I have not cooked this dish in quite a while. The usage of the fenugreek spice makes this curry dish tastes like an authentic Indian curry. My late mom used to say that fenugreek is the one that gives the true taste of Indian curry. The best fish to use for this dish is the spanish mackerel, but for today I'm using the black pomfret since I can't seem to find any mackerel from the market. Try to get some really fresh mackerel for this curry dish, it is really tasty. Sometimes I use big fish head chunks and really yummy when you eat and suck on the bones! Other suitable fish would be the red snapper, golden snapper and threadfin.
Are you familiar with the spice fenugreek? Perhaps it is best described by this excerpt taken from "660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer"
"Fenugreek (methi): Prized in India for both its cloverlike leaf and dark yellowish-brown, triangular, stone-hard seeds - that are very bitter when roasted or toasted - I regard the aroma and taste of fenugreek as "perfumed bitterness". The seed, considered medicinal (some were found in Tutankhamen's tomb), provides commercial curry powders with that distinctive aroma. Whenever I demonstrate recipes that incorporate fenugreek seed, students say. "Ooh, smells like curry."
Many sauces in southern India use toasted and oil-roasted seeds (and their ground versions, as in sambhar masala) to create bitter balance. The eastern regions put the bitterness to work by stir-frying the seeds (they get more bitter when browned in oil). Cooks along the northern regions cherish the grass-green leaves. Because they have a short shelf life, the young leaves are dried and sold in packages labeled kasoori methi."
Even though the fenugreek may taste unpleasant when you happen to bite into one, I do not really mind, but kind of like it, as it will soften when boils and the taste of the curry gravy has been steeped into it. But if you do not like it, then just discard it when you find one in your mouth. Use this spice sparingly as instructed by any recipe that calls for it, too much of this can be just the opposite, very unpleasant on your tastebuds!
This curry is delicious eaten with plain white rice, or with our local roti canai, also known as roti paratha or the paratha bread. If you do not want vegetables in your fish curry, just omit the ladies fingers and brinjals. If you would like to give this a try, here's the recipe, the way my mom taught us.
Onions, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, tomato, fenugreek seeds, fish curry powder paste (you may use ordinary curry powder, if fish curry powder is not available)
Tamarind paste (on the left)
Ladies fingers (okra) and brinjals
Ladies fingers and tomatoes. Cut and discard both ends of ladies fingers.
Brinjals. Cut and soak in salted water to prevent browning.
Black pomfret, halved.
Indian Fish Curry
3 to 4 pieces mackerel or 1 whole black pomfret, halved (or any other fish)
50gm ginger, sliced thinly and cut to julienne strips
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 sprig curry leaves
1 onion, cut to six or eight sections
1-1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
6 tbsp fish curry powder, mix with enough water to form a thick paste
1 tsp chilli powder (optional, if used, mix with the curry powder above)
1 tsp tamarind paste, dissolved with 2-1/2 cups of water
5 ladies fingers (okra)
1 tomato, quartered
salt to taste
- Heat about 5 tbsps oil. Saute ginger and garlic till light brown and fragrant over medium heat.
- Add in curry leaves and onions, stir for about 1 minute. Add the fenugreek seeds, stir for about 10-15 seconds until fragrant (you can smell the aroma of the fenugreek). Add the curry paste and continue to stir for about 4-5 minues over medium-low heat till fragrant and dry. If it gets too dry, one or two tablespoons of oil may be added.
- Pour in the tamarind and water mixture. Stir till curry is evenly combined. Cover and when curry starts to boil, add the ladies fingers, brinjals and salt to taste. Cover and simmer for about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring in between, until vegetables are cooked and just tender. If curry gets too thick, some water may be added.
- Add the tomatoes and the fish. Cover and simmer, turning fish once until fish is done. Dish out and enjoy!