My trip to a fish monger now a days fills me with excitement, joy, anticipation and this unusual burst of energy which stems back with memories from my childhood that always come flooding back in an instant. My family lived in Mumbai; the coastal region of Maharashtra where seafood was always in abundance, with fishmongers knocking on our door often to sell the fresh catch of the day. Maharashtrians do eat Chicken and mutton but based on the way the region is laid out, a fully fledged meat based diet is consumed within the inner regions where supply of seafood can be scarce.
As a young girl accompanying my mother to the meat and fish market was something I would look forward to, keen to see what fresh produce was up for grabs. This really might not be something everyone enjoys but for me it was unique and special. The market had the distinct ‘fishy’ smell to it as you walked up to the entrance. The rustic colonial style doors leading the way to massive halls with old fashioned bronzed fans dotted about which kept the place slightly cooler and almost gave it that retro feel. We always made sure to carry our own shopping baskets to the stalls as most of the fish bought was wrapped by vendors in newspaper.
The first port of call was ALWAYS to surf the market and see who had freshest fish. Also to check pricing on every stall was key. With rows of women sat in a line with variety of fish and shell fish to sell, all vying to make that next sale shouting out the price of the fish trying to get the customers attention. As with most indian fish markets, the men usually went out and caught the fish in the early hours of the morning whilst the women collected the days quota and bought it across to the markets to sell. The stock included Pomfret (also known in the market as Paaplet derived from the Portuguese dialect), Mackerel, and Bombay duck which taste amazing when batter fried until crisp & golden brown. A variety of king prawns; gleaming clams and a firm family favourite live blue swimmer crabs.
Shopping for prime produce like pomfret in the 80’s and 90’s was a luxury to eat. A flat fish which my mother usually sliced and pan fried in spices. Prawns were always something we stocked up on too. To make the freshest & most gorgeous prawns curry.
Even today going to the fishmongers is special, though the shops are much more organised and cleaner. Nevertheless I revel in joy seeing the abundance of the sea out there with a choice of the best seafood. A green coconut prawns curry which is something commonly eaten in the west coast of India spanning from Maharashtra, Goa and down to southern India.
Cooking something coastal with flavours of coriander, coconut milk, curry leaves to form a paste coating the succulent prawns was perfect. The base of the dish was a paste I ground down and fried in oil. I have also included the prawn heads to the curry while cooking as it adds to the flavour and forms a sort of stock base. But that’s a personal preference so feel free to discard them. The dish had a light sauce; served with some steamed rice. Not stodgy or heavy but a tangy, creamy and distinct flavour of coriander running through. It’s my favourite ways of cooking seafood. You can even swap the prawns for any variety of fish. Garnished with coriander and lemon juice it’s a treat for a good curry night in.
Peel and devein the prawns leaving the tails on. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and turmeric powder on the prawns. Mix well and set aside while you make the paste.
Mix all the ingredients for the paste in a mini processor and add a couple of tablespoons of water to form a smooth paste consistency. Spread a couple of teaspoons of the paste over the prawns and set aside.
Heat oil in a sauce pan add the curry leaves and sauté until they crackle. Add the remaining paste and fry on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the prawns fry for 1 minute until they just start to take on a pink hue
Season to taste and garnish with chopped coriander. Serve warm with chapattis or steamed rice.
Pour in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes and add the water. Stir in the tamarind paste if using. Simmer for a further 4-5 minutes until the prawns are cooked.