjulo. sounds yummy delicious, loved those beautiful clicks and so well presented :-)
    You can link it to the ongoing KK event at my place if you wish, pls check out..
    http://cook-ezee.blogspot.com/2012/02/announcing-kerala-kitchen-event-march.html

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  19. Yumm, love a tangy and spicy fish curry!! Your version reminds me a lot of a Malaysian kind my mom makes called Asam-Pedas (literally meaning Sour & Spicy), except she uses dried tamarind as the souring agent. I guess it has a lot to do with the Tamilian poputaion there who I'm sure introduced it in the first place. Can't help but want to dunk a spoonful of rice into the delicious looking bowl!

    - Meena (Hooked on Heat)

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    1. Interesting Meena. I guess Malaysian cuisine is highly influenced by South Indian cuisine and vice versa :-)

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  20. Delicious and mouthwatering fish curry. I had this when I visited Kerala last year. Along with the trip it was simply delightful.

    Deepa
    Hamaree Rasoi

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  21. Ravile thane kothipichu..adipoli aayitundu,perfect color,yum

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  22. delicious curry... this is a speciality of south kerala... njan ethra try cheythalum ee colour kittilla...

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    1. Nitha, use piriyan mulaku podi next time :-)

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  23. What an inviting fish curry! It may be basic for you but it's amazing for me!

    What fish did you use? And yes, the best fresh fish you will find will be in Whole Foods. I don't have the nerve to stand at the seafood counter at POM and point to a fish to say: that one!

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    1. Thanks Manisha ! I used Tilapia fillet.My girl hates POM, just for that reason. If I find King fish there, it's M who has the courage to go there and get it weighed :-)

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  24. Love the picture of Kokam..and the small pickle jar!

    Lite Bite

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  25. Love the picture of Kokam..and the small pickle jar!

    Lite Bite

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  26. yummy fish curry...looks very tempting!!

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  27. Ahhaaa! I see one of my faves ingredients. I use kokam and kodampuli to subs asam kandis. Indonesian (esp West Sumatra) uses this for making rendang. Also have special edition post for those two ingredients.

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  28. oh looks amazing but where will I find me some that that fruit?

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  29. Love the color of this curry.I'm drooling, seriously, need a bite right now :)Never heard of Gambogee before and need to chk my local Indian stores if they have it!Is there any substitute for this, in case I do not find it?

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    1. Thanks Soni ! You can replace gambogee with kokum, but then, it cannot be called Kerala fish curry :-) That's what I've written about in the post, how different they both are. But you should be able to find gambogee in South Indian Grocery stores

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  30. Oh what a beautiful color for the curry. I know what you mean about the fish. i come from the land of fish too;) only we eat fresh "fresh water" fishes and we do not get many here either. I find it so intriguing that our fish curries are so extremely differently done that yours. I love the Kerala fish curries and grew up on them too as we had tons of close friends from Kerala. My fav. used to be fish curry with green mango

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  31. You never use shallots for this meen curry... guess it is the way different regions in Kerala make.

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  32. Looks really awesome, so perfectly done......
    maha

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  33. I totally wish I can try this. I probably need the less spicy version but still my mouth waters looking at this dish! I've never tried fish curry and it's something I'd enjoy a lot. Your photography is beautiful!

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  34. Quintessential for a malayali..I was also planning to post about this :)
    Why don't you send it across to Indian Simmer for Indian Food Palooza.

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  35. A beautiful dish! It looks so mouthwatering. i love spices so much.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  36. My go-to dishes really do take forever to end up on my blog! I totally agree with ya =) This looks MARVELOUS! Thanks for posting it for us!

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  37. reminds me of mom , looks delicious

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  38. Lovely colour Nami..even I didn't know the difference between cocum and other one...in malabar we generally use only tamarind.Its unbelievable that in a small like ours even the fish preparation is different

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  39. This looks really yummy, I love South Indian food. I have a bottle of coconut oil that I use sparingly sometimes, love the taste it imparts but for the life of me, don't think I'll get gambogee. I will have to try this recipe! www.LinsFood.com

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  40. Love that vibrant color of the curry.....feel like having it right now....

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  41. looks delicious and I did enjoy reading your memories!

    Life and travelling
    Cooking

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  42. Great to see that this dish is selected by NY Times!
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/09/17/dining/traditional-reader-recipes.html?ref=dining#Fish_Curry

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  43. I was craving for fish curry and wanted to make something different, hence landed here. Without any second thoughts I made this, obviously it turned out good. However, didn't have kodampuli so used tamarind. I've lost my tolerance for spicy foods so had to cut down on the spice :) As always amazing clicks!

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    1. Thanks for letting me know.So glad to hear that. Tamarind gives a different flavor, but good to know that it worked for you :) yes, this is quite spicy, that's why I have given the warning in notes :)

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  44. Thanks Namitha, all set ready, even the earthen pot. I am preparing it tomorrow :)

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  45. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  46. there doesn't seem enough water to 'boil' the fish? You are only adding 1/4 cup water at tat stage. Have you missed out something? have I missed something?

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    1. Hi Nikita,

      Sorry I took a couple of days to get back to you. That was a mistake in the recipe. In fact when I typed in I forgot to mention about adding more water, thanks for pointing out. You could soak gamboge in 1/2 cup water and later add more while you boil the fish pieces.But it is totally up to you, how much water to be added since some people prefer it to be less watery and thick.Hope this helps. BTW I changed the recipe now.

      Thanks again

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  47. apart from the 'h' in that, that is... :)

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    1. BTW I tried to send you a direct message in hotmail, it didn't work

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  48. Horrible....... don't try this recipe

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  49. Climbed this tree..tastes good even without green chilli and curry leaves (none in east germany, a bit of capsicum/bell pepper and seeds)...also used a fish called Dorade...Thanks a lot..

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