Over the years, I have changed this recipe a lot from how mom used to make it. When one of our neighbors gave it to her some 8-9 years back, in the most unexpected way we embraced it in our cooking and more so instantly loved it just because it broke the monotony of the 'only' fish curryÂ that we had been eating all the while.
In India a lot of exchange of food and gossip happens with neighbors.This aunty (as we fondly call anybody other than family back there),her house eternally smelled of cakes and good food but this recipe is one of the best things that she shared with us. SheÂ churned the tomatoes with nigella and mustard seeds to the point that they become almost velvety. Instantly, the blend hit the hot, virgin mustard oil, a loud sizzle, and boom, the sharp aroma choked up all your senses along with the piquancy of turmeric and fenugreek.Then theÂ masala (spice paste) got slow fried for a good half and hour till it got brown and caramelized. The crisp, deep-fried fish steaks from the other side of on the stove stove finally met the partyÂ along with few cups of water and slit green chilies. The soup then simmered for another half and hour and rested till meal time. That light tart, soupy sauce ladled over steaming rice was all you could ask for on hot summer evenings.
I remember how growing upÂ we would not eat much of seafood from April to August since these summer months were categorized as theÂ breeding season, quite contrary to here in the States when essentially seafood is labelled as 'summer foods. A couple of weeks back I visited our asian seafood store after a gap of year or so and could not help but gorge on the vast choices available - crabs, shellfish, live lobster and what not. I really can't tell you why this place is one of my favorite,the fact that I can get the freshest black pomfret and indian mackerel here - cut and cleaned 'my'Â way or because of the produce which I do not find in my regular grocery store - taro root, banana leaves, bitter melon squash. Not to forget - fresh jackfruit and lychees!
I bought home fresh tilapia thinking about this curry all the way. With the temperature hitting over 110 degrees F in my part of the world as the Independence day approaches, I could not think of an easy and light meal than this one.
You might try to find an east indian influence in the recipe but sadly it will disappoint you.Â The use of tomatoesÂ lends this quick recipe the right amount of tart, acidic profile to balance the piquancy of mustard and nigella. I do not deep fry the fish even though that is how it should be done.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
For the Sauce
Clean the fish. Pat dry with a paper towel and rub with 1 teaspoon mustard oil and turmeric. Set in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Grind mustard and nigella seeds to a powder (not very fine) using your coffee grinder. In a small bowl, mix with garlic, turmeric , ½ teaspoon mustard oil and red chili powder. Add 2 tablespoon water to make a paste. Refrigerate this paste along with fish for 2 hours. (do not skip this refrigeration part)
After 2 hours, take out the fish and mustard paste from the refrigerator and set on the kitchen counter.
In a wide, non stick pan, heat up the 1 teaspoon oil on medium. Layer the marinated fish steaks on the pan and sear both the sides of the steak.About 2 minutes on each side (this time will depend on the variety and thickness of your fish). Put the stove off and let sit.
Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed pan/kadhai, pour the 3 tablespoon mustard oil and heat it on mediumÂ till you see ripples on the surface.Reduce the heat to low, wait for aÂ minute and temper the oil with fenugreek seeds. SautÃ© for 20 seconds till you smell the aroma. Next, reduce heat to low and very carefully add the ground mustard paste. While adding to hot oil, the paste will splutter a lot so be careful.Cook the paste on low heat for 2-3 minutes till you see oil starting to separate on sides of the pan. Add the salt, tomatoes puree and mix well.Let cook on low heat,or about 10-12 minutes, stirring in between so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook the paste till you see oilÂ separating on the sides of the pan as well as it changing color to deep reddish-yellow. Make sure that all the water has evaporated and the masala is thick and shiny. Again, as the tomatoesÂ cook,they splutters a lot, be careful.
Once the paste has cooked, add the water, green chillies, cilantro,check the salt and bring to a boil on medium low heat. Once boiling,add the pan fried fish along with the drippings in the pan if any. Also add the sugar. Cover and let cook for about 5-8 minutes. (this time will depend on the variety and thickness of your fish, cook till the fish is done)
Remove from heat, and let sit for at least an hour before serving. Serve warm with steamed rice. You could squirt some lemon juice at the end if you like.
This looks so good! I had a really wonderful grilled tandori fish this weekend and this looks like it would be as amazing as that was. Beautiful photos.
Thank you Amanda. You made me crave tandoori fish 🙂 Will try to grill some soon!
I haven't eaten fish for a very long time, a decade at least - but your words about the curry and the masala sizzling in the pan - I suddenly remembered the taste. Such a powerful description.
The photos are simply gorgeous too. Your work is really amazing. [Have you thought about doing commercial photo work? I'm serious. :)]
Joyti, I can live on fish, make it at least 2-3 times a week. You should cook some soon!
I am so glad that you like my pictures. Thank you so much.
I don't eat fish (I'm a vegetarian 🙂
Anjana @ At The Corner Of Happy & Harried
This looks so amazing! And I agree, garlic really takes fish curry to another level.
Tanvi, This is funny but yesterday I made your fish curry (the other one with Methi) , It was fantastic - no left over 🙂 Now, you are tempting me with new recipe! Can't wait to try it. Your pictures are gorgeous, as always - love the blue background! I wish we can meet in real life and I can learn art of photography from you 🙂
The recipe has already been printed out and I cannot wait to get to a fishmonger 🙂 ! Hugely appetizing to fish-loving me!! Thanks!
This looks fantastic Tanvi! I really loved the photography! The blue background rocks!
Reblogged this on Hobby Cooks and commented:
Love the colour of the sauce and I am sure the mustard into it will taste fab!
This curry looks divine Tanvi and love your pictures 🙂
Hi Tanvi, the fish curry looks so good. I actually like most of your dishes and also your photographs.
I had a question. I do not have yellow mustard in hand. Can i try this with black mustard or will that make it too pungent? Your advise will be helpful.
Thank you Nilanjana. Using black mustard will make it quite bitter and pungent. I haven't ever used it but if you do please cut down on the quantity than mentioned in the recipe.
I absolutely loved the second last picture. Mustard sauce is a must in a Bengali home but your sauce is different than what we make. I will try making it but not sure if I can convince myself to add garam masala in a mustard sauce. 🙂 Beautiful.
This recipe looks amazing I am going to try it. Lovely photos too
Just wondering why you have to refrigerate the spice paste - what does that do to it?
Ah, sorry about the refrigeration part, you can let it sit on the counter itself for 2 hours. I will modify the recipe, my bad.
Kiran @ KiranTarun.com
I could never resist a delicious fish curry, especially if its made and styled so beautifully 🙂
I want to make this nice dish. Why let sit the fish for at least an hour before serving ? And should you rewarm the fish before serving ?
I just feel that it tastes better once it sits. Yes you need to reward it.
I just had had this fish in a light mustard sauce. And with the steamed broccoli (as you suggested I think). It was just lovely !!! Thank you !!