Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the tag “Fish”

Fish in Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

I love flicking through anything recipe related. Magazines, websites, books, you
name it and I do it when I’m not planning my next travel adventures. To be fair, I
do think of what local speciality I can try when I decide on where to go next. So,
travel is combined with food and vice versa.
But I digress. I’m currently taking a break from travel and staying in Delhi.
Winter is slowly setting in and all one wants is soul food. Something warm that
leaves you fuzzy but at the same time not hasslesome. Cleaning up can be such a
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m on this South East Asian flavours spree. I’ve been
reading a lot on flavour combinations and what better to try out new things than
experiment, right?
I came up with this recipe on a whim and though it requires a longish list of
ingredients, believe you me, it’s simple and makes for a wholesome supper.
PS: I recently came across Jamie Oliver‘s Cauliflower Rice recipe and it’s
marvelous. It’s healthy, tasty and serves as a no-carb alternative to rice. It can
be consumed with curries and kebabs or just as it is with a smattering of herbs
and some butter!

Fish Curry
For Marinade
500g Rohu (type of Carp, cut into pieces)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp garam masala powder

For Curry
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 inch ginger (chopped)
1 tomato (quartered)
1 can coconut milk
1 lemongrass (stalk bruised)
2 tbs lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 tbs vegetable oil

Cauliflower Rice
1 head cauliflower (blitzed in food processor)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
Pinch of red chilly flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp oil

– Marinate the fish with all the powders. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.
– Heat a wok and add the oil.
– Add the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass. Saute till fragrant.
– Add the lemon juice and wait for the hot wok to sizzle.
– Empty a can of coconut milk into the wok with a pinch of salt and add the quartered tomato
– Bring the liquid to a boil and put on gentle simmer.
– Add the fish to the coconut curry and clamp a lid on the wok for 15 minutes.
– Discard the lemongrass when curry made.
– For rice, heat the oil in a pan.
– Add the garlic and chilly flakes
– When fragrant, add the cauliflower and cook through. Add seasoning
– Serve a helping of the rice with a side of fish and some curry!

Delicious and healthy supper!

Delicious and healthy supper!

The Kerala connection

Think of Kerala and vivid images come to mind. When a state advertises it self as ‘God’s own country’, you know they have something different to offer. The idyllic backwaters, the green coconuts, Ayurvedic massages… it gives you a feeling that you’re transported far away from modern spaces. And the food. Oh the glorious food. Meat, fish, seafood prepared with delicious coconut oil and tempered with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Sour from the tamarind paste and velvety from fresh coconut milk, Kerala cuisine has such fantastic variety that one can never get bored.

Personally, Kerala is still the only state in Southern India I’m yet to travel to. I seriously don’t understand how I’ve managed not to for so long. But I’ve tasted authentic food from the region from childhood days. And the taste has lingered for so many years. Majority of the population believe South Indian cuisine consists of Dosas, Idlis and Vadas along with Sambar. They couldn’t be more wrong. Different in dialect, the philosophy spills over to food. The spice base, taste, ingredients, style of cooking change from region to region.

A close friend’s mother cooks a fantastic beef fry. It’s so spicy, rich in oil and so delicious that the only accompaniment you need is fluffy white rice. In Delhi if you’re searching for a good meal from the southern state, look no further than the Kerala Staff Canteen near Jantar Mantar (I had mentioned this place in an earlier post ‘Affordable Eating in Delhi.’)

Buying beef in Delhi becomes difficult because you get buff. Buying fish is far easier. If you keep the basic ingredients at home like coconut milk, tamarind, mustard seeds and curry leaves, a quick and easy lunch/dinner option becomes a Kerala style fish curry. I make this dish quite often for friends and is always a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients (For 2)

500g fish fillets. (I use Basa but for the best curry use King fish or Neymeen)
250ml coconut milk
100ml tamarind paste (Made by soaking tamarind in hot water)
2 small onions
2 inches of ginger
4 garlic cloves
2 green chillies
Handful of curry leaves (I always have dried leaves in stock)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Half teaspoon red chilly powder (Add more if you like it spicy)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 small tomatoes
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (Use coconut oil if available)

The process

In a non-stick utensil heat the oil. At the same time blitz together the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies. Once the oil is heated through, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the seeds begin to sputter, add the blitzed vegetables and brown.
In a small bowl make a thick spice paste with the turmeric, red chilly powder and a bit of water. Add the paste to the browned vegetables. Once the spice paste is cooked through, add the coconut milk and tamarind paste. (If you want the curry to be very watery, add about the same amount of water to the coconut milk). Dice the tomatoes and add at this point. Put in the fish which I dice to make it bite sized, bring the curry to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Add salt as per taste.

Some prefer to marinate the fish in salt and turmeric and then pan fry it before adding to the curry. I don’t like it personally because I prefer the melt in the mouth reaction.

With rice, curd and some prawn pickles as accompaniments, this fish curry will hit the sweet spot on a lazy summer afternoon.


The fishy tale

Bengalis love their food. And their fish. Well most of them anyway.

I never did quite develop a taste for river or sea water fish till the time I actually left home. Till then, I would make a face (at times) when fish in various curries or fried options were presented for lunch or dinner. But it was only after I began fending for myself did I realise, ‘hey, it’s not too bad after all.’ Why you ask. First, it has magical properties I tell you. After a lot of over eating if you stick to fish for a couple of days, people keep asking ‘have you lost weight?’ Well, it could be metabolism, but hey don’t puncture my bubble. Second, its fast and easy to cook. It takes less than half the time when cooking meat or even chicken. In curries, pan fried or deep fried, it takes only minutes to have a simple yet tasty dinner on the table.

