March 19, 2010

Meen Peera (Fish in grated coconut)

Meen Peera is a quick and easy-to-make fish preparation, common in all Syrian Christian households. Traditionally, it is made with Netholi (or anchovies), but any small fish can be used instead. Infact, my daughters have made it shrimp as well. The finely cut green chillies and the kudampuli (or fish tamarind - a vital ingredient in Kerala fish curries) pair up beautifully with the mild sweetness of the shrimp. Also, instead of grinding the masala, I prefer to crush the peera by kneading. This ensures that the juices intermingle while preserving the coarse texture of the peera masala.

Fish pieces - 1/2 kg (approx. 1 lb)
Kudampuli (Meen Puli) - 3 to 4 pieces
Coconut oil - 2 tbsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Salt to taste
For Peera Masala
Grated coconut - 1 to 2 cups (as per choice)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Shallots - 1/2 cup ((sliced lenthwise)
Green chillies - 8 to 10 (cut into thin round pieces)
Ginger - 1" piece (cut into juliennes)

Wash the kudampuli and soak in 1/2 cup of warm water. In the thick-bottomed pan (or in a meen chatti), add all ingredients of peera masala and knead well with your hand for a minute. Give it a good crush, so that the juices intermingle.

Add the meen puli mix, fish pieces, salt and about 1 cup water to cook. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add curry leaves and the coconut oil and cook for 10 minutes more on low heat until the fish is cooked and the water evaporates.

Serve hot with steamed white rice.

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