Experience the culinary marvel of sardine that crossed the shores of Portuguese and reached Gothuruth.
In order to know a land and its culture better, it is said, go for its cuisine. One could follow this adage down to its last letter and spirit during a travel through the heritage land of Gothuruth. It was our great fortune to savour the ethereal taste of sardine or maththi (‘chaalla’ to the folks there), a legacy of the Portuguese culinary tradition brought into this land long back enriching its history. Even as the taste of the sardine in Portuguese-style acquired world-wide fame, for the local people here it is part of their daily life.
Rosamma chedathi is a representative of the old timers who serve Gothuruth's taste for the new generation with love. Chedathi’s companion in her culinary adventures is the traditionally handed down taste mix. She runs a catering service along with her sister’s son, and is adept at over 20 ways of preparing sardine which is delivered at the dining tables. Even if not able to conjure up 20 varieties for us on that particular day, Rosamma chedathi treated us to 4 varieties of sardine dishes in no time.
Now hold it before you blurt out, “Yuck! Who will make cutlets with sardine?”
When piping hot cutlets with not a trace of any pungent taste arrived in front of us, we heartily devoured them, oblivious to the fact that we were uninvited guests.
So come, let us try some sardine cutlet. The required ingredients are—
Half a kilo of sardine, ginger, green chili, curry leaves, coriander leaves, turmeric powder, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, shallots and potato.
Cut and dress the sardine, put it in water, add turmeric and salt and cook well. Once the sardine is cooked, merely holding it by the tail and giving it a shake will make the flesh rip and fall off. Fry it well in coconut oil.
By the time it is fried, it would have crumbled due to constant stirring. Add cinnamon, cloves, powdered mace and cardamom, and stir well. Mix green chillies, small onion, coriander leaves, turmeric powder, garam masala powder, boiled and mashed potato and stir. A little pepper powder can be added too.
When it is cooked, take sufficient quantity in the palm of the hand, shape it and stack in a vessel. (For getting the cutlet in shape, use a PVC pipe of sufficient size cut to quarter inch length for molding). Later take each of them and dip in a little maida and keep aside. (This way we can prevent it from crumbling instantly, as per Rosamma chedathi.)
Dip this in beaten egg followed by bread crumbs and fry it in boiling oil and there you have your cutlet ready!
Chilli and sardine is a great combination. But here, it is fashionable to prepare sardine without scaling it.
Firstly, tear the sardine’s back and clean the gut. Open the gill and remove the wastes inside and clean up the whole thing. Finely grind a dash of good green pepper, garlic, a small slice of ginger, garlic, curry leaves, salt and fill its belly, and after opening the gill, its head as well. Keep it for some time for the paste to really seep into the fish. Then fry it in oil. Since the scales are not removed, if you flick it from the side of the head with your hand before eating, the scales will come right off along with the skin. If this is removed, pepper sardine can be relished.
If you want a totally different stew to savour with appam or bread, you can go for the sardine stew. The main ingredients are—
Half a kilo of sardine, coconut milk, shallots, carrot, green chilli, potato, pepper powder, a little maida powder, dalda, cashew nuts and dry fruits. Since Gothuruth folks do not have the habit of adding fried mustard seed, add instead a little clove, cardamom, cinnamon and mace along with curry leaves in dalda and fry. Into this add cut shallots, carrot, green chilli, sufficient salt and stir. After stirring well, add finely cut sardines, boiled and cut potatoes and a little maida powder or corn flour to it. Into it add the second extract of coconut milk (thin) and boil well. When the sardine is cooked, heat it and add the first coconut milk extracted (thick) ground cashew nut and a bit of pepper powder, and remove immediately from boil. Garnish it with cashew nuts and dry grapes after frying in dalda. Sardine stew is now ready.
Those who have eaten pidi will know it is a big deal! If pidi is a big deal, sardine pidi is doubly big indeed. Even if it takes some extra time to prepare, what makes it attractive is the fact that if prepared by adding sufficient spices, it eliminates the need for any other curry.
The requirements for half a kilo rice flour are—
One whole coconut, ten sardines, ginger, green chilli, cumin, onion and curry leaves. Squeeze the scraped coconut to extract first and second milk. Add cumin and salt to the rice flour and boil by adding a little coconut milk (second) and water. Add sufficient quantity of salt and cook for some time.
If it is cooking and the condition for rolling are not precisely achieved, we are in for some trouble. Roll the rice and keep for awhile. Stir in curry leaves, crushed ginger, green chilli and shallots and pour second coconut milk extracted.
Boil the sardine cut in to small pieces well and rolled rice flour. Boiling in coconut milk will enhance the taste as well. When the rice balls and fish are cooked, add first coconut milk extracted and sufficient salt, and remove from boil. And sardine pidi is now ready to eat.