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Pamban fish curry

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Pamban is a small town on the island of the same name and is famous for its fishing port and as the first stop on the pilgrimage to Rameshwaram. Since this is primarily a fishing port, it is home to a large fish market as well, albeit a stinky one.

This fish curry is complex, very complex. the spices are numerous and the cooking technique involves lots of steps, but the curry is superb. It plays with bold flavours, chillies, tamarind and coconut to name a few, all coming together in a lovely sauce that smothers the fish. This is the fish curry you will dream about and one you will make again.

Ammi is a stone mortar and pestle, but the word also means unconditional love and affection expressed in several ways including cooking food for family and friends. This cookbook is an ode to the author's mother's recipes that have been preserved for future generations. The book travels through her mother's life and memories, and the recipes span South Indian, Singaporean, Asian and European, at various points. The recipes are spectacular, most of them are easy to make and the food is delicious. This is a cookbook for those who are looking for something different.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.




Ingredients:

2 lb fish fillets, seer, tuna, mackerel or butterfish

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1/2 lime


For the curry paste:

4 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

10 black peppercorns

1/2 cup grated fresh coconut

3 tablespoons poppy seeds


1 tablespoon ginger paste

8-10 garlic cloves

2 tomatoes, chopped


5 + 10 shallots, peeled


For the temper:

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1-inch cinnamon stick

4 cloves

4 green cardamom pods

10-12 curry leaves

5-7 green chillies, finely sliced

2 tablespoons tamarind paste


Salt, to taste

3 cups water


Marinate the fish in turmeric, salt, and lime juice for 30 minutes.


dry roast the whole spices, coriander, cumin, peppercorns, coconut and poppy seeds individually till lightly toasted and aromatic. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a spice mill.


Add the powder, ginger, garlic, 5 shallots, and tomatoes to a small blender and purèe to a smooth paste. Do not add water, you are looking for a thick paste. Set aside.


Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the mustard seeds, they will begin to pop in 20 seconds. Add the fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and curry leaves and cook for 30 more seconds.


Add the green chillies and fry for 30 seconds, then add the curry paste. Cook on low heat until the paste is thick, the oils begin to pool on the sides, and the paste darkened slightly. The kitchen should have a lovely aromatic aroma from the spices frying. Add the tamarind and cook for 3 minutes.


Add the salt and water and bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes with the lid closed till the curry has thickened and the oils are beginning to pool on the surface.


Taste for salt and spices and adjust as needed. the curry should be potent, spicy, tart and full of flavour.


Add the fish and cook for 3-4 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Serve immediately with rice.

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