This fish fry with prominent flavour of curry patta is a party in the mouth. Tingling mix of heat and tartness, intense flavour of curry patta seeped deep into the fish makes it a real treat.
I first tasted it when a Malyali friend had invited us home and due to some emergency we had to cancel the dinner that day. She just sent me a dabba of marinated fish that she had planned to fry that evening because she wanted us to taste her special recipe. She just instructed me to shallow fry these fish steaks in sesame oil and enjoy with some cucumbers.
When I opened that dabba ( a steel box) lined with banana leaves, I was in for a surprise as the fat fish steaks were covered with a coarse paste of curry patta, lot of chilly flakes, crushed peppercorns and bits of tamarind was also visible. I immediately understood why she categorically told me to have it with cucumbers. Yes cucumbers and some buttermilk blended with fresh coconut and more curry patta were the things that saved our palate that day, the fish fry was so hot that our noses turned red and we kept eating unperturbed, with sips of the buttermilk and bites of cucumber in between.
I have cooked this recipe several times since then, about a decade to be precise. And somehow I end up using a similar steel dabba to marinate this fish. Food is often more about pleasant memories than the other things.
I have toned down the heat of this fish fry to suit my preference.
(2 servings as a meal with some salad and stir fry on the side)
large fat steaks of fish ( I used Catla) about 400 gm : fish fillet would also work
curry patta 20 springs or more
garlic cloves 2-3
fresh ginger root chopped 2 tsp
dry red chillies 2-3 or as per taste
black pepper corns 1 tsp
chopped bits of dry tamarind 1 tbsp or a bit more
salt to taste
sesame oil to shallow fry about 2 tbsp or even less
blend everything together coarsely except the fish. Do not add water, taste and adjust the heat and sourness in the marinade.
Smear over the fish and refrigerate overnight.
At the time of serving, heat a skillet ( I used cast iron skillet) with sesame oil brushed over it. Spread the fish pieces along with a coating of marination over it and let it cook each side for about 5-6 minutes. Test by pricking the fish and serve hot with cucumbers, other salads or whatever you feel like.
**I generally cover the shallow frying fish with a dome lid and let it cook on medium flame, flip it after a while and then cook uncovered. This ensure even cooking in very less oil.
You can even deep fry these fish, I have done it for larger gatherings and it has turned out perfectly well. Just make sure you dust the marinated fish with a very thin layer of besan (chickpea flour) just before dipping the fish steaks into hot oil. Fry till light brown, drain on kitchen paper and serve as required.
We had a nice alu palak with this meal because there has been so much great tasting home grown spinach that I cannot just ignore the goodness for anything else. This alu palak was made with some yogurt blended with steamed spinach and it was wonderfully delicious.
The curry patta infused fish fry tastes great with just about any fish, but I end up making it with firm and fat steaks just as my friend had made. The extra marinade gets nicely browned and you would look for all the crumbs in the skillet, every last crumb will be mopped off trust me.
Do let me know whenever you make this curry patta infused fish fry. I am sure you would remember my friend that way too!!!