Meen achar(Fish Pickle)

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Meen achar or Fish pickle: In Kerala, it is very common to find some form of fish in your meal. Though fish pickle/meen achar is not a popular item from the place I come from, it is quite a hit in the Southern-Mid Kerala regions. I first had fish pickle when my roommate got it from her home after our semester break. And it was quite delicious πŸ™‚ I had it another time at a friend’s place for dinner few months ago.

I didn’t ask anyone for a recipe as such. My mom prepares shrimp/prawn pickle at home and its to die for πŸ˜‰ So I just modified that a little and tried to make fish pickle my style. I figured that for any pickle/achar, there are few things that you can use in permutation-combination and all of it tastes good πŸ˜€ Those ingredients are mainly, fenugreek, mustard, asafetida, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, green chilli and vinegar. The must use ingredient is red chilli powder πŸ™‚ From my couple of experiences with fish pickle, I saw that ginger, garlic and curry leaves is something thats used in it. My mom uses only garlic for most kind of pickles. So I thought of going for these additions. For a first timer, I wasn’t disappointed πŸ˜› This recipe is posted after my attempt a second time. The first time, I did a blunder!!! I made the pickle using catfish. Now, if you plan to make fish pickle, use more harder fish like King fish/Neimeen or Tilapia or even Salmon. Catfish was too soft for a pickle. After deep frying, the fish pieces should be little hard. Thats helps in preserving the fish pickle for a longer duration or may be thats how the texture should ideally be!!!

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Fish(I used Neimeen/King fish) – 200 gm
Garlic – 4 nos, chopped
Ginger – 1 inch piece, chopped
Curry leaves – 1 strand
Green chilli – 2 nos, slit
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek powder – less than 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Vinegar – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1 tsp)
Boiled water – 3/4 cup
Oil(Sesame preferred) – 2 tbsp

For fish marination and deep frying:-
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Oil – as needed(apprx. 1 cup)

METHOD:
1. Wash and clean the fish and cut it into small 1 inch cubes/pieces. Drain the water well and dry it with paper towel if needed(this will prevent the oil from spluttering when you fry the fishes).
2. Marinate the fish with turmeric powder, kashmiri red chilli powder and salt mentioned under ‘For fish marination and deep frying’ section. Keep aside for an hour or so.
3. Heat oil in a deep frying dish/pan and deep fry the marinated fish pieces in batches(about 10 pieces at a time). Fry (in medium high flame) till the fish pieces have cooked well and drain the oil using a paper towel and keep aside.
Note: The oil should be really hot before you put the fish pieces for frying. Else, the fish pieces will absorb lot of oil. This is the case while deep frying anything. If the oil isn’t heated well, it leads to a lot of oil absorption.
4. For making the pickle, heat oil in a saucepan and put mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, put curry leaves and let it splutter. Reduce the flame to medium.
5. Put chopped ginger and chopped garlic and slit green chillies. Saute till the garlic and ginger turns light brown.
6. Now add the fenugreek powder, red chilli powder and kashmiri red chilli powder. Saute for few seconds. Make sure that the red chilli powder doesn’t burn.
7. Add 1 cup of boiled water. Put the fried fish pieces and salt into it and mix well.
8. Remove from flame and pour the vinegar into the saucepan and give a good mix. At this point, do a taste check and add more salt or vinegar per your taste.
9. After the pickle cools down, transfer it into a jar and store in the refrigerator.

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Konju Peera (Shrimp with grated coconut)

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Konju Peera: Konju malayalam means prawns/shrimp and Peera is grated coconut. This dish is one of the easiest dish I have ever learnt to make. Peera pattichadu/vattichadu is not so common dish towards northern Kerala. Since it is not a dish made in my home ever, I wasn’t keen on making it also. However, one day I just happened to go through some cooking video of ‘Netholi(Anchovy) peera’. Looking at the ease of preparation method and the time it would take to cook this, I decided to try making it once and see how I would like it. By the way, Netholi Peera is a more common dish than Konju Peera πŸ™‚ The only reason I made Konju peera is because, I didn’t have anchovy in my fridge but had shrimp. And when I decide to make or do something, I have to do it then and there – Impatience!!! My loved ones aren’t very proud of this character on mine πŸ˜›

Anyway, long story short, I made this dish within 30 mins of watching that cooking video πŸ˜€ Such a traditional and authentic dish and it tasted yummmmm!!! This was my first ever ‘peera’ experience and this dish has definitely taken a place in my heart πŸ˜‰ It is a very simple dish with very simple, yet most authentic Kerala flavors πŸ™‚ It goes very well as a side dish with rice.

