Kallu shap or local toddy shops are a very sought after and dominant part of Kerala culture. They are small white painted concrete or wooden structures with a large hand painted sign saying kallu or toddy. The shop is humble in its look, plain floors with the creaky, broken in parts benches and tables. The exclusive family shaps are remodeled to look more like a hotel with better facilities as compared to the traditional ones. However it is the food and the toddy that sets it apart.
Almost all toddy shops have local men as their main customers. But there are also a few exclusive kallu shaps which serve ladies and families too. No, it is not for the toddy they are there, but the delicious food. Beef, Pork, Chicken, Duck, Frog, Shell fish, Karimeen, crab, Prawns, Shrimp, koonthal and rabbit are served with delicious kappa puzhakku. This amazing food is accentuated by the good , pure toddy. Toddy is obtained from the palms on a daily basis by a chethukaran, a man who is clad in a simple thorthu mundu (piece of cotton cloth) and a chetukathi (a kind of knife) at his waist. He climbs the selected palms with ease and collects the sap collected in a vessel, transfers it to another mankudam (earthern pot) and takes it to the local kallu shap. If you are familiar with the person, he would be more than obliged to give you a share of the kallu for a stipulated price. The fresh kallu is actually quite sweet and refreshing. When allowed to ferment for sometime, it becomes quite sour.This toddy is then served with their delicious food making for irresistible combos. They serve delightful naadan food without creating a hole in the pocket. Mullapanthal is a popular kallu shap in Udayamperoor.
This fish curry is quite spicy as seen by its fiery red color. It is served with kappa puzhakku. It is easy to prepare as it needs no frying and mixing. This curry is best prepared the day before, but the necessity is that the flavors have to meld. In the toddy shop fish curries, the keep most pieces with the bones intact, as it adds to the flavor of the dish. Curry leaves are a must have for this curry. It is mostly made in a mann chatti as it adds flavor to the curry.
Garcinia indica also called kokum, kokam, or bin’na in parts of western India is an essential agent in making fish curries. This is the ingredient that adds the tang to the dish.Kokum is the outer part of the kokum fruit. This outer flesh is mixed with some salt (preservative), dried in the sun, rubbed with a little oil and then stored for long periods of time, used as and when needed. Kokum butter is obtained from the seeds. This butter has powers of softening and healing and is hence used as a moisturizer or a remedy for cracked heels. Kokum juice is also good for digestion and is also said to help reduce weight.
KALLU SHAP MEEN CURRY
- Fish of choice – 750 gm (I used King fish)
- Kashmiri Chili Powder – 2 Tbsp
- Turmeric Powder – 1/2 tsp
- Fenugreek /Uluva Powder – 1/2 tsp
- Shallots – 6
- Garlic – 6 large or 9 small ones
- Ginger – a small piece
- Green Chili – 1
- Kokum – 3 or 4 depending on level of sourness
- Water – 3 cups
- Curry Leaves – handful
- Coconut Oil – 1 Tbsp + 1/2 Tbsp to drizzle
- Salt as needed
- Wash the kokum pieces in running water. Place these pieces in a bowl and pour 1 cup of boiling water over it. Keep aside.
- Take a mann chatti, an earthern cookware. Combine the chili powder, turmeric powder and the fenugreek powder with little water to make a paste.
- Mince the shallots, ginger and garlic. Add to the mann chatti.
- Slit the green chili. Add this to the vessel along with 3/4 of the curry leaves.
- Now add the kokum pieces along with the water, required amount of salt and the remaining water to the mann chatti and mix well to combine.
- Add the fish to this gravy along with 1 Tbsp of coconut oil and stir once by gently turning the chatti around in circles.
- Keep this chatti on a medium flame and let it cook a while. The water will reduce by 1/2 and become the gravy will become thicker. How much gravy is needed is a matter of personal choice. We like a nice thick gravy coating the fish slices. So I let it bubble away happily.
- Check for salt. add more if needed.
- Once the curry is cooked, take the chatti off the flame. Crush the remaining curry leaves with your hand and add it to the chatti along with the 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil.
- Keep this dish aside for a while before using it. Ideally this dish is best eaten the next day as the flavors will all meld together. However I make this in the morning when I plan to use it for dinner the same day. So plan ahad and make it.
I know it sounds odd, but I have this taste I got from my Dad. He loves to add salt to his rice. But its his combination of hot steaming rice, gravy of this fish curry with a light sprinkling of salt on it that is outta this world. I love the added saltiness, the spiciness and the tanginess that together comes as a delicious bite. :))