For today’s GMT I am sharing a fairly easy, next to zero pre prep recipe- Kerala style fish fry. A perfect side dish to lentils and rice or a great gluten free starter for a Kerala style meal. Not only does this Kerala style fish fry not require much preparation, it also comes together in a jiffy. And the next to zero effort is so much worth it. Because that means you can make this and sit back and enjoy it with a big, huge glass of chilled wine (yes, wine connoisseurs I like my wine chilled and I like it white!)
Of course I did neither of that. No sitting back and relaxing or drinking wine. Although I have half the mind to pour me a glass of wine and drink it while I write this post. It had been a busy day of cooking, cleaning, quickly photographing for the blog, cooking, cleaning, deep freezing stuff for V and then some baking and cleaning.
If someone asks me what’s my favorite ingredient, it has to be curry leaves. Then cumin. Aah cumin flavored potatoes! Yum. And lemon. Lemon also features in that list. I should stop listing else I’ll list every ingredient as my favorite.
So as I was saying curry leaves top my list of favorite ingredients. Please don’t confuse curry leaves with curry powder. They have nothing to do with any powder of any sorts. Well, there are dried curry leaf powders available now, so that statement isn’t entirely correct but just remember you can not use curry powder instead of curry leaf.
Curry powder, which is not a common pantry ingredient in indian kitchens, is actually a British invention and is a mix of spices such as cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and coriander and has NO CURRY LEAVES in it.
Curry leaves or we in India call them, Kadi pata, is this unique flavored (lemony would be the closest word to describe it) leaf. And I kid you not once you start cooking with curry leaves, you will fall in love with these dark green aromatic leaves. And imagine tempering these beauties in some coconut oil, intoxicated is how you will feel next.
Not many north Indian dishes use curry leaves (though there are instances of Gujarati cuisine using them and even Rajasthani dishes like my friend’s mom’s kadi recipe), but you will definitely find them as a constant feature in south indian cuisine. You will see them being used in rice dishes, vegetable sides, lentil broths, drinks and curries. (No wonder I like south Indian cuisine so much)
Curry leaves can be found in the fresh produce section of Indian or Asian markets. You also find dried leaves in some Indian grocery stores. You can find plants online as well. In case you are thinking of buying a plant- search for Curry leaves. You will find it available on amazon as well.
Fresh curry leaves can last up to two weeks in the fridge. To make them last longer, air-dry them in any cool part of your house where there is no direct sunlight, and once dry (takes about 3-5 days) store in an airtight container or ziploc bag. I generally stock up on curry leaves whenever I see them available in the asian grocery store in Phoenix and freeze them and use as required without thawing. Make sure you vacuum-pack them to prevent oxidation.
I saw this recipe on one of the Indian cooking channels. I hardly ever watch TV these days, so its surprising that I had it on and tuned into this particular indian channel. It was like this dish and I were meant to be.
The recipe is adapted from Joey Mathews’ recipe for Kerala Fried Prawns. Prawns are larger shrimps. In the United Kingdom, the word “prawn” is used more commonly on menus than “shrimp”; while it’s the opposite in North America. And since India follows the British system thats what we eat in India. Since V is not a fan of any kind of sea food, I generally do not buy it, but I love Tilapia and some times buy it for myself and so used it here instead of the prawns in this dish. When I was in Kerala visiting my parents, I freaked out on the tiger prawn kerala dishes, so I am sure this would be a great prawn/shrimp dish as well.
If you use fish remember that the fish when cooked will tend to break up into pieces if there is any heavy stirring or mixing. So be gentle with it. And also the first time you put the fish in the pan, is when you cook it. The second time you are just putting it to get the flavors in and crisping the exterior.
Make sure that you do not overcook the fish. When you stick a fork in it and it flakes, it is done. If you stick the fork in the middle of the fish and it is squishy or hard to get the fork through the the top layer, it is not done yet. Depending on the thickness and how much fish you use cooking time will vary. Since I used two fillets, chopped into smaller pieces, my fish was cooked in 2-3 minutes. Your cooking time may vary and be careful of that. You do not want sea food that is rubbery.
And do make that onion garnish. All the leftover flavors in the pan after you remove the fish get absorbed by the onions, thus leaving none of the lovely spices go to waste.
- 2 Tilapia fillets, cut into smaller pieces (you could use shrimp/prawns if you like)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp pepper
- salt, to taste
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- 2-4 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 8-10 curry leaves
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp chopped red chillies
- 1 small onion, chopped into rings
- 1 lemon
- A small bunch of coriander/cilantro, finely choppes
- In a bowl, mix the turmeric, salt, pepper with a lemon juice to make a paste. Add fish (or prawns) and coat well. I did not let it sit, but you could let it sit in the marinade for 30 minutes.
- In a saucepan, take the coated fish (or prawns) and cook for 2-3 minutes till the fish starts to flake. Be very gentle as fish has a tendency to break. Keep aside.
- In a pan, take coconut oil, add mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, salt, pepper and red chilli powder. Fry the masala.
- To the masala, add fish (or prawns) and let them fry till golden brown. Keep it aside.
- For the garnish, in the same pan (do not change pans- you want the onions to absorb the flavors from the leftover tempered spices) take some oil,if necessary, and add onion rings and some chopped red chillies. Cook till all the oil is absorbed by the onion rings.
- To Serve: Garnish the fish (or prawns) with onion and chilli mix, squeeze some lemon juice and top with coriander.