i’ve been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i’ve owned nilgiri’s indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i’m on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a ‘curry in a hurry’! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i’m enjoying exploring the new social media to fulfil this passion! i’ve also published cookery books, been on tv, the radio, won awards! now i’m also moving into making cookery videos. these are simple and easy to follow and don’t go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!
During one of my travels through the west coast/ghats of India in 1987/88, I was on the lookout for food that would not only be unique in taste and texture but also have a story to tell.
This tour was so that I could find different and highly specialised cuisines that we could then adapt for the luxury seafood restaurant we were running in Bangalore and so the food had to be excellent and different. Was I keen to go on this Grand Gastronomique Fish Tour? You bet!
Well, I was led to places like Dharwad, famous for its milk based desserts called peda, but that is not what I was looking for, whilst delicious, it was too simple a dish to sell in a ‘world class’ restaurant.
In Mangalore I found among other delicacies, neer dosa, a kind of rice flour dosai served with kori gassi which was perfect to feature as a main course, but I was looking for a starter with seafood.
My friend, KK Shiva, had recommended a place called Coondapoor famous for its usha restaurant. He had also warned me to get there early as the restaurant is famous for a fried fish called kane rava fry which is sold out even before it is sold, if you know what I mean!
The owner of the restaurant, Mr Shetty, does not take any bookings so it is on a first come first served basis. Cool!!
Well, I was not going to miss out on this experience and I was extremely lucky to get the last of the ‘KRF’.
The kane fish (also called lady fish), is extremely delicate and has to kept alive till it is ready to be cooked. There is no scientific reason for this except that the usha restaurant has no refrigerators!!
Once killed, the fish must be massaged with oil which keeps the fish soft and prevents it from curling!!
The gutted fish then gets smeared with a masala called coondapoor masala, coated with semolina and fried.
What then appears is the best ‘crumbed’ fish I had ever eaten!!
This dish had to feature in our new restaurant and was sure to be a winner!!
The restaurant, by the way, is called ‘Karavalli’ and even though I left the restaurant over 25 years ago, this fish dish has never left the menu!!
Now, nearly 25 years down the line I serve a version similar to the KRF in Nilgiri’s in Sydney, on special occasions, but I use a local fish called barramundi.
This fish has a very earthy flavour and can be very easily crumbed. I love to eat it, served with a mint and coriander chatni!! For a one page version of this recipe click semolina crust fish recipe. For a step by step recipe, keep reading!
ingredients, clockwise: salt, turmeric powder, garam masala for fish, fresh chillies ground, tamarind extract, fresh chillies slit lengthways, fried kari leaves, red onions, sliced
2-inch squares of barramundi
fine to medium coarse semolina
oil for frying
to finish - lemon juice and chopped parsley
FOR THE MARINADE:
add turmeric and garam masala
add ground chillies
add tamarind extract
mix spices into a masala or marinade
coat each fish piece in the masala
apply masala on both sides, or just one if you prefer
dust fish in semolina
add oil to hot pan and heat until it starts smoking
carefully place each fish piece in the hot oil
cook till the semolina is golden
carefully turn fish over to cook both sides evenly, taking care not to damage semolina crust
fry until fish crust turns a dark golden colour
drain each fish piece of oil
prepare bed of Spanish onion and chopped coriander, fried kari leaves with a dash of lemon juice, to serve
Serve this as a part of your Easter Special and watch the resurrection of . . . happen in front of your eyes!!
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!