For someone who can cheerfully eat, say, 2kg of meat, day after day until it is finished, I was bored.
I didn’t feel like eating my quick, efficient Goan fish curry or fish fry. I didn’t want to eat a comforting Sunday lunch. I wanted something fresh and exciting.
I pondered my pile of cookbooks, but with the outside temperature touching 45 degrees Celsius, it was too hot to sit around with piles of paper in my warm kitchen.
Since the easiest thing to do when it’s this hot is think, my thoughts swept back to what now seem idyllic childhood days (of course, they were not—if I think hard, most of my childhood summers were spent in temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius) and strong memories of lying around satiated after a memorable weekend meal.
As you can tell, my family does not lose hunger when it’s hot. Quite the contrary.
So it was that I urged my mother to help me recreate our family’s third standard version of fish: the bhoozana.
Mouthfuls of nostalgia: (clockwise from top right) Grated coconut, chillies, ginger, garlic and lime make the bhoozana a fragrant feast; use firm fish such as black pomfret; the tossing needs a bit of practice; the key to a good bhoozana is patience. Photographs by Priya Ramani / Mint
How do I describe it?
In the dim recesses of my memory, I always remember it as the third—and lost—version of home-style fish after the curry and fried. In my adolescent mind, these three were the seafood trinity.
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If you were to ask me for an English translation, I’d have to make it up as I write.
Let’s see, how about Grated Coconut and Lime Infused Tossed Fish?
That’s not bad.
Though I adopted and adapted the fish curry and fried fish that my grandmother and mother made, I never got around to the bhoozana all these years.
I guess the reason, as I found out, is that while the bhoozana is really quite simple, it is a tad more difficult than a curry or a fried fish.
It requires some advance preparation, delicate handling and tossing—without a spoon. If you find it hard to toss 1kg of fish, either use a large pan so the cooking is even, or learn to gently toss the fish. No matter if some coconut shavings jump ship in the process, as is likely.
The key to a good bhoozana is patience. While I am a big fan of quick, inventive cooking, this is not a recipe that should be rushed. The flavours are subtle and few, so add them with care, nurture them on your stove, and you should end up with the fragrant feast that I wound up with.
The bhoozana wasn’t as yellow as I remembered, probably because we didn’t use too much turmeric. But it was every bit as wonderful. As I wolfed it down, the reborn bhoozana made me feel all was very well with the world, and God, with the reunion of his trinity, was in his heaven.
1kg black pomfret (or any firm fish)
1 coconut, grated
7-10 green chillies, slivered and chopped into mid-sized pieces
2-3 inches of ginger, cut into juliennes
5-7 cloves of garlic, crushed
K bunch of coriander. Divide into two portions
1K tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
Juice of 1 large lime
2-3 tbsp olive oil, depending on the wok
Salt to taste
Wash and clean the fish. Marinate it with chilli powder, turmeric and salt. In a bowl, add the chillies to the grated coconut. Add ginger juliennes and half the coriander. Squeeze the juice of the lime on the coconut mixture. Add 1 tbsp oil to the coconut. Mix well.
In a big karahi (wok), non-stick if you have, add 2 tbsp of oil. Add crushed garlic and brown lightly. Add the marinated fish. Toss gently.
Do not use a spoon; the fish may fall apart. If inevitable, use the handle of a wooden spoon to gently mix the fish. Now add the grated coconut mix. Toss gently if possible so that it mixes. Or use the spoon handle. Add 3-4 cups of water. Cover and cook over slow fire. Sprinkle the leftover coriander and serve hot.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at Htblogs.com. He is editor-at-large, Hindustan Times..
Write to Samar at email@example.com