Fish Masala

9:53 AM, Aug 3, 2012   |    comments
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From NAMASKAR RESTAURANT AND CATERING Francis Gomes and his father-in-law, Chef Jacob Gomes.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

NOTE: Ruhi is a fresh-water fish that's quite popular in Bangladesh. It is available at MOST OF THE BANGLADESHI GROCERY STORES LOCATED IN WASHINGTON METROPOLITION AREA?? This fish has bones, which are removed when the dish is eaten using your fingers, per Bangladeshi custom.

Chef Jacob Gomes prefers to use freshly pureed garlic and ginger, but youcan use the prepared, refrigerated ginger-garlic paste that's available in Indian and Asian markets. He also calls for toasted ground cumin here; it'sa small, extra step that deepens the flavor of that spice.

Serve this masala with basmati rice.

MAKE AHEAD: The fish needs to marinate for 1 hour. Leftover masala can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.

For the marinade

  • Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lime
  • 1 tablespoon pureed garlic (see headnote)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, pureed ginger root
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
  • 1 pound frozen, skin-on ruhi steaks and belly pieces, defrosted (see
  • headnote; may substitute a firm- white-fleshed fish)

For the masala

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon pureed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon pureed ginger root
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon toasted ground cumin (see NOTE)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red chili powder (optional)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into small dice
  • 1 to 2 cups water
  • Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lime, plus 1 lime cut into half-moon slices,
  • for garnish
  • Thin carrot sticks, for garnish (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro leaves plus whole cilantro leaves, all
  • for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons crisp fried onions, for garnish


For the marinade: 

  1. Stir together the lime juice, the pureed garlic and ginger, salt, turmeric and chili powder, if desired, in a container large enough to hold the fish in a single layer.
  2. Rinse the fish well, then cut into serving-size pieces as needed. 
  3. Add to the marinade and turn to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

For the masala

  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet or saute pan over
  2. medium-high heat, to a temperature of about 325 degrees. Line a plate with several layers of paper towels.
  3. Drain the fish, discarding the marinade. Working in two batches, carefully add the pieces of ruhi to the oil and fry for 2 to 4 minutes, turning them over as needed, so the fish is firm, cooked through and golden (from the turmeric), and the skin around the edges is darkened and crisped. 
  4. Transfer to the paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
  5. Keep the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook for about 8 minutes, until some pieces are browned and the onion picks up some color from the residual turmeric in the oil. If the onion's cooking too quickly, reduce the heat to medium.
  6. Add the pureed ginger and garlic, salt (to taste), turmeric, toasted ground cumin, coriander and the chili powder, if desired; stir to incorporate, then add the tomato and ¼ cup of the water and the lime juice. 
  7. If needed, increase the heat to medium-high; cook, stirring several times, for about 10 minutes, or until the tomato has broken down a bit to form a coarsely textured sauce. 
  8. Add ½ cup water and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often and adding water as needed to keep the sauce loose.
  9. Add the fried fish pieces to the sauce, spooning sauce over the top of them. 
  10. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for about 20 minutes, stirring several times and spooning sauce on top of the fish to keep it moist. The sauce is done when the level of liquid has reduced and the remaining oil is bubbling at the edges.
  11. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the pieces of fish to a medium platter. Spoon the sauce over the top. 
  12. Garnish the edges of the platter with the half-moon slices, the carrot sticks, if desired, and the cilantro leaves. 
  13. Sprinkle the fried onions and chopped cilantro over the dish.
  14. Serve warm.

NOTE: Toast ¼ cup cumin seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until the seeds are lightly browned and quite fragrant. Cool completely, then grind to a coarse powder in a designated spice grinder. Leftover toasted ground cumin can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

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