Alleppy Fish Curry5:05 PM
"...and please don't use coconut oil for our food" I made the hubby repeat the same instruction one last time before he could put down the phone.
We were about to board a houseboat for a 24 hours tour at the crack of dawn the next day and I was worried as hell what if they cook it with coconut oil. Not that we were not ready to experiment but the family of a dear friend and especially my own father was hell bent on that same fact. When it comes to food, my father is not ready to experiment and he makes it no secret if he doesnot like anything. Which is pretty much everything out of the very few dishes he likes to have.
Even when it's Bengali food he is adamant to have it just the way he likes it. There is no room for experiment to add tomatoes in his Mutton curry or potatoes in his palong shager ghanto (spinach curry). and the fact that the man was on a trip after his heart surgery made me sick in the stomach just to think what if he does not eat and take his medicines on time.
Next day the trip started beautifully with us boarding the boat from our hotel balcony. That got the then 2 and half year sonny boy so excited that he could not stop giggling for a longest time. For breakfast they served us fluffy puris with sagu (a potato curry) and filter coffee. After the whole mornign activity of cruising through the back waters, getting down several times to get a fill of just down from the tree coconut water, buy freshest catches of the day or to buy souvenirs for the family we were almost famished by lunch time. On our instruction the crew started setting the table.
The first dish of beetroot thoran came and I knew something was wrong. The smell of coconut oil wafting from the dish made my father's nose cringe. somehow we coaxed him to try the dishes. He had a few morsels with the sambhar and papad and just before he was about to declare he is done, the cook appeared with another bowl of steaming curry. He put down the curry on the table and a beautiful smell of fish, raw mango and coconut wafted out. With a big grin on his face the cook declared this is the best dish that he had to offer, a fish curry with raw mango and coconut milk, a specialty of Alleppy or Alappuja.
Baba being an ardent lover of Macher Tauk or Bengali style fish and dried mango curry in a mustard broth was quite happy to see that. We all heaved a sigh of relief when we found him taking another helping of rice with that sweet and sour creamy broth. Till date every summer he asks me to make that kerala curry with raw mangoes. Mostly I cook with steaks of Mackerel but here I prepared with Mackerel fillets.
This creamy dish is a jewel recipe in my repertoire and I go back to it again and again whenever we get good raw mangoes. Its very easy to make and with it's sweet-sour-creamy-spicy taste, leaves all your taste bud satiated yet craving for more.
Alleppy Fish Curry
Fish: 400 gms (Tilapia, Mackerel, Seer fish, King fish even Rohu or Carp) Tastes best with sea fish though.
Onion: finely chopped: 1/2 cup
Ginger: 1/2 tsp finely chopped
Garlic: 1 tsp finely chopped
Green chilies: 2-3
Red chili powder: 1 tsp (or as much heat as you can take)
Raw Mango: 1-2 Depending on the tartness
Coconut milk: 1 cup (I used the variety from can which was very creamy. please see notes) or 200 ml tetra packs available in India.
Curry Leaves: handful or 2-3 sprigs
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Oil: 4 tbsp (White odorless oil) see notes
Wash the fish pieces and mix with salt and turmeric. keep aside for 15 minutes.
Chop the onion very finely. If you can find shallots use it.
Peel and make big long chunks of the mangoes. Keep them submerged in water.
Once you are ready to cook heat the oil in a heavy bottom pan. Lightly fry the fish pieces on both sides and take out. Originally in Kerala they dunk raw fish pieces in the bubbling gravy but I like it this way.
Add the mustard seeds in the same oil and once they start to splutter add the curry leaves and slited green chillies. Once you can smell the amazing aroma tip in all the chopped onions with a sprinkle of salt. cook on medium till they change colour to a golden and then add the chopped ginger-garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes or till the raw smell is gone.
Next goes in the mangoes with turmeric and more salt. Stir and cover let the mangoes get soft and let their juices out. Stir from time to time to stop it getting burnt at the bottom. Once you see the mangoes have turned translucent and soft, mix in the chili powder.
Pour a cup of water and bring it to a boil. Carefully put the fish pieces in it and lower the flame. If needed add more water and adjust the taste.
Cook for 8-10 minutes till the fish pieces absorb the aroma and taste. finally pour in the coconut milk and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Do not put it back on high heat after you have added the coconut milk.
Serve hot with steamed rice, Papad and any curry.
A Homemaker's Notes:
Use any fish pieces Mackerel, King fish etc flavours this curry in a better way than Rohu or Tilapia.
In India I use Dabur Coconut milk which is not as creamy as the canned milks. If using Dabur's (Homemade) use little less than the entire 200 ml pack.
Cooking is all about adjusting the recipe to suit your taste buds. So if your mangoes are very tart use less of it. You can always use more later if needed.
You might have to use more oil if using fillets.
Sending this to KFB's Mango Festival.