The Northeast monsoon is expected to commence towards the end of October. That means there will be days when one will not be able to set out shopping. My mother used to make vattral of vegetables (sun dried at home) and also stock dried fish as even my father would not be at home to go shopping. My mother would make this Karuvadu Kuzhambu when it was raining heavily outside and serve it with Urullaikizhangu Pittu (and with white rice).
The smell of dried fish cooking is overpowering, stronger than even the smell of fresh fish cooking. However, you should not let that stop you from making this mouthwatering curry and enjoying a satisfying meal on a cold and rainy day. That said, this dish was not all that pungent when I made it with sooraimeen karuvadu (dried Tuna). I don’t like to use vanjiram (King Fish) because the smell is stronger and never, never use Bombay Duck, which smells similar to the adhesive made from hooves of animals.
Dried tuna provides 30g protein and 180 Calories per 100g. Though it is rich in protein, no one can eat 100g of dried fish, but even a small amount provides highly concentrated and high quality protein.
- 100g Karuvadu (Dried Fish) – Tuna, Seer, or any other large fish
- 2 T Onion, diced
- 1 T Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- 1 T Coriander Powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- ¼ tsp Fenugreek Powder
- ¼ tsp Mustard Seeds
- ¼ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- Ball of Tamarind (that can fit into your fist)
- ½ C Coconut scrapings
- 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
- ¼ C Gingelly Oil (Sesame Oil)
- 2 tsp Salt, or to taste
- 2 C or more Water
- Soak the tamarind in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes. Squeeze and extract the juice. Repeat thrice till you have 2 cups of tamarind extract. Strain and discard the residue in the strainer.
- Grind the coconut scrapings in a mixie or blender to a fine paste. You can add a tablespoon of water to get a smooth paste.
- Soak the dried fish in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Drain the water.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Fry the dried fish for a couple of minutes on low heat. Remove and set aside.
- To the same oil, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds crackle, add the onion and fry till translucent.
- Add all the spice powders (chilli, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek) and stir for 30 seconds on low heat.
- Add the tamarind extract and the ground coconut. Bring to boil.
- Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add salt, the dried fish, and the curry leaves. Boil for another minute and remove from heat.
- I prefer to use karuvadu made from large fish because the flavour from small fish does not suit this dish.
- I prefer to wash the dried fish to remove sand and dirt adhering to it. Though clean dried fish is available in vacuum sealed packages, I still do it to remove any possible dirt sticking to it. This also removes excess salt from the dried fish.
- I fry the dried fish lightly so that it will hold its shape and not fragment.
- I add only 2 teaspoons of salt because dried fish also contributes salt to the gravy.