A Malabar Fish and Okra Curry recipe

Make the most of an extremely awkward vegetable, with a spicy and tangy okra and white fish curry. DESIblitz shows you how.

Okra

It's a perfect addition to sauce-based South Asian cooking.

Okra has a bit of a bad rep in the cooking community.

The vegetable also known as ‘lady-fingers’ is often not cooked properly, leading to extremely mixed results.

In the right hands, however, okra can be used to flesh out the texture profile of a number of dishes.

In this case, a delicious sweet and tangy take on the Malabar dish, Mathi Mulakittathu.

Mathi Mulakittathu (serves 4, prep time 15 minutes, cooking time 30 minutes)

Ingredients: 

  • 400-500g white fish cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 200g okra, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic and ginger paste
  • Tamarind water (mix a lime size ball into 1 cup of water, mix well, then squeeze the water out)
  • 3 teaspoons hot chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves

OkraMethod:

  1. In a well oiled pan, put the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies. Stir well and cook until onions are translucent.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes.
  3. Add the chilli powder and turmeric, stir well.
  4. Cook through for 1-2 minutes until the water starts to come out of the tomatoes.okra
  5. Stir in the tamarind water and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the fish and curry leaves, stir well and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  7. In a separate, lightly oiled pan, fry the okra for around 10 minutes or until lightly browned.okra
  8. Stir the okra into the curry when the fish is cooked through.
  9. In another dry pan, toast some mustard and fennel seeds.
  10. Stir the seeds into the curry and serve immediately.okra

While not particularly flexible an ingredient, Okra’s relatively neutral palate and unusual build make it a perfect addition to sauce-based South Asian cooking.

Okra’s unique biological make up and web-like composition give it a lot of surface to soak up the flavours of a dish.

It doesn’t have a particularly strong flavour on its own, but it does possess a certain earthiness, similar to courgette.

However, if cooked the wrong way, Okra’s texture changes for the worse.

The best way to prepare it is to fry it and stir it into your curry only at the very end. Leave it to stew for too long and it can end up being very stringy and difficult to eat.

This recipe normally calls for fresh mackerel, however other fish can be substituted. Pangassius, or Vietnamese river cobbler, is a good alternative. Any fish that will hold together well is a good choice for this dish.

Its flavour profile capitalises on the sweet but slightly sour tang of tamarind, to round off the spice mix and anis after-tones from the fennel seeds.

There is heat to this dish, but it is not pronounced, a component of the dish rather than its flagbearer. A gentle warmth that creeps in without kicking up a fuss.

This dish goes well with rice or naan, but has enough substance to be eaten on its own. The classic condiments are always welcome too.

This okra and white fish dish is a great, filling dish that will satisfy your tastebuds without hurting your waistline. It’s also incredibly easy to make. Enjoy!

Tom is a political science graduate and an avid gamer. He has a great love of science fiction and chocolate, but only the latter has made him gain weight. He has no life motto, instead just a series of grunts.

Photos by DESIblitz. Additional images courtesy of onebitemore

Recipe adapted from Nisa Homey


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