Now that was the red colour fish curry made with Kokum/Kudampuli. The place I grew up,Kannur, has another take over fish curry. It's yellow in colour and is made with Sambar puli/Tamarind and also has ground coconut in it. Trust me, I can drink that curry and I have done so! It is so tasty but I have never tried my hand at it which I will, very soon! Janu chechy, our maid at home for the last almost 30 years makes the best Kannur Meen Curry/Fish Curry. She is really old and I don't think she can see clearly anymore but when she makes the fish curry, it is just WOW! I also love her 'Pacchadi' and had written it down in my diary as Janu chechy's Pacchadi :-)
This particular red colour fish curry, which I will refer to as Meen Curry now on is not that easy to master. I think the main problem comes in balancing the 'puli'/tanginess with salt. My first attempt at it was in 10th standard and I produced a decent curry. I don't even remeber how it tasted because along with that curry I had made 33 others too. It was for a competition at the District level from school that I had participated in. We had to cook as many dishes as possible in 3 hours using a Kerosene stove and nutritious ingredients. There was no way that we could use a pressure cooker to speed up the process.It had to be a balanced meal and we had to cook breakfast items, lunch items, 4'o clock tea snacks and dinner items, in 3 hours! I managed to make the most number of dishes (34) which included varitey of Puttu,Fish curries,Sambar,Banana Fritters etc. I don't even remember the list as it was 10 years ago!
Recipe source: Amma
1.5kg fish (I used King Fish/Neimeen/Aikoora. You can use any fish of your choice)
1 small onion, chopped (If you have access to 'chumannulli'/Shallots use that, maybe 4-5 nos.)
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds/Uluva
2 sprigs of curry leaves
11/2 tbsp red chili powder (I use a mix of Kashmiri and Hot chili powder,Kashmiri gives colour to the curry)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp fenugreek powder
4 pieces of Kokum soaked in 1 c warm water (for 10 mins)
1/4 c Coconut Oil (you can substitute it with vegetable/canola oil)
1 c water (optional) for the gravy
Clean the fish thoroughly using salt and vingear and let it drain.
Heat oil and when it is hot add the fenugreek seeds . Let it change colour lightly.
Add the onions, ground paste ,curry leaves and saute till you get a nice aroma (1-2 mins)
Add in the powders and mix well and saute for 5-6 mins till the colour changes to a nice maroon.
Add in the 1 cup water and kokum +water and let it come to a boil.
Add the fish and swirl the pan lightly so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
Let it cook till the fish is done. Taste test it.
If you feel it's tangy (a little) , it's okay. Once the fish absorbs it in, it will be perfect.
If you feel it's a lot tangy, remove the kokum pieces from the curry . You can discard them.
This curry tastes better the next day .
Don't refrigerate the curry. Before you go to sleep, re-heat it and leave it to cool.
Next day morning, re-heat the curry again. This way, the gravy might reduce and will end up sticking to the fish pieces, which is heavenly! But if you want gravy, add some water when you boil the curry.
I never refrigerate the curry, I just re-heat it twice everyday till it is over :-)
Verdict: I am person who can live on Meen curry and rice alone and when I asked Jobin if he liked it the same way, he said 'No'! Infact he really doesn't like fish curry at all! I was devastated (exaggerated, I know!)
But remember that half-flop Meen curry I was talking about? He said he liked that curry and I was like,' This one? I made a real sad curry and you like that??'. Now things have changed and he is a convert,if I may say so :-) He likes Meen Curry now maybe not as much as Dal and Ladiesfinger fry!