One of the most powerful, yet most overlooked signs of the flattening world must be the growing number of Indian food blogs. Some are written by people living in or visiting various parts of the subcontinent, others by expats living in the United States, England, or elsewhere; nearly all have recipes described as "this is how my mother makes it." For someone like me who loves Indian spices and preparations, yet is totally unable to follow any recipe exactly as written, these sites provide a unique opportunity to research and compare minor variations on the same dish before attempting to vary it myself.
Yesterday evening, after tapping into that vast, unprofessional, curator-less store of real recipes made by real people, I made a spicy fish curry which tasted very similar to what we ate in Kerala, on the Southwestern coast of India. However, that similarity was not entirely a success.
I started, of course, by cleaning the sardines. Ew. Stinky, messy...and that was with only six fishes. Not sure I could've handled 25, which some of the recipes called for.
The recipe I started with was from Spice Coast Kitchen, a blog by someone named Vrinda who describes the site as their "culinary diary." I suppose that's what this site is, too, though here I'm solely diarising our experiences with sardines and similar fish.
Being me, I made a few modifications to Vrinda's recipe — but not much, not enough that I'd repost it as my own. For example, I didn't have a fresh tomato on hand, so I used crushed tomato from a jar. And I didn't want it to be too spicy, so I swapped paprika for the cayenne powder.
Then there were the chiles.
Vrinda's mathi curry recipe calls for three green chiles, no information on style or size. I assumed this must refer to tiny, extremely hot chiles, so I used four small (but not tiny) chiles, possibly Thai in origin, which I bought as part of a big bunch for a dollar at the Alemany Farmer's Market and have been drying on a wire shelf for the past week or so.
Two of these chiles would've been enough. Maybe even one. The resulting dish was approaching my limits of spiciness, and a bit over the line for my wife — almost as spicy as in Kerala itself.
Except for that, it was pretty good. We ate it with Thai long grain red cargo rice (cooked with a three whole cloves in the pot) and steamed leeks and chard.
Yet I think it still needs...something...before it'll really stand out as a dish I can be proud to serve to foodie friends. I should try adding coconut milk, like in Suresh's recipe. Or maybe this is as good as a sardine curry gets, and I should focus on grilled or fried preparations instead.
Lots to try. I'm looking forward to it.