Curries fascinate me. They come from a world I am not terribly familiar with, and mastering them is no easy feat. This Goan fish curry recipe has gotten me a little further along on that path. It’s a from-scratch curry from Goa, on the western part of the subcontinent.
Goa was once under the control of the Portuguese, and the cuisine shows it. You’ll see wine and lots of vinegar in their cooking, as well as a lot of seafood. I also make a Goan crab curry, too.
Every summer I fish extensively, and have had some excellent days with striped bass, leopard sharks, rockfish and lingcod. All work well with this recipe, but you don’t need a specific fish here. Anything that will hold up to a bit of stewing will work; I have some other suggested fish below.
Indian curry mixes are very personal, so feel free to tinker with this one as I tinkered with all the recipes I studied to come up with mine. But a few things should stay constant: You will want coconut, some chile heat, garlic and onions, and some turmeric. Everything else is up to you.
This is a tart fish curry recipe, so I follow a common Goan practice and use tamarind. You could use citrus or vinegar, too. Tamarind paste can be found in Indian, Mexican or Middle Eastern markets, as well as in the “ethnic” section of some larger supermarkets.
The result is a warm, zippy Goan fish curry that’s light enough for seafood yet filling enough to satisfy. Serve this with either basmati rice or Indian flatbreads. For a quick hack, Mexican flour tortillas will do in a pinch.
Goan Fish Curry
- 1 1/2 pounds firm fish, cut into chunks
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 to 5 chiles, such as Thai, Tabasco, arbol or serrano
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 1/2 inch piece of tamarind, or 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
- 1/2 cup water (coconut water is nice here)
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or clarified butter (ghee)
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 to 5 jalapenos, sliced
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- Toss the chunks of fish in the lemon and salt and set aside as you chop the vegetables.
- Put everything from the curry mix except the coconut milk into a food processor or blender and puree. If it's too chunky and gunks up your machine, add enough of the coconut milk to let the motor run smoothly. Set it aside.
- In a deep-sided pan, heat the vegetable oil or clarified butter over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they are soft, and a little browned on the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the sliced jalapenos and the fish and toss to combine. Pour over the curry mix and the rest of the coconut milk. It should be a thick gravy. If it's too thick, add a little water or some more coconut milk if you have some. Let this simmer for 10 minutes, then add the cilantro. Let this cook for 1 minute, then serve with rice.