Friday, March 6, 2009

Varan (Yellow Lentils) and Fried Tilapia

For the better part of my childhood, I grew up in Mumbai. Mumbai is a lot like New York, a huge metropolis of people from all over India. Mumbai is also in the state of Maharashtra. My father's family are pure Maharashtrians. After living in NY , where there is such a great versatility of food I rarely find Maharashtrian food on any Indian restaurant menu. So if I want to indulge, I have to cook it! Varan Bhaat(toor daal & rice) to me is the ultimate comfort food. Our mother's fed it to us as one of our first solid foods, when we were sick, or just on a perfect Sunday with some lamb on the side. For me, Varan is a dish I associated with my father. He is the one that fed it to me in mouthfuls most of the times. Its the fish, that reminds me of my mother. She is from Goa, but grew up in Mumbai . Goa and Maharashtra - neighboring states though they may be, their dishes vary vastly. It was only natural that my mother combined Varan and Fried Fish. We have been eating this for a long time at home. I have been making it for a few years. Its our family recipe, and its perfect for a weekly meal. My husband enjoys it, and he is Jewish. LOL.

Varan (Yellow Lentils-Toor)
1 cup Toor Daal
1 cup Water
pinch of Asofedita (hing)
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder (haldi)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Pressure Cooker (You can make any lentils without a pressure cooker, it just has to simmer on low heat for at least over an hour to get the desired consistency. The pressure cooker mushes up the lentils in about 20 mins)

Add daal + water in the pressure cooker. Top it off with asofedita and turmeric powder. Close the lid of the cooker and cook over medium heat till about 2 whistles (should be about 20 mins or so). Wait till all steam has escaped from the cooker before you open it!!
The daal should be mushy and a bit watery at this point. If it's dry, add some more water and let it simmer for a while till the desired consistency. If its still watery, dry it out by simmering some more. Add salt and sugar. Stir.

Fried Tilapia with Fresh Tamarind

2 fillet's of fresh tilapia
1 tablespoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon (increase for spiciness) red chilli powder
1/2 cup Rice flour for coating
Salt to taste

Marinate the Tilapia with the turmeric, chilli powder & salt. I would do this before you make the daal. This way you have at least half an hour to let the fish marinate. Now, you can start either making the tamarind juice. If you have bought the tamarind paste, skip this step. Just mix the paste with a little bit of water to coat the fish later.

Fresh Tamarind Juice
Soak about less than handful of Tamarind in hot water that reaches just the tops of the tamarind (not toooo much)wait 5-10 minutes. The tamarind should be soft enough to make a thick pulp now. Keep mixing the tamarind in between your hands to get its juice out, and soon enough it will turn thick and pulpy (remove the skins of the tamarind, if they exist)
Get rid of anything that is not dissolving into the water.

Lets Fry the Fish!

After the Juice/Pulp is ready, dip the marinated fish in the pulp and coat it with the rice flour. Fry in little oil for about 4 minutes on each side (Tilapia will cook fast , depending on your gas settings)

Serve with Daal and Rice
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New Ideas? Alterations? Substitutes? I wanna know!