Phanna-upkari is a favorite dish among fish-eating Konkanis. Phanna means tempering (tadka). Basically this is a spicy dish that uses little coconut, lot of dry red chillies and tamarind.
Usually coriander seeds are used as flavoring agents. However, this is a lesser known version of Phanna-upkari from my native village, modified a little by my Aunt.
I'm sure you'd love this once you've had it. So here it goes!
What you need:
For the Masala paste (masolu):
Grated coconut - 2 tsp
Tamarind - big lump
Dry red chillies: 10 small ones (spicy) + 8 long byadgi variety (mainly for color)
Black mustard seeds - 2.5 tsp
Coriander seeds - 3/4th tsp
Turmeric powder, 1 small spoon
For the main curry:
Mackerel fish (cleaned and cut into small pieces), about 6-7 fish
Asafoetida/ Hing, a pinch
Garlic, 9-10 cloves, smashed
*Cut and clean the fish well. Roughly mix with salt and turmeric powder; set aside.
*Dry roast- 2.5 tsp mustard seeds + 3/4th tsp coriander seeds. Let it cool.
*Roast in little coconut oil- 10 small chillies and 8-9 byadgi chillies, mainly for colour. The appearance is as important as the taste!
Masala: grind into a fine paste all the above mentioned ingredients. It should be ground with minimum water, so that the consistency resembles a thick chutney. It can be adjusted later.
In an earthen vessel (kullein in konkani), take coconut oil (liberally) and heat.
Add hing powder (very little).
Next add the smashed garlic cloves and roast well.
Next, add the ground masala, adjust the consistency with water and bring to a good boil.
Now add the washed and dry fish pieces. Don't add the extra water that remains in the vessel with fish, the curry will stink.
Lower the flame and cook for about 10-12 minutes.
Mix well now and then by gently whirling the pot itself. Never stir fish. Fish is a delicate thing to cook, and you can never be more careful!
Adjust the salt.
Turn off when it's cooked and cover for about half an hour. This helps for the flavours to be absorbed into the fish. Infact it's true for most non-vegetarian dishes.
Serve with hot rice and dalitoy (dal/ lentil soup).