The tamarind tree is native to India. It produces a large brown fruit or pod which contains the tamarind pulp. The use of tamarind (pulp) is very common in Indian food, especially in South Indian cuisine. It imparts a unique sweet, sour and tangy flavor that is absolutely delicious. Tamarind pulp has many health benefits and aids in digestion. It is high in both vitamins B and C and also calcium.
Tamarind fish curry is a favorite among the South Indian coastal regions (Konkan, Kerala and Tamil Nadu). There are slight regional variations to this dish, but this particular recipe is a personal favorite.
Feel free to use your favorite variety of fish or even try using shrimp, scallops or also crabs. Tamarind pulp is easily available in any Indian grocery store in many forms such as tamarind powder, tamarind concentrate and even dried tamarind pulp. If you are unable to find tamarind pulp, you can use fresh lemon juice as a substitute.
TAMARIND FISH CURRY:
1 lb of firm boneless white fish (tilapia, snapper, cod, halibut, swordfish...)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
3-4 small Thai green chillies, split lengthwise in half
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric (haldi)
1/4 tsp red chili powder
2 tsp dried tamarind pulp, soaked in 1/4 cup hot water (or you can use 1 tbsp tam concentrate or 2 tsp tamarind powder)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
2-3 dried red Indian chilies
6-8 fresh curry leaves
salt and pepper to taste
oil, vegetable or canola
water as needed
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
freshly grated coconut for garnish (optional)
Prepare the fish by cutting it into 1.5 to 2 inch pieces. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle the fish pieces with a little salt, pepper and 1 tsp tumeric, mix well and set aside until needed.
Strain the soaking tamarind pulp and reserve any liquid.
In a large deep skillet on medium high heat, add 2-3 tbsp of oil. When hot, carefully add the black mustard seeds. When the splattering subsides, add both the fenugreek seeds and the cumin seeds. Next add the dried red chilies and the curry leaves. Stir fry for a few minutes and add the onions. Keep frying until they are golden brown. Now add the ginger and garlic. Stir fry for a few minutes and then add the remaining turmeric, ground coriander and salt if needed. Stir and add the tomatoes and green chilies. Let cook 4-5 minutes and then add the tamarind (either the rehydrated pulp along with its liquid, tam concentrate or tam powder). Stir well to combine all of the ingredients. Add 1 cup of water or more if required. Bring to a gentle boil and carefully add the pieces of fish. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer 10-12 minutes until the fish are just cooked through. Do not overcook the fish. Gently transfer to a serving platter and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and freshly grated coconut. Serve with fragrant Basmati rice.