Wew Maalu- A Freshwater Fish Feast
The fishermen begin the day, with a prayer, at six in the morning. Two men would sleepily stumble to the little craft called the ‘Theppama’ and row to the middle of the wewa. The craft has to be manoeuvred with a bamboo pole like a witch stirring her cauldron thickly, and both men have to stand, the boat being frail.
One of them will cast the net at a spot favoured by the shoals of fish, and then they will row back to the shore. Later in the morning, they would sail back and haul in their catch. The best of the fish you can be blessed with here are the Loola (Snakehead murrel), the Seppali (Giant gourami) and the Korali (Green chromide). Once the catch is hauled ashore, the still protesting and thudding fish are taken in deep cane baskets to be sold.
Wewu maalu is either cooked or fried. The traditional homemaker has a favourite recipe for curried Wewu maalu. The fish is divided into good-sized chunks and are marinated heartily with an aromatic paste of pepper, chilli, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and sweet cumin seeds as well as tamarind. Oil is then heated in a pot, mustard seeds are thrown in, and green chilli, karapincha, onion and rampe are added. Finally, the fish are ladled in and cooked till the gravy is a simmering orange-brown.
If you are to fry them, slice them into leaner pieces than you would for the curry, pickle them finely with turmeric, salt and pepper into the oil and then, voila! You get a fluffy, fleshy fish with which to account for any amount of rice and coconut sambol.