In our home, “international cuisine” consists of macaroni from a box and, if we’re feeling really exotic, French bread, thanks to the finicky palates of our young children. That girl you see drowning her chicken and rice with the ketchup packets at the Chinese restaurant? Yep, that’s our daughter. As for Indian food, forget about it. If it’s not plain naan, she’s not touching it with a ten-foot pole. “It’s too spicy!” she cries dramatically, as if we’re asking her to chug jalapeno peppers.
If you can relate, then check out the kid-friendly recipe for coconut crusted salmon sticks in the new book, Bollywood Kitchen: Home-Cooked Indian Meals Paired with Unforgettable Bollywood Films, that should please even our pint-sized food critics — plus a recommendation for a Bollywood film to enjoy with the kids after dinner.
“I actually developed this recipe with kids in mind,” says the author, Sri Rao, a second generation Indian-American (and one of my oldest and dearest friends) whose recipes are adapted for the modern American kitchen. “What kid doesn’t love fish sticks?”
“Coconut salmon sticks are a great way to begin introducing your kids to Indian flavors,” Rao notes. “Before you know it, they’ll be asking for chicken curry.”
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Rao, but this is a promising start!
Coconut Salmon Sticks
Crunchy Baked Fish Tenders
Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
- 2 pounds salmon, skinned
- 1/2 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (Rao prefers whole wheat)
- 1 cup coconut powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
- Coconut Pachadi (see book for recipe, or substitute with tartar sauce or greek yogurt mixed with a li’l dill)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil and spray them generously with cooking spray or coat with vegetable oil.
- Wash the salmon and pat dry with paper towels.
- Cut the fish into 1-inch-wide sticks, each about 4 to 5 inches in length.
- Set up your dredging station with 3 bowls or plates: In the first bowl, place the flour and season with the salt and pepper. In the second bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. And in the third bowl, combine the panko, coconut powder, and paprika with a fork or whisk.
- Dredge each fish stick by first turning it in the flour for a light dusting on all sides, then dip it into the egg.
- Finish by rolling it in the panko-coconut mixture and pressing the coating gently into the fish.
- Then place the fish stick on the prepared baking sheets.
- Once all the fish sticks are on the baking sheets, brush them lightly with olive oil (or use an oil mister if you have one).
- Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time.
- Plate the fish sticks, sprinkle with sea salt, and finish with a squeeze of lemon. Serve with individual dipping bowls of Coconut Pachadi.
Pretty simple. Even a culinarily-challenged person like myself can handle that. Once you’re done patting yourself on the back for successfully injecting some culture into your mealtime routine (well, that’s what I’ll be doing, at least), Rao recommends breaking out the popcorn and watching the Bollywood film, Chillar Party (available on Amazon), which he calls a “fun, mischievous kids’ film that’s wholesome entertainment for the entire family.”
A refreshing change from The Loud House marathons, for sure.