Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tanzanian Fish Curry

I came across this recipe during my search for new African dishes to try and recreate at home.  This dish stood out. I love curry and fish.

There were several variations of the Tanzanian Fish Curry recipe on the web. Some recipes required marinating the fish in garam masala along with lemon, salt and pepper.  Others included coconut milk as part of the sauce.  I also found one recipe that fried the fish in batter first before adding it to the sauce.  The recipe I ultimately used omitted all these options.  Marinating the fish with salt & pepper and lemon seemed to suffice and although I actually had coconut milk in hand when I first cooked this dish, I opted to exclude it after tasting the tomato rich curry sauce from the pan and found it great as is.  The battered fish variation does appeal to me and I may still try it in the future, but I decided to stick with simply poaching the fish in the sauce.

The one thing I did alter from all of the recipes I've found on the web was the replacing the fish stock with vegetable broth.  To be honest, I was too lazy to make fish stock and opted for grocery bought vegetable broth as a substitute. I also included a teaspoon of fish sauce (a common condiment in Asian cooking that can be found in most major groceries or Asian markets) along with the vegetable broth, but I did exclude that item from the recipe ingredients below.  I do not think the fish sauce is necessary.

If Red Snapper fillets are not readily available, try this dish with other common white fish such as Cod, Halibut, or Petrale Sole fillets.  All are mild flavored fish that should work well with this dish which depends heavily on the rich tomato, curry, peppers and ginger flavor of the sauce.

It is the tomato curry red sauce with a hint of peanut butter and spiced with peppers that makes this dish delicious.  The traditional choice of fish for this recipe is a whole Red Snapper, Bream, or Porgy.  Other fish options to consider are Cod, Halibut and Petrale Sole fillets. All are mild flavored fish that should work well with this saucy dish.  In this variation, I chose to use deboned fish fillets to simplify and speed up the cooking process while eliminating the need to debone the fish on one's plate.  The advantage of cooking the fish whole or in steaks is to keep the meat moist.  Cooking fish fillets over a simmering sauce could cause it to dry out and result in a chalky texture.  To prevent this, I kept the heat at a very low simmer and poached the fish in a covered pan to prevent the moisture from escaping.  I also removed the fish once it was cooked and continued to simmer the sauce to my liking. I found this method to work just as well, but you may opt to also try using thicker fish steaks and cooking the dish for a bit longer.

Tanzanian Fish Curry

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Marination Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 30 minutes


1 lb. Fish Fillets (boneless)
Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Yellow Onion Diced
3 Garlic Cloves Chopped
4 Tablespoons Curry Powder
14 oz Can Diced Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter Creamy
1 Green Pepper Sliced
1 Serrano Pepper Roughly Chopped
1/2 Inch Long Ginger Sliced
2 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
Chopped Cilantro and Crushed Unsalted Peanuts to garnish

Step 1: Marinating the Fish -- Cut the fillets into 2 inch cubes. Place in a bowl and add salt & pepper to your preference and the juice from one lemon. Combine the ingredients to make sure the fish meat is well spiced. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Step 2: Cooking the Sauce -- Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauce pan or pot.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft and transparent (3-4 minutes).  Add the curry powder and stir the ingredients until well combined.  Pour in the can of tomatoes including juices.  Add the creamy peanut butter and stir the ingredients again until the peanut butter is dissolved.  Add the Bell peppers, Serrano pepper, ginger and 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth.   Stir the sauce well and let simmer uncovered at medium heat for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Cooking the Fish -- Reduce the heat to low and carefully add the fish fillets to the surface of the sauce.  Cook covered at low heat for an additional 8-10 minutes.  This step will slowly poach the fish and keeping the pan covered will prevent the fish from drying out.  Note: Using thin fish fillets such as Petrale Sole will only require a short time to cook, but using thicker fish steaks such as Halibut may require more time to cook.

Once the fish is cooked the dish is ready to be served.  Garnish the dish with cilantro and crushed peanuts and serve with a side of rice.   If you like your sauce a little thicker, you can opt to remove the fish from the pan and simmer the sauce on high to reduce and thicken.

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