Fish/ Meen peera is essentially nothing but a dish made with lots and lots of coconut. It can also be related to the Vegetable dish thoran. Ideally it can be called as fish thoran too.
Now why did I chose to make this particular dish? When I went fetching for some fish , white sardines (മലയാളം : വെള്ളുരി ) were the only familiar fish that was left with the vendor and having heard of the goodness these fish carry with them, I thought why not bring them home. The cleaning is a pain but they taste just so so good that one would not mind cleaning them for hours!
These sardines carry with them a whole lot of nutrition ranging from the Omega -3 fatty acids, Minerals, Phosphorus to Vitamin B12. Its no joke that doctors and dieticians suggest to replace red meat with fish in ones diet.
Most of the time these fishes are almost confused with Anchovies (മലയാളം : നതോലി ). They look similar but they vary in their body constitution. The fish vendor clearly explained and told me all the differences and the only one I managed to recollect is one is sleeker than the other, now don't ask me which. To me any type of fish is a fish and it ends there.
My mom always associates a certain story at the mere mention of the fish velluri. It also happens to be her favourite fish so much that my maternal grandmother makes it a point even today to catch hold of some when mom is around at Kerala.
I have adapted the recipe from a malayalam magazine (Vanitha) in which seer fish (നെയ്, മീന) was used. I don't buy this magazine but thanks to my mom and mom in law. I just bring along the recipe pages whenever I visit them.
White Sardines/Velluri 250 gms Cleaned with head cut
Coconut Oil 2-3 tsps
Turmeric Powder 1-2 tsp
Fish Tamarind/ Kudam Puli/ Gambooge 2-3
Crushed Peppercorns 5-6 tsps (As per taste)
Water 1-2 tbsps
Salt As per taste
Grated Coconut 75-100 gms
Shallots 20 gms (15-20 nos)
Ginger 10 gms ( one small piece)
Green chillies 4-5 nos (as per taste)
Curry Leaves 1 sprig
Salt As per taste
My way of making
1. Place a wok and pour in the oil. When the oil is hot enough sauté the fish with turmeric powder and salt. Its better not to use a spoon and just lift the wok and turn and shake it around.
2. Pour in very little water (if required) since fish emits water and cook along with the tamarind.
3. When the fish is cooked, add in the ground masalas and cook covered for about three four minutes until a soothing smell of coconut comes in.
4. Watch for the liquid consistency to reduce to an almost negligent consistency. Switch of the flame and sprinkle in the crushed pepper corns and keep covered.
5. Peera is best had hot with steaming Kerala rice.
1. Its best to use an earthen cookware when cooking fish.
2. Sunflower oil can be used instead of coconut oil. But the dish tastes best and authentic with Coconut oil.
3. Do not use a spoon to mix the ingredients. These are small and brittle fish and they would break easily if done so. Always lift the vessel and shake them around like mention in step no 1