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50 Great Curries of India
by Camellia Panjabi

(Coastal Tamil Nadu, Homestyle)
Once I interviewed a cook in Bangalore, whose cooking had "magic." He came from a village near Madras and I asked him to cook for me whatever curry he would make for himself if he were at home in his village. This is what he made. It was fingerlicking good.
He said the marination of the fish in a combination of vinegar and lime juice eliminates the fishy smell, and grinding the coconut without adding water improves die taste. The gravy is pungent and quite thick.
Serves 5-6


    • 1¾ lb fish steaks or fillets, skinned
    • juice of 1/2 lime
    • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
    • salt
    • 2 cups fresh coconut, grated
    • 1½ x 1/2 in. piece of fresh ginger
    • 6 plump cloves garlic
    • 1 lb tomatoes, chopped
    • 6 teaspoons poppy seeds, crushed
    • 1½ teaspoons tamarind pulp
    • 1/3 cup oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
    • 2 onions, chopped
    • 20-30 curry leaves
    • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    • 2 teaspoons chile powder or paprika
    • 3/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds and 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, pounded together


1. Marinate the fish with the lime juice, vinegar, and a little salt for 30 minutes.

2. Put the grated coconut into a blender or food processor with the ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and poppy seeds. Do not add any water, but process for 30 seconds.

3. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes. Strain and set aside.

4. Heat the oil in a shallow, broad-based pot and add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the onions and fry until lightly colored, then add the curry leaves. When the onions turn golden-brown, add the coriander, turmeric, and chile powders. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

5. Add the coconut mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the tamarind water, about 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and a further 2½ cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Now gently lay the fish pieces in a single layer and reduce the heat to low. Sprinkle with a mixture of the fenugreek and cumin seeds. Cook until the fish is done.

If the fish curry is made a few hours before it is required, the flavor will seep into the fish better. It is best served with boiled rice.

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