I enjoyed this fish gravy in my childhood several times. I simply used to love this gravy whenever my Grand mothers made it. In my home town " Vizag" we use to get these baby sardines too. Though lot of work goes in cleaning them, this is one fish gravy that I used to crave alot. With the tangy taste of tamarind and spiced up with green chillies and red chilly powder, one has to drooool for this dish.
My grand mothers used to add spring onions(Ulli kada) to this gravy sometimes. A simple variation which really gave a lift to the gravy in flavour. Also sometimes they use to replace the ripe tamarind with the raw one. My, my, what a taste that use to be, still lingers in my mouth. When I visit home, one thing I would want my GM to cook is fish gravy. Specially with the small baby Sardines and the real big King fish.
In Chennai or Toronto, I was able to get only the big sardines. My mom always use to fry this type of sardines. She never made gravy with these. Here we get only the frozen version of these sardines in Asian stores. If the frozen packet is not too old we are lucky to make the gravy straight away. But now a days I started to pan fried the Sardines just with minimal masala, - Red Chilly powder and salt, and then drop them in the boiling tamarind gravy.
1 Pkt - Descaled & Cleaned, cut into halves if long.(about 10 fish)
To Pan fry the Sardine:
Marinated it with 1 tsp of Red chilly powder and add Salt to taste.
Seasoning and Masala:
1 Tbsp - oil
1/2 Tsp - Mustard seeds
5 Pods - Garlic finely chopped
1 Big - Onion cut into length wise
3-4 Green Chillies
10-12 Curry leaves
1 big - Tomatoe made into pulp with fingers or 2 Tbsp -Tomatoe Puree
1 tsp - Red Chilly powder
1 tsp - Cumin powder
1 tsp - Coirander powder
For the Gravy:
Soak Lemon size Tamarind/Puli/Chintapandu ball in 2 cups hot water
Herbs to Granish:
Finely chopped corainder leaves - a small bunch
Procedure:Fry the marinated Sardines both sides for 2-3 minutes in a little oil on a heated pan and keep aside (This is take away the fishy smell in the gravy)
Heat a pot, add oil, when heated add mustard.
After mustard splutters add chopped garlic, fry a little and then add the green chillies, fry, add onions, curry leaves and keep stirring till onions are cooked.
Now add the Tomatoes crushed or the tomatoe puree and cook for about 1 - 2 minutes.
Add all the masalas, mix and cook another 2 minutes or till the mixture leaves the container.
Now sqeeze the Tamarind/Puli juice from the soaked tamarind & water into the cooking mixture.
Now mix this well and bring it boil,
Add the fish and cook another 5 minutes.
Once the gravy seems to attain a good consistency add the coriander leaves and remove from heat.
Sardines and King fish have this amazing property to drink all the sourness from the puli, so leave the gravy aside for about 1/2 hour to marinate the fish with the tamarind.
Serve hot with hot Rice, or Dosas/Idli, or Chapathi/Parota/Roti