Achari tamarind fish curry

Achari Tamarind Fish Curry



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Growing up in a coastal city, I was blessed with the seawater treasures of the Arabian Sea and the freshwater fish from the beautiful River Indus, which is steeped in the history of the Indus Valley civilization – one of the oldest civilizations of the old world. Fishing is one of the main livelihoods of the coastal people. We are lucky enough to source juicy jumbo prawns, crabs, lobster and some regional fish like pomfert and barracuda from the Arabian Sea and pallah fish from the rivers in Hyderabad.

When most people think of Pakistani food, they usually think of meat-based dishes, but we have a surprisingly rich seafood cuisine, with recipes that are unique and different to Indian seafood dishes. Lahori fried fish is a local street food delicacy that is coated with a delicious batter and fried. Spicy prawn karahi’s are another local delicacy. My best memories are of crabbing trips to Karachi port, where you head out on a boat to catch crabs, which are then prepared for you in a delicious red chilli, cumin and lemon-based masala.

Here, I share with you a fish curry recipe that I grew up with at home. This recipe is born from the love of pickle or ‘achar’, as it’s called in Urdu and is condiment that few Pakistani dining tables would be without. We would go to the fish bazaar in the morning and the fish – that had only just arrived from the fisheries – would be on our plates within a few hours – that’s the beauty of living by a coastal town! This is a dish that brings those achar flavours into a fish curry. It is best made with a solid white fish like halibut or hake, as white fish allows the achar flavours to be infused into the fish, creating a thick and warming curry.

To begin, roughly grind together the spices for the spice mix in a pestle and mortar or electric grinder and set aside. Mix together the lemon, turmeric, chilli powder, tamarind paste and sea salt, then rub this mixture over the fish fillets and leave to marinate for about an hour
Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat and fry the onions until browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Set aside
Using the same oil, pop in the nigella seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chilli. When they start to splutter, add the ginger and garlic and cook until lightly browned, do not let the ginger and garlic burn. Add the lime pickle and green chillis and cook for a further minute
Stir in the yoghurt and cook on a medium heat until the oil separates from the curry sauce and the yoghurt is cooked through. Add a splash of water if the curry is getting too thick. Add the fish and onions, cover and cook on a low heat until the fish is nearly cooked through
Sprinkle over the ground spice mix, cover and cook for a final 2-3 minutes, or until the fish is cooked though. When ready to serve, return the onions to the wok and reheat
Serve the curry with fragrant Basmati rice or naan bread
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