One of my favourite Mangalorean style fish curries is this simple cumin & pepper style curry. Well, although it says cumin & pepper the list of ingredients is not limited to just these two. It would be virtually impossible to dunk the fish pieces in a curry made of barely 2-3 ingredients but among the various types of fish curries we make back home is this style which is prepared for a particular kinds of fish. Most times we prepare the coconut curry where we use copious amounts of freshly grated coconut as the key ingredient in the preparation. The coconut curry is an easy way to make fish curry with virtually any kind of fish available on hand but then our ancestors were wise. They, from various trials & errors have devised ways to cook different varieties of fish, thrown together different blends of ingredients to compliment the nature of the fish being cooked enabling the flavours to complement each other thus making the meal experience a wholesome and enjoyable one.
Most women from previous generations never required a book to note down the recipes. They always knew what kind of curry went well with what kind of fish but since my memory fails me I always prefer to jot it down (you see, this is also the main reason behind the creation of the blog). People like my mum and mum-in-law can instantly tell me what curry I can put together in the shortest possible time for the day's catch. If you see my recipe index for seafood I have made an attempt to record just this. However, since I am not so good at experimenting with seafood I waited for my trip to Mangalore to learn some fish curries from my mum-in-law. Another one of her masterpieces is this beautiful, flavourful and spicy fish curry.
As I have mentioned in my previous posts the peppercorn is one of Mangalore's prized crops. My mum-in-law loves to use it in her curries and trust me there is nothing more aromatic than the aroma of freshly ground peppercorn - just make sure you don't take a deep whiff of it or you are done for! Since the past few years I get my annual quota of fresh peppercorns from my mum-in-law's garden and I love using my peppermill to grind it instantly - the taste and aroma can activate every taste bud that had previously died due to an overdose of placid, bland food.
This delicious curry was prepared by my mum-in-law with some enthusiastic assistance from me. I never got the chance to try it out in my kitchen here in Dubai as my son simply refuses to eat fish - so we are ovo vegetarians or chickiterians (if there is such a word) most of the week.
We enjoyed this curry so much with some freshly prepared, piping hot boiled rice as you can see in the pictures. Life is good!
- 1/2 kg black pomfret/lady fish (kane)/shark (thato)/ silver fish/whiting (erli), ray fish/kite fish(vagole)*see notes
- salt to taste
- oil for frying
- 1/2 a medium sized onion finely sliced (for tempering)
- 5-6 long red chillies (bedgi) (use deseeded if you wish to tone down the spice)
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds * see notes
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 medium sized onions
- 7-8 small cloves of garlic
- 2 marble sized ball of tamarind
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard (optional)
- 2 tablespoons grated coconut
1. Descale and clean the fish (if not cleaned already). Wash in a 3-4 changes of water. Allow to drain on a colander. If desired marinate the fish lightly with salt.
2. Grind all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the Masala'. Reserve the masala water from the mixie.
3. In a pan/kadhai heat some oil and fry the ground masala well. Add the reserved masala water and a little additional water to make a gravy of medium thickness (don't make it too watery as the fish tends to release some stock making the gravy too thin eventually). Let the gravy come to a boil.
4. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the fish pieces gently. Let the curry simmer till the fish is cooked - about 1-2 minutes
5. Turn off the heat and prepare the seasoning - heat oil in a small pan and fry the onions for tempering till they turn golden brown. Add this to the prepared curry and cover the pan immediately to trap the aroma.
6. Serve hot with rice.
1. Adjust the number of chillies to your choice. Fish like black pomfret or shark taste nice with a slightly higher level of spice, but do adjust it as per your level of spice tolerance. If you are using lady fish (kane) reduce the spice slightly.
2. The use of coriander is not typical - it is optional and doesn't make much difference if you add or omit it.
3. If you are using fish such as ray fish (vagole), shark (thato) or sole fish (lepo) temper it with 2-3 cloves of garlic instead of onion.
4. If you are using frozen fish make sure that the fish is at room temperature before cooking - you need to thaw it over several hours. If you force defrost it (using the defrost option in your microwave or shock the fish by placing it in water) it will continue to ooze out water in the curry making your end result very watery. The best way to defrost fish is to place it from the freezer into your fridge the previous night (if you are planning to cook it for the next day's lunch) and then from the fridge to your kitchen counter in the morning.