The Etymology of food dishes has always fascinated me. From the Thatte Idli that originated in Tumkur to Chicken 65 with its Chennai origins, South India has its share of modern food tales. Many of these tales can be traced back to tiny eateries and restaurants. The etymology of one dish has continued to remain a mystery. It is a dish I've enjoyed in restaurants in Hyderabad and Chennai. I still remember visiting the popular Hyderabad culinary hotspot Bawarchi with Zubair Ali of Hyderabad Food diaries and sampling a scrumptious version of Apollo fish, a dish that Hyderabad claims as its very own. This simple yet delicious version of batter fried fish is one of the city's 'go to' starters and cocktail snacks.
In Hyderabad, this dish is almost as commonplace as a biryani, Apollo fish is on numerous restaurant menus in the city, Paradise - popular for its Hyderabadi biryani, does a great version too. Most restaurants use murrel fish for this dish. But ask any local food expert like Zubair about the Apollo in the dish and they struggle to provide a conclusive theory about the origins of its name. It's not just Hyderabad, the dish has acquired a following in Chennai where a vegetarian version of this dish has added to its legacy.
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Prem's Grama Bhojanam, a Chennai restaurant that is best known for its traditional and healthy millet-based dishes, is one of the first vegetarian restaurants to introduce this dish to the city. NS Krishnamoorthi, who runs this restaurant, believes that its two steps in the recipe that set this dish apart. He adds ajwain and curd that give this dish its distinct flavour. This is his easy recipe that you can try at home.
Apollo Paneer Recipe
Recipe courtesy - Prem's Grama Bhojanam, Chennai
-Paneer: 250 gm
-Ginger garlic paste: 1-2 teaspoons
-Chopped garlic: a few pods
-Curry leaves: a few sprigs
-Ginger juliennes: for garnish
-Turmeric: a pinch
-Ajwain: 1/2 teaspoon
-Curd: a small cup
-Salt: to taste
-Green chillies (slit) 2-3
-Ginger (finely chopped) small quantity
1. Cut the paneer into squares and marinate in ginger garlic turmeric and salt paste for 15 minutes.
2. Fry the marinated paneer in oil and keep separately.
3. Heat a tawa, add oil and slit green chillies, then add finely chopped ginger and turmeric. Add curry leaves and then add fried paneer Now add the fried paneer.
4. Add a small cup of curd and add the ajwain and the chopped garlic.
5. Allow it to boil and the curd to dry.
6. Sprinkle salt, if needed.
7. Garnish with ginger juliennes (optional).
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Hyderabad-Style Apollo Fish
Recipe courtesy - Bawarchi, Hyderabad
If you'd prefer the original version, you can try the quintessential Hyderabad Apollo fish at home.
-Fish (Murrel or boneless fish) filet: 500 gm (cut into strips or small pieces)
-Oil: for deep frying
-Corn flour: 2 tablespoons
-Plain flour: 1 tablespoon
-Cooking oil: 1 tablespoon
-Curry leaves: 1 sprig
-Ginger (chopped): 1 1/2 tablespoon
-Garlic: 1 1/2 tablespoon
-Green chillies: 2
-Onions (chopped): 2
-Red chili powder: 1 teaspoon
-Ginger garlic paste: 1 teaspoon
-Turmeric: 1/4 teaspoon
-Salt: to taste
-Juice of 1 lemon
-1 Egg white
1. Cut the fish to desired size pieces or to strips and wash and drain.
2. Pour the lemon juice and salt over the fish and set aside for 5 minutes.
3. Marinate with ingredients (under margination ingredients) and set aside for 30 minutes.
4. Heat oil for deep frying.
5. Sprinkle corn and plain flours and mix well.
6. When the oil is hot enough, reduce the heat to medium, deep fry the pieces until done. Set aside on an absorbent tissue.
7. Heat 1tablespoon oil in another pan, fry curry leaves till crisp, add ginger garlic & green chillies and fry till you get aroma.
8. Add chopped onions and fry till lightly brown.
9. Add the fried fish and sauté on high for 3 minutes.
10. Serve hot.