Methi Fish (Fish with Fenugreek Seeds)
Yesterday was my nephew’s birthday. Sis prepared quite a spread all by herself, ignoring my helping hand. There was pulao, chicken in cream, fish in mustard sauce, vegetable stir-fry, chana dal and salad. Everyone was happy with the food and recounted how she had always been a good cook and had taken over the kitchen duties from our mom at such an early age. At that time, I was to be found with my nose buried in books, lost in my own imaginary world. Cooking came to me much later.
The first time I cooked a dish was when I was in the ninth standard. My aunt had met with an accident and had to be hospitalized. I had to look after the house while the rest of the family was in the hospital. Mom had hurriedly cooked rice and dal for lunch before leaving. I was happy with the arrangement as that meant I could devote more time to my books. And then the phone call came. One of my aunts, or xoru maami (younger aunt) as we called her, was arriving to visit the hospitalized aunt. But before that, she was to have lunch at our house. Now, she is an amazing cook and known for her culinary skills in the family. It won’t do to serve her only dal and rice for lunch, especially when she was coming from such a distance. I thought I would be able to handle some potato dish on my own. But just as luck would have it, there was only one vegetable at home that day – the temperamental bhindi or okra (or lady's finger)! I knew just from eating the vegetable alone that it was quite tricky to cook it well or it might end up either all slimy or burned. Then there was the question of the proper amount of salt, too!
It was a harrowing time while I hovered around the bhindi, tasting and praying all the while. Somehow, maybe by fluke, the dish turned out to be quite okay and my aunt gave a positive verdict. Maybe she was quite famished, after all! That heralded my tryst with the kitchen and I would like to believe that I have come a bit far since then.
Anyway, today’s dish belongs to another of my aunts, or jethai as we call her, a perfect gem in the kitchen. She had learnt this dish in one of her journeys to the coastal belts of the country and had happily shared it with us. Since my husband and ma-in-law love fish, I try to cook it in different ways and always fall back on my memories of past years for recipes. The husband has given his ‘thumbs-up’ to this recipe and that gives me confidence enough to put it on the blog. Here’s what you need to do for ‘Methi Fish’.
4 Fish steaks
A little less than 1 teaspoon methi seeds (fenugreek seeds)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, split lengthwise
1 teaspoon ginger juliennes
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons refined oil
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Smear the fish pieces with a little salt and turmeric powder and fry lightly in oil. Keep aside.
Now, heat a tawa or flat griddle and roast the methi seeds on it till they give out aroma. Take care not to burn the seeds. Once roasted, grind the methi to a powder and keep aside. I used my mortar and pestle for this step.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a kadai or wok and put in the chopped onion, ginger juliennes and the green chillies. Next, add the methi powder and coriander powder. Stir well.
Now, pour in the water and let it come to a boil. Slid in the fish pieces and let it simmer covered for 5 minutes. Tip in the coconut milk, add salt and pepper and wait for 2 minutes before taking the kadai off the gas. Done and done!
I was quite apprehensive about cooking this dish as methi seeds are bitter in taste. But the uniqueness lent by the bitterness of the methi seeds intermingled with the sweet coconut milk cannot be described until you decide to try it out. I feel there is a lovely balance in the dish between sweet and bitter, and the flavor of the roasted methi seeds shines throughout as the star ingredient. You can tone down the amount of methi seeds if you want and still savour the dish. Do try this recipe and let me know if it worked for you!