This Pondicherry favorite is Chef Mody’s southern Indian version of bouillabaisse. You can use any combination of available seafood, but I recommend that mussels and shrimp should always be included. This dish is very quick to make—about 15 minutes. Serve it with or over the Lime Rice recipe included here, or with your favorite version of saffron rice.
The Spice Paste:
4 small hot red chiles, such as santaka or cayenne, stems and seeds removed
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric
6 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 sprig fresh curry leaves, or dried curry leaves that have been rehydrated and patted dry
1/2 mild onion, chopped
1 one-pound assortment of seafood, including shrimp, cooked mussels (removed from the shells), scallops, crab meat, lobster meat, and fish of choice
1 cup coconut milk (not sweet coconut cream)
2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
Salt to taste
Cilantro leaves for garnish
To make the paste, combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and grind to a fine paste. Set aside.
To make the Cassoulet, heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and add the curry leaves and the onion; stir-fry until the onion is soft. Add the spice paste and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the seafood except for the fish, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil, add the fish and lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or until you can flake the fish.
Season with the lemon juice and salt, stir gently and serve garnished with the cilantro leaves along with rice.
Heat Scale: Medium