Tart tamarind and mild, tender fish are a classic pairing in Indian cuisine. Here, the fruit provides a welcome contrast to a spice blend of coriander, chili powder, cumin, fennel seeds, and turmeric. Though the amount of tamarind might initially seem excessive, the sourness actually mellows as the curry simmers, the sauce greedily absorbed by a finishing addition of fluffy white rice.
The dish is traditionally served with fried fish, shrimp, or even squid. In some homes, the fish head is also used in the curry base, ensuring that the whole fish is put to good use. In small hotels that specialize in seafood, the spicy, tangy rassa, or curry, is so popular that it's dished out in unlimited quantities.
- 4 fillets king fish (or any firm fleshed sea fish) about 6 ounces each
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Kosher salt
- 11/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 medium cloves garlic sliced fine
- 6 curry leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon toasted and ground fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon tamarind soaked in 1 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons rice flour dissolved in 1/4 cup water
In a bowl, toss fish with turmeric and salt. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add curry leaves and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Reduce heat to low. In quick succession, add red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, and fennel powder, and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute (take care not to burn the spices. Add a few teaspoons of water if you smell burning and stir it vigorously).
Add the fish to the spiced oil mixture and stir gently to coat the fish with the oil. Let this infuse for about 10 seconds. Add the tamarind soaked water and gently stir the mixture to combine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at a boil add the rice flour dissolved in water and stir. Allow to simmer uncovered for 1 minute then remove from heat. Serve hot with white rice and papadums.