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A Fish Dish from Far Away

Passport & Plate - Tavva Machi

Pakistan | Saturday, 7 March 2015 | 1 photos

500 g Red Snapper, 2 fillets

FIVE SPICE CRUMB MIXTURE (mix the following five ingredients together)
15g Roasted Cumin, coarsely crushed
5g Roasted coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
45g Roasted dessicated crushed
5g Roasted poppy seeds
15g Roasted sesame seeds

100g Fresh tamarind, soaked in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes
15g Turmeric powder
5g Salt
45ml Vegetable oil


How to prepare this recipe
1. Wash and dry the fish

2. Apply turmeric on all sides

3. Sprinkle salt over the fillets

4. Strain the tamarin - it should have a thick, lumpy sort of consistency. Apply this liberally on the fish, flip the fillets over to make sure the tamarind is applied on all sides.

5. "Crumb" the fish with the Five Spice Crumb Mix, and ensure that the crumbs are able to evenly coat the tamarind covered fish on both sides. Be mindful of the edges becoming too dry, apply more tamarind and cover with crumbs as necessary.

6. Heat oil in a frying pan and pan fry the fish - approximately five minutes on each side. Remove to a plate.

7. Tempering adds a little heat to this dish and gives it a kick. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start splintering add the cadee leaves and whole chilis, cook for two minutes. Pour over the fish.

8. Garnish with bird's eye chili


The story behind this recipe
This fish recipe is an ode to Mwangi Mota; to the fishing in the stream at Karatina; to Pakistan, where I have raised my children; and to all the different worlds that came together to make me who I am.

In the foothills of Mount Kenya, on the bank of a babbling stream, there once stood a saw mill; and just beside it, a house on stilts with a beautiful waterwheel that churned in the water. This was my first home, where I lived with my Punjabi speaking, Kashmiri family; my seven brothers and sisters, all third-generation Kenyans; and the most amazing cooks I have ever met since.

The indomitable Mwangi Mota who commanded the affairs of our beautifully constructed open kitchen was a great force behind making me the food lover I am today. He had been trained by my Indian grandmother to cook a cuisine completely foreign to him. But he could whip up a seven course meal for a twenty person dinner party on his own. His specialty was fish, caught fresh from the pristine waters of the stream. With the nearest market over an hour away, we cooked with fresh produce from our lovely vegetable garden, which I helped to tend; poultry and live cattle were purchased from the local villagers when we cooked meat.

My food journey began in a multi-cultural home, where the traditions of two very different continents, and the spices of two distinct cultures had come together. Although I moved to Pakistan at 22, I have traveled a great deal in my life; I have enjoyed and experimented with food from across the world; cooking with street vendors in Thailand, taking culinary classes in Spain and the South of France; hunting for local specialties at farmers' markets and rural fairs in England, but also in Turkey. Every new place I have ever visited, I have sought to discover it through its cuisine.

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