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Tom Thomas

Nadan Meen Curry: A Delicacy for the Soul

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Kerala( southern most state of India), we  call it "GODS OWN COUNTRY", why won’t it be ...

Lush green fields , beautiful rivers and lakes , backwaters , unadulterated spices , Big coconut trees (now even come in varieties with yellow coconut on them), sprawling beaches , ancient temples , mysterious shrines , beautiful churches , enthralling wild life, pure ayurveda , amazing martial arts , enchanting dance forms , classical music and top of all beautiful people.

It’s an amalgamation of extraordinary things, but the thing that has left the most biggest impact on my soul, is the cuisine of this beautiful state.

 

Coming from a Malayali family(resident of kerala), I always looked forward to our visits to Kerala just for the food, the smell of those freshly cut bananas deep frying, fresh fish coated in spices and shallow fried, rice delicacies cooked in banana leaves, greatest varieties of tubers, stews, appams, parotha and for the sweet tooth’s the Special Halwa(convection) from those lovely bakeries which are mushrooming everywhere in the state.
 

Being a coastal state Kerala cuisine has in it lots of seafood delicacies, beautiful fresh water fishes, cooked in aromatic masala is a feast for soul.

Being a avid foodie there are varieties of recipes which I would love to share but the recipe which I will be sharing is the one which I always look forward to and the one unique taste which I deeply miss, although I have been trying this recipe here in Delhi but the taste which comes from cooking in earthenware (chetti) dish  and using kokum / gamboge ( souring agent found in kerala) and fresh ingredients of Kerala is not matched.
 The smell of the curry with deep red colour is something for the senses to feel. So I would like to share one my mother’s recipe which is meen (fish) curry

 

Fish -                                500 gms

Salt-                                  2 tsp

Turmeric -                        1 tsp

Fenugreek Powder -      1 tsp

Red chilli powder  -        2 tsp

Onion -                              2 tbsp chopped 

Ginger-                             1 tbsp finely chopped

Garlic -                              1 tbsp finely chopped 

Kokum/ gamboge -        2 no.

Curry Leaves -                 7 nos.

Water -                              2 cups

 

Method:

1.      Finally chop ginger , garlic and onions and keep aside

2.      Rub little salt on the fish pieces (skinned or de skinned fillets) and keep it to rest.

3.      Take oil in a special earthenware (called chetti), add oil and sauté onions, garlic and ginger.

4.      Once the raw aroma of garlic is not felt, add turmeric, coriander, fenugreek & red chilli powder.

5.      When the masala is cooked add  kokum and fish

6.      Add water and little salt and let the fish cook in water.

7.      Reduce it till the desired consistency is reached.

8.      Serve with rice or kappa

Note:                                          
if you don’t have( kokum/ gamboge) , tamarind or tomatoes can be used as alternative. This dish tastes best with boiled kappa (which is a tuber found in Kerala) or with steamed rice.

 

 

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Smithy   

Welcome to eGullet, Tom Thomas!

 

You make me want to travel to India, and I'm eager to try this curry.  Tell me: what kind of fish works best with this?  I'm guessing a firm-fleshed white fish, but I'd like to know.  My next question is, would it work with shrimp?

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Hassouni   

Welcome Tom! One of my best friends is also a Mallu Thomas. I love Keralite food - it's definitely my favorite in India! 

 

What sort of fish would you recommend? Is meen a specific type of fish or just a general term?

 

I remember reading somewhere that kokum is used almost exclusively for fish dishes - is that the case? Also, is there a difference between kokum and kodampuli, because I've seen that used in recipes in a similar context.

 

Please post more recipes as you're able!

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KennethT   

Is fresh turmeric used much in kerala, as opposed to the dried powder form? I assume this recipe uses the powdered turmeric.

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Hassouni   

From my erstwhile specialization in Indian and Southeast Asian food, I can say that for the most part turmeric powder is what's called for in curries. In Southeast Asian (certain Thai and Malay/Indonesian) ones, sometimes fresh turmeric is pounded up as part of the curry paste. This is not to say fresh turmeric isn't used in Indian cuisine, but the powder is what's used in, for lack of a better term, the masala.

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Thank you very much for taking time to read my post much appreciated . Actually I am so happy because it was my first post and I always had this apprehension whether readers would like it or not.

