Since yesterday, Mauritius has been under the influence of cyclone Edilson which has, fortunately, not wrecked much havoc over the island. We have not had any major cyclone that I can remember for more than 10 years. The last one that still strikes my memory is the 1994 Hollanda with its destructive winds and heavy rain. It used to take days for life to get back to normal after the passage of those fierce storms with the whole island deprived of electricity and tap water. People were advised to stay indoors as all activities ceased to take place with the exception of essential services that would work round the clock. Transistors were the only source of communication via which families would be updated about the cyclone in the shelter of their reinforced houses.
It was customary to purchase batteries and candles as soon as the announcement for cyclone class I was made. Absence of electricity would mean that one had to try to polish off everything from the fridge before it went bad. Cyclones, therefore, took on a quite festive note with the preparation of several homemade dishes, including snacks like gato pima and bajia as well as some local classics such as carri poule, la daube or briyani. The carri poisson/Mauritian fish curry is also quite popular on the tables in the event of a cyclone. Consisting of fried fish cooked in a light spicy sauce, this main course probably has its origins in South Indian cuisine where fish is a common ingredient.
CARRI POISSON/ FISH CURRY
500g fresh or frozen fish
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
5 curry leaves/ feuille carri poule
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 1/2 tablespoons masala powder
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves
Approximately 2 cups cold water
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
- Select good quality fresh or frozen fish like sacre chien, vacoas, capitaine or cateau varieties. Defrost frozen fish, if using.
- Clean the fish well under running water and season with salt and pepper. Leave for about 1 hour and drain any excess water.
- In a large frying pan, heat oil and deep fry the fish pieces until golden in colour. Alternately, you may steam or grill the fish.
- In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the chopped onion and fry until translucent. Add masala and roast until fragrant.
- Add chopped tomatoes, curry leaves and ginger-garlic paste. Cover and cook for 1 minute then add 2 cups water to the spices.
- Bring the mixture to boil, then add the fried fish. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season with salt to taste.
- Remove from heat and sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander leaves. Serve the fish curry warm with plain rice or hot faratas.
Ala ene bon Carri Poisson!