Malay Fish Curry

Saturday, August 27, 2011

There were seven of us and six of them: two couples and nine kids. Dinner was at our place. Some of the kids played 18 holes that day, some spent the day at the Magic Kingdom. We definitely needed a lot of sustenance for refueling!

I can't remember what I made that night, but it involved a lot of spicy Indonesian food and copious amounts of rice.  And Jeny brought her signature Malaysian Fish Curry, something she can apparently conjure because she travels with this very set of spices.

Wow! This fish curry was amazing! My kids loved it and my hubby loved it. Her kids enjoyed my dishes, and my troops devoured hers. Guess the grass is always greener or spicier on the other side ;)

Now I hardly ask for a recipe if the cook doesn't offer it. But this was different. I actually had to pester her for the recipe. Not that she didn't want to part with it, but just to make sure she didn't forget ... it was sooo good! Besides, she was leaving in a day or two! She was nice enough to bring her packet of panch puran, her fish curry powder and a generous handful of curry leaves for my first attempt, along with her hand-written scribble of the recipe.

Thanks, Jeny! Been making it a few times now, to the delight of the spice loving folks at home.

3 lbs snapper fillets (any firm-fleshed fish will do as well)
4 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp panchpuran (or panch phoran) spice mix*
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece of ginger, minced
10-15 curry leaves
4 tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 cans coconut milk (or 1 can coconut milk and 1 can evaporated milk)
4 tbsp Baba's fish curry powder
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp turmeric powder
500 g (3 cups) cut or whole okra
1/2 cup thick tamarind juice (from 3 tbsp of tamarind block with 1 cup water)
Salt to taste

1. In a sauté pan, heat oil until it shimmers, then add the panch puran spice mix.
2. When it starts to pop, add the onions, garlic and ginger, sweat this for 3-4 minutes.
3. Then put the curry leaves and tomatoes in.

4. When tomatoes are softened, pour in the coconut milk along with the dry ingredients and the okra.
5. When it starts to boil, add salt and tamarind juice (adjust quantity to taste).
6. Finally place the fish in gently.

Prepare this dish before hand until #5, then warm and add fish just before dinner time.

Note about okra: sautéing okra makes it slimy, so make sure to add it after coconut milk has gone in, that way the juices cook with it.

* Panch puran or panch phoran is an East Indian or Bengali seed mix. Easy to put together if you have the basic Indian spices at home. It's even nice to cook rice with. Equal portions of:
Brown Mustard seeds
Cumin seeds
Fennel seeds
Fenugreek seeds
Nigella seeds

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