The past Sunday provided a ratatouille moment for me. I was taken over by nostalgia. I was at an event hosted by the Indian community in Paris. The event was a collaboration between the Indian students and the Portuguese students. Both the cloudy weather and the incessant rain spoiled the original plans of an outdoor barbecue. Eventually, the food, the music and the camaraderie won.
What interested me was the sardines by the Portuguese students. They were grilling it and serving it with bell peppers and other accompaniments. But the smell of the grilled sardines was so reminiscent of childhood days. I'm not sure about the other parts of Kerala. But in Kuttanad area, there is a certain style of cooking where sardines are roasted over an oven. Normally, we fry the fish with oil after marinating it in spices. But in this style of cooking, there are neither oil nor spices. My aunt used a banana leaf to cover the raw fish before placing it above the burning stove. It is not cooked for a long time. It is more cooked than a sushi but several notches down from well done.
It has been two days since the event. The aroma still lingers in my senses. I didn't try the dish at the event for two reasons. My aunt always served a kanthari mulaku chammanthi along with it. My mouth waters at the mention of it. And also, I love to eat sardines using my hand, not with a fork and a knife. So, some things are best left for another day.
I checked for the recipe and came across a name for the dish, Sardinhas Assadas. But I wonder what is the origin of the dish. Thanks to Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese landed in Kerala a few centuries ago. Did they learn it from us? Did we learn it from them?