That's fin-tastic!

Cooking wasn’t a skill I inherited. It’s something I learnt over the years. I grew up in Delhi where food is in abundance. The food culture is absolutely amazing as everything from ancient recipes, kebabs, Northeastern and so on are made in different styles there. 

I grew up seeing and trying all kinds of cuisine. But that’s the interesting thing about Delhi — it’s a rat race of who makes the best butter chicken, not who serves the most authentic one. 

Somewhere along that race, molecular gastronomy and fusion food took over the city. Indian food took a step back. 

Chefs started compromising on authentic flavours and made it all about the presentation of the dish. 

Though I’m only a few years into the industry, the youngest at Raahi restaurant, my experience has taught me a lot. 

When I completed my graduation from the International Institute of Hotel Management Delhi, my first job was at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. I found the hotel schedules too monotonous and switched to restaurants. 

I worked with Chef Kunal Kapoor in Abu Dhabi. I started working at Raahi on St Mark’s Road three months ago. 

The restaurant specialises in modern Indian food. For me, modern food is about using native ingredients in international techniques. It’s wonderful to see different cultures come together. 

It’s very important to me that the local ingredient is sourced from the place itself as it helps bring out the flavours better. Everything else after — the taste, cooking technique and presentation — is secondary. 

In this recipe, I’ve used a sous-vide technique to make ‘Salt Cured Fish’. It’s a method where food is placed in a plastic pouch and cooked in a water bath for a longer period at a regulated temperature. 

It’s a technique heavy dish but the results are absolutely amazing. You can use table salt or Himalayan salt to cure the fish. 

Ingredients

Saunth Soy

Tamarind, 300 gm

Sugar, 300 gm

Dates, 100 gm

Oil, 50 gm

Red chilli whole, 25 gm

Degi mirch, 25 gm

Coriander seeds, 15 gm

Dry ginger powder, 15 

Fennel seeds, 5 gm

Soy sauce, 50 ml

Sake vinegar, 15 ml

Curing Salt

Salt, 1 kg 

Fennel, 200 gm

Red Snapper fillet, 250 gm

Ghee, 10 gm

Charcoal, 2 small pieces 

Method

Saunth Soy

In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and fennel and coriander seeds.

When the seeds crackle, just add the degi mirch powder.

Then add tamarind, sugar, dates, red chilli whole and dry ginger powder to the pan add about 1 litre of water.

Let the chutney cook on slow heat for about two-hours.

Strain it and let it cool down for a few minutes and then add sake vinegar and soy sauce.  Saunth Soy is ready.

Cured Fish 

Make a brine of 500 grams salt with water and soak the fillet of fish for a few hours.

Take out the fillet and pat dry it on a clean kitchen towel.

Now cover the fillet of fish with leftover salt and fennel seeds and let it sit for 8 minutes in the salt cure. 

Fish is salt-cured now and ready to be smoked.

For smoking, light two charcoal pieces and keep in a centre of bowl in aluminium foil. 

Spread the fish fillet on the side of the bowl and pour ghee on the burning coal.

Cover the bowl immediately with aluminium foil and let the fish be smoked for 20 minutes. 

Served the fillet with Saunth Soy and Boondi Crisps. 

(As told to Anila Kurian)

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