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Coconut Fish Curry with Tomatoes

Posted Nov 17 2011 9:24am

After I spent the morning at the local library, sitting cross-legged in a circle at the 'Mommy and Me Christmas Musical' sing-a-long, I came home and flopped into my chair exhausted from being in a room with 20 squawking babies all morning. I poured myself a glass of wine (which is probably not a good habit to start at 12 o'clock in the afternoon). As I peered out the front window, I saw a sad young woman crying on her doorsteps. My heart was in pieces.

I told little M to run over there and offer her some chocolate, maybe she could also find out the scoop. We quickly began over analyzing the situation and came to the conclusion that it is most likely a domestic violence case, which some previous evidence has led us to believe. After crying for five minutes on the front porch, she slowly dragged herself with much effort, down the stairs to her mother-in-laws apartment. Of course she can't go back upstairs - we thought.
Not even 5 minutes later, a cop car pulled in the driveway and we were now absolutely convinced of a domestic violence case. The woman came running out of the house, with her husband nowhere to be seen. After conversing with the police officer for a few minutes, out of no where comes the husband bursting from the front door. At this point, we are feeling good about the situation.  Finally some justice. We are hoping that the officer will drag him away in hand-cuffs.
The woman gathered her things and exited the house with the police officer, we are totally thinking that she is probably going to a shelter or somewhere safe, but then unexpectedly, the police officer asked her to put her hands on the car, he emptied out her pockets, hand-cuffed her, and threw her in the back seat ?!?!? He arrested her and took her away. But, wait, what, where did she go? What's happening?

In order to suppress my curious nature and take my mind off the situation, I knew that I needed to cook, because I sure as heck wasn't going back to any more baby sing-a-longs. I made something fierce and spicy. Full of flavor, color, and character. I made a gorgeous fish curry with tomatoes, shallots, coconut, and spices. I made some beautifully fluffy jasmine rice. I washed the rice before cooking, to help remove some of the starch. This makes the rice less sticky and more delicate in my opinion.
The original recipe called for 1 green chili and 5 - 6 curry leaves, but unfortunately I couldn't find any at the grocer. Despite these minor set backs, the curry turned out flavorful, delicate, rich and creamy. The fish was cooked to perfection, flaky and soft, while soaking up all of the delicate flavors of the spices
After I finished this gorgeous meal, my glass of pinot gris, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to put the earlier drama out of my mind. In my quest for Internet awesomeness, I became totally addicted to this site

{recipe adapted from  Vazhayila }

3 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
3 small shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 inch piece ginger, chopped
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 lb (1 -2) fish fillets, preferably a mild tasting white fish
1 tomato quartered or cut into eighths 


1. In a frying pan, on medium heat, fry the mustard seeds in canola oil until they start to pop.

2. Add the cumin seeds and fry for one minute.

3. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, and fry for 5 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, add the chili powder, coriander powder, and turmeric. The original recipe calls for 1 chili and 5 curry leaves, add if you can get your hands on curry leaves and a green chili if you like it hot. Add a tbsp of water and stir to make a paste. Add the paste to the frying pan and fry for 2 - 3 minutes.

5. Add the coconut milk and water to the frying pan and stir. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

6. Cut the fish into small pieces and lay flat in the pan. Add the sliced tomato. You want the coconut milk and water to cover the fish. Add more if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Simmer covered for 15 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit covered for 30 minutes. Serve with rice.

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