I am sure that whoever is fond of fish is undoubtedly fond of its fried form! It goes without saying that being a Mangalorean I love fish in any form - in a curry, fried, baked, grilled or steamed, but the fried variety wins hands down any day. It is a known fact that even people who have never eaten a lot of fish in their lives tend to prefer it fried than in a curry as the fried version invariably tones down the 'fishy' smell.
In Mangalore, we use a ready to use salt and chilli paste called the 'Meet Mirsang' which is very handy and can be made to use basic fish curries besides being used to marinate fish before frying. This paste was traditionally ground on a 'Gatno' (grinding stone/mortar & pestle made of granite stone) and scooped out with a dry 'katti' (coconut shell) as even the moisture from one's hand could render the paste useless when stored at room temperature. This also explains why vinegar is used to grind the paste which along with salt acts like a preservative.
During my childhood, the yummiest fish fry was always marinated in Meet Mirsang, it is only during the latter years of my time in Mangalore that out of sheer lack of time that we resorted to a quick fix of the marinade made of Bafat Powder, tamarind paste and salt. I continued that tradition (of using Bafat powder) for many years after getting married. I think I need to thank my blog for making me break out of my comfort zone and try out traditional recipes which are actually not as much of an effort (or rocket science) as I had thought earlier.
When I was a child, we would have fried fish (fresh or dried) on Saturdays and more often during the Monsoons, I don't know the reason behind it, but it just seemed so perfect. We also had meal combos that just tasted heavenly. Like the vegetable gravy - Valchebaji ani Guley and Sardine Fry or Daliso Saar (Mangalorean Watery Dal/Lentils) and Mackerel Fry. Since the time I got married I have tried to maintain this custom and also love to have fried Mackerels with Kulta Kaat (Horsegram & Madras Cucumber Curry)
I am sure every family has their favourite combinations...if you have the same memories that I do, do let me know what your favourite combinations are...
The Meet Mirsang has definitely added that spark into our mealtimes as it makes fried fish ultra tasty and makes us pick out all edible parts of the fish and thoroughly enjoy the experience of having a meal with loved ones at home. Chatting and talking and helping ourselves to that extra spoon of boiled rice and curry or saar (recipe to follow) to accompany the pieces of fish waiting to be finished.
Picture above: Mackerels marinated in Meet Mirsang are sizzling on a hot 'kail' (frying pan)
For people who are hard pressed for time, it is best to make this paste in small batches and refrigerate it (if you are using water to grind). You can use it for a multitude of recipes including chicken and fish curries that call for a combination of the chillies, jeera and vinegar.
- 100 dry red chillies (Bedgi/Byadge - also known as Kumti Mirsang/Kundapur chillies)
- 1 tsp cumin/jeera
- 1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi powder
- 8 tsp salt (increase it as per taste)
- 12 tbsp vinegar (or about 150ml) *see note
Remove the stalk of the chillies and grind to a powder with the jeera and turmeric powder if you are using a dry mixer grinder. Add the salt & vinegar and grind to a fine paste. If you are using the traditional Mangalorean Gatno you can toss in all the above ingredients to grind to a fine paste.
If you are using a mixer grinder to grind this masala, you will notice that the given quantity of vinegar will not be sufficient to achieve the paste consistency. Ideally Meet Mirsang is made with vinegar to grind the spices and hence may require as much as 500-750ml of vinegar. This helps the paste to remain fresh and for very long periods of time when stored even at room temperature.
Since I am not too fond of the vinegar and it's acrid smell, I use just about 11-12 tbsp and supplement the liquid requirement with boiled & cooled water - this of course means you cannot store the paste outside at room temperature as it will spoil fast so I make in small batches and refrigerate and use within 2-3 weeks at the most.
You can also substitute vinegar with tamarind paste and refrigerate it.