Every coastal region in India fries its fish a little differently. Depending on the dominant spices from that region, the marinade or masala takes on subtle variations.
In Kerala, pepper is plentiful. It's a wonderful spice that heats up a whole range of dishes including the simple fried fish. They don't dust the fish with it mildly either. Pepper is used in its fullness and is combined with a mix of spices that brings out its bite and mellows it, all at the same time.
Another wonderful and unusual herb normally found prettily floating on curries is the curry leaf. I'm always amazed by how such a simple herb can change character so drastically depending on the way it is used. This fried fish is delicious on its own as a starter or with a lightly tossed salad like beetroot foogath. Or with the always comforting rice and fish curry.
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 10 curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1/2 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste (or 1 clove grated garlic mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger)
- 4 firm-fleshed fish steaks (such as kingfish), about 4 ounces each
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 lime wedge
Place peppercorns, curry leaves, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coconut in a cast iron skillet and toast on low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Allow mixture to cool. Add turmeric and grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Rub mixture evenly over fish and allow it to marinate for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 hours.
Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. reduce heat to medium-low. Slide in the fish gently and cook, turning once, until cooked through, deep brown, and flesh flakes easily with a fork. The fish should have a deep golden almost charred color. Remove, drain on paper towel-lined plate, and serve immediately with lime wedges.
Cast iron pan, coffee grinder, heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet