fish curry

I love curries but find it so frustrating when I look at the ingredients of store-bought curry pastes.  Even the most authentic and ‘organic’ mixes contain canola / cottonseed / sunflower / ‘vegetable’ oil as the base which rules it out for me.  But as long as you have a good selection of fresh spices, it’s easy enough to whip up your own from scratch, with all the heat and depth of flavour, but without the damaging PUFAs.

Here’s one I adapted from a traditional Indian recipe. It was delicious, easy to make, and had real kick (you can lessen the chilli if you prefer it milder).

Keralan Fish Curry serves 4

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 20 curry leaves
  • 6 shallots, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 x 2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 flat tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 x 400ml can coconut milk (no added guar, vegetable or other gums, E407, carrageenan)
  • 400g chopped bottled tomato or fresh tomato peeled, de-seeded and chopped (approx 8 small ripe roma tomatoes)
  • 1 x 200g can of bamboo shoots*, strained, rinsed thoroughly and excess water squeezed out
  • 750g firm white fish (fresh and wild or organically-farmed if available), skin and bones removed, cut into bite-sized chunks. I used Snapper here, but I’ve also made it with wild Barramundi
  • 1 lime (or 1 small lemon), quartered
  • Optional: chopped coriander leaves to garnish
  1. Heat coconut oil in a large pan / pot and fry the mustard seeds with the curry leaves until the seeds start to ‘pop’.
  2. Add shallots, garlic, ginger, green chilli and cook on low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until softened.
  3. Mix together the chilli powder and turmeric with a splash of water, and then stir into the pot.  Cook for another minute.
  4. Add the coconut milk, tomato, bamboo shoots, salt, 1/4 cup water and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cook for a few minutes until reduced slightly.
  5. Add the fish and simmer gently until just cooked (this won’t take long). Take off the heat.
  6. Ladle into bowls.  Serve with lime wedges and a good sprinkling of coriander leaves.

I like this with a serve of ripe tropical fruit; it perfectly complements and balances the proteins and fats, while also cooling the heat of the spices.  Papaya, honeydew melon, mango or pineapple, sliced thin with a squeeze of lime.  For something more filling, also have with sweet potato; I buy the small orange-flesh ones, throw them in a 180 degree oven, whole, for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until soft to touch.  Scoop out the creamy flesh and discard the jacket.  Spoon your curry juices over this.  If you really must have a grain starch: a small amount of well-cooked rice is a better choice than naan bread.

You could use a combination of fish and shellfish; green king prawns (peeled) and / or mussels work well.  Shellfish are an excellent source of selenium (for T4 to T3 conversion in the liver – your active thyroid hormone), copper (stops your hair from going grey!) and are lower in heavy metals than large fish.  As with all fish, make sure it’s from a clean source (nothing pre-frozen from Thailand).  Fresh white-fleshed fish is fantastic for selenium also.

* I’ve added bamboo shoots to this recipe; they add texture but most importantly I use them for their ability to bind and detoxify estrogen and other endotoxin in the bowel.  Like raw carrots (see my post on carrot salad), bamboo shoots have unique anti-bacterial fiber that lowers inflammation. They also eliminate unused hormones like estrogen, lower serotonin and histamine which in turn lowers the body’s need to produce cortisol. Ultimately this increases the efficacy of progesterone and testosterone.  100g of bamboo shoots daily, cooked into your broth or meals, and/or the carrot salad, can balance hormones and cleanse the system efficiently and economically.  You’ll find sliced canned bamboo shoots in the asian section of your supermarket.