Before I met Tom, I was fairly certain that Indian food was one cuisine that could never be genuinely replicated at home. I have since enjoyed countless dinners of remarkable Indian dishes packed with flavor, hailing from a variety of regions. This compelled me to launch the South of the Orient series on my blog, with the hope of sharing the diverse and colorful recipes we have been enjoying. One that has become a standard is Fish Molee: a dish that is as unique as it is delicious, and is quite simple to make.
The above photo comes from Tom’s travels to Southwest India – it captures a unique contraption of fishing nets located along the shore of Kerala. It is an ancient mechanism from which square nets are suspended over the water by large wooden beams, balanced and controlled by stone counterweights on the shore side. It can take up to 6 fishermen to operate a single net. These nets are just one example of the regional beauty found in Kerala.
Tom’s introduction to Fish Molee was through Kerala, and he shares more about his experience below:
“After two months frozen in the Himalayas, I headed far south to a balmy cosmopolitan port town called Fort Cochin, in Kerala. The aromas from neighboring spice and tea plantations drift into Kochi when the countervailing coastal breeze lets up at sunset, and when they do they mingle with a uniquely pungent combination of curry leaves and coconut oil. To this day that smell is my South Indian madeleine. Diji, an Indian homemaker with a kitchen full of mosquitos and an incredible talent as a chef, took the time to show me the basics for making her state’s flagship recipe, the Fish Molee.”
My favorite part of this dish is the cashews – they provide a unique texture to the dish, lending a hearty crunch with every bite. This dish also calls for curry leaves – a popular “curry” seasoning – which are similar to bay leaves in that they are purely intended to add flavor (in other words, don’t eat them). The consistency of the sauce comes from the coconut milk, ground almonds, and onion puree. Overall it is packed with nutrients and flavor, and has become the go-to Indian curry for both of us. Click HERE to see the recipe for this unique dish!
The textures and flavors of this recipe make it wholly irresistible, all of which are heightened by it respected history. Colorful and traditional are a rare yet beautiful combination, which led me to choose Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite as the musical pairing. This piece is neoclassicism at its finest. The work was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev, who was the founder of the Ballet Russes and one of the primary influences behind Stravinsky’s ballet repertoire. Diaghilev wanted a ballet inspired by commedia dell’arte, and Stravinsky was naturally tasked with creating the musical score…while the costumes and set were designed by none other than Pablo Picasso! The ballet is based around Pulcinella (pictured right), who was a classic character of the commedia dell’arte genre. Stravinsky revised the original music (believed to have been written by 18th-century composer Giovanni Pergolesi) by incorporating contemporary harmonies and rhythms and by scoring it for a sizable chamber orchestra. He says the following of the piece:
“Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible. It was a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too.”
The ballet was premiered for a Parisian audience in May 1920. 2 years later, Stravinsky abridged the ballet into a “Suite” for chamber orchestra, which uses 11 of the original 18 movements – the work has since become a standard of the orchestral canon. Like the above dish, Pulcinella is by far one of my favorites – the colors and characters are truly unparalleled, and I hope you enjoy it!