Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pre-Diwali Special Seafood Treat

Every year when Deepavali is round the corner, fishing activities are brisk in the Arabian Sea and abundant quantity of fresh fish enters the market. Prices also drop considerably, and people go around buying tasty seafood like Seer Fish(Anjal) White Pomfret, Prawns, Silver Fish, Mackerel and Croaker in heaps!
It is also the time for GSBs to celebrate the oil bath and Pre-Diwali Special Seafood Treat. Perhaps we cultivated this habit from our Bengali cousins or from our forefathers who settled in Konkan hundreds of years ago. Thus, GSBs are also called as 'Matsya Brahmins' or fish eating Brahmins.

Not all GSBs are piscetarians, but many are. Anjal is a must for most of the GSBs on this day, to make fried fish. Anjal steaks are cleaned washed and marinated with a chilli tamarind masala with added asafotoeda(Hing), rolled in rice flour and deep fried in coconut oil. A simple Mackerel curry such as 'Alle Piyaava Ghashi'(Coconut based curry with added chopped ginger onion  and green chillies), phannaupkari or Kothambari Methi Ghashi(Coriander fenugreek curry) is prepared traditionally in earthen pot and is served with piping hot boiled red rice and the fried anjal fish steaks. This meal follows the traditional oil bath, lighting the diyas(Terracotta oil lamps) and burning of first round of crackers. rest of the days are auspicious to perform various poojas and are strictly vegetarian.

We have been trying new curries and fish fries every year for this special seafood feast, but this year we had enough of fish curry rice and fried fish two days ago. Hence we didn't make any curry or fry for the pre-diwali dinner. Let me present the typical Tuluva style Bangude Ghasi(Mackerel curry) that we tried last Sunday along with Anjal Tawa Fried. Our friend Uma Shenoi sent marinated Anjal steaks.

Uma is a fantastic cook, a perfectionist. The masala marinade she applied is as per typical GSB style Fried Fish with a pinch of added turmeric powder. The marinated steaks are rolled in rice flour and shallow fried on a tawa or shallow frying pan. A simple Tendle Batate Upkari(Gherkins with potato fry) made up for the veggies. Needless to mention here that the dinner was a super-hit!
Bangude Ghasi

Mackerel Fish - 4 big, cleaned washed and cut into 3 pieces each
Grated Coconut - 1 cup
Red Long Chillies - 18
Red Short Chillies - 14
Coriander Seeds - 2 Tsp
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 Tsp
Green Chillies - 8 cut into small bits
Ginger - 2" piece chopped
Onion - 1 medium chopped
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Tsp
Tamarind - Cherry size ball
Salt - To taste
Curry Leaves- 1 Sprig
Coconut Oil - 2 Tbsp

Marinate the fish pieces with salt and turmeric powder for 30 mins.
Fry red chillies, coriander seeds and mustard seeds with 1 tsp oil.
Grind the spices with tamarind and grated coconut to a fine paste.
Wash the grinder/mixie with 1 cup water and reserve this water.
In a thick bottomed vessel(Preferably earthenware pot) heat remaining oil.
Add chopped green chillies and onions.
Fry till onions turn transparent.
Add the ground masala and fry till raw smell disappears.
Add the water from the grinder/mixie and salt to taste.
Bring to a boil and add the marinated fish.
Cover, simmer and cook for 5 mins or till the fish is cooked.
Add curry leaves and keep covered for another 5 mins before serving with red boiled rice and fried fish.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Anjal Tawa Fried(Hotel Narayana Style)

Tawa Fried Fish can be made in different ways but the most addictive one I have tasted, is made by Hotel Narayana in Bunder Mangalore.
I first tasted fried fish at Hotel Narayana in the late Eighties, when I was working for a Bank. Our colleagues used to go there regularly for lunch and they used to describe about the hot tawa fried fish served straight from the pan! Those days a steak of Anjal or Seer Fish used to cost  Rs.12/- and a Mackerel Rs.6/-. White pomfret was available for Rs.15/-. Once I had the taste of that wonderful spicy delicacy, there was no looking back, and every alternate day I started going there for lunch. The old setup had limited seating in the hall and a small side room. We have even occupied the table meant for the owner's family inside the kitchen in a dark and dingy corner and had our meal sweating it out in deep summer! Piping hot red boiled rice with thin aromatic fish curry, a limited vegetable side dish and  a pickle used to be plated for Rs.6/-. The fried fish had a crusty coat with the powdery crumbled masala they collected from the frying pan. Later on, the crumbled masala had more demand and some people even used to ask for little bit of that to mix with the steamed rice for consumption.

