Simple Fish Curry

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Burmese cooks will tell you to always cook fish curries with ginger - and sometimes lemongrass - to kill off any fishy aromas. While ginger serves this practical purpose, it also brightens up the base of slow-cooked onions and garlic. On the West Coast, rockfish is an affordable fish that works well in this curry. But catfish or any other mild, white-fleshed fish will do as well.

Serves 4; 6 as part of a larger meal

 

1 ½ pounds skinless rockfish fillets or catfish fillets

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon Madras curry powder

¼ cup canola oil

1 cup finely diced yellow onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced lemongrass (see page 228; optional)

1 to 2 Thai chiles, finely sliced, or ½ jalapeno, minced

1 tablespoon shrimp paste (see page 238)

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon turmeric

4 cups diced roma tomatoes (about 8 tomatoes)

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons Tamarind Water (page 218)

½ cup sliced shallots, for garnish (optional)

 

Trim away and bones from the fish fillets. (Rockfish fillets often have a set of ribs running halfway down the center. Simply slice down both sides of the bones to cut them out.) Cut the fish into ½ - to 1-inch pieces. Transfer to a bowl and use your hands to mix the fish with the salt and curry powder. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a 6-quart pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and the edges start to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and cook until the garlic is golden brown, 1 minute more. Stir in the chillies and shrimp paste and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the paprika, cayenne, and turmeric and add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. If the tomatoes are on the dry side and do not release much water, add about ½ cup of water to help them cook down.

Stir in the fish and fish sauce and cook gently for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Add the tamarind water and taste, adding more salt or fish sauce if desired. Let the flavors meld for 10 minutes before serving.

Soak the shallots in cold water or about 5 minutes. Drain. Serve the curry with the shallots at the table.