Monday, October 5, 2009

When Life Gives You Sharks, Make Pickle!

Shark Pickle.
Not something I rustle up at the drop of a hat, but I thought I'd venture my blog into Anthony Bourdain territory.
Because I'm Bad Like That.

And why exactly do I have a shark lying around my kitchen? Well, the male species in my house decided to go for a deep sea fishing trip the past weekend, zing-bang in tow. And of course, not only did they haul fish back, they brought a shark home too.
Yes, a stupid lumbering oaf knuckle head shark.
And that consequently left me with sleepless nights pondering how to turn this potentially mercury laden meat into an appetizing entree.I ruined the dish right there with that visual.
But I was sleepless. Wouldn't you be, if effin' JAWS was in your freezer down the hall from you?
Insert '70s terror music here (din-dan-din-dan-din-dan SCREEEAAAAMMMMM)

OK, I exaggerate. Wildly. The shark had been filleted and parceled impeccably by the boat hands before they even got to shore. It looked like chicken, to be honest. Shark meat is not the best seafood out there. Scientifically, it's prone to have a mercury content higher than other types of seafood due to a sharks position in the food-chain. Like all types of food out there, you eat it at your own risk. Like wild mushrooms. Or fast food. Children and pregnant ladies, stay away. I rest my case.

Someone came up with the brilliant idea to use the fillets to make a Kerala pickle.
Kerala Pickle 101 - whilst traditionally pickle is made with vegetables and fruits like lime, lemons, mangoes and gourd vegetables, it can also be made with beef or firm fleshed white fish. The pickles range from tangy, hot and sour and are used sparingly as condiments or as an accompaniment to a traditional Kerala meal. Emphasis on the word S-P-A-R-I-N-G-L-Y.

So my first foray into pickle making. I used the brilliant "Flavors of Kerala" cookbook and adapted their fish pickle recipe. I was also pleasantly surprised to note that this type of pickle does not require aging or any period of fermentation. It's ready to go as soon as you are happy with how well the oils and spices have been absorbed by the meat. I deviated from the original recipe in the proportion of wet ingredients, we liked our pickle with a lot of "sauce", the original recipe resulted in a drier pickle.

Fish Pickle (prepared with shark fillet) (ever so slightly adapted from "Flavors of Kerala" - Hena Jacob and Salim Pushpanath)

500g Boneless fish/shark fillets, sliced into small cubes
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup sesame oil
2 heaped Tbsp red chilli powder
1 tsp pepper powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsp crushed ginger
1 large bulb garlic - chopped
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp asafoetida powder
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 stalks curry leaves
Salt - to taste

1. Clean and wash fish pieces, marinate with pepper, turmeric and salt to taste. Keep aside for about an hour.
2. Deep fry the fish pieces in coconut oil. Reserve on a plate lined with paper towels.
3. Heat the sesame oil, add fenugreek and mustard. When they splutter, add the ginger, garlic and curry leaves.
4. Remove the pan from heat, add chilli powder and asafoetida powder.
5. Add the fried fish pieces into this oil mixture and then add vinegar and give everything a big stir.
6. When cooled, transfer to a clean dry bottle with tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate.
7. Use as a condiment with rice-based dishes.


Jaya Wagle said...

I take it back. You are not only brave, you are Bad like AB. Shark Pickle, really! Your first pickle foray and you chose not mango, not lime nor lemons but effin' SHARK!. You go girl. I live vicariously through you.

Smitha said...

That definitely sounds like one hot pickle. Delicioso!

s said...

now thats something i would like to try...we do get a lot of these in the Goan fish market...NEVER ventured into the pickle territory though

WizzyTheStick said...

Very curious as to the taste of this. Shark is popular in my country curried or fried in a fish sandwich. I have never had it pickled though. How did it taste?

Ann said...

@ Wizzy! Sorry, I've been neglecting the blog, and have been pretty bad about responding to comments. i always get stuck between replying directly or writing back in the comments section *frazzled*.
The pickle recipe here is very South Indian in taste, so expect a tangy, tart and hot condiment. The fish is deep fried, I guess thats part of the "preserving" process, so it will be chewy. And then the rest of the ingredients like the vinegar and mustard, fenugreek and asofoetida will lend to the pungency and tartness, and then you finally get a dose of the chilli.

It's typically an accompaniment to plain rice and veggies.

The same pickle method and recipe also lends itself to mangoes, lime, lemon, chicken, beef (except in the case of the fruits and veggies, they are not fried, but rather sun-dried).