Tuna & Potato Croquette Balls
with Hot Chilli Sauce
with Wife, Dominic, Nanny 8
My latest cookbook acquisition is Serendip: My Sri Lankan Kitchen by chef Peter Juruvita. Incidentally, the word "serendipity" derives from "Serendip," an old Arabic name for Sri Lanka (see Wikipedia's article on serendipity). I bought the book during my recent trip to Colombo (see most recently 3.285 Lobster Tempered in Spices).
Not to perpetuate a stereotype of South Asian cuisine, but most of the recipes deal with curries or dishes that, considering the given ingredients, I imagine from my admittedly inexperienced perspective would taste pretty much like curry. Just to list those named as such (by order of appearance in the book): beef curry, chicken curry, white curry, sprats white curry, fresh sprats curry, squid curry, breadfruit curry, green mango curry, snake bean curry, cashew nut curry, curried ladies fingers, cucumber curry, curried dahl soup, egg curry, dahl and spinach curry, pineapple curry, beetroot curry, wild boar curry, prawn curry, crab curry, goat curry, pumpkin curry, as well as meat curry powder, vegetable curry powder, roasted curry powder, and fish curry powder. Seriously.
What's simultaneously interesting and irritating and intimidating is that the recipes not only require (1) so many different spices--the beef curry, for example, calls for cumin, chili powder, ground coriander, cloves, fenugreek seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ground turmeric, ground black pepper, pandanus leaf, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, in addition to meat curry powder, which consists of red chilies, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, pandanus leaf, lemongrass, curry leaves, mustard seeds, ground turmeric, and roasted curry powder, which consists of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom seeds, curry leaves, red chilies, pandanus leaf, and black peppercorns--but also (2) in minutely varied amounts--why does meat curry powder entail 2 cm of cinnamon stick while the roasted curry powder entails 4 cm? It makes me wonder whether the palates of Sri Lankans are so finely tuned that they can tell the difference; I know that I couldn't. And I'll probably never get a chance to try, because I doubt that I'd ever go to the trouble of even buying all those spices.
My initial crack at the book involved the much much much much simpler recipe for Fish Cutlets. I'd actually encountered something very similar in Sri Lanka at the conference venue (see post referenced above), where small croquette balls with fish-potato filling were served during the morning coffee break. Crunchy on the outside, soft inside. Fine at room temperature. Easy to handle without silverware. If I could learn to recreate that dish, it'd be a valuable appetizer/hors d'oeuvre/anju for my repertoire. I used fresh tuna, scraps sold by the sushi/sashimi corner at E-Mart. Instead of shaping the filling into cutlet-sized pieces, I went spherical to emulate how I'd seen them at the source. As per the recipe, the seasoning of ground cumin and curry leaves was fine. The filling components had been cooked prior to being mixed together and breaded, so the balls required just a few seconds of deep-frying. Recalling the spicy ketchup that had been offered in Sri Lanka, I served them here with KIST-brand Hot Chilli Sauce (see 3.294 Mackerel & Potatoes in Whitened Red Curry), which I'd picked up at a local supermarket there. At first bite, I found the filling a bit mushy. Also, I felt that the fish flavor was somewhat overpowering. But later, after the leftovers had been sitting in the fridge for a couple hours, I tried them again and discovered that the chill had tightened up the texture and tempered the taste of the tuna--a promising development. I can do better next time.