Curry Meen Pollichathu Or Spicy Fish Curry
Fish Curry is eaten in a lot of parts of the country but it is in the southern state of Kerala where the dish reaches a whole new level. Curry Meen Pollichathu is made from a fish, found in the coastal backwaters of Kerala, called Emperor Fish or King Fish or Pomfret. The incredible thing about the process of catching the fish is that divers go into the water to locate the fish, which is generally hiding under a layer of mud on the bed. They end up catching the fish with their bare hands - a feat that's much harder than making a spectacular Curry Meen Pollichathu dish with it.
The process of cooking the fish varies from place to place, but this recipe is all about using the most traditional techniques to cook Curry Meen Pollichathu.
Ingredients required for Curry Meen Pollichathu or Spicy Fish Curry
Here is a list of the ingredients you need to get started:
- King Fish - 1
- Mustard Seeds - 1/4 Teaspoon
- Fenugreek Seeds - 1/4 Teaspoon
- Curry Leaves - 2 Sprigs
- Shallots - 4 to 5
- Tomatoes - 2
- Ginger - 1 & 1/2 Teaspoon
- Garlic - 1 & 1/2 Teaspoon
- Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder - 2 Tablespoons
- Vinegar - 2 Tablespoons
- Banana Leaf
Preparing the Ingredients for cooking
The process of cooking Curry Meen Pollichathu, for you, doesn't have to begin with catching it so all you need to do is get your fish and de-scale it. However, the process of de-scaling the fish is slightly different when compared to the traditional ways of running a knife against the scales.
Lay the fish on its side and with the knife blade at an angle, start slicing the top-layer of the skin along with the scales
Score the fish along the sides so that they can cook through completely
Finely chop the shallots and the tomatoes
Let's start cooking our Curry Meen Pollichathu or Spicy Fish Curry
The first thing that people tend to notice when they see the dish is the vibrant red colour. This colour is hardly an indication of the heat as the use of Kashmiri Red Chilli powder lends its colour to the dish, but isn't nearly as spicy as regular red chilli powder. The other thing about cooking Curry Meen Pollichathu is that the fish is traditionally cooked in a clay pot called Manchatti although you can also use a wok or deep pan for it. However, the fish is cooked inside a banana leaf, which is variation of the French-cooking technique called En papillote or cooking the fish in a bag.
Cooking the Spicy Curry
- Put the clay pot on the flame and add oil to it
- Add the mustard seeds once the oil has started smoking
- When the mustard seeds start spluttering, add the fenugreek seeds
- After a few seconds, add the curry leaves, shallots, ginger and garlic to the pot and cook until the shallots start turning brown
- Add the tomatoes to the pot and, then, add the vinegar and the Kashmiri red chilli powder and mix things thoroughly
Cooking the Fish
This part of the cooking process is to finish the spicy curry but we aren't entirely done with the cooking process as things, now, move to the banana leaf where the fish has to be cooked.
- Apply a thin layer of oil on the insides of the banana leaf
- Take a few spoons of the spicy curry and lay it in the centre of the leaf, like a bed for the fish to be placed on. This will prevent the fish from touching the banana leaf directly and help it cook slowly
- Put some more curry inside the fish and add the remaining curry on top of the fish, completely wrapping the fish in the spicy curry from the sides, top, bottom and even on the insides
- Once the fish is covered, wrap the fish up tightly and use a baking-string or straw-string to tie up the banana pouch so that it stays shut throughout the cooking process
- Head back to the pot and in a bit of oil, place the banana parcel on medium heat for about 15 to 20-minutes, depending on the size of the fish
- You Curry Meen Pollichathu is ready to be served with some white rice and traditional tapioca pudding
Curry Meen Pollichathu is like the party piece for your dinner and if you want, you can serve the fish in the banana parcel to your guests, sitting it down on a bed of rice. Let your guests open up the parcel to reveal the fish in its cloak of spices and work their way through the dish. You can, as always, replace the fish with something that's closer to your home or available more easily around you but in terms of cooking the fish and keeping things simple, yet delicious, the Curry Meen Pollichathu is one beautiful way of cooking and presenting a wonderful dish.
There are many different ways of making Curry Meen Pollichathu and you can even make the spicy curry thinner by adding a cup of water to it and reducing it to the consistency that you like. In most parts of the country, the dish is served with a thinner curry but the traditional way of making Curry Meen Pollichathu is keeping it dry or, maybe, slightly moist. That said, it is a fantastic dish had either way and as long as you don't have to catch the fish on your own, you should enjoy making and devouring Curry Meen Pollichathu!