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Shrimp/Prawns/Konju/Chemmeen – 100 gms or 12 large shrimps
Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
Ginger – 1/2 inch, chopped
Shallots – 3 nos, sliced
Curry leaves – 1 strand
Green chilli – 3 nos, slit
Kudampuli/Gambooge – 1.5 nos
Turmeric powder – 1/3 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste (apprx. less than 1/2 tsp)

METHOD:

1. Wash and clean the shrimp/prawns.
2. Put all the ingredients mentioned above except for coconut oil, in a sauce pan or meen chatti(clay pot) and give it a good mix with your hands or a spoon.
3. Heat the sauce pan and pour little water(apprx. 1/4 cup) and let it boil.
4. Once it starts to boil, bring the flame to low heat and cook covered for about 10 mins(till the shrimp/prawns/konju is cooked).
5. Pour the coconut oil to the sides of the sauce pan/meen chatti and give a light mix. Do not stir the Konju peera too much. Remove from heat.

Serve with rice πŸ™‚

Karuveppilai Prawns(Shrimp in Curry leaf based sauce)

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Karuveppilai prawns – To be honest, I borrowed this fancy name from Aachi Aapa Kaddai’s menu card. For those of you who do not know the meaning of Karuveppilai, it means Curry leaves. Curry leaves is a very flavorful leaf used mostly in South Indian cooking and usually for seasoning/garnishing or tadka as we commonly call it. Last day, my friend gave me some curry leaves from her backyard. There was quite a lot and I didn’t want to freeze it. But there was no way I could consume it all in a short time too. So that week, I was making dishes which needed curry leaves in abundance. I still had a lot of it remaining. That is when suddenly I remembered seeing this dish in a restaurant’s menu card. That name always caught my attention, but I never ordered the dish. So frankly speaking, though I have borrowed the name from the menu card of a restaurant, I haven’t tried to re-create that same dish here. I just came up with the recipe keeping in mind the Chettinad style of cooking.

This dish was an experiment. This was the most risky experiment I have done in the recent times. The reason for this being risky was because, all the spices(including the curry leaves) are ground together and cooked at the same time. And at that time I had no clue, how, this much quantity of ground curry leaves would taste. But I went all out and gave it a shot and I am so happy I took the risk πŸ˜€ This dish was soo flavorful and so different. Both DD and me enjoyed our dinner. I had made lemon rice along with it and the combination somehow clicked πŸ˜€

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INGREDIENTS:

Shrimp/Prawn – 250 gm
Onion – 1 no, chopped
Tomato – 1 no, puree’d
Curry leaf – 1 strand
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaf – 1 sprig
Oil – 3 tbsp
Salt – to taste (apprx. 1/2 tsp)

To grind:-
Ginger – 1/4 inch piece
Garlic – 5-6 pods
Curry leaves – 3-4 sprigs
Black pepper – 1 tsp
Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp

METHOD:
1. Grind all the ingredients mentioned under ‘To grind’ section into a smooth paste and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan. Put mustard seeds in it and let it splutter. Then add curry leaves.
3. Add chopped onion and salt to it. Saute till onion turns light brown.
4. Then add the tomato puree and let it cook well in medium flame. Oil will start to separate.
5. Add the ground paste and saute well. Let it cook in medium-low flame.
6. The spices need to cook well. Once the spices are cooked, the oil will start to separate. You can sprinkle some water if the spices seem to stick to the pan or burn.
7. Once it becomes a thick paste, add the shrimp/prawns to it. Mix well so that the spices coat the shrimp well.
8. Now add water as required. I didn’t add much water(apprx. 1 cup) because I wanted thicker gravy.
9. Cook till the shrimp cooks well and gravy consistency is per your liking.

Serve with lemon rice or plain rice.

Fish Curry using Raw Mango and Coconut

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I don’t experiment much with fish, especially fish curry. The only fish curry I can confidently make is the kerala fish curry. The reason for this is coz, I have now made it enough number of times and each time it comes out good πŸ™‚ Also, since I am not a great fan of fish, I would depend on DD to finish any fish item. So it is important that he likes whatever I make with fish. Though he is not very picky about food, it gives me satisfaction when I see him enjoy the food I make!!!