Jokes about Bengalis and their love of fish is found everywhere, on all types of social media to bedtime stories. In fact, their deep understanding of the fish transcends all boundaries. Even epic romances turn pale in comparison. Even friends living abroad ask me for fish recipes thinking I know all about the slimy creatures. Honestly, I don’t.

Fish markets are really not my cup of tea. I would rather prefer going to a grocery store and buying a pack of frozen goodness than get up early in the morning just to get the freshest piece of fish for dinner. I remember the Sunday ritual with my father. He would go to the market, I would tag along just for the ice cream treat at the end of it all. He had a routine. First the non edible items, then the veggies, next came the meat and at the end of it all the fish. Back then, I was clueless. Looking at the various fish stalls, I couldn’t make out a Hilsa from a Rohu. The one thing I did understand were prawns. Delicious and rich in flavour, you really can’t go wrong cooking them. (To my dismay when I found out they were crustaceans during a biology class, I was heartbroken. I thought I finally found a type of fish I liked!) 

I’m yet to come across a cuisine which does not use prawns, lobsters or shrimps. Be it Mexican, French or Thai, prawns are prevalent but flavours change. One day you have them coated in garlic butter, the next in black pepper sauce. 

Bengalis love them prawns. And they have devised a fantastic way to way to eat them in the form of a malai curry with steaming rice. Now, my mother makes a mean prawn malai curry with raving reviews. Craving the creamy, coconutty prawn dish but without actually wanting to go through all the processes, every time I try a short cut. To be honest, it doesn’t actually turn out to be an authentic malai curry but comes pretty darn close to it!

How the Malai Curry is made:

In a very small yet compact herb chopper (a life saver from crying while chopping onions) put in one big onion, three cloves of garlic, an inch of garlic and two green chillies. After a quick blitz, add the mixture to a pan with heated vegetable oil (four tablespoons). Add in a bay leaf too if you like the smell. Once the mixture is well sauteed, add a table spoon each of turmeric, coriander powder and cumin powder. Once spices have been cooked, add in 200 ml of coconut milk. Add a tea spoon of sugar and salt at this stage. (Sometimes I even add a chopped tomato at this stage just to experiment). Once the gravy is slightly thick, add in 250 grams of de-veined prawns or shrimps as per what you like. If you’re in the mood for a richer taste, add about 100ml of cream. I always use chopped coriander as a garnish once the prawns are cooked to perfection which takes about 10 minutes. I used a handful of curry leaves instead of coriander this time and it tasted just as good!

Try it with steaming rice and you won’t be disappointed.


The Rendang craving

The first time I heard about Rendang was in Singapore. In the island nation for four days last year, squashed between two travelling work weeks, the aim was a holiday. I had heard so much about the city. After four days, though disappointed with the city as it fell short of my expectations, the food left me spell bound. And it’s solely for food that I want to go back, just to be able to taste the wonderful street delicacies again. To allow my taste buds to be tantalized with the wonderful and colourful array of street food once more.

I chomped my way through the hawker stalls and food courts in the four short days with friends. From Little India to China Town, East Coast Park to Orchid Road; from the succulent satays to the tender chicken rice, from spicy chilly crabs to delicious soupy laksas, the acquired taste of oyster omelets to the fried hokkien mee… Unforgettable. That’s the beauty of Singapore street food. Influenced by so many different nearby regions, they all amalgamate into food which is simply divine.

The rendang I had was the authentic one (or so I was told). It had succulent spicy beef which had been cooked for hours in coconut milk till all the liquid had evaporated. The process had left the meat so tender that it melted as I put each spoonful in my mouth accompanied by rice. And the best thing — this meal along with an iced juice came just under $10!

Traditionally, Rendang draws its roots from Indonesia. It’s supposedly served at ceremonious functions. But today, its been absorbed into so many south-east Asian cuisines that this wonderful complex meat dish has found abundant followers.

Recently I had a Rendang craving. It’s impossible for me to to find all the spices where I stay. Sure I always keep chilly, ginger, garlic and onions at home but where would I find galangal? Turmeric is a staple spice but going out to get lemon grass on a hot summer afternoon, no thank you. So, I used the next best thing. A Rendang paste which I had picked up in Singapore. When I say I use pastes in my cooking, I always find two kinds of reaction. The first lot categorically state that store-bought pastes are bad. Not authentic enough. They would rather go all over town to buy the freshest ingredients and make the paste fresh themselves. The second group, on the other hand, are always thankful that they can go to a supermarket near by and have an unusually scrumptious supper within minutes. Not only does it save time and energy but also lets you experiment more with different cuisines.

Personally, I have nothing against the people who are fresh fanatics. But I would rather use a packaged paste for Rendang, Green curry, Red curry or anything which is slightly out of the ordinary for regular lunch or dinner. They save me a huge amount of time from having to cut, chop, peel, smash and yet gives me wonderful tasty food at the end of half an hour.

The original recipe calls for the meat (beef or lamb) to be marinated in the above-mentioned spice mixture. I discovered a slight problem two minutes into the craving. My cold storage only had two kilograms of basa fish. So, I thought, ‘why not.’ Instead of actually marinating the fish (since it takes minutes to cook) I put half a packet of paste in a frying pan. (The 500gm packet is for about 1kg of meat so just go about using the paste mathematically). Once the paste was slightly fried I added 200ml coconut milk and let the mixture come to a simmer before adding half a kg of fish. I deviated once again when I added chopped coriander to the pan while cooking. But believe me, once the fish was cooked to perfection, the aroma took me back to Singapore. To the food court near Adam Road where I first tasted it.

Accompanied with fluffy steamed rice (which I conveniently microwaved for 18 minutes) and a slice of lemon, my version of fish Rendang definitely hit the sweet spot. 


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