How to make a Goan fish curry and more tales from the fish markets of Mumbai

Goan fish curry by Gia Claudette Fernandes. Pomfret from Poonam and Sangeeta's at Khar market. Red Kerala matta rice. Pomfret fried in mustard oil by Noorbanuji. Hand model cum photographer: Finely Chopped AKA Kalyan Karmakar

Let's start at the very beginning


Our friend Gia came over for dinner a couple of nights back. If you have been a reader here for long, you might remember her from the time when I would blog on a daily basis about the people I would meet and the meals that we would have together. You would remember reading about the Christmas (and other cakes) that she would bake, possibly ordered them from her too, about the lovely pork dishes that she would make and more such scrumptious stuff.

This was the time when Finely Chopped was a hobby blog and my daily diary too. A time before Instagram and before I had become a 'full time' food writer.

Now Instagram has taken up its place and the blog is where I primarily write long copy pieces about my travels or new food experiences.

Honey, sriracha, mayo, tabasco, chopped capsicum and olives, roast chicken wings


Getting back to Gia and her visit, K, her and I spent a lovely evening chatting late into the night catching up on what was happening in our lives.

For starters that night there were the chicken shammi kekbabs that our cook Banu makes. A must have dish at our place when we have guests.

There were the chicken wings too that I had roasted in the oven. The marinade for it was a melange that I had tried recently and that K had loved. Honey, truffle mustard, sriracha mayonnaise, sriracha tabasco, chopped olives and Provencal salt. Was a hit this time too.

Banu had not brought her A game to the kitchen that day and it turned out to be a rare evening where the starters that I made overshadowed her kebabs and not vice versa as it usually is.

Chholar dal and kosha mangsho and paratha


For dinner there was kosha mangsho, a fixture at our place from when we first started entertaining at home. The Bengali slow cooked goat meat dish which I make in the pressure cooker. Some chholar dal to go with it and parathas that Banu made.

Leftover chicken wings in sourdough

As it happens on such occasions, we had dinner so late that we hardly had the mains. I had them for dinner the next day and enjoyed them quite a bit.

#FinelyChoppedBreakfasts #PlatesOfFinelyChopped

I used the remaining chicken wing the next morning to make myself a grilled chicken sandwich before I headed off to a Buddhist meeting. Gia had stayed over and K ordered a croque monsieur and a French onion and cheese sandwich from La Folie for their breakfast. The girls loved it I believe but did not take any pictures!


Tales from the fish market


It also happened to be a Sunday that morning and I went to the Khar station fish market to buy fish. On seeing me set off, Gia offered to make a us her xit kodi (Goan fish curry) with prawns or any fish of our choice. K went for the bawi (Parsi woman) favourite of pomfret. Luckily they had some very good pomfret at Poonam and Sangeet's shop at Khar fish market. Even Gia (those who know Gia will know how particular she is about food) approved of it!

Grilled the rawas last night with a few drops of balsamic, zatar and
provencal salt on extra virgin avocado oil. I added chopped olives
and watermelon seeds at the end. Turned out very well and juicy too.


I bought some bangda (mackerel), rawas (Indian salmon), surmai (seer fish) and from the Bengali side, kaatla as well at Poonam and Sangeeta's that morning.

Talking of the 'Bengali side,' I finally bought the 'mourola maachh,' which for long they have been trying to get me to buy. at the shop Really tiny fish which my mother buys and has it as a fry or adds it to her greens and cooks. More on that in a bit.

Gia's xit kodi paste and curry base

When Gia cooked us a curry

I headed home with my catch from the market and freshly grated coconut, kokum and curry leaves too which Gia needed and she started cooking once I was back. The kitchen was in a bit of a mess as the previous night's dishes were not washed yet. I could not find whole dried chillies or coriander seeds and most importantly, the larger mixer grinder container which Gia needed to make her curry masala paste. She huffed and puffed a bit and then set down to making her curry with oblivious to the chaos around her. When did a class batsman worry about the pitch after all? I think we got some brownie points for having coconut oil in our pantry. A new addition to our kitchen thanks to my friend Rashmi who gifted us a bottle in Pune.

Gia's pomfret xit kodi


The result? A curry that was silken in texture. Beautifully balanced in flavours. A bit tangy, a wee bit hot and yet tame enough for K and me, salt just right, lip-smacking overall. The fish was cooked beautifully. Juicy, fresh. Not the sort served in restaurants where the life is sucked out of them. Credit both to the chef and the fish seller I would say.

We had this with red matta rice. I would normally say Keralite rice, but since Gia made the curry, we will call it Goan rice.

Banu had come in to work by then and on Gia's suggestion, she fried a couple of slices of the pomfret in mustard oil and that went beautifully with the curry and rice too. The best Goan curry that I have had for sure. No, I am not exaggerating.

