Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fish with Kokum

I have been eyeing this recipe for a year or more and I swear I had made it once, but that's impossible since I didn't have kokum until recently, right? It was the simplicity of the recipe that attracted me because, no offense to Indian cuisine - I love you! - but at times it can be time consuming. Plus my cookbook includes a pretty picture of the finished deal and I am a sucker for pretty pictures. The kokum is has thrown me off, though, because it was hard to find even here and damn, I hate buying ingredients for only one recipe. Plus, what would it taste like? The recipe gives tamarind puree as a reasonable substitute; I hate the taste of tamarind. Nevertheless, I couldn't refuse how easy this dinner would be, so once I found kokum it was on.

I was pleasantly surprised by the kokum, which has a sour, tangy smell (and taste) that hit me as soon as I opened the bag. I was also confused as to how tamarind could be substituted, because the flavors are nothing alike (tamarind to me being slightly bitter.) The kokum reminded me of edible hibiscus flowers I used to buy from Trader Joe's - which makes sense, as kokum is also the dried flower of some tree. That said, I would use those hibicus flowers if you want to match the flavor. Then again, if tamarind is your kind of thing, don't let me stop you.

The flavor of the dish is good, though not phenomenal: almost like generic coconut curry. Ryan, the roommate, happily exclaimed that it tasted just the coconut curry he used to order from Noodles & Company. And that about sums it up.

Oh! Did you notice the new dishes I bought? I admit I only bought one bowl and a couple of plates, but look how much better the food looks! No offense to our holly berries.

Fish with Kokum
The Food of India

3 x 2inch pieces of kokum or 2tbsp tamarind puree (or a few edible hibiscus flowers instead)
4 ripe tomatoes
2tbsp oil
1tsp black mustard seeds
1/2tsp fenugreek seeds
1 1/4inch piece of ginger, grated
4 green chilis, split in half
1 garlic clove, minced
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1tsp ground turmeric
1tbsp ground coriander
1cup coconut milk
1lb 12oz fish filets, cut into large pieces (I used a generic frozen "white fish", but any firm, white flesh fish will do)
1 stalk of curry leaves

1. Rinse kokum, remove any stones and put in a bowl with cold water for a few minutes to soften (you could use a similar process with hibiscus flowers; tamarind puree - not paste - is ready to use.) Meanwhile, score a cross in the bottom of each tomato, then plunge into boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and peel skin away from the cross. Roughly chop tomatoes, discarding cores and reserving any juices.

2. Remove kokum from water and slice into pieces.

3. Heat oil over low heat in a deep, heavy-based frying pan. Add mustard seed and cook until they start to pop. Add the fenugreek, ginger, chili, garlic and onion and fry until the onion is soft. Add the turmeric and coriander and fry for 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, tomato and kokum, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the fish and curry leaves to the liquid and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until fish flakes easily and is cooked through (mine took closer to 8 minutes.) Season with salt, to taste. 
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