Mom’s Recipes: Spicy Fish Curry

Here’s another red hot recipe (literally). In full transparency, I sought some help from YouTube because following my mom’s verbal instructions never yielded the deep red color that she achieves when she made fish curry. The picture above is actually from when my mom recently made this dish using Porgy. The last time I made it, it turned out the perfect color and flavor. Both my husband and I felt it was pretty comparable to my mom’s. 

This dish features dried Malabar tamarind, a dried spice that affords a slightly sour flavor. This is typical of fish curries in Kerala. In fact, the Malayalam word for it is “kodampuli,” with “puli” meaning sour. It can be found at your local Indian or Asian grocery store! I’ve used it in two other recipes available on the blog: tuna thoran and shrimp curry.

Fish curry goes great with rice and a side of vegetables, but it is exceptionally good with a plate of kappa (spicy mashed yucca) – you can find that recipe here!

A few notes for this recipe:

Caution: If you have chili powder that is not super spicy, use that. If it is really spicy, I’d use less (see below). I recommend Kashmiri chili powder which gives a gorgeous deep red color but is not crazy spicy.

Note:  If you can get your fish market to cut the fish and remove the fins/skin, do it! I have also found frozen and cut king fish at Patel Brothers.

1.5 to 2 lbs meaty white fish, skinned and cut into large chunks (I like king mackerel, blue fish, or porgy) – wash in salted water and let drain
5 pieces dry Malabar tamarindsoak in a small bowl with water
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
6 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
3 inch piece ginger, peeled/chopped finely
Curry leaves (1-2 stems worth)
2 tablespoons oil (I use coconut)

½ tablespoon turmeric
2 tablespoons coriander powder
3 tablespoons red chili powder (if your chili powder is extra hot already, I would use 1-1.5 tbsp)

1. Put all of the masala ingredients in a bowl and add some water to make a thick paste.
2. In a small but deep pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.
3. Once hot, add fenugreek seeds.
4. Add curry leaves.
5. Add onions, garlic, ginger and saute very well until onions are golden brown.
6. Reduce heat down to medium and add the masala paste 9(ee above).
7. Mix well and saute until the paste turns from bright red to darker red.
8. Add the tamarind with the water it was soaking in.
9. Add about 1 cup of water, salt, then cover and let boil.
10. Add the cut and washed pieces of fish. The water level should just cover the fish.
11. Cover again with lid and let water boil/fish cook.
12. Try not to stir with a spoon because the fish may break. To stir, pick up the pot and swirl the water around in it.
13. Let boil a little further til fish is nice and plump and gravy is a little thicker.
14. Remove from heat. Can add a little drizzle of coconut oil for added taste.

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