Wednesday, October 12, 2011

meen vattichathum kappayum -- fish in hot sauce and tapioca

One of our rustic, comfort foods back home is yuca/tapioca -- kappa/kolli and fish in a very hot and sour sauce, or salted, dried fish fried, and sauteed in onion and spices. Another side dish for tapioca is  a chutney/chammanthi made of crushed shallots, fresh green chillies, and mixed with coconut oil.
Of course, back home, fresh sardines--mathi/chaala, and fresh tapioca are used. The fish is cooked in earthenware vessels. Over here, I make this with canned sardines, and we get frozen tapioca. Fresh tapioca is available, but are usually stale.

Here's the recipe for kappa and  meen vattichathu/pattichathu

kappayum meen vattichathum


1 fifteen-oz.can or 4  three-oz cans sardines in oil or water or tomato sauce
1 small onion or 1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh ginger, crushed
7 hot green chilli peppers, slit lengthwise
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp hot red chili powder
2 1/2 tsp coriander powder
2-3 medium sized pieces of Kodumpuli or Malabar tamarind ( dried)
2 tbsp oil
1 - 1 1/2 cups water
 a sprig of curry leaves


Heat oil. Saute onion, green chillies, and ginger till onions become translucent.
Add the spice powders now. Do not let it burn. Stir well, for about a minute.
Add the curry leaves. One more stir.
Then add the  water. Give another whisk.
Add the rinsed kodumpuli.
Cover and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, and let it simmer for a few minutes, say 3mts.
Now, open the can of sardines, and transfer the fish into our simmering sauce.
Let it simmer for a minute.
Be careful when you give it another stir. You do not want the sardines to fall to pieces.
Remember, it's canned.
Add enough salt to taste.

Your pardesi meen vattichathu is done.
Goes well with rice, and tapioca, which, by the way, is boiled like potatoes. If fresh, peel, clean and boil.
I have heard that tapioca has to be boiled in a lot of water, and that the water should be drained away.
That you shouldn't let the tapioca absorb the water in which it was cooked.
We make chips and stews with tapioca -- that is , it is used just like potatoes, otherwise.

This dish is very hot. I have given the recipe for the hot version. If you would prefer it milder, reduce the number of green chillies to 1. You may remove the seeds, if you like. And make the amount of red chilli powder, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.

About the canned sardines in tomato sauce -- you do not really need the sauce, because you have your own "puli" = tartness going on with the tamarind. It's up to you -- doesn't make much difference in taste, either way. There might be a slight effect on the thickness of the sauce. But you also do not want the tomato taste to overpower the dish, as then, it would be a different one. So I would suggest -- use in moderation! But then sardines have a strong flavor of their own, so we do not need to worry too much  :)

The names for the fish and the sauce, and for tapioca are varied according to the specific regions in Kerala.

About Kodumpuli/Malabar tamarind:

The scientific name for Malabar tamarind/kodumpuli is Garcinia Cambogia. Traditionally, this was used in sauces for sea fish. Most homes had this in the backyard. I remember my grandmother's trees. Picking and drying these were part of the seasonal chores. It atarts out as a fruit, when it is a ripe yellow, it is picked. Cleaned, dried, and if I remember tight, a littl e bit of oil and salt is added to preserve it.To give tartness to sauces for river fishes, green mangoes were used. But now we use either in both, and of course ,there are a whole lot of other varieties of tamarinds, and then there's the newcomer tomato.
the black curled item is kodumpuli/malabar tamarind

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