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07 June 2015 @ 08:43 pm
Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries: Week Thirty-Five: Madras Fish Curry  
The two major events that put me in a good mood today were: 1) when I woke up, it was to the crashing boom of thunder as we finally got our first proper Midwestern thunderstorm of the year, and then the rain continued for most of the morning and 2) it's curry day. These two events aren't connected in any way, but it's not like I have anything else to talk about since I didn't know anything at all about this curry before I sat down to eat it. Not the name, not the ingredients, nothing.

That's the thing about buying ingredients for curries week in and week out. In the beginning it was pretty easy for me to guess what we were going to eat, since softlykarou and I go shopping together every week and I'd see all the ingredients and spices she was buying. But after eight months of curry-making, we have a huge amount of spices and oils and dry goods built up and it's just vegetables that could be used in anything we're eating that week and the fish. And this is the fish curry section, so yeah, not much of a giveaway there. Some of the old deductive fun will return in the vegetarian section in a few weeks, but until then, it is a mystery.

I guess I could ask, but where's the fun in that?

That fish looks like it's in a fish body bag...  photo emot-commissar.gif

This was a dry curry, and I'm pretty sure I've made my skepticism toward dry curries known, even to the point of pulling a No True Scotsmen on some of the ones in this book. So when I sat down this week, I was expecting to dislike it, or at most, to think that it's good for a dry "curry." Imagine my surprise when I took a bite and it was really, really good. It was very light, with an acidic, spicy flavor to it. It's the kind of dish I could imagine as the main course in a kaiseki-style assortment of small dishes, which is pretty much the way we actually had it.

The heat never built up to a degree where it became annoying and the acidicity never overwhelmed any of the other flavors. I actually think the tomatoes and accompanying acidity is the reason why I liked it so much compared to some of the other dry curries we've had. There was coconut in it too, but that can't be the deciding factor because that's been true before. Maybe it's the combination of coconut and tomatoes without extra water? I don't know, I just know that I loved the result.

The Spice must flow.

Words from the Chef
This curry was just a pleasure to cook. Every so often I have to be reminded that yes, I need to leave the kitchen and let the onions really brown. I had seen on Mind of a Chef that some Indian chefs even prefer to nearly burn the onions so I just let them go. They weren't super burnt but some were pretty done and I think it added to the flavor. I also liked that I got to treat a beautiful piece of fish well. I got to treat it a bit like a ceviche before throwing it in the curry which is always fun. I think the acid helped balance the dish and coupled with the acid in the tomatoes tied the flavors together. Even the color was nice! It was very close to the red in the book which made me happy. I feel like making this curry I found my cooking serenity, which is always a great experience.

Much nicer looking out of its body bag.

Maybe it was letting the onions actually burn, as softlykarou suggests. Maybe it was the alignment of the stars and that Mercury is in retrograde? I'm probably never going to figure it out, but I've been so against dry curries in the past that I'm really curious what witchery was performed on this curry specifically that allowed it to break the mold and transcend its sauce-less nature. The book claims that it has a "quite thick" gravy, which I guess is true if you assume that it means "incredibly chunky." It was mostly just tomato juice with bits of tomato and onion and coconut it in.

Yeah, spelling that out makes it sound incredible. Maybe it's not some secret process, it's just that this time I liked the ingredients and in the past I have not.

Presentation of broccoli by softlykarou. Yogurt included at her suggestion as well.

50 Great Curries of India says that the author interviewed a chef and told him to make food like he'd make for himself at home and this is the result. The chef explicitly mentioned grinding the coconut without water, which makes me wonder if doing that with ras chawal would have made me like it more.

What a lovely way to end a lovely day. It's loveliness may be relative, but as someone who has an mp3 of the RainyMood background noise and, crucially, who did not have to set foot outside today, I think it's lovely. And these are my thoughts, so in the end, that is what matters.

Would I Eat It Again?: Yes!
Do I Prefer It to the Usual Thai Curry?: I...honestly might, depending on the side dishes. Thai curry wins as an all-in-one meal, but Madras fish curry with the proper accompaniment could be amazing. A little saag paneer, a samosa or two...
What Would I Change?: If you hadn't figured it out from what I wrote already, nothing at all!
Current Mood: surprisedsurprised
Current Music: Loaded - Track 05
softlykaorusoftlykarou on June 8th, 2015 01:50 am (UTC)
Since we couldn't find fresh coconut (you fail me Whole Foods) I used the dry coconut that we had and rehydrated it for a little bit. I then drained off the water before adding it in with the tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. I think this helped a bit and because our dry coconut is so dry, in the future I may rehydrate mildly before adding it to blend with other ingredients.