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If you are from Southern India, you might already love and crave this mysteriously flavorful concoction of tamarind, coriander, chilli, turmeric and fenugreek spices cooked in a robust sauce that makes your eyes pop, the moment you taste a lick of it. Well, if you are new to this dish, Kolambu is a South Indian delicacy that conjures up childhood memories and I’d love to tell you more about it.
Kolambu is a hot and sour curry sauce specific to the Southern State of Tamil Nadu, made with a variety of meats or vegetables. Madurai Meen Kolambu, made with fish and Katrika Kolumbu, an eggplant delicacy are two popular varieties of this dish.
For today’s recipe Meen Kolambu, one of the many authentic dishes that will be served during Saffron Valley’s South Indian Food Festival, we used King Mackerel Fish slices to replicate the authentic taste of Vangira Meen from Madurai. King fish fillets are large, firm and have a good amount of fat content making it an ideal choice for this dish.
Our wonderful chefs have put in their collective experience and thorough knowledge of Southern cuisine to tweak this dish just a little bit to recreate it at home. We hope you will try it or come over to Saffron Valley in Salt Lake City or South Jordan, UT during our 3rd Annual South Indian Food Festival to try this and so many more delicious items.
Caution: This curry is not for the faint at heart or the less adventurous folks!
Madurai Meen Kolumbu
King Mackeral Fish (or any other firm flesh fish) – 2 lbs
Shallots/Pearl onions – 15 nos, sliced
Tomato – 2 medium, chopped
Garlic pods – 10, crushed slightly
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Fish curry powder – 1 tsp (available at Indian Grocery Stores)
Salt – to taste
Vegetable or Canola Oil – 4 tbsp
Blend to a Paste:
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Whole Pepper Corns – 2 tsp
Dry Red chillies – 4 nos
Coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Shallots/Pearl Onions – 8
Garlic Pods – 5
Roast all the above ingredients in two tsps of oil till all the aromas are released. When cooled, add enough water in a blender to make a fine paste.
Marinate the Fish slices 1 hr before you start the dish:
Smear the fish slices with ½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp red chili powder and 1 tsp salt and let them marinated in the refrigerator.
Take a lemon sized tamarind ball and place it submerged in 2 inches of water in a microwave safe dish. Heat for 1 minute. When it cools down, make a soft mush of the tamarind and extract the juice. You could use a sieve to ensure that no pulp or seeds get into the extract. Pour more water to make approximately 3 cups. To this add 1 tsp of chilli powder, ½ tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of coriander powder and 1 tsp salt.
Ingredients for seasoning:
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Urad dal- 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – about 10
Place a saucepan on medium heat and pour oil in it. Add the ingredients for seasoning in the order listed and ensure that they do not get burnt by gently swirling with a wooden spoon. This seasoning process takes less than a minute.
Next, add crushed garlic pods and sauté for a minute
Add sliced shallots and fry till translucent. About 5 minutes.
Add turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and fish curry powder
Add the blended paste and fry for 5-8 minutes until the top glistens with oil.
Add chopped tomato and cook till it forms a pulp.
Now pour the tamarind extract water and bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
In the meanwhile sear the fish slices on both sides on a hot griddle smeared with oil. This is to seal the spices in the fish before adding to the sauce, do not cook fully.
After checking the consistency and seasoning, place the fish slices along with the curry leaves in the sauce.
Cook for another five minutes and finally garnish with finely chopped cilantro.
Serve hot with rice.
Note: This curry tastes even better the next day when the fish slices absorb all the rich flavors of the sauce.