Aani refers to the fish roe of the hilsa, a fish that we consider holy as it is the Sindhi deity Jhulelal’s vehicle. The aani, usually made during the monsoons, is pan-fried and finished in an onion tomato chutney. The vegetarian version is made with little spiced tikkis of besan and poppy seeds, cooked in the same onion-tomato chutney.

For the tikkis

Besan 250g
Ghee 5 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Poppy seeds 1/3 cup
Dried pomegranate seeds 1/4 tsp to 1 tsp
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Green chillies 2 whole, finely chopped
Onions 1 cup, very finely chopped
Coriander leaves 1/4 cup chopped
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
For the gravy

Onions 3 large
Tomatoes 2 large
Ginger 3-inch piece, freshly grated
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Green chillies 3-4
Vegetable oil 1/3 cup
Coriander powder 3/4 tbsp
Coriander freshly chopped 1/4 cup, divided
Salt to taste

In a flat bowl, take the besan and to it, add the salt, red chilli powder, chopped chillies and chopped coriander. And the poppy seeds, dried pomegranate seeds and turmeric, finely chopped onions, followed by the oil/ghee. Mix well till the mixture looks like dry bread crumbs. Add the water a teaspoon at a time until you can just bind it and the pan is completely clean.
Heat the oil in a Kadhai. Form the tikkis into sausages, flattening them out slightly. Start frying on medium-high till u get a good light brown colour. Always taste the first tikki for salt and cooking time. Drain and keep aside.
While the tikkis are frying you can start on the onions simultaneously. In a large kadai add the oil and onions and cook on medium high for 10 mins. Increase the flame, add salt and cook till it starts to change colour and starts to turn a light brown. Add the ginger and sauce for a minute.
Add tomatoes and fry for another 3-4 mins. Add the coriander, turmeric and red chilli powders. Reduce flame cover and cook roll tomatoes are well blended but not completely mushed up. At this stage add the tikkis. Stir to mix gently till the tikkis are coated with the masala. Reduce flame. Add a 1/4 cup water. Mix gently again. And cover and let steam for 10-15 mins. Periodically splash some water as u go. The final result you are looking for is the tikki, when broken up should not feel dry from inside-moist but not mushy. Garnish with lots of coriander.
Alternatively like Marwaris, Sindhis too make rolls of the tikki dough. Steam or boil them. Slice up and pan fry and make different curries with these.

If making the non-vegetarian variation, the following must be added to the recipe instead of the besan tikkis:

Aanis 2, divided into 4 pieces
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Vegetable oil for frying
Garlic 1 tbsp, minced
Garam masala 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder 1/2 tsp

The method differs only very slightly. The aani must be salted and rubbed with turmeric. Place a medium pot of water on the hob, add the aani inside and bring it up to one boil. Carefully drain the aani and transfer it to a plate. Heat a frying pan over medium heat with a glut of vegetable oil. Add the aanis to the frying pan and cook carefully till it is brown on all sides. We shall then further finish cooking the aani in the final gravy, to which the garlic, cumin and garam masalas are to be added.
This is one of six dishes from A Sindhi summer maani.

This is one of six dishes from A Sindhi summer maani. Ankiet Gulabani of Belly Over Mind dishes details about this exclusive menu for Nicobar here. Find him on Instagram here, or head to his website here.