When you are born in a coastal town, seasons revolve around fish. Summers may invoke mango fervour, but it’s also the season when the curry powders and masalas are made, dried fish cleaned and stocked for the year, and tangy fish curries spur afternoon siestas. The smell of dried fish (shrimp, prawns, bombay duck) fills the air as it is cleaned for days while the bigger ones are left to dry under the sun. A small compromise as in a few months, with the fishing boats moored and the advent of the monsoon, dried fish becomes a way to satiate seafood cravings. They are made into curries, relish or combined with veggies to complete the meal.
Summers though are made up of different catch. A fresh water fish, Mashe, with tiny bones that are a pain to pick, are the local favourite. While they taste a little like Pink Perch, they are slimmer and rather hard to clean. These are fried or made into a thick gravy to be had with bhakris. There are others. The elders always have a nose to figure out fresh fish. There’s the wisdom to know which fish should be avoided because it’s breeding or purchase because it’s in season, away from the popular Surmai, Rawas, Pomfret trio. It’s knowledge that’s fast disappearing but which a few good folks at Know Your Fish and In Season Fish are trying to disseminate by bringing out monthly calendars.
A big portion of the Konkani summer catch though is made up by jumbo prawns that need two hands and extra plates to devour. While they are getting a little harder to get, it’s fine dining and comfort food rolled in one. The juices of the prawns (head and shell intact) simmering in a thick chilli-coconut gravy infused with raw mango slices makes this recipe rather special. You can use shrimp or prawns or even fish to make this one. With the monsoon yet to shower its blessings, there’s still time to indulge in this summer favourite.
Jumbo prawns – 8-10 pieces
Curry leaves – 6-7
Tomato – 1
Garlic – 5-6 cloves
Coriander – a bunch
Desiccated coconut powder – 4 tsp
Red chilli powder mix* – 5 tsp
(Grind 10-12 Bedgi chillies, 4 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp fennel, 1 tsp jeera and a pinch of haldi powder)
Raw mango slices / Kokum
Heat oil in a dish. Add curry leaves when it starts simmering.
Grind the tomato, garlic, coriander, coconut and red chilli powder into a thick paste. Add it to the dish.
Now add raw mango slices (You can use kokum if you don’t have mango), salt, water and let it cook till it starts bubbling. Add the prawns/fish and cook till the gravy is of desired consistency. Serve with steamed rice and enjoy.