Monday, January 19, 2009
A deep sunset fish curry was my father's almost daily and required dish with rice. But like any fish dish the curry is only as good as the fish is fresh.
Whenever I think fish I always recall the years I spent in Kota Kinabalu, a town on the west coast of Sabah. Marketing was a complete pleasure there. Not only were the fish fresh where loads of them arrived by boats each morning, delivered at the doorstep of the wet market which fronted the sea, but most of the fish would be glistening and rebellious with life, squirming and flipping arcs and somersaults. Squids would be flickering lights off the surfaces of their skins, crabs would be trying to get away and the prawns they would lie there very firm, full bodied and dignified with their heads still firmly attached. It was a place where you could smell the ocean..
But in KL where most fish often come all the way from Thailand (God knows why!) you would be very lucky to catch sight of bright eyed, firm fleshed fish or prawns with good heads on their shoulders. Most are stale, limp and dull and compared to Kota Kinabalu marketing couldn't be more disheartening and boring.
So for those of you who live in coastal towns where the daily supply of fresh fish is almost as certain as the sun coming up every morning please enjoy it. There could be nothing sweeter than the flesh of a fresh fish freshly grilled, steamed or curried.
Recipe for a fish curry....
Serves 4 -6
900 gm of a firm white fleshed fish, sliced into steaks
3 medium large onions,
1 inch ginger
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 tbsp curry powder for fish ( I used 'Baba' brand)
2 tsp tamarind paste, mixed with 1/4 cup water and the juice strained
10 - 15 curry leaves
1 1/4 cups thin coconut milk
1 1/4 cups thick coocnut milk
1 medium brinjal halved and cut into 2 across, or diagonally (no rules here)
3 lady's fingers or okra, topped
1 large tomato, halved
1/4 cup cooking oil
Slice one of the onions finely. Keep aside. Blend in a blender or food processor the other 2 onions, garlic and ginger to a paste. Mix the curry powder with the blended onion mixture and add some water to make it a loose wet paste.
Heat the cooking oil in a fairly large pan until hot. Saute the sliced onions, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds until the onions turn soft and the spices fragrant. Add in the curry paste and curry leaves and saute for a further 6 or 8 minutes until the paste cooks through and oil rises to the top. Scrape the pan if necessary to loosen any paste that sticks to the bottom.
Pour in the thin coconut milk and bring it to a boil. Put in the vegetables and let boil for 2 or 3 minutes then put in the pieces of fish and turn the heat down to a simmer. Pour in the tamarind juice and add salt. Add in half the thick coconut milk if there is not enough liquid to cover the fish two thirds of the way.
I did not time the cooking but when the fish seems about to be cooked through add in the remaining coconut milk and stir carefully to avoid breaking up the fish. Adjust for salt. Serve with white rice.