What is the specialty of Malayalees

Sour Kerala curry with fish - a recipe for Peter Polter's Episoda 121224 Kochi Gandhi Beach

Meen Vevichathu is considered a specialty from the kitchen of the Syrian Christians of Kerala. Meen means "fish" in Malayalam, Vevichathu describes the method of preparation - if we have understood correctly. There is hardly a seafood restaurant in the state that Meen Vevichathu does not feature on the menu - but the preparation methods are quite different. Local for tourists, such as the "Oceanos" or the "Sea Gull" in Fort Kochi, tend to make this curry with tomatoes and / or coconut milk. The result is a mild (sometimes spicy), rather sweet curry with a creamy consistency - a fine thing. Corresponding recipes can be found in Indian cookbooks, which were mainly written for the European or North American market. In the beautiful cooking primer by Tanja Dusy and Roland Schenkel ("India. Cuisine & Culture"), for example, Meen Vevichathu is prepared with tomatoes and coconut milk. Anyone who consults Indian kitchen blogs or cookbooks produced in India will soon find out that Meen Vevichathu is probably one of the few dishes in Kerala cuisine that is prepared with a little coconut oil but without coconut milk - and also without tomatoes.

The recipes that can be found on the Indian cooking blogs are relatively similar. And Lathika George (“The Kerala Kitchen”) even gives two recipes for Meen Vevichathu, which differ little from each other. We developed our recipe on the basis of Meen Vevichathu, which George bears the beautiful surname “Yesterday's Fish Curry”. She writes: "This classic fish curry is simmered in an earthenware pot. It tastes best the day after it is prepared, and even better the next day-hence, it is often called" yesterday's fish curry ". The sour, spicy fish curry will keep for a few days without refrigeration, and is one of the assortment of dishes prepared in advance for a wedding or family gathering. "

Meen Vevichathu calls for special cookware, an earthen pot, and three ingredients that are not easy (or not at all) to get in Central Europe: kokum, cashmere chillies and coconut oil. We have Meen Vevichathu in an ordinary frying pan, in a non-stick wok and in a Chinese clay pot, a sand pot (Shāguō) - and no aromatic difference was found. However, our Shāguō is coated on the inside, meanwhile the clay pots in Kerala are used without a coating.

Kokum (Garcinia indica) is an everyday acidulant in Goa and Kerala, which - in Switzerland at least - cannot be found at all. We have therefore sometimes replaced it with sour tamarind - but sometimes with sour, green mango (on the recommendation of Lathika George). While the tamarind gave off a very distinctive, almost acrid acidity, the sour mango was rather restrained - but ultimately it was more harmoniously integrated into the overall aroma. So we're going to cook the recipe with green mango and a little bit of tamarind.

The question of the right acidulant can also be complicated considerably - for example, if one reads what Vijayan Kannampilly (“The Essential Kerala Cookbook”) writes in his chapter on “Souring Agents”: “Cambodge is specific to Malayali fish cuisine. Most writers refer to this as kokum which is used in Goa, the Konkan Coast and by the Kodavas. Kokum (punampuli in Malayalam) is Garcinia indica; cambodge (kudampuli in Malayalam) is Garcinia gummigutta. Despite the subtle difference in taste kokum can be substituted for cambodge if the latter is unavailable. If kokum too is unavailable use tamarind. You can't go very wrong. " “Foodhunter” Mark Brownstein, who discovered the sour fruit on his “Culinary Treasure Hunt in South India” (broadcast on “Arte” on March 25, 2008) and developed a whole series of associations from its aroma, is downright enthusiastic about Kudampuli stimulates: "Forest, wild blueberries, blackberries, currants, dark, fruity, smoky ..."

