I was considering cooking meen puttu, a flaked-fish dish flavored with South Indian spices, to take to a multicultural event where people exchange recipes and sample food. In reading more about the event, I quickly realized that the food for sampling was prepared by the members of the hosting culture, American Turkish families. Since this was the only event in a series of other events that I would be able to attend, I was not sure if I should take something along. I contacted one of the ladies who organized the event to ask.
The lady’s response was longer than I expected, it described at length what a nice thought it was to bring something when you were not expected to. She added, however, that the focus of the event we were to attend was on Turkish food, and therefore, she was of two minds and that I should decide. It is not so much what she said but the manner in which she said it: it made me feel good and gave me good information to decide. I held back from taking food to the event and I am glad I did because I sampled delicious Turkish food, listened to interesting stories related to recipes and noticed how people seemed to connect to two elements of the recipe I shared: the use of shark from the Bay of Bengal and the look and smell of curry leaves (that I had put in a small bag for people to sample) relative to the very different and very commonly used term, “curry powder”.
Meen in Tamil refers to fish, and puttu to something that is flaked; sora puttu, in particular, refers to a flaked shark dish flavored with South Indian spices. Below, is a recipe for meen puttu that uses salmon instead of shark from the Bay of Bengal.
Salmon or any firm-fleshed fish: 1lb
Onions: 2 medium size
Garlic: 3-4 large cloves
Curry leaves (available at any Indian grocery store): 5
Dried fennel seeds: 1tbsp
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper and bake in a 375˚F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the flesh separates easily and looks mostly opaque. Once cooked and rested for a few minutes, flake the fish with a fork. In a separate pan, sauté diced onions in olive oil (and the oil exuded from the baked salmon) until they turn translucent; add some freshly pounded garlic, some curry leaves and season with salt and pepper; add the flaked fish to the onion mixture and cook under medium heat till the flavors blend together. At this point, the dish can be served as is for those who prefer a slightly moist version of the fish or as is traditional, it can be cooked further under low heat with periodic stirring to create a slight golden brown crust as the water evaporates and the fish caramelizes a bit in the remaining oil. In either version, dry roast some fennel seeds, grind to a powder and add to the puttu just before serving. For those who prefer a spicier version of this dish, a few chopped green chillies can be included while sautéeing the onions.
Salmon puttu pairs well with hot rice.
How do you share food with a host without taking the focus away from the hosted meal?