Fish with Coconut & Tamarind Sauce

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is not the post I’d planned for this week. On a recent visit to my local gourmet market I had a list in my head of what I needed to pick up for dinner that evening. But it all changed when I strolled past the fish counter.

And when I say stroll past, I invariably end up stopping to see what beauties are on offer. My local market has two fresh deliveries of seafood every day. It’s important when you’re buying fish or seafood to have a reliable provider who you know will have the freshest produce.

On this particular day the ocean had brought them blue cod. Although blue cod is endemic to New Zealand it is more commonly found in the waters of the South Island and so not always available in Auckland. Such a treat when it is. I couldn’t resist. My plan for dinner that night was changed in an instant.

Tamarind and coconut is a favourite combination of mine, particularly in a fish curry. But I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of simply incorporating the cod as part of a curry I wanted it to be the major player of the dish. And so here we have it – pan-fried blue cod with a coconut and tamarind sauce. The sauce is beautifully aromatic – but not overpowering. Too much heat or spice and there is a danger of it completely overwhelming the cod.

If you’re unfamiliar with tamarind as an ingredient, it comes from a tree native to Africa that grows pod-like fruit. The pulp from inside the pod is used to make tamarind paste. I always have some on hand because I use it in so many dishes. It is wonderfully sweet and sour and provides a unique flavour. You’ll see it show up a lot in Indian and South-East Asian cooking.

Hands down it is one of my favourite ingredients. Pair it with coconut milk and that’s when the magic starts to happen. The key with any curry or sauce of this nature is to get the balance right. There should be sourness, sweetness, heat and a salty element to add depth and bring all the flavours together.

This dish would be a standout for a mid-week meal because it is incredibly quick. But so beautiful and satisfying that I would be more than happy to serve it to friends. Not sure I would recommend cooking it for a crowd though. The idea of pan-frying enough fish to feed a horde sends a shiver of dread through me.

And speaking of the fish element for this dish – I was lucky enough to get my hands on this beautiful blue cod. It has a subtle but robust flavour and its texture is firm – which is to say it won’t fall apart on you – but delicate enough to have that melting texture when it’s cooked just right. You can see how beautifully it flakes.

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Substitute the blue cod for a favourite white fish with similar qualities.

 

Fish with Coconut and Tamarind Sauce

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2-3 white fish fillets (depending on their size)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Coconut and Tamarind Sauce

  • Dash of vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 long red chilli, deseeded
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cm piece of fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • Salt, to taste
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander

 

Method

  1. Peel the shallots, garlic clove and ginger and roughly chop. Place in a food processor along with the deseeded chilli. Blitz until you have a paste/pulp.
  2. Combine the cumin, coriander, garam masala and ground ginger in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Add a dash of vegetable oil to a pan large enough to take the fish fillets once the sauce is made. Add the paste and fry over a medium heat until softened and aromatic.
  4. Now add the spices and stir through the paste until well combined. Allow to fry for a few minutes to cook off the spices.
  5. Stir through the tamarind paste and brown sugar.
  6. Slowly add the coconut milk, blending it well as you go to create a sauce. Bring to heat and simmer until it has thickened. You want this to be the consistency of a sauce as opposed to a wet curry.
  7. Add salt to season – a little at this stage. You can taste later.
  8. While the sauce is simmering you can cook the fish. Simply season the fillets and rub over a little vegetable oil. Place in a hot frying pan and cook on each side until lightly golden and just cooked. It’s difficult to give a time because it depends on the thickness of your fillets. My blue cod only took a few minutes each side. Watch it closely! You can flake one of the fillets with a fork to check if you’re unsure.
  9. Roughly chop a small bunch of fresh coriander and stir through the sauce. Have a taste and check the seasoning. Does it need more salt? Perhaps a little extra brown sugar if you want more sweetness.
  10. Carefully transfer the fillets from the frying pan and lay them in the sauce to serve. Sprinkle over extra fresh coriander for garnish.

Take to the table just as it is. And I would suggest serving this gorgeous dish with nothing more than plain rice and steamed greens – broccolini or green beans would be lovely here.

Enjoy!

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24 Comments

  1. The dish looks marvelous. For me personally, a second component enhances this post. It was your PASSION expressing how this meal came to be.

    You intended on making a different purchase, yet (intuitively) chose to modify it when you saw a QUALITY REAL FOOD product that stimulated your sensory awareness! It is simple experiences like these that enhance our quality of life. To one person it would seem mundane; to another a culinary experience. These varied responses are the essence of our individuality.

    People with PASSION add a great deal of positive energy to this world. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for sharing your talent as well as your passion for food selections with all of us. It is appreciated probably more than you may realize! 🙂

    Bon Appetit

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Jonathan. As you know, it is always much appreciated when fellow bloggers and others enjoy and appreciate the time and effort we put in to sharing our passions. If I can help in any small way to get people excited about food and cooking I would consider that a real achievement.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. annika says:

    I love using tamarind. Back home in India, we have a huge tamarind tree just in front of our house.. everyone uses it as a landmark to give directions! I can’t wait to try your recipe… looks like it would be a hit here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Tamarind Fish & Prawn Curry – the perfect balance of sweet, sour and heat | Tracey O'Brien

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