Sunday, January 13, 2008

Coconut Fish Curry; Kerala, South India

South Indian Fish Curry
Originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
This is the first time I've tried cooking a fish curry. In truth, I've only ever twice had a fish curry - both times at The Rice Boat, a restaurant in Cambridge specialising in the cuisine of Kerala, South India. I'd never tasted anything like it before. On later perusal of our favourite Indian cookbook, Indian Essence (Atul Kochhar, Quadrille Publishing, London) I discovered a recipe that promised to be every bit as sumptuous. Had I not experienced the subtle tastes of fish and Eastern spices at the Rice Boat, I doubt I would have tried this recipe myself. The ingredients are relatively simple but the resulting dish is something not to be missed. I hope you agree.

For the fish, I used frozen Kingfish steaks, available from any good Asian market. I would say that, in my humble opinion, 'curry leaves' are essential to the full appreciation of this dish. Although they can be hard to find, being available only in specialist Asian food stores, they freeze well and keep for months.

Coconut Fish Curry

4 sea bass fillets, each about 150g (I used Kingfish steaks instead)
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1-1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced
6 green chillies, slit lengthways
3 garlic cloves, sliced into thin strips
25-30 curry leaves
2.5 cm ginger shredded
400 ml coconut milk
2 tbsp lime juice
coriander sprigs, to garnish

First, mix 1/2 tsp salt with 1 tsp turmeric and gently rub into the fish steaks.

Then, heat the coconut oil in a wide pan and add the onions, chillies, ginger and garlic.  Sauté for a few minutes then add the curry leaves and keep cooking until the onion is translucent.  Take out half of the curry leaves and set aside for the garnish.

Next, add the rest of the turmeric and salt to the pan,  Pour in the coconut milk and heat through, then add the fish steaks and simmer very gently for 3-4 minutes until just cooked. 

Serve immediately, garnished with the reserved curry leaves and coriander.

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