Sweet and Sour Fish Curry
“So what do you want to have for lunch?” I asked the husband on our way back from a birding trip to Hebbal Lake last Saturday. We had breakfasted on the way and had lunch to tackle. Now, the household is divided into two over the choice of non-vegetarian for weekend lunch/dinner. The husband and mother-in-law are strong supporters of fish while father-in-law and I upheld the chicken/meat card. But ask any of us what we wanted for food and that will evince only one answer – “Whatever you want.” We are quite an indulgent family, you see.
The husband had, however, made up his mind. Fish will be the order of the day, he announced. We then took a quick glance at father-in-law’s face who was sitting behind and stifled our grins. As luck would have it, we came across a cart selling fresh fish not long after the somber statement. Much to FIL’s dismay, the cart only sold seafood! He could still tolerate fresh water fish like Rohu or Katla, but seafood? Oh the horribly smelly fish! While FIL wrinkled up his nose, MIL could not hide her glee. Such a pickle, really!
We bought a beautiful barracuda fish, but the blunt knife of the fishmonger ruined its perfectness. Once home, I had to rack my brains to come up with a nice dish which everyone would enjoy and at the same time, was easy and fast to cook. I was still tired from our early morning birding jaunt. Not being much of a fish person, my repertoire on the subject was very limited. Finally, I decided to go ahead with our tried and tested recipe of fish curry with coconut milk. No comfort in spoiling the fish, or upsetting FIL further!
My only concern about this recipe was that the coconut milk might make the curry too sweet. I had to counter that sweetness with something acidic in nature. I rummaged through my fridge but could not find even a single tomato or a lime. And then I remembered our stock of ‘kokum’ or garnicia indica, a plant from the mangosteen family. These little dark fellows are used as souring agents in curries as well as a refreshing drink. We had got them from Goa last year but had hardly used them in our food. And now they were going to be my saviours. So here is my recipe for a quick fishy fix.
Sweet and Sour Fish Curry
4 steaks of fish
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
½ teaspoon each of turmeric powder, coriander powder and cumin powder
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
2 green chillies, each split into two
5-6 kokum pieces
1 ½ cup coconut milk
Refined oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste
Smear the fish pieces with a little turmeric powder and salt and lightly fry them. Reserve the remaining oil, if any. Generally I also keep the scrapings off the pan.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a kadai and let the mustard seeds splutter. Now, add the chopped onions, ginger garlic paste and green chillies one after the other in intervals and stir. Next, put in the spice powders – turmeric, coriander and cumin. Sprinkle some water in case the mixture sticks to the bottom of the kadai.
Add a cup of water to the masala mixture and let it come to a boil. Slide in the fish pieces, cover the vessel and let it simmer for around 5 minutes. The thin watery curry will be deliciously infused with the flavor of the fish. Now, pour in the cups of coconut milk to the gently simmering curry. Season with salt and pepper and leave it on low gas for a minute. The last step will be to add the kokum pieces and let it simmer for 2 more minutes. In case you want more sourness to your curry, you can add a few more kokum pieces, but do not overdo it.
Oh I almost forgot the final touch! Remember the oil and scrapings off the pan that we had kept aside? Well, tip in those just before taking the curry off the gas and stir. There are loads of flavor in them. Serve the fish curry with steaming hot rice and savour the sweetness of the coconut milk interspersed with the sourness of kokum. Enjoy!