Puliminchi /Tamarind gravy

Our generation, for the matter or parents' generation has not seen anything like this before. This Wuhan virus pandemic has been an eye opener of sorts. How many of us would have imagined sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, disinfectant wipes, toilet roll and water to disappear from the copious shelves of Costco, Target, Walmart and all other supermarkets? How many of us would have ever prepared ourselves to have kids attend school from home? How about staying home for weeks? How about everyone working from home? Wealthy countries fighting for cargo of masks and gloves and ventilators? air travel pretty much banned across half the world? Not many. But we are here, where sneezing, coughing is suddenly scarier than the idea of crazy gunman. The isolation under a lock down does not help either. It is now a dystopian world where neighbors, mailmen, delivery folks, staff at our favorite restaurants, supermarket clerks, smiley fellow commuters that we know by face, if not by name are all potential asymptomatic carriers and therefore dangerous. Hell, for all we know we might be one of them and might end up killing our beloved grandparents and parents if we are not careful.
How could we let this happen? This is not some nondescript corner of Africa. This is not even the backyard of a great political theater involving foreign drones bombing our towns and cities. Yet, we are here, living under fear, longing for life as usual. I stare outside the window. Far away, I see the top of a cherry blossom tree. The tree knows no Wuhan virus. So she has decided to bloom like every year around this time. She wears her colors with pride. She could care less but I miss walking on the pink carpet around her. I miss the touch of her delicate blossoms after all, she signals the end of cold winters better than Punxsutawney Phil and the blackbirds. I miss the luxury of having a well stocked pantry and refrigerator. I miss well stocked supermarket shelves. How much did I take everything for granted. How privileged I am to be eating well.  I feel guilty too, for being able to afford through price gouging while a whole lot of people have lost their jobs and do not know where their next meal is going to come from. I feel sorry for the families that have lost loved ones needlessly because someone else lied to us and our leaders failed us.

It is in these distressing times many of us seek familiar comfort food. Unfortunately, many stores around here have run out of cake/ cookie/brownie mixes,sugar, flour, chocolate chips, essentially everything associated with comfort foods. That throws another curve ball, yet another adjustment to a new normal...

It is one such day here, a nice bright spring day that I decided to make something special. This is my sister's recipe and family loves it. More than anything else, the ingredient list was fairly short and I had everything on hand.

We will need,

Spices to be toasted:
Cumin 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds 2 tsp
Black pepper corns 3/4 tsp

Ajwain 1/4 tsp
Red chillies  preferably byadagi 5-6 (adjust according to taste)

Coconut  1/3 cup
Garlic 1 clove minced
Onion 1 small minced
Tamarind lime size soaked in warm water
Green chillies 1-2 (adjust according to taste)
Ginger minced
Salt to taste

Eggs(boiled, shelled and lightly fried in a few tsp of oil)  5-6  or
Mackerels (marinated in salt and turmeric, shallow fried lightly in a few tsp of oil)

  • Heat a skillet at medium heat and toast the spices one at a time till fragrant and set it aside. Go for the chillies last and cut off heat, that way chillies will not burn and trigger the smoke detector. 
  • Combine the toasted spices and coconut in a blender and grind the mixture into a fine paste. 
  • Place the spice paste, minced garlic, onion, ginger, green chillies in a wide mouthed pot. Extract the tamarind juice and stir it into the spice + mixture. Thin the mixture with some water if needed and set it on medium heat. 
  • Once the mixture starts bubbling gently, stir in turmeric, salt and let it cook till the gravy is fragrant. 
  • Slip pieces of fish /eggs in the gravy, cover and simmer for a few more minutes till the fish is tender. Try not to stir the fish to avoid breaking them. Instead gently shake the pot.
  • Remove from heat and set it aside for the flavors to combine. The gravy tastes better the longer it sits. Heat it right before serving and enjoy with a bowl of steamed white rice.

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