Posted on | January 10, 2012 | 27 Comments |
Fried fish is such a quintessential part of Kerala cuisine that every seafood eating Malayali starts drooling at the mere mention of it. During my initial days in the United States, I remember seeing fried fish on a restaurant menu for the first time and getting all thrilled. But when the order arrived, it was the most tasteless batter fried Cod – the typical American Fish and Chips preparation. I was so frustrated by how different it was from what I was expecting that I almost cried. Those days I could only cook a few dishes and fish was not really my forte, so I had no way of satisfying the cravings set off by that menu. Well, that was an American restaurant, but I haven’t come across a decent fried fish in any of the Indian restaurants around here either, including the one Kerala restaurant that we have! At least these days I can make my own whenever I feel like fried fish.
Thanks to the various Asian stores around here even the malluest fish varieties like sardine and mackerel are easily available. Siv is not that fond of those oily fishes, especially their smell – which I think is the best aroma in the world btw! So we normally get more neutral but still flavorful fish like trout, catfish, snapper etc. It wasn’t until very recently that we discovered pompano, a very tasty fish that works great with Indian spices. We have been buying pompano pretty much exclusively ever since, especially for fried fish preparations.
The main work involved in making Kerala style fried fish is in the cleaning and cutting of the fish. So if you can get your fishmonger to do this – just ask them to clean and steak the fish – the worst part is over. I use store-bought ginger paste in the marinade; it is getting fried anyway so the freshness of the ginger paste is not that important. Rest of the ingredients are regular Indian spice powders, so it takes literally 5 minutes to make the marinade and apply on the fish pieces.
- 1 lb Pompano, cleaned and cut into steak pieces
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp vinegar
Make a paste of all the ingredients other than the fish, add a bit of water if it is too dry. Apply liberally on the fish pieces and marinate for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large pan. When the oil is hot, arrange the fish pieces, fry for 4-6 minutes (depending on the thickness of the pieces) on medium heat. Turn the pieces one-by-one with a spatula and fry the other side for 4 minutes. If the pieces are thick, use the spatula to turn the fish pieces on their sides and let the skin on both sides char a bit too, about a minute on each side will do. Serve hot with rice or serve as an appetizer with sliced onions, kerala-ishtyle.
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