Piquant fish fry (Tikha maslyati tali macchi)
Fried fish in its infinite variations exists all along the large coast of India. The recipes and fish change depending on the local availability of the oceans and local spices, but each recipe is superb. The beaches in India are usually lined with small stalls that have a basic kitchen, just a small fire and a few pans, and the fried fish that emerges from these shacks is outstanding. It could be the freshness of the seafood, the experience of the chef, or the fact that you have your toes buried in the sand and a chilled bottle of Kingfisher in your hand. Whatever the ambience and reason, fried fish all along the coast dominates coastal cuisine.
This recipe from the Western coast is no exception. Spicy enough to make you sweat, boldly flavoured and moist, this fish is best eaten with rice and a light dal to tone down your palate. I particularly like to drench the fish in the fried masalas and the oil for even more bang on my palate. Yes keep those Kingfisher bottles handy, you will need them.
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2 lb whole fish or fillets, surmai, mackerel or red snapper
2-3 tablespoons oil
Lime wedges to serve
For the spice paste:
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons lime juice
5-6 green chillies, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
Salt, to taste
2-3 tablespoons water
Mix all the ingredients for the spice paste in a small blender. Blend till you have a smooth thick paste. Do not make the paste too runny.
If using whole fish, cut 3-4 diagonal slits into the fish on each side. Rub the spice paste into the fish getting the paste into the cut grooves. If using fillets rub the paste all over them. Marinate for 2 hours in the fridge.
Heat a large frying pan with the oil on medium-low heat. Add the fish or fillets to the pan and cover it with a lid. Fry for 5-7 minutes for the whole fish, and 3-4 minutes for the fillet. Turn over and fry for the same time with the lid covered. Once the fish is cooked through, remove the lid and turn the heat up to high. Fry each side for 30 seconds to crisp the outside, but take care the masala does not burn.
Serve immediately with lime wedges.