We woke up to an unfamiliar mutest daybreak. The temperature was just right and the purest air was so welcoming. “Are we home in Kerala or Khon Kaen?” we thought as we slowly regained the conscious remembering now that we were in a cozy lodge somewhere by the warm coast of Diveagar.
The morning cups of buffalo milk tea were simmering in the pot while we had wonderful, quick stroll around the village. It felt so home here, and all of them were like our neighbors. We were in this beautiful beach town once when Yaseen was just 3 months old and it was such a memorable trip. My husband always talked about Diveagar food which wasn’t just delicious food but the whole hospitality, the way they were made and served. You would get home-cooked food here, preparing with care the way they would make for relatives came to visit.
Diveagar cuisine is somewhat conversant with our appetite. Mild and sapid curry flavoured with aromatic spices and coconut, hot and powdery rice flatbread, everything was so fresh and homey.
And the sea was where we got the fish. Visiting local fish market early morning and disguised into the local crowd for fish auctioning to get the most insightful experience. The boats were just coming in and then soon they would vanish into different direction.
At lunch, we were relaxed in the back of a kitchen of a home where an owner prepared us a wonderful lunch. Food was prepared over the wood fire and that might be why it tasted so rustic and warm. Her fish curry has rich saffron yellow and the perfect blend of tastes. The recipe was unguarded, she was so happy to share this heirloom formula.
Diveagar Style Fish Curry
Ingredients: (4 Servings)
500 gm fish- sliced into medium chunks
4 cloves garlic
1 ginger- about a size of your thumb
1 onion- sliced
6 curry leaves
1 large tomato- chopped
2 tsp salt or to taste
2 tsp turmeric powder-divided
1 tsp chili powder
4-6 dried red chili- whole
3 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp black pepper corn
1 tsp mustard seed
3-4 pieces dried kokum (may be substituted with tamarind)
1 cup grated fresh coconut
2 tbsp oil
- Marinate fish with 1 tsp turmeric powder, chili powder and a little salt and keep aside.
- Dry roast dried red chili, coriander seed, cumin seed, and black pepper corn over the low heat pan and grind into fine powder and keep aside.
- Grind grated coconut with a little water until very smooth paste and keep aside.
- Grind garlic and ginger into smooth paste and keep aside.
- Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Once the oil start to smoke, add mustard seed and let it splutter for a few second.
- Add onion and curry leaves, then sauté until onion becomes soft and translucent.
- Add ginger and garlic paste and stir for a minute or until fragrant.
- Add turmeric powder and spices mix powder. Stir for 30 second or so.
- Add tomato and stir further until tomato become soft. Do not let the spices burn, add a little water if needed.
- Add 2 cups of water, salt and dried kokum and bring to boil. Simmer further for 5 minutes so the flavour of spices infused into the curry sauce.
- Add fish and let it cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Add coconut paste and gently stir. Simmer further until the sauce is about to boil. Turn off the heat, check the seasoning and serve with some rice or flatbread.
The very special plates of Thali made us felt the most humble. The curry was smoking hot and aromatic, something that felt like our mothers cooked. There were hot flatbreads made from rice flour that were so soft and light. They sobbed up fish curry so beautifully. Hot rice was brought along and it was unlimited. The owner came to check on you regularly to refill the fluffy rice and delicious curry. Fried fish was like a bonus, it was super crispy and perfectly cooked through. The meat was so fresh and mellow-y sweet melting against the hot spices crust.
The meal was super cheap, Rs. 150 per person (about 3$) compare to how generous and robust it was. The most beautiful part of this was the feeling that we were considered to be a part of family and not guests. It was so pampering and modest at the same time.