Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meenum Mangayum (Fish Curry with Mango) - From Vanitha

Scene 1:  Lan opens the door to a knock on the door and who is there but the friendly neighbor who goes on fishing trips! They had a good trip and generously wanted to share some of that bounty with the neighbor who seems to brighten up every time at the mention of fresh fish:-). Lan is grateful to see the wild caught trout but puts it away in the freezer till she can get to it.

Scene 2: It is the weekend. Lan puts the fish out thinking to cook something with it or at least marinate once thawed. She then drops off kid #1 at the local library for volunteering and takes kid#2 for her regular dentist appointment. Kid #1 will be taken to the dentist next week due to the conflict with the volunteering time. Once done at the dentist's, lan and kid#2 make a beeline to the eye doctor to get lan's contact lens supply that was waiting there for a week. Now she realizes that there is a half hour window of free time before getting some burgers at their favorite fast food joint (In 'N' Out) and heading home after picking up kid#1 from the library.

Scene 3: With the unexpected bounty of extra time, lan decides to visit the Kerala grocery store since it is close by and it's been a while. Picks up some junk as well as some good stuff and spots  a 'Vanitha' magazine at the register. Picks it up, gets the burgers, picks up up kid#1 and gets home. Although she forgot to deposit that check, lan decides enough has been done for the day and curls up to read the 'Vanitha' after the household's been calmed with the burger lunch. Happens to read an article about a fish tasting journey across Kerala and sees a recipe the author tasted at a house on the way. It sounds yummy enough that lan drools a little without thinking but gives up the thought as it means making another trek to gather the key ingredient.

Scene 4: Lan walks into the kitchen towards the evening and while clearing up the pile of dishes for the dish washer, chances upon the bag of fish languishing in the smaller sink. Idea! Since lan had also read many magazines at  the dentist's office that day with and without recipes, she couldn't right away remember where she had spotted that inspiring fish recipe. Then she remembers that it was in Malayalam and zeroes in on the 'Vanitha' now all but forgotten. Grabs the recipe and gets to work on the marinade. It was simple enough yet so good looking on the fish that H was impressed even before cooking! The fish is set to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Scene 5: It is the morning of the next day. Lan wakes up with a start and realizes she had forgotten all about the key ingredient not being there! Calls H who had gone for his regular yoga class and he was only too happy to bring the raw green mangoes for this promising curry. As soon as the mangoes are in, lan goes to work. Recipe had mostly clear instructions and so all progressed well and the household was introduced to a new curry in no time. Kids decided to stick to their 'red fish curry' but lan and H couldn't get enough of this heavenly dish.

If you have read this far, it means you would like to see the recipe now. I'll add it here with what I did based on the instructions thanks to Vanitha and the person of that house who made this. A little background here before I start. Both H and I had never liked mango in curries growing up. In my house especially, not many people favored mango in fish and it was rarely made. When it did I made sure not to go anywhere near. So I am surprised at my own tastebuds that love this heavenly dish now! When we had gone for the wedding in the East, one of the family friends had brought a similar dish over and I had enjoyed it much. Maybe that memory combined with all the things falling into place so well is what got it to such a good end. Recipe was for half a kilo of fish. The fish I had was about 1 kilo and so I doubled all the suggested numbers as follows.

In The Mix

Fish - about 1 kilo cut into to medium size pieces (~weight of 4 trouts with head removed & cleaned)

for the marinade
shallots - 4 medium sized, peeled and diced large
green serrano chili - 4 sliced to smaller size
ginger - 1.5" piece diced to smaller pieces
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
chili powder - 5 tsp
coriander powder - 4 tsp
salt to taste
olive oil - 1 tbsp or less
curry leaves - from 2 sprigs

raw mangoes - 4 (peeled and diced- slightly ripe is ok)
coconut milk - 2 cans of 165ml. each

curry leaves - 2 sprigs
shallots - 2 sliced lengthwise
coconut oil - 2 tsp

How To Do

Score the fish pieces if there is enough space on the piece. I kept the skin on since the trout was not scaly and the skin was thin enough. Looked good too.

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade up to and not including the olive oil and grind well in a blender. Add this to the fish pieces. Add the olive oil and curry leaves and mix well together. Recipe asked for coconut oil but since coconut oil freezes now I did not want to add it warm. So I added olive oil instead. Set to marinate for as long as you can. At least half an hour outside or longer in the fridge is good. The reference recipe did not say for how long. I did it overnight. Green chilies I guess can be added or taken out based on your heat tolerance. This was not specified and adding 4 did it for us.

The recipe called for coconut milk from 1.5 coconut halves and asked for 'second milk' from the coconut. I didn't know how to convert this to the canned coconut milk I had. So I went with what I thought best. Made my 'second milk' by adding 3 cans of 165 ml of water to one can of the coconut milk. So pour the coconut milk into a cup first and then use that can to add the water. Can add a bit more as needed.

Add the diced mango and the prepared 'second milk' to a pan.  Boil once, add the fish and cook covered in low to medium heat for 9-10 minutes or till done. Add salt as needed and move the fish around by rotating the pan instead of using a spoon. Now the gravy would have reduced somewhat. Add the remaining one can of coconut milk to this without adding any water. Rotate the pan to mix well, boil once and remove from heat.

Heat the coconut oil and sauté  onions and curry leaves for seasoning.  Add this to the fish curry and mix gently using a spoon as well as by rotating the pan. Now is the time for tasting. Since I had forgotten to cook rice on time we had to wait impatiently till it was ready. Felt like a long wait but it was all good when that first ball of rice mixed with fish curry melted in the mouth with exploding flavors!