All these years in Singapore, we didn’t really eat the local fish-head curry very often. We found the curry too spicy with too little fish and too much of the sauce. But this version by Rick Stein, inspired by his Asian trip, is an excellent way of enjoying the flavours and richness of the curry. Make it with cheap, cheerful, sustainable and nutritious mackerel, and its food for the Gods. Stein says that one can use sea bass or other small fish, but I think it’s an excellent way of eating a healthy fish like mackerel.
The curry paste ingredients look daunting, but it’s well worth making as long as you possess the necessary equipment to grind it. Make double the quantity and freeze half. We ate it accompanied by some Thai red rice. Virtuosity at it’s best!
Malaysian Fish Curry with Okra
A delicious mackerel curry, easy to cook once the paste is done. You can complete the recipe up to the point of adding the fish and do that just before serving. Fish fillets, in particular, will take little time to cook. Else do what Stein suggests – use whole gutted fish add to the sauce and cook covered in a 200C preheated oven for about 30 minutes before serving. Either way is fine. Serve with some rice for a complete meal.
Put the coriander, cumin, fennel seeds and black peppercorns into a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Tip the powder into a mini food processor and add the coconut, chillies, garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, sugar and vegetable oil. Blend to a smooth paste.
For the curry:
Sprinkle the fish with salt on both sides and set aside for 20 minutes. Slice the aubergine lengthways into 4 wedges and then each wedge into 1cm thick slices. Wash & dry okra.
Heat the oil in a large wok/deep pan, add the onion, sprinkle with salt and fry until it begins to brown.
Lower the heat and the curry paste and curry leaves and continue to fry gently for another 2 to 3 minutes, staring occasionally. The paste should smell aromatic.
Add the coconut milk, about 2 cups of water, the fresh chillies, okra, aubergine, tomatoes, tamarind water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the mackerel fillet and cook about 10 minutes or so until the fish is cooked through (it will flake easily). Check seasoning and serve garnished with coriander leaves.