Our first glimpse of the tropical paradise that is Kovalam, was of the famous lighthouse with its distinct candy stripes. We were headed to the most popular of its three beaches - Lighthouse beach, named after the landmark lighthouse. We fell in love with Kovalam's relaxed atmosphere, sandy beaches, breathtaking views, gently swaying palm trees, warm waters and fantastic food. It is easy to see why Kovalam is such a popular tourist destination!
Kovalam at one time, used to be a sleepy little fishing village. Although it has now been taken over by hordes of tourists and resorts, fishing is still an important part of everyday life here. Fishing boats pull up right on to the beach with their haul of fresh seafood early every morning and supply local restaurants and shops for miles around. The boats are covered with thatched mats when they are done for the day, adding local colour to the beach!
Wandering around on the soft, sandy beach, admiring the beautiful views while dipping our feet in the warm water made us hungry and we decided to try one of the numerous beach shacks lining the fringes of the beach. We were sure the seafood would be really, really fresh!
We were not disappointed. The Kerala fish fry at the Kingfisher Cafe was spicy, fresh and piping hot and the calamari was like nothing we've ever had before. Done Kerala style with spices and a crisp batter, it was melt in the mouth tender. We wrapped our delicious seafood in a flaky Kerala Parotta (flatbread) and gobbled it all up.
In Kerala, rice flour is used to coat the fish and crisp it up. I find that all purpose flour works just as well. I also like to add an egg to the marinade to bind it all together. The final roll around in the breadcrumbs is important to add colour, flavour and crispness to the fish fry.
Serve with a fresh green herb chutney, lemon and red onion rings.
1 1/4 lb cod or haddock fillet
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
1 green chili
20 fresh curry leaves
Salt to taste
2 tbsp each: lemon juice, all purpose flour
1/2 tsp each: ground black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground coriander, whole cumin seeds
1 egg, beaten
1 cup each: breadcrumbs, oil for frying
Cut fish into large pieces. Place in deep mixing bowl.
Mince garlic, ginger, green chili and curry leaves together in food processor. Transfer to bowl with fish.
Add salt, lemon juice, flour, spices and egg. Toss gently to mix well. Cover and marinate fish in the refrigerator for 15 min to an hour.
Place breadcrumbs in shallow bowl. Warm oil in deep skillet over medium heat.
Dredge each piece of fish in breadcrumbs to coat all over. Drop gently into oil and fry for about 3 min per side or until fish is crisp, golden and cooked through. Do not crowd the pan, do this in two-three batches.
Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Serve right away.