July 4, 2012

Red Fish Curry — Meen Vevichathu

It’s a beautiful bright morning with golden ribbons of sunshine streaming through the window filling the room with light, warmth and happiness. Enjoying a cup of tea, and a good few minutes lost in excitement of the upcoming family wedding, and thoughts drifting to pastel, floaty dresses, country charms and rain puddles, and lingering so, suddenly, I was in a mood to connect. I was missing home—it’s been a while—and my mind was filled with a multitude of beautiful images and memories from happy times before. So today I wanted to share something from my homeland, one that we lovingly call “God’s Own Country”—the lush costal strip of southern India where ayurveda, mansoon, backwaters and kathakali rules. Fortunately, I had some naadan, aka desi material in my draft, and I gave in to the urge.

I’ve been meaning to share this fish curry recipe for a while now. However, with the thermostats climbing daily, must confess I’m more and more drawn to chilly drinks, and somehow end up flaunting my love affair—summer sips—each time I stop by.

Speaking of regional cooking, I’m happy to see more and more people interested in discovering Indian cuisine beyond the ever-popular naan bread, hearty tandoori dishes and delicious butter chicken gravy. And is it any wonder? Honestly, one of my main goals to embark on this culinary journey was to catalog recipes from my homeland, and weave tales around the time I spent there—especially my childhood years in Kochi influenced by the dominant Roman Catholic education, and cultures of my Jewish tutors and Anglo-Indian friends. Little did I know it would transform into a journey of self-discovery and my path would lead me to new delightful territories and most beautiful things.

Now, back to the topic, the cuisine of Kerala is renowned for its delectable fish and seafood delicacies, and Malayalis have a great enthusiasm and passion for fish curry meals. Truth be told, no lunchtime fare at my home is complete without a fish curry. There is always a pot of meen (fish) simmering away in the kitchen—fresh fish doused with coconut milk or fiery ground chili, flavored with smoky kodampuli (fish tamarind), and always—yes, always—cooked in a mud pot or manchatti. Clay pot imparts an earthy flavor to curries, and Malayalis strongly believe that fish prepared in any other dish is not half as good—oh yes, I am guilty as charged!
Spicy, hot, red fish curry sans coconut milk is one of my family favorites, one of the tastiest, and one of our everyday staple served with rice, yoghurt and crisp bits of pappadam. Notoriously spiced with chilies, strongly flavored with kodampuli, and charmingly tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves, the sauce is a wonderful mixture of hot, sour, pungent and salty. Tender chunks of deliciously firm and meaty fish fillets like seer, salmon and tilapia best suits this preparation.


Despite the common spice palette, there is no singular recipe for red fish curry—each region, perhaps each home has its own variations. I have mine too. In this version, I used crushed fresh tomatoes as a low-fat base to add body to the gravy—my family loves copious amount of gravy to go with rice. Kodampuli imparts sourness with a subtle earthy-smoky flavor, and coconut oil adds to the naadan taste. Note that the kodampuli I used—Eastern Cambodge—does not require pre-soaking, just a quick rinse is enough. Also, it is preferable to use chunks of skinned fish fillets instead of bony slices as you see in the pictures.

If you prefer your curry a bit milder, adjust the ground chilies and omit the green chilies. 

So ready for a plate of delicious hero food? Yes, fish, chili, tomato and garlic are hero foods that are important for your good health—enjoy!
Red Fish Curry — Meen Vevichathu

Ingredients
Serves 4
Prep+cooking: 20 min

450g fish, cleaned, sliced or cut into chunks (I used seer or kingfish known as aiyakoora or neymeen in Malayalam)
2 tablespoons oil, divided (preferably coconut oil)
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
¼ cup sliced shallots
2 sprigs curry leaves, plus few extra leaves for tempering
1 medium tomato
2 small green chilies
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
½ teaspoon fenugreek powder
3 ½—4 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder (I prefer Saras)
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
4 pieces kodampuli, rinsed (I used Eastern Cambodge)
1 cup water
salt, to taste
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

Directions

In a manchatti or clay pot, heat 1 ½ tablespoon oil over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add fenugreek and cook until the seeds crackle, about 15 seconds. Add shallots and curry leaves, and gently fry until shallots are tender, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend tomatoes, green chilies, ginger-garlic paste, fenugreek powder, chili powder and turmeric to a smooth paste in a grinder or food processor.

