Amma’s fish curry was sliced fish simmered in a dark, fiery tamarind sauce. While family recipes vary, this fish curry recipe includes brinjal (eggplant). When paired with tamarind, it results in a characteristic sour taste and the latter accounts for it‘s black colour hence the name black fish curry. We ate fish curry with Kali, a thick porridge (mealie pap) made from maize meal, it was shaped into mounds and dotted with butter.
How to make Fish Curry like Amma
Growing up, Amma‘s fish curry was associated with the end of the fasting period (Purtassi). We also had it after a fishing trip. My younger sister and I often accompanied our father on fishing trips to the local dam. We got to witness Amma clean and cook the fish. Like all recipes, she specific ways of doing things. When it came to fish curry it had to be cooked in the fish curry pot, a flat pot which gently steamed the fish.
Spices used were a blend known as fish curry spice. I used Durban masala for this recipe, it has all essential spices need for a fiery curry. This recipe uses minimal water and should be cooked on low heat to avoid overcooking the fish. The basis for the sauce is ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes. I recommend peeling then grating the tomatoes. This results in a thick luscious gravy without excess water.
Fish Curry Ingredients
The three main ingredients that give this curry its character and taste are the type of fish used,tamarind and brinjal.
Fish is the main component of this dish. I recommend using fresh fish.It does not have to be fresh off the boat, but market fresh fish is better than frozen fish for this recipe. The latter tends to be rather dry.This curry can be made with any type of fish (except mackerel or sardines). The fish should be sliced into minimum 3cm slices otherwise they tend to break apart. I used Atlantic Cod for this recipe.
Tamarind gives this curry its unique sour taste. It is best to use black tamarind if you prefer a dark curry otherwise it appears brown, I also recommend tamarind fruit rather than paste. The latter is more concentrated. Follow the exact measurements otherwise the curry could end up too sour.
For this recipe I recommend Machiaw or Fairytale, the long type or Barbarella and Nubia, the small round ones. The brinjal should be sliced into long strips.
Fish Curry with Tamarind Recipe
Durban Fish Curry
- 4 slices of fish of choice I used Atlantic Cod
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon of Durban Masala (use more masala if you prefer a hot curry. Or use fresh green chillies)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger and garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 6 large ripe tomatoes, de skinned and grated
- 1 cup of water for tamarind
- 2 tablespoons black tamarind
- 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 6 thin long brinjal or brinjal sliced vertically
- Half cup of water
- 6 curry leaves
- chopped shallots to garnish
- Prepare the tamarind. Place in a bowl then add the cup of water. Allow to soak. After a few minutes run your fingers through the tamarind,mixing with the water. Drain and remove seeds and undissolved pulp.
- Prepare the tomatoes, Soak in boiled water for 15 minutes then remove the skin. Cut in half and remove excess water and seeds. Grate and set aside.
- Heat a heavy-based flat pan on medium heat.
- Add mustard seeds. Roast until the seeds pop. Remove the seeds from the pot, set aside.
- Add the oil, once warm, add the onions. Fry until soft and slightly brown.
- Add the mustard seeds and ginger and garlic and curry leaves Fry for a minute or two.
- Add the Durban masala. Fry for a minute or two until the spice separate s from the oil.
- Add the grated tomatoes. Cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tamarind water. Cover and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes until thick and the oil bubbles through to the surface.
- This is the best stage to add the fish and sliced brinjal. Place the fish and brinjal around the edge of the pot. Cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid then spoon sauce over the fish occasionally to coat in the sauce.
- After 25-minutes of cooking, remove from heat and serve with Kali.
Sat. Fat (grams)
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How to Cook Kali
Kali is made with a similar technique as Phutu. Maize meal is added to boiling water then cooked until a thick porridge-like texture forms. After cooking, the kali is moulded into shape. For this recipe makes 2 servings.
Kali (pap) much like ugali, requires specific technique. It involves alot of mixing, brace yourself for a good hand workout.
When you add the maize meal to the water, you have to continue mixing until all lumps are flattened to form a thick soji like texture.
- 11/2 cups of water
- 2 cups of maize meal
- pinch of salt
- Bring water to boil. Add salt and maize meal.
- Combine to form a thick mixture.
- Cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Spoon into a plate, use a wet hand or spoon to form into shape. Make a thumb imprint in the middle and dot with butter. Enjoy with fish curry.
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