Kashmiris have hogaad, (ho- from hoakh – dry, and gaad – fish), tiny dried fish that are cooked with vegetable or greens to up the nutrient quotient, or simply fried in oil to a crisp and served on the side. My mother would add tiny amounts of hogaad to the bags of other foodstuff we would carry back to Delhi from what used to be annual summer visits to Srinagar. The hogaad was out of pure nostalgia I am sure. To my credit, I did taste it every time she cooked some. I wonder how I overcame the stink.
A year ago browsing around in the market in Munnar I saw piles and piles of all kind of dried fish and other sea creatures. I was struck by the same nostalgia. So I ended up buying a 100 grams of medium-sized dried fish. As you can tell, I cannot tell my fish. I only know big, small, medium or tiny. I gave some to my mother to cook, who is now a vegetarian. She cooked it out of love (and nostalgia) for me and my dad. My dad does not care for hogaad; never did. I tasted some of it and couldn’t figure out why we bother. I have been looking at my portion of dried fish in the jar…for awhile.
I think the Far East uses it better than Kashmiris ever did. The idea of using stinky foods as flavouring agents works swell; it then provides the umami sensation without becoming unpalatable. Just like hing! I and the son loved the nasi lemak and mee goreng we tried in Malaysia; the garnish of fried dried anchovies was just perfect.
In the comments on the last post some of you gave suggestions for cooking with the dried fish and Goan sausage. Poornima’s simple recipe seemed like something that I could try right away and serve the visiting fish-loving sister-in-law. I will be trying out some others’ very soon. Thanks for the idea, Poornima! Aparna and I loved the fish sambal/chutney. To the credit of the fish, it didn’t stink at all when I fried it! TH and the rest, and I had a house-full, didn’t even get a whiff. They looked disbelievingly at what I was calling fish chutney! I picked Poornima’s concept and kept in mind the deep-frying Thai-Malaysian style of cooking. Here’s what I did:
6-7 small dried fish (by the look of it, I might have used either dhandshi or bhobshi)
2 small red onions, sliced fine (about 1 cup)
4 green chillies, roughly ground
2 medium tomatoes, finely diced (about 1 cup or so)
1/4 C oil (you may use less if you are not planning to keep it for a long time)
2 t red chilli (cayenne pepper) powder
1 T jaggery (optional)
Soak the dried fish in water for 5 min. Drain. Heat oil in a karahi. Fry the drained dried fish till brown and crisp. Remove and keep aside. To the hot oil add the sliced onions. Fry them, stirring constantly, till they are browned and well carmalised but not crisp. Add the ground green chillies and stir a further two minutes. Now add the chopped tomatoes and stir till the oil separates. Season with salt, red chilli powder, and jaggery. Remember there is some salt in the fish. Remove from heat. Pound the fried fish to a powder and add to the fried onion-tomato mix. Mix well. A dash of vinegar won’t be amiss. Or you may try adding some tamarind pulp to the mix while it is still cooking. Serve with rice and coastal preparations of dal and veggies.