Nyonya Curry Powder

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Nyonya curry powder takes inspiration from it's Malay and Indian roots. Toasting the whole spices increases their flavour and shelf life. Use in recipes such as Nyonya Chicken Curry Kapitan, Nyonya Chicken Curry or anything you want to add spice to!

1  2-inch cinnamon stick, broken up
1 tbsp each, whole spices: green cardamom, cloves, fennel, coriander, cumin, dried mace
1 tsp each, whole spices: fenugreek, brown mustard seeds, black pepper, ground ginger or dried ground galangal
6 dried red chilies
2 star anise
1 nutmeg, broken up
2 tbsp turmeric

Warm large frying pan over medium heat. Add all the spices except the ground ginger (or galangal) and turmeric. Toast whole spices until they darken slightly and smell aromatic, about 5 min. 
Cool spices, grind finely in a spice or coffee grinder reserved for this pupose. Transfer to a bowl and add turmeric and ground ginger (or galangal). Mix well, then store in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place.


Malabar Masala Powder

This spice mixture adds loads of depth and flavour to any curry! It is also wonderful sprinkled on grilled fish, grilled chicken, dal, stews. The key to good flavor here is to start with fresh curry leaves. Spread them out on paper towels and leave them on your kitchen counter in a sunny spot for a couple of days. They will dry out completely and will be ready to use in this recipe. Alternatively, some Indian stores also sell curry leaf powder. Try this wonderful spice powder in this Fish Curry.

4 tbsp each: coriander seeds,
desiccated unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp each: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, dried fenugreek leaves,
green cardamom, cloves
4 each: Star anise, cinnamon sticks (2 inches long), dried whole
red chilies
1 tsp each: fenugreek seeds, black peppercorn,
black mustard seeds, turmeric, dried ground ginger
8 tbsp curry leaf powder

Warm small non stick frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Add coriander, cumin, fennel, cardamom, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, red chilies, fenugreek seeds, black pepper and black mustard seeds.
Toast for about 4-5 minutes, until they smell aromatic and roasted. Add dried fenugreek leaves and desiccated coconut and toast for another 2 minutes or until coconut is lightly browned.
Cool slightly, transfer to a mini blender or spice grinder, blend to a smooth powder. Transfer to a bowl and add remaining ingredients - turmeric, ground ginger and curry leaf powder. Mix well. Transfer to an airtight container. This mixture can be stored for up to 6 months. 

Kerala Fish Curry

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.

Serves four