Sri Lankan Fish Curry
SERVES 4 Total: 30 min.
This relatively mild, lightly sour, and deeply aromatic yellow curry, adapted from Yusra and Mohamed Ali Makim, is a breakfast staple eaten throughout Sri Lanka. Goraka, or Garcinia cambogia, a dried tropical fruit available at specialty spice shops and online, gives the mixture its characteristic sweetsour flavor. If you can’t find it, rehydrated and deseeded tamarind pulp makes a good substitute. Use as thick a coconut milk as you can find.
2 pieces goraka (14 oz.), also known as fish tamarind or Garcinia cambogia 4 cardamom pods 4 garlic cloves, chopped 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 flat stick cinnamon, broken into large pieces ¼ cup coconut oil 1½ Tbsp. coriander seeds 2 inches pandan leaf, cut in 4 pieces (optional) 12 fresh curry leaves 2–3 small green chiles, such as Thai style, stemmed and split lengthwise 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and sliced into ¼-inch rounds 2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (½ cup) 1 tsp. kosher salt ½ tsp. chili powder ½ tsp. ground turmeric 1 plum tomato (5½ oz.), cut into thin wedges 1½ lb. tuna or other lean, firm-fleshed fish, preferably skin on, cut into 2-inch chunks 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp. ground cumin ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon ¼ tsp. ground clove ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg ½ cup coconut milk
1 Soak the goraka in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain and finely chop.
2 Meanwhile, using a small food processor, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle, grind together the cardamom, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon to make a chunky paste. 3 In a wok or large, deep pan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the prepared spice mixture and the coriander and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. One at a time but working quickly, stir in the pandan leaf (if using), curry leaves, chiles, lemongrass, and shallot. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the salt, chili powder, turmeric, tomato, and goraka; let cook, stirring occasionally, 2–3 minutes. Add the fish, tossing gently to adhere the seasoning to all sides. Cover and let cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in the black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ¾ cup water; let cook 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers; cover and cook for 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve.
Whole spices give this fish curry an impossibleto-place depth (see recipe above). Opposite page, from top: Yusra Ali in her mother’s kitchen; betel leaves for sale in Colombo.