I have to say "Goan" fish recheado. And that does the trick - if you've been to Goa and have fallen in love with it, this dish will take you back to beautiful Goa with memories of lazy lunches, balmy weather, pretty hand printed sarongs, fresh and simple seafood, cane chairs and warm sands. It's heaven on earth.:)
Recheado is Portuguese for stuffed.(Google) And this version is traditional Goan food that you'll most definitely find on any menu at Goa, whether you're eating at a makeshift little hut or at an upscale fine dining place. I'm partial to the makeshift places. They always get it right. Evoking just the kind of sensory pleasure that good food should with none of the fancy gadgets and hoity toity explanations. Good food, minus the frills.
I specifically looked for Mackerel as that is what is used in the classic version. But feel free to use pomfret or kingfish if that's easier to find and is fresher. Any firm and white fleshed fish would work well. Mackerel , I found has a strong fishy odour. If you're not game for it, stick to the milder fish varieties.
I remember eating fish recheado made with pomfret many years ago at a lovely family owned restaurant that was highly recommended by the locals, Souza Lobos on Calangute beach. Divine.
The recheado stuffing or masala paste has a long list of ingredients. Each of them plays a vital role in bringing out the robust, spicy and lively flavors of Goan food. This dish is really easy to make,looks spectacular and tastes very very good with hot steamed rice. Make sure your fish is really fresh and if you don't want to shallow fry, an open grill would be a fantastic alternative. If you are vegetarian/vegan try toning down the spice levels and stuffing okra with the paste. Delicious.
While I'm typing this recipe out, my toddler is begging me to please throw the fish back into the swimming pool. Funny thing is he didn't seem to mind when he was eating the photograhed fish for lunch. :)
So if you're feeling like taking off to Goa (but really cannot like most of us) this should keep you happy. Temporarily at least.
Difficulty level - easy
Cooking time - 10 mins.
Marination time - 1 hour. Plus allow time for overnight marination of the spices.
For the masala paste
20 dried red chillies
2 one inch cinnamon pieces
5 pods of cardamom
1/4 tsp of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of black pepper
20 cloves of garlic
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
toddy vinegar to taste ( use any mildly flavoured vinegar as a substitute)
For the recheado masala
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
2 medium sized whole mackerel, whole pomfret or kingfish slices
juice of 1/2 lime
salt to taste
For the masala or recheado paste
Soak red chillies, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, garlic and ginger in the toddy vinegar. I soaked them overnight. If you're short on time - one hour would be good enough. Then grind to a fine paste. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan. Add the finely chopped onion and saute till golden brown in color. Now add the sugar and salt. Mix well and cook until the raw smell disappears and the paste turns a beautiful deep dark red. You will see the oil separate out. It's done, take off the heat and allow to cool.
For the main dish
Clean the fish and pat the it dry with a paper towel. Make deep gashes on both sides of the fish. Skip this step if you're using fish slices instead of whole fish. Rub the fish generously with salt and lemon juice on both the outside as well as the insides. Stuff the fish with the prepared recheado masala paste. Allow the fish to marinate for 45 mins - 1 hr.
Heat oil in a pan. Shallow fry the fish for 4 - 5 minutes on each side or until it is cooked through and you get a crisp exterior. Serve hot with Goan bread or rice.
Note - Be very gentle while turning the fish over - it tends to break and fall apart.