Saturday, June 14, 2014

Colocasia Shoots With Dried Fish

Colocasia is popular in our region because this vegetable is so abundant. The stalks, the tender leaves, the tubers and the shoots are all made into different dishes. When it's the season of the shoots, these are gathered in neat little bundles and sold in the markets. They can be cooked on their own with some spices or added to other vegetables and fish. In this recipe I have cooked the shoots with dried Bombay duck which happens to be the name of a kind of fish.
Going by the look of these vegetables you know that it's still summer. The shoots are on far right next to the vegetable ferns. Other vegetables are the water spinach, bamboo shoots and bitter gourds.
A shot of the shoots; the second picture shows the cleaned shoots with the outer skin peeled off. It's the same action that you use for preparing drumsticks for cooking. These are then blanched and the water discarded. Traditionally sour fruits are added so that the acidity takes care of the itching. This is because all parts of colocasia contain an irritant which causes not only itching but  intense discomfort to the lips, mouth and throat.  
The acridity is caused in part by microscopic needle-like raphides of calcium oxalate monohydrate and in part by another chemical probably a protease. The acridity helps to naturally deter herbivores from feeding on it.It must be processed by cooking, soaking, fermenting sometimes along with an acid like lime or tamarind before being eaten. Source.

1 bunch colocasia shoots, cleaned and cut into uniform lengths
6 dried fish cut into one and half inch pieces
2 onions, grated
3-4 tejpatta
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tbs ground chilli powder (not finely ground)
A quarter tsp ground ginger
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
Turmeric powder, as per liking + extra for frying the fish
Salt to taste
5-6 medium-size sour tomatoes, chopped 
3 tbs mustard oil
Serrated coriander for the garnish

  • Soak the dried fish in tepid water for a few minutes. This makes it easier to remove the sand and grit. Wash and drain in a colander. Sprinkle a bit of turmeric powder on the fish pieces and mix. Salt can be omitted here as the fish is salty.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and when it comes to smoking point shallow fry the fish, a few pieces at a time. They should be golden but not overdone. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

  • In another pan, heat about 3 cups of water. When it comes to the boil add the cleaned and cut colocasia shoots. Boil for about two minutes or so and then drain in a colander. They should be nearly done but not mushy.

  • Check to see if you need to add about another tablespoon of oil. Otherwise add the tejpatta and then the onions and cook till they change colour. Add the other spices and fry for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes. Stir gently then add the boiled shoots. Keep cooking till the vegetable is almost done.

  • Add about half a cup of hot water for the gravy. When it comes to the boil add the shallow-fried dried fish pieces. Cook for about five more minutes before removing from the flame. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the herbs.

On another note I thought I would add these photos from my collection. Living near marshy, colocasia-filled land I have observed nature from close quarters. In summer clouds of dragonflies hover/fly above that abundant growth. Kingfishers and bee-eaters have enough to feed on. If one drives through our region you will see that our low-lying areas have such a luxuriant growth of these plants particularly during the hot season. It's a whole cycle of life that you see in a colocasia 'jungle'. In winter the plants wither and that's when these places turn into favourite feeding ground for egrets. That's when I photographed a family of marsh mongoose otherwise barely seen in all that lushness.

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