When the shallots are tender, add the paste, kodampuli, enough salt to taste, water, and bring everything to boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Gently tip in fish, stirring to coat the pieces in the sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes easily, and the gravy is thickened and reduced to your taste. Gently swirl or shake the pot to mix the flavors, taking care not to break the fish pieces. Adjust seasoning as needed; remove from heat.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the remaining oil (½ tablespoon) until shimmering. Tip in mustard seeds and cook until they crackle, about 10 seconds. Add the remaining curry leaves, and remove from heat. This cooking technique is called tarkha or tempering. Now quickly fold the toasted ingredients into the hot curry.

Serve hot with steamed rice and yoghurt on the side.
Hope you having a stunning summer week, stay cool!

53 comments:

  1. what lovely pictures, girl... tooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo gooooood... I just cant take my eyes off... each pic is better than the rest!!!!!! and fish vevichathu..o how i love it....

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    1. so good to hear from you Sojo... you still in Egypt right?

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  2. WOW!!! Such awesome photography!! I loved that coconut shell ladle. I wanna get one the next time I visit India :)

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    1. ....actually both my coconut shell ladles are from Doha :)

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  3. curry lookss yumm...even i makee meen vattichathu almost the same way..except the addition of blended tomatoes...next time i will try your version for sure...
    Jus love the pics..recipe card looks professional..

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    1. thnx sweetie. i play around with fish curry a lot, esp since it's an essential on our lunch menu--you know what I mean, right?

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  4. hello Nash
    Thanks for the red fish curry recipe.
    I'll create one for sure, my husband are gonna like it :)
    If you don't mind, can you submit your red fish curry photo in http://www.foodporn.net ?
    It's a food photography site full of all DIY food pictures from members around the world. submit by yourself and let me know when you did, so I can share it.

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    1. Catherine, I'm not able to open your link, it's blocked, and I guess that's 'cos of the word 'porn' in it. sorry!

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  5. Waooo Nashi..its another yummy recipe with awesome photography as usual! Love it..
    and be ready for Ramadan recipes please..It would be great to see more :)
    Lots of Love ~

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    1. oh yes... ramadan! and I'm really happy to hear from you!

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  6. That Fish Curry looks delicious!:-)
    Going to note down/bookmark it,of course!Thank you for sharing!

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    1. So glad to hear this Fahad!

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  7. As a variation, we put mustard and fenugreek seeds together. Shallot and tomatoe are avoided to preserve the curry for a longtime..Instead of paste, ginger and garlic will be chopped into small pieces and will fry until it turns golden brown.

    As usual, the clicks are awesome.

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    1. Sounds so yummy! I do the kadukuvarakka at last for the unique taste of the just-tempered curry, it's awesome. As for fenugreek I use it in the beginning as a bit of simmering adds to the flavor of the sauce :)

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    3. For Mulaku curry, 'morukachiyathu' is the best side dish..

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  8. Breathtaking pictures!

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  9. I love your fish curries Nahs...trust me just had my lunch still am drooling here.

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  10. Tempting and yummy fish curry...nice pictures..
    Shabbu's Tasty Kitchen

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  11. Pass me the coconut shell ladle together with the plate of rice and fish curry! Way too tempting yaar! I'm craving for it now :)

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  12. This is too awesome!!! Im short of adjectives... lovely!!!

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  13. Slurrp...can smell the flavour here...looks yum

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  14. Stunning pictures of the most beautiful fish curry I have ever seen in my life!!!! Simply Superbbb!!

    http://anshu-mymomsrecipes.blogspot.in/

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  15. Such a lovely red color!!! The curry looks absolutely fabulous.

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  16. oh my god! this looks so good and that red colour...love the pictures! amazing

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  17. Appetizing recipe, beautiful photos! Haven't cooked food from Kerala awhile - loved some of your vegetable dishes! Don't quite know whether I can access kodampuli in semi-rural Australia, but shall try :) !

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    1. Online? Or phaps get one of your friends to bring it for you from India? Good luck, I hope you find it!

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  18. ingane kothippichu kollthe Nashi........

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  19. Wat a breathtaking picture, seriously am drooling over that incredible fish curry.

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  20. Hi There,

    I had commented on your fb page yesterday...telling you how I struggle with this curry everytime-esp getting the consistency right. So now will try your version...maybe the tomatoes will help?

    As a north Indian, I simply grew up eating no sea food,fresh water fish maybe once in 6 months!! Ha ha ha, I know you will be shocked! Then getting married to a Malayalee from Kollam rapidly chnaged all my eating habits because my husband dislikes most north indian food. Esp breads. Sigh.. I do eat rice because I am from eastern UP-Varanasi-closer to Bihar, so rice is well liked in our region too. But boy! I absolutely draw a line at eating Motta. Cannot stand the smell, leave alone the texture/colour/taste. I cook it everyday for him and then I cook basmati for myself if I want.

