This Kerala style fish curry is rich with tomatoes and spices, especially chilies! Adding coconut milk right in the end helps mellow the heat while adding creaminess to the sauce. My recipe is based on one I got from a friend in Bangalore, Preetha. A true foodie who loves to cook for her family, Preetha is vegetarian herself but manages to create delicious chicken and fish dishes in authentic Kerala style for her appreciative family.
She recommends making this curry in a traditional earthenware pot also known as a Chatti, for the aroma and flavour it imparts to the dish. The fish is never stirred with a spoon. Instead, the chatti is gently shaken from side to side to ensure even cooking and to avoid breaking up the fish as it cooks. The first marination of the fish in lemon juice helps get rid of some of its strong aroma while the second marination adds to its flavour. Serve it with Coconut rice.
1 1/4 lb skinless Halibut fillet, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp each: salt, turmeric
A small piece of tamarind, about the size of a large marble
1/2 cup hot water
1 tsp each, divided: ground coriander, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1/2 tsp each, divided: cayenne pepper, mustard powder, ground ginger, garam masala
1 tbsp Malabar Masala Powder
2 tbsp oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed
20 fresh curry leaves
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cup (about 6) canned whole plum tomatoes, pureed
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp each: chopped fresh coriander, chopped fresh curry leaves
Place fish in large mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, salt and turmeric. Marinate at room temperature for 15 min.
Meanwhile, soak tamarind in hot water for 15 min. Mash it occasionally to soften.
Drain fish, pat dry with paper towels and transfer to clean bowl. Add 1/2 tsp each of ground coriander, dried fenugreek leaves and 1/4 tsp each of cayenne pepper, mustard powder, ground ginger and garam masala. Toss well to coat fish with spices and marinate at room temperature for 15 min.
Strain tamarind through a fine sieve and reserve extract, discarding the fibrous residue left in the sieve.
Warm oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, curry leaves and mustard seeds. Saute for 1 min until seeds begin to pop and garlic turns lightly golden. Add pureed tomatoes, tamarind extract and remainder of the spices. Stir to mix, cover skillet and cook on low heat for 5-7 min.
Add marinated fish and coat gently with the sauce. Cover skillet again and cook for about 10 min on low heat until fish is cooked through, shaking skillet occasionally for even cooking. Fold in coconut milk and cook uncovered for another 4-5 min until mixture starts bubbling, shaking skillet occasionally. Fold in chopped fresh coriander and curry leaves.