I was walking towards our bus stage with my friend one hot humid afternoon after running some errands. We were both quite tired and the heat was not making it any easier. With everything we set out to do complete, all was left to do was to get a meal. And when I am hungry, that is all that occupies my mind. I try as much as possible not to go into a supermarket when hungry, since I end up buying things I do not even like to eat or end up binging of sweet things that I normally wouldn’t have a stomach for. On this particular day however, only one thing was on my mind: fish. I love fish! And for me, that would be the perfect way to end my day and unwind. I quickly made my way to the nearest fish vendor and bought myself some tilapia then rushed home. My Kraving resulted in this very delicious, mind-numbingly good chili coconut tilapia masala. Perfect marriage of flavor; very unexpected, but so delicious!
Proceed with caution though, because my tilapia masala can very easily turn into a very real addiction.
Fish has got to be one of my very favorite white meats! Not only is it so tasty to have, but it can be prepared in so many different ways so that makes it almost impossible for you to get bored with it. I had fish fillet in my freezer for some weeks and when my fish craving kicked in, I was so glad I had some at home. I immediately decided to make some fish masala, but to my dismay, I had run out of the premade fish masala mix usually available in supermarkets. Being the adventurous foodie that I am, I made my own fish masala spice blend and it was so bomb! I am excited to share the same with you and I hope you give this a try.
Like many ladies in Nairobi, I always go to Kenyatta Market to have my hair braided. They are not only done cheaply there, but very fast too. I find it comical how the wasusi (salonists) almost come to blows when they spot someone with open hair walking their way. To avoid all that commotion, I have my msusi pick me from the stage when I arrive. Her name is Connie but I call her Aunty Connie. She is so nice and I always get braided in her stall. Some weeks back as we snaked our way through the open fruit market and through the car wash, the aroma of fried tilapia wafted our way. I asked her where I could get some and she promised to direct me after my braids were done. As I got my hair fixed, I thought about all the possible ways I could make my fish (that was before I fell asleep on the salon chair).
I remembered discovering peri peri is what our brothers and sisters down south refer to what we East Africans know as pilipili. It really is the same thing- bird’s eye chilli. Feeling inspired by my new discovery, I decided to make my fish spicy and saucy. I just have to warn you before trying my tilapia peri peri, there is a high possibility that you may develop serious addictions to tilapia cooked with this recipe. It is that good! Proceed.
I have spent the better part of my life in one of the most vibrant suburbs in Nairobi – Lang’ata. Besides the fact that you can literally find everything at your door step (something I absolutely miss), Lang’ata seemed to come alive in the evenings. At dusk, these suburb streets filled with people rushing from work, clicks of youth lazily strolling, school children in their school uniforms and music-blasting matatus making their rounds. Street food vendors would erect their stands, prepare their food and serve the awaiting customers. The aromas that filled the cool evening air were those of roast maize, mutura, mshikaki and bhajia. I fondly remember the ladies who sold fried fish. With their wide grins and eager eyes, it was almost impossible to pass them by without buying some fish for yourself. These were the memories playing in my mind as I made this coal grilled tilapia fish fillet. It soaked in a rich marinade before cooking and this played up its flavor.
If you love fish, you will fall head over heels with this recipe that I got from one of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten. And if you do not like fish, I will make you a believer!