Sunday, February 14, 2016

Maach er Malai Curry - Fish Cooked in Coconut Milk

Use any white fish steaks or pieces in this delicious coconut milk gravy which tastes best served on a bed of steamed Basmati rice. I've used catfish, rock cod and telapia fish, all with excellent results. 

Freshly grated coconut tied in muslin cloth and squeezed to extract the milk works the best, but in the Western hemisphere, canned coconut milk is most readily available and makes a good substitute for fresh coconut. If coconut milk is not available, unsweetened evaporated (not condensed) milk can be used as a substitute.

This same process can also be used with chicken legs and thighs for another variation of malai curry, which is also true for shrimp, which is especially delectable. 

The fish I used today came from a membership supermarket (Costco/Sam's Club) in a 3 lb. fresh pack. I sliced them up, divided them between 3 Ziploc bags, seasoned them with turmeric powder and salt and froze them for later use. Thawed in the sink, it makes life much easier when it comes time to cook. 

1 (16 oz.) pkg. fillets of any white fish, cut into 8-10 pieces.
1/4 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste

1 tsp. ginger paste
1/2 tsp. ground cumin-coriander powder
1/2 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/paprika
1/2 tsp. Bengali garam masala (ground cinnamon, cardamom & cloves)

salt to taste

1 (14 oz.) can coconut or unsweetened evaporated milk
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 russet potato, peeled & cut into chunks
1/2 tsp. nigella/kalonji seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tomato, diced
8-10 torn curry leaves (if available) or a handful of chopped cilantro
3 whole/slit green chilies or to taste


  1. Toss fish with salt & turmeric, lightly fry in 2 Tbsp. oil & set aside.
  2. Do the same with the potatoes.
  3. Dilute ginger, cumin-coriander & paprika in some water & set aside. 
  4. Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat & sputter nigella seeds and cinnamon stick.
  5. Add green chilies and fry until they blister, remove and set aside.
  6. Add curry leaves & fry for a minute (if using cilantro, set aside for garnishing later on).
  7. Stir-fry onion slices until translucent then add tomatoes & cook until oil reappears around the edges.
  8. Add diluted ginger paste mixture and salt & stir-fry until oil resurfaces.
  9. Add potatoes back to the skillet, stir well, cover and cook until al dente.
  10. Pour coconut or evaporated milk into skillet, along with garam masala, stir & bring to a boil.
  11. Return fish pieces to pan, lower heat to medium-low & return to a simmer.
  12. Cover the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes until potatoes are cooked.
  13. Garnish with slit chilies & cilantro (if curry leaves are not used) and remove from heat.
Serve over steamed basmati rice.

Lightly fry fish and set aside
Lightly fry potatoes and set aside

Sputter nigella seeds,
green chilies & cinnamon stick

Stir-fry onions & tomatoes
Add ginger paste
Oil appears around edges
Return potatoes to skillet

Cook potatoes until al dente

Pour coconut milk &
garam masala over potatoes
Return fish to pan and simmer

Garnish with green chilies


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