More than Pakoras on a Rainy Day

Maybe you’ve noticed the occasional bursts of downpour outside that’s driven away the last dredges of that wretched summer heat. The air’s cooler, and the wind crisp, especially when it brings those swaying cold showers along. Reckon it’s safe to say that the Indian monsoon season is here, and you’re officially permitted to give up those cold beverages and food you’ve been nibbling on, in a losing effort to keep the heat away. We’re in frying season, since there’s no better weather to enjoy hot, crackling bites straight out of the oil onto your plate. For once, nutritionists approve; in this wringing-wet climate, best to stick to piping hot dishes and lay off raw foods that are prone to spoilage and may be silent carriers of evil germs.

Want to keep the fried stuff as an option? Look for other cooking techniques that don’t involve immersing food in a vat of oil, and yet yield an impressively satisfying result. So stewing, steaming and grilling should also make it to your monsoon menu, and you’ll do fine.
What’s also a great idea is to keep your seafood delivery service on speed dial, so you don’t have to encounter more traffic snarls and delays than is inevitable. This way, you can ensure easy access to great fish at all times, come rain or shine.
Here are five ace dishes to make the most of the beautiful weather, and keep the dining to in-house. It’s great to enjoy the baarish from indoors; it’s dry and cosy inside after all.
A hearty fish chowder with corn is the perfect hot cup for wet weather.
Tilapia Corn Chowder: Since the rains are so perfect to eat bhutta, what better way to combine the crunch of corn and the heartiness of fish chowder? This one tucks in potatoes too, so all complaining should stop right away. A filling dish by itself, a chowder doesn’t really need any sides of carbs, but some may like to serve with a little garlic bread. Feel free to leave out the bacon if you’re not a fan, or are trying to stick to healthy; it still turns out great. Top with some kernels of grilled corn and fronds of fennel for a Masterchef-like touch. Find some great tilapia fillets here.
A pakora-like tempura fulfils all comforting crispy food cravings that strike on a rainy day.
Mixed Seafood Tempura with Chilli Dipping Sauce: You didn’t think we would leave out the frying altogether, did you now? Because no monsoon recipe list is complete without crispy fritters of some kind. And because frying is quick, so you can quickly fix a plate and stare out the window on a wet evening, even enjoy a power outage. And also because this one uses mixed seafood, and has a fine spicy dipping sauce. Easy as they come, this one’s great when you have unexpected company; more people to share the fun with. Look for a mix of prawns, tuna, squid and swordfish.
Fish steaks enveloped in hot mustard paste makes for a delightful dinner when it’s pouring outside.
Steamed Fish in Mustard Paste (Bhapot Diya Mach): A dish similar to the celebrated Shorshe Bata Diye Macher Jhal, or simply Shorshe Mach from fish-loving Bengal, this one heroes the highlight of rainy weather—the hilsa fish, or ilish as it is fondly called. Lightly cooked in strong mustard, with a splash of warming mustard oil to reinforce the pungency, this is a stunning assemblage that demands a de rigueur side of rice. The green chilli can be slit and added to the fish whilst it cooks, so that the heat component is evened out between the two warming elements. If you can’t get your hands on hilsa, river fish like bhetki or rohu can be substituted. On a cold wet night, nothing represents comfort more than a hot bowl of spicy fish and rice.

Smoke-wrapped grilled fish is irresistible, especially in the monsoon.
Bali Spicy Grilled Fish – Ikan Bakar Jimbaran: ‘Tis the perfect weather to break out the barbecue, because rains and smoke together spell out sultry magic that makes for many a magical evening. With ingredients that are easily available locally, this grilled fish tastes like home, with the wisp of an exotic vacation. You may not be next to a Balinese beach on the sand, but the rains do bring a hint of a wet tropical experience. Warm up with aromatic shallots, garlic and galangal, with tamarind and lime for tartness. If you find sourcing a whole fish difficult, fish steaks would work in a pinch. Creamfish or Barracuda Steaks are a great choice for this dish, as are Surmai Steaks.

Spicy steamed fish with therapeutic garlic, ginger and lime is just what is needed to keep the chill out.
Thai Fish Steamed with Chili and Lime (Plah Neung Manao): Move over doughy momos, here’s an amazing steamed fish that’s easy to make, and is great for when it’s pouring incessantly outside. Steaming, which usually involves cooking en papillote in banana leaves or aluminium foil or paper, is an excellent way to retain the fresh flavours of your ingredients, and also curbs nutrient loss. Since this recipe doesn’t ask for any added fat, it’s a super counterfoil to all that deep-fried food you may be indulging in. If using aluminium foil, ensure you don’t seal the foil package too tight, and there’s enough space left at the top. Feel free to spoon over some of the Thai chilli, garlic, lime and coriander sauce over the fish before steaming. If serving without the jasmine rice, this makes for a good appetizer too. If not using trout or snapper, halibut or barracuda steaks can be good choices for this dish.
Whether you choose to curl up alone with a cup of comforting fish soup, a book and a blanket, or have the grill blazing ready for those spicy prawn skewers to go on with happy company around, the rains evoke wonderful emotions for us all. Take it all in, for you’ll have to wait another year to experience this again.

About the Author
An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.

Image Credit: Cover
Image Credit: fish chowder with corn
Image Credit: pakora-like tempura
Image Credit: Fish steaks
Image Credit: Smoke-wrapped grilled fish
Image Credit: Spicy steamed fish

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