Flaky spiced fish

This is an old family dish that is essentially impossible to find anywhere else. Basically everyone who has tried it has fallen under its magical spell– it has a cult following in my family and among my friends who have managed to convince me to share it with them.

It’s not much to look at, but the fat from the fish and the spices gives it a really nice round flavor. It’s hard to think of an equivalent, but it’s supposed origins are from the rural parts of India (my mom grew up in the city so it’s unclear how she picked it up). It’s quite simple to make. I’ve made it with and without curry leaves and there isn’t much of a difference that I can taste. If you can find it use it, if not a reasonably stocked spice cabinet is more than enough. I’ve been struggling for  years to try and cook the classic indian dish partially for sabotage reasons (perhaps another day) and also partially because it’s really hard to have everything on hand and it never tastes quite the same with substitutions. BUT this dish is quite straightforward which is something I can appreciate.

FYI: It is… impossibly moreish with white rice.

Fish Poriul (aka Flaky Spiced Fish)

Makes 2 servings
.75 lb of salmon
1 medium – large red onion finely diced. The onion must be red. Do not try this with white/yellow onions. They tend to sweeten up as you cook them slowly and it just doesn’t work well in this dish.
1/2 cup of ripe tomatoes diced. I would suggest using fresh tomatoes as sometimes the preservatives added to the canned tomatoes make it so that the tomatoes don’t really break down. I would say if you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes, tomato juice or puree would be a better substitute.
6-8 cloves of garlic finely chopped
6 tsp. coriander powder
2-3 tsp. of chili powder (brown person chili powder which is literally just ground chilis – this is supposed to add heat so adjust to taste. This is not a time to use Kashmiri chili powder which is more often for color than heat. More info)
Salt to taste ~1 tsp.
4 curry leaves – chopped/torn to release flavor
handful of chopped cilantro to finish
Steam the fish.
On medium low heat add 5-7 T. of neutral oil (if you are using nonstick you don’t need as much, but add more if at any point it looks super dry). Cook down the onions and garlic ~10-15 min (use lid to keep moisture locked in) with the curry leaves if using. Add the tomatoes. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down.
Add the coriander powder + chili powder and cook for a few minutes (the raw spices will end up grainy in the final dish, so definitely cook it for a few min to avoid this)– it is okay if it looks at little dry at this point.
Inline image 4
(so dry, so ready for delicious fish)
Flake the fish using a fork. You want the bits to be quite small so they can be coated in the delicious spice mixture. Add the fish to the spice mixture and mix it well.
Cook for a few minutes on low heat + add salt. Add a handful of chopped cilantro if you want and mix it through after you take it off the heat.
Serve with rice. It’s best if you wait for it to cool off a little.


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