Cashmere chillies (Kashmiri mirch) are very popular in many kitchens in India - less because of their spiciness, but mainly because of the particularly lively red color they give the dishes. Kashmiri mirch is mainly offered in powdered form. We were initially unable to find this chilli in Switzerland in June 2013 either - although, for example, the company “MDH”, whose small spice boxes can be found en masse in every Indian shop, sells Kashmiri mirch. So when working on the recipe we sometimes simply pulverized dried red chillies - but sometimes also used a powder from the company “MDH” called “Deggi Mirch”, which was offered as “Chili Powder for Curries”: “a unique, age old blend "Processed from special varieties of colorful Indian red chillies". In fact, our chilli became significantly redder with this powder than with the powdered whole chillies. In the end, we found and tried a box of powdered cashmere chilli from the “MDH” brand mentioned - it was red in color similar to “Deggi Mirch”, but seemed less spicy to us. So there are different paths leading to the goal - in our opinion it is best to use a chilli or a chilli powder whose spiciness you know and whose effects you can assess.

Coconut oil used to be very popular in European kitchens (for example under the name Palmin). However, since everyone has been cooking with olive oil only, cans of coconut oil are only standing around in a few kitchens. Indian coconut oil can also be found in India shops without any problems, although irritatingly it is often found next to the cosmetic oils. We prepared Meen Vevichathu with both rapeseed oil and coconut oil. Even if coconut oil is not considered very healthy, it gave the curry its own taste: When seared it gives off a slightly floral note, later it has a more mineral, slightly smoky (coconut) nut aroma.

Meen Vevichathu tastes sour and spicy, a bit woody on the nose (sandalwood), flowery and fruity perfumed in a fleshy way (one remotely thinks of caramelized fruits or a dark, slightly over-cooked jam). It's nutty in its own way too. The sauce is creamy but not thick. According to Lathika George, the dish should keep for several days at (tropical) room temperature and its taste should improve with each passing day. We kept our Meen Vevichathu in the refrigerator for up to three days. In the process, the fish changed its consistency - if it was initially glassy, ​​it became more powdery, drier and firmer over time. In our opinion, the flavor of the sauce actually intensified, above all it became more compact, a little sweeter, but the spiciness also increased. We reheated the dish each time - but there are also families in Kerala who eat Meen Vevichathu at room temperature (at least that's what Gunvanthi Balaram told us in June 2013).

The recipe at hand produces a relatively large amount of sauce for less fish - so you can cook up to a kilo of fish in the same amount of sauce. We serve Meen Vevichathu with freshly steamed white rice. Lathika George also recommends mashed cassava and “Vegetable Thoran” (a relatively dry preparation made from chopped vegetables, typical of Kerala).

Cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients (for 2 to 4 people)

500 g white fish fillet without skin (for example cod)

2 tbsp chilli powder (if possible bright red kasmiri mirch, alternatively 4 dried red chillies (6 g), pitted and without style)

2 tbsp coriander fruits

1 teaspoon fenugreek

½ teaspoon dried and powdered turmeric

2 tbsp coconut oil (alternatively rapeseed oil)

3 shallots (90 g), thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic (20 g), halved lengthways and finely sliced

5 cloves of garlic (35 g) squeezed

2 tbsp finely chopped ginger (35 g)

3 sprigs of curry leaves (30 leaves)

1 green sour mango (200 g) grated

½ teaspoon tamarind concentrate, dissolved in a little hot water

2 teaspoons of salt

possibly 1 tbsp coconut oil to drizzle over

  1. If necessary, remove all bones from the fish fillet and cut into four large pieces.
  2. Grind the chilli, coriander and fenugreek to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Fold in the turmeric. Process into a paste with a little water.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan or an earthenware casserole and steam the shallots in it for 3-4 minutes until they have turned a light brown color.
  4. Fold in the pieces of garlic, the pureed garlic, ginger and curry leaves, fry for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat, add the spice paste and fry again for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until it smells spicy.
  6. Add the mango, tamarind, salt and 4 dl water, bring to the boil, stir well, reduce the heat, put on the lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Put the fish in it, put the lid on and let it cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
  8. Before serving, drizzle a little more coconut oil over everything.

We also tried the 'European' variant with tomato and coconut milk. Up to and including step 5, everything remains the same. Then instead of the mango, we added 400 g of tomato pureed in the mixer and only 2 dl of water (instead of 4 dl). We simmered this mixture on a low flame for 25 minutes, then stirred in 2 dl of coconut milk - and we continued with point 7. As expected, the result was sweeter and creamier, less spicy and hardly acidic - so we were seduced at the table let drizzle some lime juice over it.

First Publication: 27-6-2013