 

 

 

Coming to all the questions:

@ smithy : any fresh water fish will taste better with this recipe , i haven't tried this recipe with Shrimp but i think , shrimp would be requiring just little more masala and slightly thicker curry.

and thank you very much once again u have given me one of the best compliments

 

@ Hassouni: Thank you very much for your reply , "Meen" is a term we use for fish in Kerala , i would recommend any fresh water fish over salt water fish (sea water), yes you are right that kokum is used as souring agent but the fruit which we use in this recipe is  kodam Puli, which is different , but kokum is an equally good substitute.

 

@ Kenneth : Thank you for your reply , we use powdered turmeric as it is easily available , fresh turmeric is used in kerala but in ayurvedic preparations mostly.

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Smithy   

Well, I'm glad you posted despite your apprehensions!

I'll be able to get some fresh shrimp and fish in the next couple of days. I already have the other ingredients (most of them) and look forward to trying this. I'll let you know how it comes out!

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Many-many happy returns of the day Tom.

Its a wonderful initiative you have taken. I will surely try this at home. 

Please keep us posting these things. 

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Smithy   

I've discovered that I don't have all the necessary ingredients! Tell me: if I substitute tomato for the kokum/gamboge, how much tomato would I use? Similarly, if I use tamarind instead, how much would I use?

Also: is there a good substitute for curry leaves? If so, what, and in what quantity?

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Hassouni   

Smithy, as someone who has cooked a LOT of South Indian food in the past, I can say that I wouldn't recommend tomatoes as a sub for kokum. Tamarind maybe.

 

As for curry leaves, nothing has that flavor, so there's really no sub at all. Is there an Indian grocery nearby? They should definitely have curry leaves and possibly kokum.

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Kerala   

Tom, thanks for posting this. Looks good. Curry leaves add a subtle flavour. You'd hardly notice it if it wasn't there unless you know what you're missing, if you see what I mean.

Subbing for kokum: go for tamarind. In fact using tamarind would not strictly be wrong, more a variation.

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KennethT   

When subbing in tamarind, how much should you use? Do you first prep it like in other SE asian cuisines and knead it with hot water and then strain out the pulp/seeds?

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Smithy   

I have the same question. I've found tamarind. How much tamarind should be used as a substitute for the kokum?

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Dejah   

Tom Thomas: Several dishes you mentioned in your first post caught my attention as they sound so similar to what we enjoyed in Malaysia. We were staying with friends in the northern tip of the country, a village in Kadah province. What really got my attention was the fresh fish coated  with spices and shallow frie you mentioned. My friend said they used mackerel, rubbed with salt and turmeric and fried until crispy. The flesh was almost dry and so easy to eat with the hands. Can you elaborate? I tried when we got back home and it just didn't turn out the same...

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Smithy   

Smithy, as someone who has cooked a LOT of South Indian food in the past, I can say that I wouldn't recommend tomatoes as a sub for kokum. Tamarind maybe.

 

As for curry leaves, nothing has that flavor, so there's really no sub at all. Is there an Indian grocery nearby? They should definitely have curry leaves and possibly kokum.

So far I haven't been near an Indian grocery, but I'll keep an eye out. In the meantime, I'm still trying to work out how much tamarind to subtitute for the kokum. Any ideas?

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Anna N   

So far I haven't been near an Indian grocery, but I'll keep an eye out. In the meantime, I'm still trying to work out how much tamarind to subtitute for the kokum. Any ideas?

Smithy

My research suggests 1 teaspoon tamarind paste for each kokoum skin/petal. Tamarind paste is more cocentrated than what you obtain by the boiling water extraction method so maybe up it to 1 1/2 or two teaspoons and see how that works.

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Hi Friends 

sorry for late reply ..held up with some work..

for the recipe mentioned , 2 tsp of tamarind pulp will serve good.

and like any other curry , taamrind should first be soaked and then used.

 

THANKS

 

Enjoy cooking

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Tom Thomas: Several dishes you mentioned in your first post caught my attention as they sound so similar to what we enjoyed in Malaysia. We were staying with friends in the northern tip of the country, a village in Kadah province. What really got my attention was the fresh fish coated  with spices and shallow frie you mentioned. My friend said they used mackerel, rubbed with salt and turmeric and fried until crispy. The flesh was almost dry and so easy to eat with the hands. Can you elaborate? I tried when we got back home and it just didn't turn out the same...

 

dejah..

we do the same , but because we foind black peppercorn in abundance here in kerala , we use that too

what you can do is take some shallots , garlic and turmeric , mix with salt and pepper and little lemon juice and make a paste 

( we use stone gridlers for making paste as   they give a peculiar flavour to the marinade).

score ur fish and marinate it , let it absorb all the marinade and then shallow fry the same.

you can keep it in refrigerator after marination just to harden the flesh.

