Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Fish Manjula aunty way

         Ask an archetypal Bangali porjotok (Bengali tourist) how his trip down South went and I could bet the ensuing conversation would center around how difficult it is to survive on idli-dosa. They say it like it was one dish and the only dish you got down south. And there are the others who would crinkle their nose and rattle on about how everything has tamarind and is cooked in coconut oil. Classic: I lost so many kilos on the trip…couldn’t at a thing. Go die, I say (in my mind mostly or I whisper inaudibly.)
      Now, I am not saying they are all like that just like not all Bengalis are sluggish or green-eyed… Anyway I do not take very kindly to this breed. I love the flavours from down South, such a relief from the ubiquitous Chicken Tikka Butter Masala and the kind. I have nothing against a Chicken Tikka Butter Masala though.
           OK I might just be alienating a lot of people with this post. Well the crux of the matter is that I love Southern flavours and I pursued a certain neighbour, Manjula aunty, three weeks straight to get this recipe. That was years ago, I was only 17, more insistent and I had a crush on her son (I still do). And when I made it for the first time I had had a huge fight with my father because he had given the dish that look. That look which I do not take kindly too. Nowadays it is one of his favourite preparations, he says so, at least when I am around. This is nothing fancy and it is a very simple, but it's one of my favourites. I made it last evening and I thought I should share.


Fish (Bekti) – 12-15 pieces cut in 1-in cubes
Onion paste – 1 cup
Garlic paste – 1 tsp
Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
Coconut milk – 100 ml
Curry leave – 10­-12 + two stems
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
Whole green chillies – 5-7
Kashmiri (Lol) chilli powder – 1 tbsp
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1tbsp
Tamarind paste – 2 – 3 tbsp (or according to taste)
Salt to taste
Sugar – ½ tsp
Oil – 4-5 tbsp 

1.       Salt the fish and keep aside.
2.       Heat oil to smoking point, take off heat and add the mustard seeds, followed by the fenugreek seeds and finally the loose curry leaves. Put it back on heat and once they flutter and the aroma makes you salivate already add the onion paste.
3.       Fry the onions. Keep the heat to a low. Add a little salt at this point. Now add the garlic and ginger and cook till oil separates. 

4.       Add the whole green chillies and fry. 
5.       Now make a paste of Kashmiri red chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder, with a little water. Add it to the onion-ginger-garlic and keep stirring until oil separates.
6.       Add coconut milk and a cup of water. Also add the curry leaves on the stem and the sugar. Bring it to a boil and turn down the heat. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
7.       Add the fish. Cover and cook for another 6 - 8 minutes. The fish should be done by now. Cook on low heat for a couple of minutes more.  
8.       Finally add the tamarind pulp and adjust seasoning. Serve hot with steamed rice.

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