I used to attempt making different types of fish curry. But what I never liked in most of those, is the flavor of the fish skin or fish oil. May be that’s why I like salmon fish curry or even tilapia better! But this time I thought that I should try something different and just to ensure that I also like the fish curry, I decided to peel off the fish skin. I am glad, I put that effort. Also, me and my ex-roomie, had made a curry one time when I was in Bangalore. When we made that gravy, I had told her that it reminds me of the fish curry we make in our region(Malappuram side of Kerala). So from a long time I wanted to convert it to a good coconut based fish curry. In our place, we also make fish curry using coconut. So I came up with this recipe, keeping in mind the basic ingredients usually used for making fish curry and used raw mango instead of tamarind for sourness.

Long story short, the fish curry turned out awesome πŸ˜€ I was very skeptical while serving this to DD. After having it, he told me that it reminds him of the fish curry that was served with meals in Shornur railway station!!! That was quite a compliment. For me, the fact that it reminded him of Shornur itself was a success coz afterall that was my attempt. To come as close to the authentic way of making a good fish curry using coconut. Oh, BTW, Shornur is a place near my hometown πŸ™‚ Enjoy this coconut and raw mango based fish curry!

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INGREDIENTS:

Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Fish(Pomfret) – 200 gms(5-6 pieces)
Raw mango slices(peeled) – 50 gm(approx. 1/3 cup)
Shallots – 1 no
Garlic – 2 pods
Ginger – 3/4 inch piece
Curry leaves – 2 strands
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Green chilli – 2 nos
Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1 tsp)

To grind:-
Grated coconut – 1/3 cup
Coriander seeds – 1/4 tsp
Shallots – 2 nos

METHOD:

1. Clean and wash the fish and keep it aside. Please note that I remove the skin of the fish since I don’t like the flavor/oil that comes out from the fish skin.
2. Put chopped ginger, chopped garlic, 1 strand curry leaves, slit green chillies, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, raw mango slices, salt and 2.5 cups water in a saucepan. Bring it to boil. Cook covered in medium high flame.
3. Meanwhile, grind ingredients mentioned under ‘To grind’ section into smooth paste using a blender/mixie.
4. Once the mango is 3/4th done, add the ground paste and bring it to boil.
5. Add the fish pieces and cook in medium flame till the fish is cooked through. Then remove from heat.
6. In a pan, heat oil. Put mustard seeds and let it splutter. Then add fenugreek seeds. Once it turns light brown, add remaining curry leaves. Add sliced shallot(remaining 1 shallot) and saute till shallot turns light brown. Remove from heat and pour it to the fish curry and give a light mix.

Enjoy with white rice!

Fish Fry(Meen Varuthadu)

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Fish fry is one of the most commonly made side dish in Kerala homes. Growing up, I wasn’t a great fan of fish. Even today, I am not. But anyday, I would prefer Fish fry to Fish curry. Coming to US and having to cook by myself made me realize that one could crave for food which they hate!!! I used to hate fish. But after I came to US, there was no one to force me to eat fish. So I was happy about not having to deal with fish anymore. But after few months or an year, I got a craving to eat Fish!! Of all the things, fish??? Well, I had to deal with my fish craving. So then, for the first time, I bought fish and made it.

Ever since, I make fish occasionally. I am not a great fan of the deep fried fish that you normally get in restaurants. But I kind of like this fish fry that my mom makes. It has a very unique taste and its shallow fried. So it is softer(than its deep fried counter parts) and uses less oil πŸ™‚ You could slice the fish into smaller pieces and fry them. I guess, that is even better coz the masala gets applied to most area of the fish. I usually make it that way. This time I just tried to fry the entire fish coz I saw it being served this way in a restaurant we went last week πŸ˜‰

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INGREDIENTS:

Black pomfret – 400 gms
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste(approx. 1 tsp)
Rava/ Semolina – 1 tsp
Oil – 5 tbsp

To grind:-

Shallots – 10 nos
Garlic – 3-4 pods
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Black peppercorns – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 3/4 tsp

METHOD:

1. Clean and wash the fish.
2. In a mixie/grinder, grind all the ingredients listed under ‘To grind’ section, to a smooth paste.
3. Marinate the fish with red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and the ground mixture. Apply on both sides of the fish.
4. You can marinate the fish overnight for best results. If not, keep it atleast for an hour.
5. Heat oil in a pan. Sprinkle rava on the marinated fish. This will help the marinade to stick to the fish while frying. Fry the fish in medium high flame.
6. Fry both sides till it becomes brown and is fully cooked. Use a fork/tongs to turn the fish easily.

