We Mangalorean Catholics usually prepare 6-7 specific types of curries that suit particular types of fish. We have the regular Geraal Kadi (Common coconut based curry for most types of fish), the Bafat Kadi (using the Bafat masala suitable for Mackerels, King Fish etc), the Shirko Shindaap (vinegar & sliced onions, ginger, garlic & green chillies), Amshi Thikshi (Hot & Sour curry), Rosachi Kadi (Coconut milk based curry), Losun Miri (Garlic & Pepper curry) and the Jeere Miri (Cumin & Pepper).Besides the above mentioned styles there are many types of curries that are either coconut based or onion based and their preparation varies from one family to the other. Undoubtedly I loved my mum’s way of preparing fish curries. My MIL who is also a superb cook makes her signature dishes which are usually onion or coconut (grated & ground) based. My mum made a lot of Roce (coconut milk) based gravies which were finger lickin’ good.That brings me to the part where I need to tell you from where I picked this recipe. Mum or MIL. Well, neither! In my quest to try out new recipes almost daily, I hunted through my trusted recipe books & randomly picked one from the book ‘Ranpi’ by Isidore Coelho who has authored many cookery books in both Konkani & English.
Special Surmai Curry
- 500 gm (or 3-4 palm size slices) of king fish/surmai/iswon or pomfret
- 1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 marble size tamarind dissolved in 1 tbsp water
- 1 medium size onion sliced
- 1 green chilli (optional) * see notes
- 1 tsp vinegar (option) * see notes
- 2 tbsp oil for frying
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander for garnishing (optional)
For the masala
- 6-7 long dry red chillies (Bedgi), deseed if you wish * see notes *IMPORTANT*
- 5 peppercorns (kali mirch)
- 2 cloves (laung)
- 1/2 inch cinnamon stick (dalchini)
- 1 pod of cardamom (elaichi)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
- 1/2 tsp cumin (jeera)
- 1/2 tsp mustard (rai)
- 1/2 inch ginger
- 6 flakes of garlic (Indian) with skin
- 3 tbsp coconut milk powder or 3-4 tbsp grated coconut (optional) *see notes
- 1/2 onion (optional) * seet notes
1. Wash & drain the fish on a colander. Using a little water grind all the ingredients mentioned in ‘For the masala‘ to a fine paste. Reserve the masala water from the mixer jar.
2. In a large pan or wok heat the oil & fry the sliced onion till golden brown. Add the green chilli (optional) and fry till it turns translucent. Add the ground masala paste & fry on a slow flame till the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
3. Add the reserved masala water, salt to taste, tamarind juice, vinegar (optional) and bring the gravy to a boil. Add the fish pieces gently and carefully cover them with gravy. Cover & cook on a medium flame for about 2-3 minutes.
4. Turn off the flame, garnish with chopped coriander & serve hot with rice
3. If you are using very large slices of Surmai fish wash them carefully as they break easily.
4. If you like moderately spicy curries then make sure you add more than 3 tbsp coconut milk powder or grated coconut. Deseed the red chillies before grinding them. If the curry is still spicy add coconut milk to balance and reduce the spice. Once you do this you will have to check the taste and add more salt or tamarind juice if required.
I used 6-7 deseeded bedgi chillies and still found it spicy as the chillies were fresh (new crop). I added some coconut milk to the gravy before adding the fish to balance the spice. A lot of readers who have low tolerance to spice said that this curry turned out delicious but spicy. If you have low tolerance to spice please use just 3-4 Byadge chillies, all deseeded or Kashmiri chillies or a mix of Kashmiri and Byadge. Note that the seeds of the chillies are what give the maximum heat so when in doubt always remove the seeds and use just the skins. Byadge chillies give the traditional taste for curries while Kashmiri chillies are great for their colour but lower on spice than the Byadge variety.