Within a few years, say in the early Nineties I tried my hand for the first time to make this fried fish at home. I knew a fisher-woman in Central Market by name Baby who used to give big fresh Anjal and white pomfrets for very reasonable prices. The first trial was successful, but the crusty coating didn't yield crumbs in the hot oil. We even passed on the recipe to couple of relatives and friends but they couldn't succeed in making it the way I did. Besides, for making this kind of fried fish, you require enormous amount of coconut oil and we were health conscious. At home we have a tendency to make these fried items in abundance and that may cause health issues. So, we never ventured into making this kind of fried fish again till today, when I was tempted to improve the recipe for the benefit of our followers.

Some people kept asking me if I have decoded the recipe. Now I can proudly say I have indeed,
but not 100% same as Hotel Narayana makes it, close enough to that. Hotels have big gas burners, huge shallow frying pans and a standard recipe that they follow, making their items consistent round the year. With little practice we can also perfect this, but a word of caution for those having health concerns, please watch the amount of oil that goes into your system along with this delicious Tawa Fried Fish!

Suggested ingredients are for people who like moderately spicy fried fish. Those who want them very hot and tangy may please increase the amount of chillies, pepper and tamarind. Keep fish curry and rice along with a glass of buttermilk or congi water ready to consume with this, so as to neutralise the effects of the excessive oil that goes into this.

You may keep the ground masala paste in the fridge and use it for 2-3 days. Thick masala paste can be applied on the fish and shallow fried on tawa with little coconut oil to make crusty tawa fried fish. Adding little water to make it as thin as dosa batter is essential, for making this Tawa Fried Fish with crumbled masala powder.

Anjal/Visonu/Surmai/Isvon/Seer/King Fish steaks - 6 big or 12 medium sized(1 Kg)
Red short chillies(The hot ones Harekal, Ramnadu, Paari or Guntur) - 20-25
Red long chillies(Byadgi or Kashmiri) - 20
Whole Black Peppercorns - 1 Tsp
Turmeric Powder - 3/4 Tsp
Tamarind - Size of a small lemon or gooseberry
Sea Salt Crystals - 1 Tbsp(Or Table Salt 1 1/2 Tsp)
Dosa Rice - 2 Tbsp
Coconut Oil - QS(250Ml or more)

Wash and soak the rice for 2 hours in a cup of water.
Wash and pat dry the anjal steaks.
Slightly dry roast the chillies and peppercorns if necessary.
Powder the chillies, peppercorns in the dry mixie jar.
Add turmeric powder, tamarind, salt, soaked rice, little water and grind to a thick paste.
Grind well till the rice is well blended and assumes a sandy texture.
Remove the masala from the mixie and reserve the water used to wash the mixie jar.
Take 2 Tsp masala paste per fish steak and add little water from the mixie jar to make a dosa batter thick masala.
Marinate the anjal steaks in this masala for 15 mins.
Place a shallow nonstick pan on the flame and pour coconut oil till it occupies 1/3 of the space in the pan.
Heat on high flame till oil starts fuming.
Control the flame and place the marinated fish steaks in the hot oil carefully, as they tend to spurt oil.
Pour the remaining marinade over the fish steaks.
Allow to sizzle for 2 minutes on controlled heat.
Flip the steaks and allow to get fried evenly on the other side.
When the steaks are almost cooked at the end of 3-4 minutes, keep them stacked aside on the frying pan near the edge.
Allow the masala batter sizzle further in the oil and form crumbs within the next 2 minutes.
Transfer the fried steaks into a colander to drain out excess oil.
As the crumbs form and the oil ceases to sizzle, collect the crumbs with a mesh ladle and transfer to the colander by the side of the fried fish steaks to drain out excess oil.
Serve the hot fried fish steaks with a generous topping of masala crumbs.

1. This is not authentic recipe from Hotel Narayana. This is formulated by me to arrive at the close taste of what we eat there. For authentic tawa fried fish, visit the Hotel.
2. Shallow pan should not be too thick. Too thick pans result in the fish steaks or masala settle down and stick to the bottom of the pan, making it difficult to remove them.
3. All through the process of frying, ensure that the temperature of oil remains steady by controlling the flame between sim, medium and high.
4. Use a wooden/fiber ladle to fry the steaks to ensure zero or minimum damage to the fried steaks.
5. If the fish gets fried faster, remove it first and then the crumbs, and if crumbs form first, keep collecting them with the mesh ladle, so that they don't char.
6. Avoid using food colour. Red long chillies have natural red colour that gives a lovely look as well as texture to the masala.
7. You may add a pinch of hing to suit your taste, though Narayana's fried fish hasn't got added hing in it.
8. Same masala can be used for other fish like Pomfret, Mackerel, Sardines, Koddai or Kaane but put gashes on bigger fish for the marinade to seep into the flesh.


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