The international or global reach of food happened in the last 2 decades and today, most of us want to cook and enjoy all kinds of cuisines – Middle Eastern, Meditteranean, Asian, Indian, Italian, Mexican etc. to name a few. But there was a time when food was rather a ‘traditional affair’ and people ate specific ingredients or dishes pertaining to the region and remained largely unaware of other types of preparations.
Kerala is quite divided when it comes to food; the style of cooking and ingredients varies widely between the different regions. My dad and mom came from different regions within the state and so I grew up hearing stories from my mom about the difficulties she had to go through after marriage getting adjusted to the eating styles and dishes in my dad’s household. And the main dish that kept cropping up was this fish curry, which she needed a long time to get used to.
This spicy fish curry has become the culinary trademark of the Travancore region of Kerala though it is proudly referred to as Kottayam fish curry to the outside world. There are 2 main differences that makes this dish stand out from all other seafood preparations of Kerala – use of black kokum as the souring agent instead of tamarind and absence of coconut (no one needs an explanation about Kerala’s fixation with coconut). There are some households which add coconut to this dish but mostly as a garnish and not as an actual ingredient in making the curry.
This is a staple dish of every household in Kottayam and neighboring districts; I don’t think a day goes by without this dish. Traditionally, this fish curry is either eaten with steamed root vegetables like tapioca, taro and yam or paired with native red rice and a buttermilk curry.
When it comes to describing the flavours of this fish curry, let me just say that it is unapologetically fiery with really bold flavours. Which is why, there is always going to be a divided opinion about this one – you either love it or hate it. No middle ground…..
As for me, you would have figured how much I love it which is of course why it gets featured here……
Well, I could go on and on about this dish, but let’s get to cooking Kottayam fish curry.
1. 1kg barracuda, medium sized pieces
2. 7-8 shallots/small onion, finely sliced
3. 1 inch ginger, finely chopped
Find the full recipe here.
Recipe developed, styled and shot for Supreme Seafood