What a sunny Sunday plate?!


Gia froze a portion of the curry paste for us to make later when my mom in law comes over as she loves Goan curries too. You add coconut milk and water to the paste and boil it and then....wait, Breaking news! I have actually got Gia to give me the recipe to share with you and you will find the same at the end of the post.

Gia said that the curry will taste even better a day after and I can vouch for that as I had a bit if the remaining curry from yesterday with the remaining red rice and the curry tasted even more intense. K had it at night and loved it too.


Maurola maachh bhaaja with khichuri


The mourola came into play the next day. I decided to have a Bengali khichuri with cauliflower and peas and potatoes and red bell pepper in it, with maurola fry on the side. Shallow fried in mustard oil, with a little bit of turmeric and red chilli powder and salt dusted on it, as Gia suggested. The combination worked brilliantly. I separated the fish and took out the bones and had just the fleshy bits.

I had the remaining mourola today when I requested Banu to make a cauliflower with mourola chorchori just as my mom does, along with jowar millets roti and tud dal. Banu has seen my mother make it and she followed the recipe. The fish is fried with a bit of kalo jeere (nigella seeds), salt and turmeric powder first and then set aside. Then some parboiled cauliflower is stir fried with more kalo jeere, turmeric, cumin, chilli powder and salt in mustard oil and the fish is added back when the cauliflower is cooked.

After making the lunch Banu informed us that she will be on leave for the next 8 days. Just after I had invited friends over to come and spend new year's eve with us while I cooked. C est la vie in the world of #BunkinBanu!


Jowar roti, tud dal, chilli pickle, mourola with cauliflower

Time to count our blessings


With Gia and K with the selfie before a meal that modern
table etiquette demands


It has probably been ages since I wrote a diary-like post like this and I hope you enjoyed it.

Before I give you Gia's recipe, I want to share a couple of pieces of good news with you from the year that went by and which left me filled with gratitude. Especially since we were talking about my transition as a writer and that of the transition of the blog too.

With chef Davinder Singh at his office at the Le Meridien, Delhi, receiving
the best food critic/ writer 2019 ICF Award


The first is about my winning the food critic/ writer of the year award in the Indian Culinary Forum Chef Awards 2019. I was fortunate to receive the award from chef Davinder Kumar who has been a pioneering member of this food industry award which is in its 16th year. "We look to food writers to spread the story of Indian food," said the industry veteran when I met him and I made a determination to live up to his expectations and do justice to the legacy of the illustrious former winners of the award.

The second is about something that happened a few days back when the Upper Crust magazine shared a list of '20 best food writers' in their 20th anniversary issue. I was overwhelmed and thrilled to find myself in a list that included writers one idolises and contemporaries one admires.

What a wonderful note to end the year with. In a year in which I asked myself a lot of questions in terms of where my writing is headed and what I should focus on, these two awards were a much needed pat of assurance and I want to thank you for your support here and to both juries too.



Gia Claudette Fernandes' Goan fish curry recipe


Gia was kind enough to share her Goan fish curry recipe with me for you and I could not think of a better way to say thanks to all of you than by sharing her recipe for this brilliant curry.

Here's wishing you a happy new year and I will now hand it over to Gia for the recipe.

Gia gets the curry ready before putting it on the wok


Ingredients:
500-700g fresh fish (white or black pomfret, rawas, surmai)
1/2 fresh coconut, grated
8-10 dry Kashmiri chillies (or a mix of Kashmiri and Byadgi)
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
3-4 black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
a small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
2-3 green chillies
a few curry leaves
3-4 pieces kokum
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
salt to taste


Gia adds the fish to the curry as it cooks


Method:
1. Clean, wash and slice the fish, set aside.
2. Grind together grated coconut, ginger, garlic, coriander and cumin seeds, red chillies, turmeric powder, peppercorns, chopped onion and tomato, and tamarind into a fine, smooth paste.
3. Take a wide curry pot or pan and add the ground coconut & spice paste. Add coconut oil and enough water to get your desired consistency, around 1 to 1.5 cups should do at this stage. Add salt, whole green chillies, curry leaves and kokum.
4. Place on heat, bring to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes before you gently drop in the fish pieces. Add the coconut milk and gently stir, taking care not to break the fish pieces. Leave the pot/pan open and let the curry simmer for 8-10 minutes. Check salt and seasoning, then turn off the heat.
6. Serve hot with Goan rice (parboiled red rice) Kerala Matta rice or steamed white rice.

Tips:

Use the same spice paste and method to make prawn curry.

The taste of the curry improves over a couple of days. Always make a little extra and enjoy it the next day.

You can also mop it up with bread.

The final look of the curry


Appendix:



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