Salmon Coconut Curry
Growing up, my family wasn’t keen on the sweet-spicy flavor profile. My parents were purists. Sweets should stay sweet and spicy should stay spicy. Until we moved to the States, I wasn’t really exposed to the flavor profile. And ever since I tried my first Thai curry and a great chicken and waffles at brunch, I knew there was no going back to the days of puritanical days of keep my spicy separated from my sweets. Similar to Thai cooking, South Indian cooking makes great use of coconut. In curries, in spice mixes, chutneys, and of course, desserts. It can also be spicier and more chili-heavy than other Indian cooking, so coconut milk is a great counterbalance in terms of flavor and heat.
I don’t know how authentically South Indian this is but here is what I do know - I love a good curry and I love salmon. For this dish, I love crisping up fish to get a nice exterior and finishing it up in the sauce for a few minutes. I know the ingredients list can seem a bit intimidating but everything is easily accessible at any grocery store. The key part, like with any good curry, is making a great base, so spend the 15 minutes softening the onions. And the rest really comes together quickly after that, making this one of my go-to weeknight meals. I served this with brown rice and topped it with some peanuts and cilantro.
You can make this with any other type of fish or shrimp. You can also make this with chicken or vegetables - really it’s a great curry base once you get this right, you can basically coconut curry anything (imagine how good your life will be after that, eh?).
2 6 oz fillets of salmon
2 tsp + 1 tsp neutral oil
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp grated garlic
1 plum tomato, roughly chopped
2 green chilies (optional)
small piece of cinnamon
3 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp Madras curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala
6 fl oz coconut milk
1/2 cup hot water
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro and chopped peanuts to garnish
Heat up 2 tsp oil in a pot for a few minutes and add in the whole spices - bay leaf, green cardamom, and cinnamon stick. Heat this for 30 secs. Add in the cumin seeds and brown briefly for 15-30 secs.
Next, add in the onions and the green chilies and sprinkle with a little salt. Cook it well on medium heat for 15 mins. Stir this every 15 mins or so and if it’s getting stuck to the pan, add in a little bit of water to loosen it up.
Then add the grated ginger and garlic and cook for 4-5 mins. Be careful to not burn the garlic; if needed, turn down the heat a little bit. Next, add the plum tomato and another small splash for water; cook for 5 mins to soften the pieces.
While the tomatoes are cooking, crisp up the salmon in a non-stick pan.In a cold pan, drizzle half of the remaining 1 tsp of oil and sprinkle a little salt on the pan. Place the piece of fish on the pan skin side down and turn the heat on to medium and cook for 7 mins on one side. While it’s cooking on the bottom. drizzle some more oil on the top of the fish and season with salt and pepper. Then flip to cook the top for 4-5 mins and then turn off the heat and set aside.
Back in the pot, add in the spices - Madras curry powder, coriander powder and cayenne pepper. Mix well and cook for 2-3 mins. Then add in the coconut milk and hot water and bring the pot to a boil. Taste and season with salt. Next, add the garam masala and lime juice and mix well.
Lastly, place the fish in the sauce flesh side down and cook for 4-5 mins. Serve over rice and top with the chopped peanuts and cilantro.