When I was growing up, my dad would always state that the smaller the fish, the tastier it was. I was happy to eat about just any fish, size notwithstanding. I must admit though that he has a point, especially now when I rarely get to eat smaller fish such as sardines. Sardines were probably the most inexpensive fish when I was growing up. At about Rs 5 a Kg, with a Kg netting about 70 to 80 small fish, we would eat fried sardines, bones et al, like potato chips. Sardines are a delicacy but really a pain to clean. On a recent visit to a local Whole Foods store, I was thrilled to find frozen sardines from Portugal. These were larger in size than the ones we used to bring home, a 2 lb packet had 10 sardines. My enthusiasm was a little dampened when I had to clean them. Larger fish like Pomfret or King fish are fairly easy to clean, but with sardines, one has to remove the scales. At home, my mom or dad would use the “Addoli”, a platform with a fixed curved blade. The head and tail of the fish would be held on either side and the fish rubbed laterally across the blade to remove the scales. Even though we have an Addoli here, I stuck to a knife and it took a fairly long time. Each time I get sardines, I swear that it is the last time I’m going to get sardines home, but when the dish is done, the taste of the fish makes up for all the work. The curry itself is fairly simple, so lets get started.
- Sardines - 1 lb, cleaned and scales removed
- Methi (Fenugreek seeds) - 7 or 8 seeds
- Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
- Dry Red Chillies - 6
- Shredded Coconut - 1/2 cup
- Tamarind paste - 1 tsp
- Water - 1 cup
- Salt to taste
- Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
Clean the fish, remove the head and tail and remove the scales.
Roast the methi seeds, dry red chillies and coriander seeds till fragrant, allow to cool.
Blend the roasted ingredients along with shredded coconut, tamarind paste and a little water to a smooth paste. This is the base of the curry or the masala.
Pour the masala into a pan, add salt to taste and add about 1 cup water (more or less depending on how you like the consistency of your curry) and bring it to a boil.
Lower the heat and add the sardines, cook till done. The fish cook pretty quickly, about 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat, drizzle with the coconut oil, serve hot with white rice.
- There is nothing like fresh fish, however if you are not lucky enough to get fresh sardines, then you have to make do with frozen ones. I’ve tried the King Oscar canned sardines available locally here, they taste good, however they are very delicate and disintegrate when cooked.
- Take care not to overcook the fish. It will disintegrate into the curry.
- The coconut oil is optional but it does impart the authentic Manglorean flavor to the curry.
- The curry actually tastes better the next day, I usually cook extra and after my instant gratification, enjoy the leftovers the next day.