Growing up in Kerala, fish was crucial for lunch every single day, and was bought fresh every morning. As a result, I am drawn to fresh fish incessantly and I buy it on a whim, without even thinking what to do with it!
I remember my mother choosing fish from the fisherman’s basket on most mornings, who used to bring it straight to the kitchen doorstep. Those baskets always had a tantalising variety to choose from – mackerels, red mullets, prawns, pearl spots and occasionally tiny anchovies and small sardines.
Good seafood is pricy everywhere, but anchovies and sardines are rarely expensive. Quality, rather than extravaganza, is key, and it is essential to choose gleamingly fresh fish when it comes to the cheaper choices.
The two essentials for this Meen Peera are fish (Meen) and the fresh scrapings of soft white coconut flesh (Peera); then comes the garden fresh curry leaves and slivers of ginger, they are there to enhance that seafood edge and finally blades of peeled pink shallots and a descent drizzle of coconut oil brings it all together. The sour Malabar tamarind can’t be overlooked either as it is the tangy, smoky essence of all Keralan fish preparations. This is undoubtedly the epitome of Keralan home cooking.
- 300g – Small fish (Anchovies or Small sardines)
- ¼ teaspoon – Chilli powder
- ¼ teaspoon – Turmeric powder
- 1 Green chilli slit into half
- 2 pieces – Malabar tamarind (Kudam puli)
- 1 tablespoon – Ginger (cut into matchsticks)
- 1 cup – Fresh grated coconut
- 4-5 – Shallots sliced thinly
- A few curry leaves
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Clean the fish, wash, drain and keep aside.
- Wash Malabar tamarind (Kudam puli) in cold water, cut into small pieces and add to a medium clay pot along with 100 ml of cold water.
- Add chili powder, turmeric powder, green chilli, ginger and some salt. Bring to boil and then add cleaned fish and fresh grated coconut.
- Mix together, cover the pot with a lid and cook on medium heat for eight to ten minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
- Remove the pot from the heat, add the thinly sliced peeled shallots, fresh curry leaves and coconut oil. Mix gently with the handle of a spoon, taking care not to break the fish too much. Check the seasoning and leave it aside until it cool down. Serve it with plain rice.