Have you ever wondered why the same recipe tastes different each time, even when the same person cooks it, or same ingredients are employed? Most often we relate it to the improper balance of spices, or the mood swings of the cook / chef, or the time given to him to him / her, or the quality of the primary ingredients. (You might also see a few other related reasons.)
However, the most important of all reasons lies in the time and methods of marination, which makes all the difference.
Marination is the process of pre-treating the main ingredients for a certain period before cooking, and a proper understanding and utilization of this process can make a great difference in the final product in terms of flavor and aroma.
The main idea behind marination is that all the ingredients should complement each other. So the proper amount of oil, herbs & the spices should always be used to bring out the perfect flavor and aroma of your recipe. Over-usage of any of these marinade items can over-power the natural flavor and taste of the primary ingredients and can mess up the entire recipe.
In a previous post I had briefly touched upon the subject of chicken marination; however, in this post I’d talk about fishes marination.
The process of Fish Marination is simple, swift, and ensures that extra flavor and moisture to the fish before cooking. Devoting just 20-25 minutes on this could let you enjoy the restaurant-like-cooked-fish even at home!
Fish marinade is much easier to prepare compared to any type of meat marinades such as chicken, mutton, beef. It requires only a few basic ingredients. The preferred acids are lime juice or vinegar. Together with the acids, a little oil and some herbs & spices forms the base of the fish marinade. In some rare cases wine and / or fruit juices are also used as a liquid supplement. In some specific cases, yogurt is also used – e.g. “Doi-machh” in Bengal.
The most preferred oil is the mustard oil which not only adds a rich color to the mixture but also boosts the aroma of the fish recipe when cooked. Other than this olive oil, vegetable oil and peanut oil are also used for both marinating and cooking the fishes. The herbs used with the liquid are: grated onions, garlic, green chilies, ginger, basil and thyme.
Among the spices, turmeric, crushed red pepper flakes, powdered cinnamon, cloves and cardamom are used in the marinade. You can also use a pre-mixed “garam masala” powder instead of using powdered cinnamon, cloves and cardamom separately. Usually, the salt used is the least, compared to other spices, since salt releases more water from the fish-flesh.
First the Raw fishes are cleaned by removing the fins, scales, intestines and gills, trimming the tails, etc. Next they are cut to pieces as per requirements (however, not too small!) and washed afterwards. Once washed, strain-off all the water, preferably by keeping the washed pieces on a big plastic strainer, to make them semi-dry.
Next, sprinkle an adequate amount of turmeric powder on the washed fishes, and tenderly hand spread (mix) on the fish pieces. Make sure the pieces do not break while doing so. Once done, sprinkle the other spices evenly, add oil and acid (or any other chosen liquid) and follow the same tender-mixing procedure again.
Once done, keep it aside for 20-25 minutes, in a not-so-warm environment. Fish tissues are softer and tenderer compared to any meat; therefore make sure you don’t marinate the fish for too long, or else the acids are surely going to break the muscle fibers, and you’ll lose the soft juicy taste of the fish altogether!
If you don’t plan to cook immediately – say, within an hour or so – then keep it covered, and put inside the refrigerator (lower shelves). In this case however, you need to keep it out for about 15 minutes before cooking.
Note: Once you’re done with above procedure, and are ready to begin the cooking, don’t throw away the left-over marinade-mix. Instead use this as a supplement during the finishing stages of cooking.
So that’s all about fish marinating procedure. However, I’d like to quickly add that keeping the basics intact, you can keep experimenting with various other ingredients – e.g. grated green-coriander, green-chillies, mustard-paste, grated-onions / garlic, etc. as per the demands of your recipe and discover newer fish recipes.
Try this and leave your experiences / suggestions / comments below.
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