It was a ‘Piri Piri Barsa’ day in Fall, which in the South Indian language of Tulu, literally means ‘gentle drizzling of rain’ this morning.
The clouds were heavy and dark, looked like there was more rain to follow.
The kind of day when you want to cozy up indoors and have some yummy home cooked spicy meal. Needless to say , with the ‘Piri Piri Barsa’ came thoughts of Mangalore, a coastal town in the South Indian state of Karnataka, where Tulu is spoken widely. The first thing that comes to mind especially when it is raining outside is the amazing sea food, that is served in almost every household in the town, fish being a staple of the coastal town, literally right of the boat !
Each time we kids visited our grand moms during summer break, on our return trip home we would be handed a large steel container filled with “Puli Munchi Bangudae Ghassi” to take home to our parents. We as kids , grew up in a different state from our native where our parents were raised, so we never really understood the magic potion that was packed in this box to travel in the train with us to our parent’s home.On the other hand, our parents devoured every last bit of it, coz’ for them it was the smell of the sea in the fish, the memories that conjured at the taste of this puli munchi ghassi, which is a spicy tangy curry made with fresh caught mackerels. The chance to taste the real deal came when I went to Dental school in my native ,it was a love affair with sea food then.I loved everything that was caught in the sea & cooked with spices and that has not changed to this day.
Fast forward a few decades, here I am walking the aisles of a Korean market looking for fish that vaguely resembles the ones I so loved.Among the many new names there is the wild caught Spanish mackerel, which sounds a bit like a close cousin of the mackerels back home, then there is Pompano’s that resemble some fish back home, so this time I decide to buy some pompano’s.Each time I am there, I make sign language with the guy who helps cut & clean the fish, coz he speaks only Korean & I don’t.So if the fish pieces in my curry don’t look like twins, forgive me, I thought I had mastered the sign language by now, but something is amiss. Either way the curry tasted fantastic, the end is what counts really!
So I rolled up my sleeves, with old Hindi songs in the background went about my work in the kitchen, yes, old Hindi songs are tear jerkers for me & help in the nostalgia overload.You got to put your heart in the cooking for the flavors to come out & so it did! A curry which does not use any coconut, the rare one’s coz coming from the land of coconuts it is still unbelievable that it can pack a punch with it’s taste.
It was still raining when I finished cooking, I sat comfortably with a plate of brown rice and puli munchi curry , content with my world. Home is where the heart is ! Enjoy the spicy tangy fish curry from the coastal town of Mangalore !
Pompano’s – 2 pounds
For the masala:
Dry red chilies ( Byadge chili brings out the best flavor)
Coriander seeds- 11/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Black Pepper corns- 1 tsp (or more depending on your spice tolerance)
Methi seeds/Fenugreek – 1/2 tsp
Big Onion – 1 large ( finely sliced)
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Garlic- 3-5 flakes
Tamarind paste /Tamico – 1tbsp ( this one gives the tangy taste to the delicious curry)
Salt- to taste
1.Dry roast all the ingredients except onions which can be sauted with a little oil separately.
2. Blend all of the above mix in a blender along with the tamarind paste.
3. Transfer the paste to a wok, add 2 cups of water & bring it to a boil.
4.Gently place the cut and cleaned fish pieces into the boiling curry, simmering the flames and adding salt to taste. Cover with lid after gently shaking the wok for the curry to coat the fish pieces & allow to cook for 10- 15 minutes.
5. Remove from flame & serve hot with brown rice or hot idli’s .