Malabar Style Coconut & Fish Curry

This curry from the Malabar coast of Southern India is one of my favourites. I picked up some freshly grated coconut from Sydney Markets today (grating a coconut is way down my list of culinary must do’s) so decided on this deliciously fresh curry for dinner. I’d also bought some cheaper white ling fillets from the market as it’s perfect for this style of cooking. The fish is coated and deep fried before being added to the curry, which is a little unusual, but helps the fish keep its shape, while adding flavour and a nice texture to the final curry. The curry itself has a spicy, thick sauce which while rich, is also light and fresh. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a warm summer’s evening.

Fish Coating:

700g white fish (skin off, cut into large chunks)
1/2 cup besan flour
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons fresh coconut (finely grated)
Salt & pepper
2 cups vegetable oil

Curry paste:
1 cup fresh coconut (finely grated)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 small red onion (chopped)
2 small green chillies (seeded and chopped)
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons coconut oil
10-15 fresh curry leaves
1 red onion (finely sliced)
1-3 small, hot green chilies (left whole, slit down the side
1 teaspoon tamarind paste mixed with a little water
1 tomato (very finely chopped)
Salt & pepper
1 small bunch fresh coriander (roughly chopped)

For the fish:

Mix together the flour, turmeric, coconut, salt and pepper. Toss the fish pieces in the mix to coat.

Heat the oil in a non-stick deep frying pan until hot. Add 1/3 of the fish pieces and fry for 3-4 minutes each side until browned and crunchy. Fry the remaining 2/3 of the fish in two batches. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

For the paste:
Place all the ingredients together in a blender and blend with 1/2 cup water into a smooth paste. Set aside.

To make the curry:
In a wok or deep frying pan, heat the coconut oil over a moderate heat until hot. Add the curry leaves and sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the sliced onions and fry for a further 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the paste and fry for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid sticking (add a little water if it does stick).

Add the tomato, chilli, tamarind liquid and 500ml water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook gently for a further 15 minutes.

Gently slide in the fish pieces and shake the pan to submerge. Don’t stir too much or the fish will fall apart. Cook for 4-5 minutes uncovered then turn off the heat. Check seasoning just before serving.

Sprinkle over the fresh coriander and serve with lots of fluffy basmati rice.

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