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India is the flavor of the season. The land of brown skinned mahouts on wrinkly grey elephants has had quite a makeover in recent years and now it seems, is showtime.  India, along with its neighbor China, is being touted as an incipient economic superpower. Whether or not that prediction will come true, only time will tell. For now, Indians are enjoying the sudden attention they are gaining from all corners.  With sprawling new townships, swanky multiplexes, towering IT offices, designer clad youth and of course, the new 100,000- Rupee car, people are suddenly taking notice. Of course, the slowdown is indeed playing a dampener. But it’s a consolation to know that unlike most developed nations, we are not officially in a recession yet.

However, what intrigues me more is not the spotlight on our economics, but on our culture. Indian music has swept the Oscars. The Saree is becoming a ubiquitous inspiration for international designers everywhere. And the Indian curry- it is finding some of its most ardent fans in the Western Hemisphere.  The proof lies in my blog stats. Posts under ‘Indian curry’ are getting unprecedented traffic. (Not that there are many on that though, ahem.) So here’s what. I will write another post on it. After all, I have got to please my darling readers. 😉

These are some of my Konkani favorites. I got the Coconut Urad Dal  recipe from Rabia Aunty- one of the coolest Mumanis on earth (her fish dishes taste like heaven!) Of course, I can NEVER get it as good as her(I am only half Konkani, so the genes are little confused), but I make my humble attempts, nevertheless.

(P.S. The cheat’s guide to a simpler, faster and more convenient method is at the end- but it won’t taste half as good. So be warned.)

Dish #1: Fried King Fish (Surmai)

Fried Surmai (King FIsh)
Fried Surmai (King FIsh)

Ingredients:

1 Kg King Fish

(Tip for buying fresh Surmai: Look for a taut skin. Better still, open its gills. If the inside’s are brilliant red and wet, you’re in luck. If it’s dry, pale or worse, dark brow/red, give it a miss. This goes for most fish, but for Pompfret, the gills should be pink and wet.)

Marinade:

1 Large lemon, squeezed

2 tsp Turmeric

2  tsp Red Chilli Poweder

3 tsp Coriander Powder (Dhania)

1  tsp Cumin Powder (Zeera)

Salt

Oil

Rice flour for coating (optional)

Method:

Mix the spice powders to make a pasty marinade (Add a few drops of water is it’s too dry).

Wash and pat dry the fish and slice it into fillets. Coat it with the masala marinade (Do not overcoat. Leave the excess marinade. Set aside for 15-20 mins in the fridge.)

Take a shallow non stick pan. Grease it with oil. When the oil is heated well, add the fish.

You can coat it lightly with some rice flour for a crispier finish if you like.

Let the fish fry till golden red on both sides. This should take about 15-20 mins on medium high flame.

Crunchy, crispy Surmai is ready. Easy-Peazy! 😛

Dish #2: Coconut Urad Dal

This creamy concoction is a perfect compliment to the red hot fish.

You will need:

300 grams Urad Dal (Split black gram- veryyy good source of calcium and great for bones)

300 ml Coconut Milk (Don’t know how to make it? Just grate a fresh coconut’s insides. Blend in a mixy with water till extremely fine. Press it through the nylon sieve and voila! Fresh Coconut milk is ready!)

Onions- as many as you can bear to chop finely! Well, at least 3 large ones

2 Green Chillies/ 1 heaped tsp red chilli powder

Dash of oil

Method:

Soak the Dal in water for 2-3 hours.

Now here’s the tricky part – crush the chopped onions with your bare hands till it is transparent. Rabia Aunty insisted that it SHOULD be done with the hands. She also added the green chilli with the onions. But since that gives you uncomfortably hot hands later, you might want to just chop in the chillies in the end. Or just add the red chilli when I tell you to.

Once the onion flakes have been separated from their dear juices. Add a little oil, add the Dal and bring to a boil.

Now turn down the heat and let it simmer with little water for an hour. Yeah, you heard me right. A WHOLE hour. Please refer to the cheat’s guide if you haven’t the patience.

After an hour, the tough looking Dal should have a very soft look. Almost like cream. To make it really like cream, add the coconut milk. Stir and smell the magnificent aroma.

Add salt ONLY in the end.

You can add the red chilli now if you want.

Keep stirring the milk till the Dal reaches a boil.

Creamy Dal is ready to be served.

The Cheat’s Guide:

You still want to read the Cheat’s Guide, don’t you?  Whatever happened to the good ‘ol fashioned cooking??? Tch Tch. Oh well. Here goes:

Substiute the fresh coconut milk with mass produced, tetra packed, preservative laden ready made milk. Dabur sells it. But Rabia Aunty refuses to vouch for it. I would, if not for the taste, then at least for the convenience!

If you havn’t got a whole hour for the Dal, just use a pressure cooker for fifteen minutes, man! Add in the chopped onions too. Not a Top Chef technique, but we don’t have Padma Lakshmi egging us on for a grand prize either. We have to do what we have to do- especially when the dish concerned is so laden with nutri-goodies. But you should try the original recipe at least ONCE. That way you don’t stop kicking yourself for taking shortcuts all the time! 😀

I would have written one more recipe that’s on my menu- the basic hot prawn konkani curry. But I am too tired and I guess others are too bored. So that for some other time! Tell me how this turned out though. 🙂


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