I have a few cookbooks which I dip in to now and then when I have a few minutes to breathe. I used to use them much more, but these days it’s more occasional inspiration or for the details on favorites. A couple are favorite writers, others are from particular regions, and I know pretty much what I’ll find in each. I’ve been meaning to make another fish curry for a while, and so when it was announced this month’s Fish Friday Foodies’ theme was going to be Indian fish curry, it was the perfect excuse. I went straight for my Indian cookbook and after a little debate, decided to try a Goan fish curry.
What defines a Goan fish curry?
India has a large stretch of coastline and so fish is common in the cuisines of these areas. There are definite regional variations in the flavors used, although some spices are common, as is coconut milk. Goan fish curries are generally made with coconut milk, a range of common curry spices and have a distinct slight sourness, usually from tamarind but it can be vinegar or other ingredients. Part of this hot-sour flavor comes from incorporating Portuguese influences (the use of wine/vinegar or similar in cooking) into the more typical Indian flavors.
This curry was a little too spicy for the kids, so I made something a bit different for them, but we instantly loved it. It’s full of wonderful spiced flavor, in a creamy coconut sauce with a slight tang from the tamarind. It’s quick and easy enough to be great for a busy night as well. Forget take out, this Goan fish curry is so much better both flavor-wise and it’s healthier.
How it’s made
I’ve adapted a few recipes to give something that was fairly authentic without being overly complex. While it might look like there are a lot of ingredients, this Goan fish curry is really easy to make. The long list is mainly for the spice mix or masala which gives it so much depth of flavor. You make the masala first, by toasting the whole spices, crushing them along with the garlic and ginger then mix in the rest. Soften the onion a little then add the masala and mix. Next, add some tomato and fresh chili, then the coconut milk and tamarind. Finally add the fish to cook in the flavorful sauce in only a few minutes.
There are a few options on fish for this dish. Typically you might see it with pomfret, a flat fish, in India but that’s not something I have ever seen here. Although you add it towards the end so it doesn’t have too long to break up, I’d still recommend a relatively firm white fish. I used haddock and it worked really well.
There is so much flavor in this Goan fish curry that comes together so quickly and easily. Creamy coconut, enough spice without being over the top, and plenty of depth of flavor. It’s definitely going back on our menu soon, and I hope it will go on yours too.
- For spice paste/masala -
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1tsp cumin seeds
- ½tsp mustard seeds
- 2 - 3 cloves of garlic
- 1tbsp chopped fresh ginger (approx a 1in/2.5cm piece)
- ¼tsp salt
- ½tsp cayenne pepper
- ½tsp paprika
- ½tsp turmeric
- For curry -
- 1tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 green chilis
- 1 onion
- 1 tomato
- 1lb/450g firm white fish eg haddock, cod, pollock
- 2tsp tamarind concentrate
- 1cup/240ml coconut milk
- Warm a small skillet/frying pan over a medium heat and toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin and mustard seeds) for a couple minutes until fragrant. The mustard seeds may start to pop which is a sign to stop.
- Roughly chop the garlic and ginger and crush with the salt to a relatively smooth paste. Add the toasted spices and crush. Add the remaining powdered spices and mix to a relatively smooth paste.
- Finely dice the chilis and onion. Warm the oil in a medium-large skillet or other shallow pan over a medium heat.
- Cook the onion in the oil for a few minutes until it has softened. Add the spice paste and stir through. Cook for a minute or two then add the tomato and chili and let the liquid almost disappear (a minute).
- Cut the fish into large bite-sized chunks.
- Add the tamarind and coconut milk to the pan, mix through. then put the fish chunks in and cook until cooked through, a couple mins.
- Serve over rice.
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