Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tikshe Amshe (Spicy and Sour Curry)
Having moved out of Singapore, one of the things I miss most about the city is the wet market that I used to frequent - the Tekka Wet Market in Little India. Bursting with fruits, vegetables, herbs, meat and fish of almost every kind, a visit to the market would leave me feeling envigorated and energised.
To me, the appeal of the market lay more in the experience - elbowing my way through the crowds, watching my step on the wet floor, chatting with the vendors, haggling on the price - just for the sake of it, sometimes sampling the fare....the entire experience of shopping there was magical!
Come to think of it, the sights and sounds of a bustling market can never be matched by the quiet and sometimes, antiseptic aisles in a supermarket.
Of course, the fact that I could find many things in the market that the more popular supermarkets didn't sell made the trip to the wet market even more worthwhile! One of the things that I would buy exclusively from Tekka was fish. Not only was it fresher and cheaper, the variety was mind boggling. And once I discovered Tikshe Amshe on Manisha's blog, my trips to the market became even more frequent. For, that was the only place where I could find the tongue - tickling mackerel.
Tikshe Amshe ( recipe from Indian Food Rocks)
Ideally, make tikshe amshe with bangda or mackerel. If you don't get mackerel, substitute with any other (oily) fish of your choice. The last time I made this, I used kingklip which was very nice too.
If you don't eat fish but the gravy appeals to you, substitute with boiled eggs or baby potatoes. If using potatoes, boil them till they are cooked but firm. Peel and cut into two. Heat oil in a pan and fry the potatoes till they are browned and crisp on one side. I regularly make this gravy with potatoes for my husband who is allergic to fish. I will always remain biased to fish, but believe me, tikshe amshe with potatoes is very delicious too.
The colour of the gravy will depend on the variety of dried chillies you use. Byagdi mirchi gives the gravy that beautiful and inviting fiery red colour. I got the fiery red colour you see in the pictures the first couple of times I made tikshe amshe but lately, the colour isn't quite what I'd like it to be, all thanks to the dried red chillies I am stuck with at the moment.
Mackarel - 4 nos
Dried red chillies - 20-25
Tamarind - 1 small ball, about the size of a small lemon
Sichuan peppercorns - 10-12 nos (original recipe uses 6-8 nos of tirphal)
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut, optional - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 2 large cloves
Ginger - 1/2" piece
Curry leaves - 5-6 nos
Coconut oil - 2 tsps (or use any other cooking oil of your choice)
Coriander - for garnishing
Salt to taste
Soak the chillies in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften their skin.
Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes and extract the pulp. Use very little water when soaking the tamarind in order to get a thick pulp.
Marinate the fish with the turmeric powder and a pinch of salt.
Coarsely crush the sichuan pepper and then soak them in 1/4 cup of water for about 15minutes.
Drain the chillies (don't throw away the water) and grind them together with the tamarind pulp, garlic cloves, ginger and grated coconut to get a smooth paste. Avoid using too much water; normally, the moisture from the grated coconut and the tamarind pulp should be enough.
Heat a tsp of oil in a wok and toss the marinated fish for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
In the same wok, add another tsp of oil. When hot, add the curry leaves followed by the masala paste, salt and sichuan peppercorns alongwith the water they were soaking in. Also add the reserved water from the drained red chillies. Bring to a boil.
Add the fish and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.
Serve hot with steamed rice. This is a fiery and spicy gravy that is best washed down with some sol kadhi.
* Fish head curry is a very popular curry and is unique to Singapore. The origin of the dish is an ode to the multi cultural and multi ethnic country that Singapore is. Fish heads are not prized by Indians, but to the Chinese, they are a delicacy. An ingenuous cook made a South Indian style curry with the fish head and a culinary delicacy was created! The picture of the fish heads is my entry to Susan's culinary photo event, Black and White Wednesday.
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!
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