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Try this. Its from my friend Ashok Row Kavi, journalist, AIDS worker, provocateur, pioneering Indian gay activist and the best fish cook I know. Everytime the government's AIDS policy gets him down, he threatens to throw in the towel, give it all up and go to Florida to run a seafood restaurants (why Florida, I don't know). In the meantime, he runs a 24 hour helpline for people who want emergency fish advice.

This recipe is written in his own inimitable style. Its is, BTW, is from a collection of recipes I'd compiled which can be accessed, in case anyone is interested, at this link:


Ashok-amma’s pomfret

Easiest fish to get and cook is mostly pomfret. It's called the white bass/butterfish etc. Let's stick to the word pomfret. You also get 'black pomfret' or 'halwa' which is liked by some but has a stronger smell. Now try to get to the market on time. After noon, the fish gets a bit gamey. The fish must be moist to the touch and must not bend much when you pick it and hold it by the head. Gills must be red and moist, a sign of a stale fish is pinkish dry gills.

Now ask the fisherwoman to make slices about half an inch thick. She usually asks if it is for frying or for curry. Pieces for frying may be a bit thicker than for currries. Wash well till the fish smell is gone. I do that five to six times. Rinse gently as fish slices must stay intact and not break up. Sprinkle salt and half teaspoon turmeric powder, pat pieces as you would a nice looking guy on his bum and keep aside. One big pomfret sliced into say five/six pieces. Discard head if you wish but I keep it for later (to fry and eat with drinks).


(Ambat-teek) You get ready made dehydrated coconut paste at the bania nowadays. Ask him whether he has coconut milk powder. If not, get half a fresh coconut and get the copra out. Slice the copra and drop the pieces into the mixie. Take five red chillies(three if you want a milder curry). Half inch diameter ball of tamarind preserve.

Add half cuppa water and wet grind to a fine paste (it must have the feel and consistency of Colgate toothpaste.

Then chop half an inch of ginger into julienes and finely chop half a large onion. Keep aside.

Pour in masala paste into flat bottomed vessel and heat on slow fire. If the paste is too thick then pour in some water (half a cup) and stir till it simmers.Throw in ginger and stir. Then gently place the fish pieces in the curry and shake the vessel. Do not stir the fish pieces with a ladle as they may break. Sort of shake the vessel as if you're shaking your lover to get out of bed early on Monday morning.

Then add exactly one tablespoon of groundnut cooking oil and again shake the vessel gently or mix with ladle without disturbing fish pieces too much.

Place your black tadka kadai (every queen must have one. You get them outside main bazars on the street), pour in a teaspoon of oil. Heat to high smoking heat and throw in the finely chopped onion. Fry till golden brown and then pour the whole mess into the curry. Stir to mix the onion garnish well. Strew chopped coriander on top of the simmering curry and give it another minute of simmering.

Total cooking time, 15 minutes. Pomfret cooks fast. Can be eaten with bread, steamed rice,or chapattis.

Bon appetit.


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Vikram, Ashok was my first friend when I moved from Delhi to Bombay.

To Ashok, I owe many of my most cherished Bombay experiences and many of my dearest friends.

We cooked together for many parties. When I knew Ashok, he still lived in Shivaji Park area near Catering College. Now he has moved to a place near Andheri, If I remember correctly.

In fact I also owe to Ashok my last 8 years in NYC. He introduced me to one of my dearest mates.

Ashok is a wonderful cook. And always very inspired. Where did you find this recipe? I should check the link.

Thanks for sharing his recipe.

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Ashok is a wonderful cook. And always very inspired. Where did you find this recipe? I should check the link

The recipe was cajoled out of Ashok himself, along with a few others like a really good one for tisriyo (small clams) which I can post if people are interested. (Suvir, just spoke to Ashok and he says hi to you, and he told me about the fish he made when he last saw you in New York).

Monica, do you get banana leaves where you stay? I just read an article on the NYT site about Hawaiian food which talks about locating a banana leaf supplier in NY, and that made me think of my second favourite way of eating pomfret, which is patra ni macchi, the Parsi style, where its wrapped with green chutney in banana leaves. Its one dish I've found that even people who don't like Indian food much, really fall for, because of its lightness and the way the flavours just seem to burst out. Don't have a recipe, but that link I posted has one for the another Parsi style of fish, called saas ni macchi which is pretty good.

My favourite way of eating pomfrets is cooked tandoori style, but I'd never dare to do it at home, when I can eat it made so superlatively well in Mangalorean restaurants like Apoorva or Trishna. (I find that the Punjabi restaurants, which should be the guardians of tandoori cooking, tend to go overboard on the marinades for fish, so you don't taste the fish at all. Possibly its because they just slather on the same stuff they use for chicken, but the Mangalorean places, being more fish focussed, treat it separately).


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My favourite way of eating pomfrets is cooked tandoori style, but I'd never dare to do it at home, when I can eat it made so superlatively well in Mangalorean restaurants like Apoorva or Trishna. (I find that the Punjabi restaurants, which should be the guardians of tandoori cooking, tend to go overboard on the marinades for fish, so you don't taste the fish at all. Possibly its because they just slather on the same stuff they use for chicken, but the Mangalorean places, being more fish focussed, treat it separately).

Doing Tandoori Fish requires extra vigilance - Something many punjabi restaurants do not because of timing and effort. However, Pritams in Dadar (E) they were able to mix the two. I agree Trishna does grilling quite nicely - Never been to Apoorva, Where is it ?


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I agree Trishna does grilling quite nicely - Never been to Apoorva, Where is it ?

Quite close to Trishna, in one of the lanes just off Pherozeshah Mehta Road (if you're at the Stock Exchange, go to Horniman Circle and go straight and its on that road). Apoorva is one of several Mangalorean places like Mahesh Lunch Home and Bharat Lunch Home (which has a fancier first floor restaurant called Excellensea). All of them are quite good, but I think Apoorva is the best value - really good food, at the cheapest rates of all these places. Trishna probably _is_ the best of them all, but has now become so expensive and so focussed on a foreign clientele, that I find it too annoying to eat in.


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  • 2 months later...

I haven't had tandoori pomfret in almost 6 years. I highly doubt, sadly, that anyplace here in Seattle makes it, as there's such a dearth of decent Indian resaraunts (took me 4 years to find one I was even willing to go back to). I'd love to make it at home but I don't know that I can properly simulate a tandoor (I've thought oven gricks or even clay planting pottery might be a workable start but would need more advice on this). I've also yet to find any fresh pomfret here though I think I may have found a source for passable frozen stuff. I need to go back and recheck.

Bacon starts its life inside a piglet-shaped cocoon, in which it receives all the nutrients it needs to grow healthy and tasty.


Bacon, the Food of Joy....

-Sarah Vowell

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You may also want to try the Bengali recipe with Mustard paste (freshly made) and baked inside a banana leaf wrapper.

I posted a sort of recipe here in this thread:

Cooking with mustard oil thread

This dish is classically made with Hilsa fish, but pomfret (or pompano as its sometimes called in the USA) works well too.

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