This is a restaurant inspired recipe; one of those dishes that hit.the.spot and just had to be made at home! There’s a little restaurant in Bandra East called Highway Gomantak. They usually have a queue outside for the lunch service, and are one of those small places where you get in, order as quickly as the waiter rattles off the day’s specials, eat and leave! No fuss, no AC and a guaranteed 100/100 for flavor! My standard order every time we visit is this fiery red fish curry, that’s characteristically sour thanks to kokum. This recipe is my attempt at making a Konkan kokum curry at home.
If you aren’t acquainted with Kokum, it’s a fruit from the mangosteen family, that grows along the western coast of India. Its’ used as a souring agent in seafood curries and has a distinct flavor. If kokum is particularly hard to find where you are, you could substitute tamarind instead (though it’s not quite the same). Another essential element to this dish is the Byadagi Dried Red Chili; a chili that when ground imparts a bright orangey-red colour, but not as much heat as other Indian chilies. They can be replaced by dried Kashmiri chilies, but you won’t be able to achieve the same colour without them. I use about 10 – 12 chilies in this recipe to make it fiery; you can use fewer if you’d like to tone down the heat. Then again, with this curry, the fire is all the fun!
Recipe: Fish Curry with Kokum
- A food processor / mixer
- A deep bottomed pan with a well-fitting lid
- A small frying pan or tadka pan for the tempering
To Marinate the Fish
- 10 – 12 slices Pomfret [Alternate: Any white, meaty fish]
- 1 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
- 0.5 tsp Haldi / Turmeric Powder
- 0.5 tsp Salt
For the Ground Masala Paste
- 1.5 cup Coconut [the flesh of half a medium sized coconut]
- 0.5 large Onion [sliced]
- 10 – 12 Byadgi Chilies [Alternate: Kashmiri Chilies]
- 0.5 tsp Jeera / Cumin Seeds
- 0.5 tsp Dhanya Powder / Ground Coriander Seeds
- 5 – 6 cloves Garlic
- 1 tsp Ginger chopped
- 1 tsp Salt
For the Gravy
- 2 tbs Coconut Oil
- 4 – 5 cloves Garlic [crushed]
- 1.5 large Onion [chopped fine]
- 3 cups Water [recently boiled]
- 4 – 5 pieces Kokum [Alternate: tamarind pulp the size of half a small lime, soaked in water for 10 mins and then massaged to remove the seeds and stringy fibers]
- 10 – 12 Curry leaves
- Wash and pat the fish dry with a clean cloth or kitchen paper. Marinate the fish half a tsp each of salt and turmeric, and a tsp of ginger-garlic paste. Allow the fish to marinate in the fridge while you prepare the ground masala.
- Grind all the ingredients listed under the 'For the Ground Masala’ section into a fine paste. Begin by only adding a quarter cup of water to the ingredients to help them grind down. If needed add more, a table spoon at a time.
- Here’s the consistency that you are looking for in the final masala.
- Heat a tbs of coconut oil in a deep bottomed pan; when hot add the crushed garlic and sauté until slightly golden.
- Next add the finely chopped onion and sauté until brown. This is how brown you want it to get.
- Add the ground masala to the roasted onion and continue to sauté on a low flame for 10 mins, until it cooks through and begins to leave the sides of the pan1. We want to make sure that the raw onion, ginger and garlic in the ground masala cook through!
- Here's what it should look like once cooked through!
- Add about 3 cups2 of water to the roasted masala and stir well until it forms as mooth gravy. Place the slices of fish into the gravy, turn the heat down to minimum and cover with a lid.
- Allow the fish to simmer3 for about 6-7 mins or until cooked through.
- About 6 mins in, add the pieces of kokum to the gravy and cover again. Let it simmer for another 4 – 5 mins. Check for seasoning at this point and adjust the salt if necessary. Turn the heat off.
- Heat a tbs of coconut oil in a tadka pan; when hot add the curry leaves and allow them to crisp. Pout this into the fish curry and then immediately cover with the lid once again.
- Let it rest for at least 10 mins so that the aroma of the curry leaves seeps into the gravy!
1As my grandmother and aunts say: fry the masala until it reaches ‘Ball Consistency’; I suppose they mean until it loses enough moisture to coagulate into a single mass.
2You might need to add slightly more water, depending on the final consistency of gravy that you enjoy. Just bear in mind that the fish is going to release a bit of moisture into the gravy too! So add water until you reach a consistency that’s just slightly thicker than what you’d like in the end. The fish will take care of the rest for you, and thin the gravy slightly further.
3Always, always cook fish curry on low heat. High heat will cause the gravy to boil and cook the fish to mush. Simmering the curry will leave you with fish that’s cooked through but still firm in texture.
This sour & spicy fish curry is best served with freshly steamed rice, and a vegetable side. I’d highly recommend these stir-fried green beans! 😉