 

my mother also applies salt as first coating she says it hardens the flesh as water is drained off because of salt ( i dnt use this method)

 

Do send me feedback 

 

Thanks

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Smithy   

I made my first attempt at Nadan Meen Curry tonight.  Here's my report and my feedback.

 

First of all, it was delicious!   :smile:

 

I did come away with a number of questions, but I'll show some pictures of what I did as I go.

 

First, the raw ingredients, as near to what you specified as I could manage:

 

Raw ingredients.jpg

 

 

You didn't specify what kind of oil to use to begin cooking.  I happen to have some red palm oil, and I used that.  It adds an interesting color, as can be seen with this photo of the onion, which was already beginning to soften, and the garlic, which had just been added.  In your notes you indicated that the onion, garlic and ginger should all be added at once.  (I usually end up burning the garlic when I do that, so I added it after the onion was already softened.)

 

Sweating just added garlic.jpg

 

Your instructions say to add the fish "when the masala is cooked"...I realized I didn't know what that meant!  I probably added the fish too soon.

Simmering 2.jpg

 

 It was well-cooked enough after a short simmer that I removed it to a warm oven while I cooked the sauce down.  

 

It took a while to cook the sauce down, and I wondered just how thick it should be.  Here's the fish and sauce, ready to serve:

 

Ready to serve.jpg

and here's a plate of the fish and sauce over rice.  Bread and vegetables were served separately.

 

Served.jpg

 

We both thought it was delicious!  We'll be trying it again, possibly with thicker fish (these were thin fillets) and certainly with a shorter cooking time to the fish.  If I can lay my hands on the missing ingredients, I'll add them.

 

So:

First, thanks so much for this recipe!  It passes the taste test!

Second - and this is the test of communication - how close did I come to what you tried to explain?

 

 

 

 

 

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I made my first attempt at Nadan Meen Curry tonight.  Here's my report and my feedback.

 

First of all, it was delicious!   :smile:

 

I did come away with a number of questions, but I'll show some pictures of what I did as I go.

 

First, the raw ingredients, as near to what you specified as I could manage:

 

attachicon.gifRaw ingredients.jpg

 

 

You didn't specify what kind of oil to use to begin cooking.  I happen to have some red palm oil, and I used that.  It adds an interesting color, as can be seen with this photo of the onion, which was already beginning to soften, and the garlic, which had just been added.  In your notes you indicated that the onion, garlic and ginger should all be added at once.  (I usually end up burning the garlic when I do that, so I added it after the onion was already softened.)

 

attachicon.gifSweating just added garlic.jpg

 

Your instructions say to add the fish "when the masala is cooked"...I realized I didn't know what that meant!  I probably added the fish too soon.

attachicon.gifSimmering 2.jpg

 

 It was well-cooked enough after a short simmer that I removed it to a warm oven while I cooked the sauce down.  

 

It took a while to cook the sauce down, and I wondered just how thick it should be.  Here's the fish and sauce, ready to serve:

 

attachicon.gifReady to serve.jpg

and here's a plate of the fish and sauce over rice.  Bread and vegetables were served separately.

 

attachicon.gifServed.jpg

 

We both thought it was delicious!  We'll be trying it again, possibly with thicker fish (these were thin fillets) and certainly with a shorter cooking time to the fish.  If I can lay my hands on the missing ingredients, I'll add them.

 

So:

First, thanks so much for this recipe!  It passes the taste test!

Second - and this is the test of communication - how close did I come to what you tried to explain?

Hi Smithy...

Well the fish looked amazing , Although i personally like my sauces a little thin when having with rice as it moistens the rice well.

While cooking onions first and ginger garlic next , as rightly mentioned saves those burnt garlic.

The chilli powder used in india is reddish and gives a reddish tinge to the gravy. 

Thankyou so much for trying the recipe , been working on the next will post soon.

 

Tom

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LizD518   

That looks so good!  Smithy - what type of fish was that?  It looks similar to the tilapia I have in my freezer, so I'm thinking I may try that tomorrow night.  I'll probably do some stir-fried cabbage to go along side as well.

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Smithy   

That looks so good!  Smithy - what type of fish was that?  It looks similar to the tilapia I have in my freezer, so I'm thinking I may try that tomorrow night.  I'll probably do some stir-fried cabbage to go along side as well.

 

That fish was swai.  We buy it in packages of individually-wrapped fillets, frozen, much like tilapia that we buy.  We think swai may be slightly firmer than tilapia, but they're very similar.  Tilapia should work as well, I think.

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