Serve with rice or as appetizer!

Thai Yellow Curry-Shrimp

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I have found Thai cuisine to be very similar to our Kerala cuisine. It could be the usage of coconut milk and spicy green chillies that establishes the connection for me. Having said that, there are lot of differences too. For instance, the kind of rice used is so different that the taste changes drastically even if you have it with the same curry.

This yellow curry is very easy and is very close to the authentic Thai yellow curry. However there could be variation in the taste. What I liked the best in this curry is that fresh taste out of a shrimp curry. We rarely use celery, asparagus or basil leaves in our preparation. The flavors that these vegetables add is so distinct, that you would really enjoy the ‘NEW’ curry that you experimented.

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INGREDIENTS:

Shrimp – 10 nos
Capsicum/Bell pepper – 1/2
Onion – 1/2
Celery(sliced) – 1/4 cup
Asparagus – 2 stems
Basil leaves – 2 strands
Coriander leaves(optional if using basil leaves) – 2 strands
Ginger Garlic paste – 1/2 tsp
Green chilli – 2 nos
Tomato – 1/2 of a medium sized one
Coconut milk – 1/3 cup
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Curry powder – 3/4 tsp OR use the following optional ingredients
Salt – to taste (apprx. over 1/2 tsp)

Optional Ingredients(If not using curry powder):
Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Garam masala – 1/4 tsp

METHOD:

1. Clean and wash the shrimp and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add sliced onion and ginger garlic paste. Once the rawness of ginger garlic paste goes off, add sliced green chilli, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, curry powder(or the spices under ‘Optional Ingredients’ section).
3. Saute it for a min or two. Then add sliced tomato. Cook till tomato is done well.
4. Chop asparagus into 3 inch long pieces and add it to the pan. Let it cook for 4-5 mins.
5. Add sliced bell pepper/capsicum, celery and basil leaves. Saute and cook in medium heat for few mins. The vegetables shouldn’t get fully cooked. It should have a crunch.
6. Add the shrimp and salt and saute till it turns light pink.
7. Now add water(about 2 cups) and let it boil. Once it boils, add coconut milk and stir well.
8. Once it boils, remove from heat and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and hot sauce.

NOTE: Usually I put the salt along with onions. But here if you notice, I have put the salt along with shrimp. The reason is simple. Salt will take out the moisture from onion and the vegetables quickly and leave it soft whereas for this recipe, you want the vegetables to have a crunch and not get fully cooked and soft.

Kallummakkaya varuthadu/Mussel Fry

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As I had mentioned in my Kallummakkaya mulagu aracha recipe, mussel is not one of most common seafood item you would find in Kerala homes. It is one of those special things that you make very few times in life πŸ˜› So you would want it to taste good when you make it so rarely. When I bought Mussel, I split half portion of it for making Kallummakkaya mulagu arachadu and half the portion I used for making this Mussel fry. I felt when you finally make up your mind for putting that much effort in its cleaning and preparation process, you might as well want to try couple of different dishes out of it πŸ™‚

Mussel fry has been one of my favourites and I have always preferred it over mussel masala. Ya right, the less healthier it is, the more tastier it gets πŸ˜‰ But to make you feel better, this dish is not deep fried and so it is not junk as such πŸ™‚ It goes very well with rice, moru kachiyadu and bhindi fry/carrot thoran.

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INGREDIENTS:

Mussel/Kallumakkaya – 10 nos
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1/2 tsp)
Oil – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves(optional) – 1 strand
Chopped onion(optional) – 1 tbsp

To grind:-
Shallots – 6-7 nos
Garlic – 2 pods
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Black peppercorns – 1/2 tsp
Vinegar – 2 tsp

METHOD:

1. Clean and wash the mussels. (To clean the mussels, you have to remove the sand and the fibre type beard from the mussel. Then wash them well.)
2. In a blender, put all the ingredients mentioned under β€˜To grind’ section and make into a fine paste.
3. Take the mussel and marinate it with the ground paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix it well so the spices are applied evenly on the mussels.
4. Marinate for 1-2 hours.
5. Heat oil in pan and shallow fry the Mussels in medium flame. Once the mussels are 75% cooked, you can add the curry leaves and chopped onions if you like(I didn’t put it in mine, but I always add these for prawns/shrimp fry. It adds a very different and good flavor to you mussel fry). The mussels are done once they look little firm. They are little chewy in nature.