Meen Gassi (Fish Curry)
Sour with tamarind, full-bodied with coconut and smoldering with dry red chiles, this dish has roots in the coastal city of Mangalore. In India, a cook might reach for Byadagi chiles from Karnataka to stain the sauce a bright red color. In the United States, chiles de árbol are easier to find. A stone mortar and pestle is the best tool for grinding the curry paste; the finer you can get the coconut and chile, the smoother and richer the texture of the final sauce. From there, the recipe is very adaptable — replace the fillets with any fish you like, including nice oily ones like mackerel or sardines.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1teaspoon kosher salt
- ½teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4skin-on fish fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds total), such as striped bass or snapper
- 1teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon ghee
- 2teaspoons whole coriander seeds
- 6dry red chiles, such as chile de árbol
- 1cup fresh or frozen grated coconut
- 1tablespoon tamarind pulp
- 1small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1(1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1green finger chile (or serrano chile), finely chopped
- 2tablespoons coconut oil
- Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Step 1Mix together the salt and turmeric, then rub the mixture all over the fish and set aside.
Step 2In a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon ghee over medium. Add the coriander seeds and toast until lightly brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Tip into a large mortar and pestle with red chiles and grind to small pieces. Add the coconut a little at a time and smash until no large pieces of chile or coconut are visible and a smooth paste forms. (This texture is worth the effort, as it gives the tangy, hot sauce its richness.) Add the tamarind last and mash to integrate it into the paste.
Step 3Choose a large, heavy skillet that will fit all the fish in a single layer. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee and melt over medium-low heat. Add the onion, ginger and green finger chile, and sauté gently until the onion is cooked through and just starting to color, about 10 minutes.
Step 4Stir in the prepared coconut paste and 2 cups water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the fish to the skillet skin-side up, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently until the fish is cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes depending on thickness, flipping fish halfway through. Spoon the coconut oil on top, and sprinkle with cilantro, if using.