Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Most dishes served at Indian restaurants in NYC and America represent a very small proportion of the myriad recipes found across the different regions of India. My roots are from the South of India, close to Mangalore in the state of Karnataka and the dishes found there are completely different from the dishes in North India. I grew up eating more of fish than the Chicken Tikka masala, Butter Paneer and Korma which are run of the mill and common place dishes from North India that are more popular here.
This Mangalorean fish curry prepared with coconut milk is one of my favorite dishes. My mom prepared the coconut milk from scratch, scraping fresh coconut and extracting the milk, but in this fast paced world it’s difficult to find time to do it. I used canned coconut milk found in most supermarkets and golden pompano for the fish which is in the same family as the Silver Pomfret which is used traditionally in India.
- 1 whole golden pompano fish (1-1/2 pounds)
- 1 medium sized onion
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- 2 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- Kashmiri red dried chilies 4 no.
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 small ball tamarind
- Curry leaves 8 no.
- 1 tablespoon ghee (unclarified butter)
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- Salt to taste
Slice 3/4th of the onion and add to food processor. Slice remaining 1/4th onion and set aside for later. Chop garlic clove and add to the food processor. Add the dried chilies to frying pan on medium heat and roast for about 2-3 min. Add to the processor. Add the remaining spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin) to the food processor and grind to a smooth paste. If needed add a couple table spoons coconut milk to smoothen the paste while grinding. Add the tamarind to a small container with 2-3 tablespoon water and set aside. This allows the tamarind to dissolve and form a paste.
Add 2 tablespoons mustard oil (If you don’t have mustard oil any other vegetable or olive oil will also do) to a casserole and heat on a medium flame. Add the ground smooth paste and fry. Reduce to low flame as you fry the paste and keep stirring to prevent from burning. Fry for about 10 minutes. Now add coconut milk and tamarind past and salt and pepper to taste. While the curry comes to a slow boil, slice the fish.
I usually don’t eat the fish head but still add to the curry for better taste. If you do not like bone in fish then you could just use any white fish fillet instead, though for this recipe bone in fish is a lot more traditional and adds more flavor. When the curry comes to a boil slowly add the fish slices and allow to cook on low flame (~10 min). Do not stir the curry as this may cause the pieces of fish to break.
While the fish cooks prepare the ‘bagar’. In a frying pan or large spoon heat on medium flame the ‘ghee’ or unclarified butter. Add the remaining onion and curry leaves and fry for about 4 minutes. Immediately add to the fish, turn off the heat for fish and cover casserole for a few minutes. This allows the unique flavor imparted from the butter, curry leaves and onion to be absorbed by the curry.
Serve hot with jasmine or basmati rice