Sri Lankan Fish Curry

SAVEUR - - Contents -

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.

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