May 1, 2013

Fish Fry (Ooli meen varuval)

    Nothing can beat the flavor of fresh local ingredients and I always find that I am never able to replicate the taste of many of my mom's delicacies, be it simple 'paruppu sambhar' or even tomato chutney :) I think it has to do with the taste of the onions, tomatoes, the local vegetables and off course, my mom's 'kai pakkvam' (magic of the hands - In south India, this is a term used to refer to how good a cook one is ). On a recent visit to India, I got to taste 'Ooli meen curry' at a neighbor's place and just loved it. This was the first time I came to know of the 'Ooli meen' which is the Tamil name for the Barracuda fish, found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. Such was my desire to taste this fish again, dad and me were lucky enough to find it at the local fishmongers, that too quite fresh. The usual way we prepare fried fish at home, is to marinate it with salt, chilly powder and turmeric powder. Occasionally mom added corn flour to it or if she found a new recipe, she would spice it up further. This time round, I prepared the fish and found a time saver in the paneer butter masala mix as I didn't feel like adding a whole lot of individual masalas to my fish ;) This masala mix is a combination of  many spices like dry ginger, bay leaf, nutmeg, cardamom, fenugreek leaves, mace, caraway, cashew nuts etc. I must say that it did add a tang to the flavor, so much so, my little son absolutely loved this fried fish and I felt like one good mom, happy that her fledgling finally loved his fish!


Ooli fish (Barracuda) - 3/4 kgs or 1  1/2 lbs (fish should preferably be fresh and cut into       
                                                                              small 2 inch thick pieces)
Chilly powder - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1 and 1/2 tsp (add according to taste)
Paneer butter masala powder - 1 and 1/2 tsps
Corn flour - 1 tsp (add 2 tsp, if you want the skin to be crispy )
Oil - 4 tbsps (for shallow frying, I used sunflower oil)


1) Thoroughly wash the pieces and drain any water from the vessel.
2) Sprinkle turmeric powder, chilly powder, salt, paneer butter masala on the fish and mix them well, so as to evenly coat the pieces.
3) Finally sprinkle the corn flour and mix once more. Leave the fish marinated for an hour or so. You can also cover this with cling wrap and fry it the next day, but there is nothing more delicious than fresh fried fish :)

Marinated fresh ooli meen

4) Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan on high, reducing the flame slightly when it is well heated. Use a regular or non-stick pan, depending on your choice. Smear some oil on the pan and place a few marinated pieces on the pan, leaving enough space to flip them over. Add some more oil on the fish and when one side is slightly cooked, turn over. Allow the fish to cook well on both sides. Next, flip the fish over on its side to cook the sides too. The entire process should take about 10 minutes. You can also deep fry the fish if you so desire. Just be sure to discard the oil used for deep frying, as you wouldn't want the smell and taste of the fried fish to permeate other foods you intend to fry.

Fried fish on the traditional 'Dosai kal'
5) Drain any excess oil on a paper towel. Since this is shallow fried, you will hopefully not need the paper towel :) There you are, fried fish ready! Take a fork and dig in or better still, use your always tastes better when eaten with the hand.

  You don't need any chutneys or accompaniments to eat this fried fish. It tastes good as is. If you so desire a chutney or a dip, hot thick mint chutney would be a good bet. Just be sure to check how salty your fish is before you add salt to your chutney.