Cooking, Curry, and Curves
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
When I was growing up, much like Sita, the protagonist of An Unlikely Goddess, being Indian was not cool. People didn’t have the knowledge about Indian food or culture that they do now. This was long before Madonna started wearing bindis or Deepka Chopra on Oprah. My favorite foods were often deemed too smelly to eat in front of my American friends.
Thankfully those times have changed – now everyone wants to know the secret to my curries! Because of scent, especially in spicy South Indian dishes, food can become a marker, a boundary between ourselves (or doorway) and others.
You’ll have to read Sita’s story to see which one it is for her. ;)
I’m sharing my fish curry recipe below in case you want to give South Indian cooking a try. It’s everyday easy – I should know, I made it often in graduate school – and a great place to start if this is your first attempt at curry.
Fish Curry Recipe:
· 4 fillets of white fish (Tilapia or similar)
· 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
· Kosher salt
· 11/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
· 3 medium cloves garlic chopped finely
· 1-2 tomatoes (depends on how much you like tomatoes)
· 1 medium sized yellow or white onion
· 1 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
· 1 teaspoon coriander powder
· 2 teaspoons cumin powder
· 1 teaspoon toasted and ground fenugreek
· 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
· 1 tablespoon tamarind soaked in 1 1/2 cup water or tamarind juice
Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and stir until transparent; cook onions as well until translucent. Add mustard seeds and wait for them to pop (be careful, if the oil is hot, can sting!), will take less than 30 seconds.
Stir in tomatoes and sauté. In quick succession, add red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, and fenugreek, and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. The spices should form a paste around the onions and tomato. Reduce heat to low.
Add the fish to the spiced oil mixture and stir gently to coat the fish with the oil. Add the tamarind and gently stir the mixture to combine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce hear to simmer uncovered for 1 minute then remove from heat. Serve hot with white rice.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Mohana!
You can find Mohana and her books here: