Goan Fish Curry – (adapt for vegetables, meat & fish)

I am always being asked about Goan recipes, which I love sharing. This recipe for Goan fish curry has a beautiful spicy flavour and can be ready within half an hour, also it is a great curry base to which you customise to make a vegetable curry with cucumber or green beans – or even marrow and prawns (we had some marrows from our garden so I was trying to come up with tasty recipes for this vegetable) You can find Tamarind in many forms and I chose to use the paste made by Barts, which is available in most supermarkets. However, if you are lucky and you have either the real thing you just soak it and use the brown water and also the sticky fruit. It has a sweet our taste which is unique. I know that when you look at the ingredients list it looks daunting, but it is worth it and bashing whole spices is so satisfying and the smell which is released is amazing – I think this is just part of the process for me of being transported to Goa. The spices just embody the heat and warmth of the country and it makes a curry which is multi-dimensional. Which is the real difference between a take away and home made, plus once you master this sauce it is a fantastic base for any curry – meat, fish or vegetable!

Curry Base

  • 2 Garlic cloves (skin removed)
  • 2 tsp Tamarind paste
  • ½ tsp Whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp Whole cumin (or ground cumin/jeera)
  • 2 Red chillies (seeds removed and chopped or fresh chillies if you prefer)
  • 3 cm Piece of ginger (skin removed and chopped)
  • ½ tsp Black pepper
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • 2 inch Slab of Creamed Coconut Block
  • 1 Medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 to Tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • vegetable oil for cooking
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 200-300 g firm white fish (or fish pie mix)
  1. Grind the whole spices of the curry base and set aside
  2. Chop the garlic and the ginger into a small pieces and with a dash of water grind or use a small blender to make a paste set aside.
  3. Roughly chop the coconut block and place in a jug with about 300-400ml of water and stir so it mostly dissolves in the water. I tend to add my already ground spices here like the ground turmeric, black pepper, dried chillies and ground cumin etc. The reason I add them to this marinating coconut water is I find it releases the flavour in the water and therefore when it is added to the paste it just disperses more evenly in the base. If you have ground the whole spices then hold back and them to the frying onions.
  4. Chop the onions into small even cubes and fry gently in the saucepan with the oil, the secret to curries is the frying of the onions and the gently layering and releasing of the spices into this mixture. So fry the onions slowly until they become translucent they may require a little gentle stirring with a wooden spoon if they are sticking to the pan.
  5. Once the onions are clear add the ginger/garlic paste and cook for about a minute until your nose can smell the garlic in the air – stir gently.
  6. Now you are ready to add your ground whole spices, again cook these for about a minute until your nose twitches with the smell of the spices usually about a minute.
  7. Now add the tomato and simmer for about 2 minutes and stir so everything is well mixed and an even temperature.
  8. Now add the coconut block water and spices from the jug and the tamarind water and simmer for 4-5 minutes. The tamarind fruit pieces may not have all completely dissolved depending on the type of tamarind you have used but they will dissolve in the curry – if you are worried about this pulp you can just use the water and discard the pulp.

This is your basic curry base and from this point you can adapt it add fish, meat or vegetables.

  1. Once this is hot and be careful of not boiling this gently add your fish pieces and gently stir the – key is to allow the heat of the curry base to simmer and poach the fish. The fish should remain firm so do try and avoid the temptation to over stir this. if you feel the dish is too dry do add a little boiled water – but do be patient as depending on the fish you use some water will come out of the fish. ( This is particularly the case if you use watery vegetables like Marrows, or defrosted prawns for example)
  2. You can also add salt at this point to taste – but if I use a fish pie mix it usually contains a smoked fish which can be quite salty so I often wait until the dish is cooked to add salt.

Serve with plain boiled rice, Chapatis and plain yoghurt or even just Pappadums.  or if youa re really lucky – Goan Fat Rice-  sounds rude but it is a fatter type f rice than basmatic or Long Grain Rice and is usually red in appearance as it retains the outside husk, usually removed during food production.  The husk is the fibre part of the rice so it is much better for you than white processed rice.

Like all good curries this one tastes so much better the next day as the spices have a real opportunity to fuse together and blend, also the chilli will change taste and spice level. If I am cooking this either for a large group or a dinner party I will sometimes cook the base the night before and then re-heat it when my guests arrive and cook and add the fish fresh.

However you can cook the whole dish and reheat the next day without any problems.

Leftover prawn curry is a delicacy in our house and you can often find us fighting over it the next morning with hot toast! Certain family members have even been caught waking up extra early to ensure they got to the curry first. The next day it becomes thicker as the coconut becomes thicker and the taste is just divine. It may sound disgusting curry for breakfast – but it is worth a try!

You can also freeze this no problems, so make extra and freeze for another day.