A flaked fish dish from South India

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.

Ingredients

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

Olive oil

Method

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?

10 thoughts on “A flaked fish dish from South India

  1. Rukmani sankar

    Hello
    I use salmon/tuna tins with finely cut onions and green chillies and Its great with rice for a quick meal with beans fry

    Reply
  2. Jyothi Thomas

    "Flaked Fish " yum, my favourite, perfect with steamed rice and lightly seasoned pepper water and papadams 🙂 . Bala what i enjoyed reading is , how beautifully you have brought in International Culture and Cuisine ; understanding people and practices with the etiquette , awesome adds the personal touch , It is not "just food." .

    My mom in laws special - the AI way - the same was made and converted into cutlets or sandwich really tastes good.

    Waiting to see your book with all your recipes one day.

    Good luck always .

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Mrs. Thomas, Thank you for your kind comment and for the note about culture, cuisine and etiquette. I totally agree that seasoned pepper water and papadams* are great accompaniments and what a nice way to repurpose puttu by making cutlets and sandwiches. Thank you for reminding me.

      * fried lentil wafers

      Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and for posting your kind comment. I look forward to listening to your thoughts on food and recipes.

      Reply
  3. nirmala

    Mouth watering. One of my most favourite south indian dishes. I believe food made with love and in a happy frame of mind with the intention of feeding the loved ones tastes the best. I use a steamer to cook the fish, this way I found when flaked the fish has a soft texture.. I use green chillies and turmeric generously. Shark has a strong smell and I find the turmeric balances it out and adds to the flavour .Along with curry leaves I use finely chopped coriander leaves Rightly said this dish is best with piping hot steamed rice,with a tsp of melted ghee. Chettinad cooking calls for grated coconut while finishing.

    Respecting the host's effort is very important and how thoughtful of you to call and then decide how to go about it based on your conversation. That is fine etiquette.

    Look forward to your posts.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Thank you for your detailed comment. I agree that turmeric goes well with this dish, I almost added it. I've not heard of the version with grated coconut, sounds interesting.

      Reply
  4. Reva Pershad

    Bala , it's interesting to see how unobtrusively & thoughtfully you introduced an alien dish to a different cultural set up . While enjoying the Turkish delights you introduced a recipe with a strong flavour & aroma by taking the curry leaves with you to give the tasters a hint of how the shark/ salmon dish would taste with its different ingredients .
    Your tempting recipe along with the brilliant photos is inspirational.I for one would love the caramelised crispness of the flaky fish & the heady mix of curry leaves, garlic & fennel . Would sea bass also do well as a puttu?
    Always look forward to the different connect with which you present international cuisine . Food for thought indeed

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Post author

      Mrs. Pershad,

      Thank you so much for your detailed and thoughtful comment.

      I haven't personally tried sea bass in this recipe but I would guess it should adapt well. I will look forward to hearing about it from you when you try it.

      Thank you.

      Reply

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