    I can make almost every kerela delicacy/regular food now and my MIL says I am better than even a keralite! High praise indeed for this hindi- speaking-fish- hating girl huh?? She gave me lovely south cotton saree the day I mastered making 'pathris'- ha ha ha. I now enjoy kerela food after 6 years of being with him, though it took genuine effort and much struggle with coconut oil smell. We have a 3 yr old son, with him I am ensuring that he likes his mom's side food too...dals/veggies/pulaos/kormas/kebabs/parathas/paneer etc. He seems to like both cuisines. My only real struggle is with this curry for some reason, so your version is very timely help indeed. Initially when I got exposed to proper mallu food here in the gulf, I used to find kerela food very, very monotonous and lacking in variety, every family seemed to be eating the same things everyday! Pronouncing the names of the dishes is still a pain and I dont bother now.

    Apart from that, I love your blog, visit everyday, love the pics you take-am still learning since my own food blog is only about a week old! :)I admire the effort you put in drafting and posting your recipes....so much to learn! I am esp looking fwd to trying out your drinks recipes, will try-post them on my blog and ofcourse give credit to you...! :) So well deserved!

    Cheers,
    Harshika
    Dubai.

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    1. Hi Harshika, thanks much for the note, ♥. I hope you give it a try, based on what I see you doing on your blog, I'm sure you'll do a fab job. Do let me know if you end up making it. And oh, drinks are my refuge in summer, I'm sure you'll agree with the kind of hot weather we put up with in Dubai-Doha. So have fun!

      Oh, I do relate to your story on cooking fish and matta for the hubby. I was not much of a fish person, and most definitely couldn't stand the smell of raw fish, let alone prep it! All that changed once I walked down the aisle ha--my hubby loves fish. Period.

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  21. I am a bong, so you can imagine how much i love fish curry, specially when it red and spicy like yours!

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  22. OK your post just made me very Hungry!!
    Yum!!!

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  23. Fish curry looks lipsmacking good...Awesome photos...vayayil vellam vannu...

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  24. Hi Nashi....tried out this recipe n have to say it turned out great...reduced the spices as I did not want it too fiery....ur blog helps me to cook up great Kerala stuff....will definitely try some of ur other recipes too since my vacation does not start till next month...tc n lookin forward for more :)))

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    1. You are a gem, Sarita! Thanks much for your loveliness, love!

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  25. My father was recently posted to Kerala for two years and I have had the most amazing time freaking out on the cuisine the state has to provide. The fish curry looks absolutely delish and the clicks do absolute justice to the dish!

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    1. I'm so happy to hear this, Shumaila!

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  26. seeing your pics and post, i got reminded of the times when my father who is from kerala would make this delicious curry at home. he would even tell my mom how to get it perfect when she would make the curry. i know the flavors & taste coz i have the meen curry many times before becoming a vegetarian.

    your pics are as always beautiful. one can actually eat the food with their eyes :-)

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  27. Gorgeous pic as usual nashi, and I was so lured in that I ended up making this for our dinner few days back, awesome! Btw ur drinks pic and the recipes are in the Kerala kitchen ebook, check it out 

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  28. Such a carefully done up post this is...and ever so fabulous!

    Gorgeous pics, needless to say I admire your recipe preparations. They're immensely helpful for anyone who wants to try. I'll be trying out your puttu kadala soon.

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  29. Oh, can I have some? This curry looks amazing and ever so tasty. A beautiful dish! Gorgeous clicks too!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  30. Hi Nashi, I couldn't find kodampuli but I did find another ingredient - cocum. It looks a lot like kodampuli and I was wondering if that can be used in place of kodampuli? Thanks!

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  32. how i love this easy and yummy-looking fish! I've been craving for some Indian recipes and I think I will give this one a shot,. I'll let you know about the result. Cheers!

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  33. Mouth Watering Fish curry!
    Should try it immediately this evening.

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  34. Very informative and inspiring post have been posted here. I bookmarked this blog further more information. last weekend i visit a Indian restaurant for dinner. it was awesome experience of fish curry taste. I never forget it's taste.I am going to cook it at home.

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A million thank you's for stopping by, taking the time to connect, and coming back to visit again. I genuinely appreciate each of your kind thoughts, lovely words, love and support. Happy, happy to hear from you, and hope to see you again!

♥ Nashi