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  • Kerala Fish Curry

    TOOLS: You’ll need a large mixing bowl; an 8-inch / 20-cm frying pan; 2 plates; a spice grinder or mortar and pestle; a small mixing bowl; a fork; and a heavy-bottomed, 6-quart / 6-L sauté pan with a lid.
    VEGANIZE IT! Substitute 24 to 28 ounces / 680 to 790 g of tempeh, extra-firm tofu, or seitan for the fish. Cut into 2-inch / 5-cm cubes and follow the instructions.

    I was inspired to recreate this recipe after a visit to the beautiful, unique Indian state of Kerala. The food there was utterly addictive, with dishes that my Punjabi palate had never experienced before. I was visiting along with a camera crew who devoured this version of fish curry while I got up close and personal with local chefs.

    • 2 pounds /910 g firm, white fish, such as halibut, skin removed and cut into 2-inch / 5-cm cubes
    • 2½ teaspoons salt, divided
    • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
    • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
    • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
    • 1 (2-inch / 5-cm) cube dried tamarind pulp*
    • 1 cup /240 mL boiling water
    • 4 tablespoons /60 mL coconut oil, divided
    • ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
    • 20 curry leaves
    • 1 medium onion, finely minced
    • 1 (2-inch / 5-cm) piece ginger, peeled and grated or minced
    • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and grated or minced
    • 1 medium tomato, finely diced
    • 3–6 fresh Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced lengthwise
    • 1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper
    • 1 (14-ounce / 400-g) can coconut milk (regular or light)
    • Brown or white basmati rice, for serving
    1. Place the fish cubes in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon of the salt, the black pepper, and the turmeric. Rub the spices into the fish. Cover and set aside to marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes while you prep the remaining ingredients.
    2. Combine the cumin and coriander seeds in an 8-inch / 20-cm frying pan over medium–high heat and dry roast for 5 minutes, until the seeds turn reddish-brown and become aromatic. During the entire cooking time, shake the pan every 15 to 20 seconds to prevent the spices from burning. When roasting spices, never leave the pan unattended—they burn easily. Remove from the heat, transfer to a plate, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
    3. Transfer the roasted seeds to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind them into a powder. Set aside.
    4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the tamarind pulp and the boiling water. Set them aside to soak and soften for at least 30 minutes.
    5. Once the soaking time is up, use the back of a fork to break down the pulp and squeeze the liquid out of it. Discard the pulp, seeds, and fiber and strain the juice. Set aside the juice.
    6. In a heavy-bottomed, 6-quart / 6-L sauté pan over medium–high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Keep a lid handy—the seeds do pop when hot. Carefully add the fish and sear for no more than 1 minute on each side. Carefully remove the fish, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and excess oil to a clean plate. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove and discard any remnants.
    7. To the same sauté pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, until slightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic to the sauté pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and fresh chiles and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
    8. Reduce the heat to medium–low and add the tamarind juice from Step 5, the roasted coriander and cumin seeds, the red chile powder, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt to the sauté pan. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the oil starts to pull away from the curry.
    9. Add the coconut milk to the sauté pan and cook, uncovered and stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Regular coconut milk will give you a richer curry, but both regular and light will do the trick.
    10. Return the fish, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and oil to the sauté pan and cook, turning once to ensure even cooking, for a total of 5 minutes, being careful to keep the fish pieces whole. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 3 minutes before serving.
    11. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with the brown or white basmati rice.
    12. *If you don’t have dried tamarind pulp, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste. If using paste, there is no need to soak it in boiling water first. Just add it to the dish.

Indian For Everyone by Anupy Singla. Copyright © 2014 Anupy Singla. Published by Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.

© 2016 Alta Editions LLC.