A meen manga curry is mandatory on the menu several times during the mango season. Tart, green raw mangoes are wonderful with fish and prawns. The sour notes elevate the sweetness of seafood and a hot and sour fish curry with rice never fails to hit the spot.
A humble, country-style curry
This meen manga curry is a naadan-style curry, a rustic dish cooked by fisherfolk and farmers alike. Locally sourced ingredients like mangoes and mackerel (plentiful and inexpensive) are cooked with onions, garlic, ginger and curry leaves along with a few basic spices. It’s simplicity itself and yet, has such satisfying flavours. A mean meen manga curry is one cooked in a clay chatti and eaten the next day when the flavours have had time to marry and meld and acquire depth and complexity. The difference in taste has to be experienced to realise the difference. I can eat just the gravy of a day-old meen manga curry without the fish and feel completely fulfilled; that’s how much better it gets. Try it.
Kerala fish curries typically use kudampulli or cambodge (also called Malabar tamarind), as the souring ingredient. A yellow-green fruit, it looks like a miniature melon on the tree and when dried acquires a black. Leathery appearance. It has a distinctive astringent sourness that works beautifully with fish. In this fish curry.raw mango replaces it as the souring agent. I’ve used half a raw mango, you can vary the quantity depending on your personal taste and on how sour your mangoes are.
Which fish should you use??
Mackerel is a firm, oily sea fish with a rich, fatty, meaty robust taste, much like tuna, which makes it ideal for curries such as this hot and sour meen manga curry. It’s inexpensive, packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, iodine etc – a great choice of a daily fish. Mackerel is used extensively in India’s regional coastal cuisines because it can take on strong spices, heat and acid while retaining its inherent rich taste. If you prefer another fish, try to use an oily fish, one that can stand up to the sourness of the mangoes and the heat of the red chilli powder.
Tip for perfecting the gravy/sauce
This recipe uses ground masalas which have to ground together with water to form a thick paste. This is the key to achieving a bright red, thick sauce/gravy. You may be tempted to mix the dry, ground spices together in a little water to simplify things; unfortunately, this will not yield the desired result. You will end up with a thin, watery sauce. Giving the chilli, coriander and turmeric powders a whizz in the grinder makes all the difference.
Meen Manga Curry
- 500 g mackerel, cleaned and halved
- 1 small raw, green mango, peeled, stone removed and cut into chunks (reduce the amount of mango if it is too sour or as per taste)
- 1/2 tbsp ginger, thinly julienned
For the spice paste
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1½ tsp chilli powder (reduce or increase as per taste)
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 6-7 cloves of garlic
For the tempering
- 10-15 curry leaves
- 6-7 shallots, slices
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 dried red chillies, broken into two
- Using a little water, grind the coriander, chilli and turmeric powders and the garlic into a thick, smooth paste.
- In a clay chatti, mix the spice paste, ginger, mango pieces and salt into the cleaned fish. Add a cup of water and cook on a low flame. To stir the curry, gently shake the chatti. A spoon or ladle can break-up the fish pieces. Simmer the curry till the mango has softened and the fish is done. Turn off the flame.
- Heat the coconut oil in another pan. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds and let them crackle, toss in the red chillies, curry leaves and shallots. Fry till the shallots turn golden. Pour the tempering over the fish curry and serve.