A traditional recipe for Fish Moily, Moilee or Molly; that my Mom carried back from a business trip to Kerala from waaay back when I was in school, now finds place in my kitchen. She would often make it with pomfret, but here I’ve made it with rawas- a lesson in using whatever is fresh and locally available. It’s a mildly spiced curry, with none of the ‘masalas’ that us North Indians are accustomed to… which is why I make it often in the warmer months when I couldn’t be bothered spending copious amounts of time in the kitchen. It’s funny, but I remember most people being surprised that Mama Bear (as I like to call her) could cook a South Indian curry so well. Hmm… while we try to ‘bracket’ people in order to understand them better, such definitions are futile!
The thing about such special memories attached to a recipe is, that just like yourmother tongue, these special recipes are the first to come to your mind when you think of something to muster up on the spot! And that’s exactly what happened when I was invited for a cook-off that was part of ‘Marriot India Chefs Workshop’. 30 Executive Chefs from across Marriott properties in India were divided into 8 teams and each team comprised of a blogger. You see me with my team here- Chef Anthony from Kochi, Amit Dash from Gurgaon, Chef Bishant Singh from Chennai and Pavan Chennam from Bangalore. Think of this workshop as an off-site for chefs where they reflect on things and garner some inspiration.
But I’m pretty sure it was way more fun than any office off-site I’ve ever been to! In all of 90 minutes, we had to create a 3-course meal, Indian, of course, and above all with a story- a sort of a soul to the entire experience that would tie things together. There was one little catch – we had to shop for our ingredients too! And this is where the focus of this workshop was the highlight – we had to cook up these regional dishes with all local produce! Why, you ask? Because that’s the freshest available. Also the most sustainable – but unlike a lot of us brushing talks of sustainability aside, I noticed that the folks at the Marriott don’t shy away from it, but instead embrace it! And as you might have guessed, the said Fish Moilee was the first thing that popped in my head. So we built the menu around it. We wanted to highlight the fresh fish, tender coconut and whatever else we could find.
“Where should we go?” was my first question. “You’re from Bombay?” Chef Anthony asked. And then it struck me. Duh! Of course, I should be the one with the answers! Since we were at Marriott Juhu, the best option was to make a dash to the 4 Bungalows market in Andheri which has a crazy number of fish mongers and veggie stalls. And of course, we managed to take some pictures along the way. Pomfret, banana leaves, tender coconut and the quintessential Bombay fish- Bombay Duck! On our way to and fro, I learned so much from Chef about the way he sources fresh fish from his vendors in Kochi and about supporting local farmers and businesses.
We got back to the kitchen with all the basic prep done and ready for us and made this curry with some rice, fried up the Bombay Duck in a masala-batter that had crushed curry leaves (Chef Amit’s special touch to this recipe) and made Elaneer Payasam with that fresh coconut we found. And while this was a high-pressure challenge, I have absolutely ZERO ‘Hell’s Kitchen’-like experiences to share, there was no yelling or screaming involved. In fact Chef Toine Hoeksel, Culinary Director Asia Pacific, who was overseeing not just this cook-off, but the entire workshop, said that this was the most peaceful kitchen he had dropped-in on. And yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, I even strung some marigold flowers in my hair for the presentation! Something I learned from Chef Pavan, that presentation isn’t just restricted to the food – it’s about building a milieu.
I’d really love to see how this special and easy little recipe becomes part of your repertoire. Would you experiment with it? Saransh Goila has a fab ‘Spaghetti Moilee’ recipe in his book ‘India on My Platter’ – a cool take on this classic curry.
*This is not a sponsored post.