Sardine Fish Curry / Kerala Style Mathi Curry / Chaala Curry.
Mathi / Sardine!! I love the yummy taste of this fish. Do you? Or we, the Keralites call them by another name, Chaala. Wow, all taste buds invite its awesome taste.. It is also known for its stinky nature. But once it is cooked, we die for its taste!! Isn’t it? For me, the first thing comes to my mind is Kappa Vevichathu.. Hmm, hey, this will of course make your mouth water!! Yes, it goes so much with Kerala’s ever drooling Kappa Vevichathu or Mashed Tapioca. Keralites always indulge in this dish.. It is their ever loving appetizer or dish goes well for dinner / lunch or even an item for parties or get together. It also goes well with steaming white rice and Pathiri.
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I made this Traditional Sardine Fish curry with kudampuli / Gambooge, which is also known as Malabar Tamarind or Fish Tamarind. The people from Central Kerala can’t even think of making a fish curry without this kudampuli or Gambooge.’ Puli’ means ‘sour’ in Malayalam. Some people refer to it as Kokum. But Kokum is totally different from Kudampuli. Cuisines like Marathi and Konkani use Kokum in many dishes. The scientific names of these two are Garcinia Cambogia (Kudampuli) and Gracia Indica (Kokum).
Since it is so healthy, my suggestion is to have these sardines at least twice in a week. In some parts of India, it is so cheap affordable by all. You can use even canned sardines, which is much an easier way to have this fish. Canned sardines are healthier as the bones get softer during the canning process. Since bones of sardines contain so much of calcium, after the canning process it would be so edible.
Cutting and cleaning Sardine is little difficult and also a time consuming work. But you can get it cut in the market itself or the street vendors who sell this fish could do this work. I pay little extra money to them and they do it for me.. Some of them do it for you. Not all..
Let us come to the recipe of Sardine Fish Curry / Mathi Curry
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients for making Sardine Fish Curry / Keralas Mathi Curry:
4oo grams Sardine Fish / Mathi, cleaned
½ tsp. Mustard Seeds
¼ to ½ tsp. Fenugreek Seeds
1 whole Red Chili
2 Green Chilies, sliced vertically
8 – 10 Shallots, sliced (small onions)
5 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Ginger, julienned
1 Tomato sliced (optional)
1 ½ tsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Coriander Powder
½ tsp. Turmeric Powder
2 medium sized pieces of Gambooge (Cocums) / Kudam puli
2 sprigs Curry Leaves
1 ½ tbsp. Coconut Oil
Salt to taste
1 cup Water
How to Make Sardine Fish Curry / Kerala Mathi Curry:
Clean Gambooge in clear running water and soak it in little warm water minimum for half an hour. Keep it aside. Cut all the fins and scales of sardines with a knife, rub it with little salt in an earthen ware and clean them in clear running water. Keep it aside. Take a small bowl and all the spice powders and pour little coconut oil or little warm water to form a paste. Grind it in a mixer and keep it aside.
Heat coconut oil in an clay cooking pot / manchatti. Add mustard seeds. When it starts crackling, add the fenugreek seeds. Then add the dry red chili and sauté it. When these seeds get slightly brown in clour, add the finely chopped shallots and one spring of curry leaves. Shallots have to get the golden colour. Then add chopped ginger and garlic followed by green chillies. Sauté it for few seconds till green chilies changes its colour and garlic gets light yellow colour. Add in the tomato pieces and sauté it for few seconds. Now add the ground spice powders paste you made in advance. Sauté it well till you get a nice aroma and the oil starts separating from the pan. Add the water, salt and the other curry leaves. Bring it to a boil.
When it starts boiling, add the cleaned sardine pieces. Cover the vessel with its lid and simmer the stove. Let it cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked and oil starts floating. If you want to reduce the gravy, cook for few more minutes keeping its lid removed.
Your Sardine Fish Curry / Keralas Mathi Curry is now ready for serving.
My Recipe Notes on Sardine Fish Curry / Keralas Mathi Curry:
1. Most of us are little reluctant to clean sardines because of its strong smell and it stinks our hands. After cleaning Sardines wash your hands with lemon water and ten with soap several times till the smell goes.
2. You can use Fenugreek powder instead of Fenugreek seeds. In that case add ¼ tsp. of Fenugreek powder just before removing the curry from the stove and swirl the pan.
3. Use an earthen cookware to prepare this dish, which makes the dish so tasty. We always use clay vessels to make this which gives a wonderful taste.
4. When you clean sardines, add little salt or rock salt and rub it in the earthen ware and then in the water. That’s the best way to get rid of all the smell and dirt of sardines.
5. My mom cut gambooges or cocum in to small pieces so that the fish pieces can absorb the spices fast. Those who are not using gamboojis, can use 1 ½ tsp. of tamarind paste.
6. Use Kashmiri chilli powder to make Sardine Fish Curry. Adjust the spices as per your taste buds. If you are using canned sardines with tomato sauce, increase the amount of chilli powder.
7. After making the sardine curry, if you find it too sour; remove the kudam puli pieces from it immediately. Just a trick.. Normally we do not remove it.
8. The gravy should not be too thin or too thick. Adjust the consistency level of the gravy to suit your taste, though this traditional Mathi Curry calls for a medium thick gravy. If the gravy is too thin, cook the curry for little more time without covering it.
9. Keep low to medium flame throughout cooking. Remember to rotate the pan every five minutes.
10. While checking the doneness of the fish pieces, don’t mix it with a spatula while cooking, instead, take the whole pan with both of your hands wearing gloves and swirl it round until it is mixed well. This will prevent the fish pieces from breaking and falling apart.
11. Adding little fenugreek powder and coconut oil towards the end of the preparation makes the curry tastier.
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