Monday, 13 August 2012

Grandma's Secret Recipe - Nyonya Aromatic Fish And Pineapple Curry

After my previous effort of trying to dispel the current fascination and belief that there is only Vindaloo or Madras in the world of curry, I am going to introduce another delicious curry that bears no resemblance to those ubiquitous Indian curry house inventions. This curry is milder, and creamier due to the abundance of coconut milk. The uniqueness of this dish is the sheer perfumed characteristics. The addition of the pandan or screwpine leaves  might raise a few eyebrows but it works as the spices used here are mild and subtle. Along with the cardamom pods, this is quite unlike any mundane curries that you have ever tasted.

To be quite honest with you, this is strictly speaking not entirely Nyonya in the way it is constructed and cardamom is not a very widely used spices in a typical Peranakan household. I have a faint suspicion that my Nan, who used to make this for us had came up with this curry by combining different elements from dishes that she knew. Despite the unknown origins of this, I have decided to called it Nonya as it was from my Nan and who is to say a modern interpretation of a dish does not make it so.

I have also recently made a vegetarian version of this using a selection of vegetables at hand in a public event, Global feast (which I have yet got a chance to write about) and it was very successful and well received. I used asparagus, red pepper and sweet potatoes in placed of the fish, tomatoes and pineapple. so if you wish to turn this into a vegetarian dish, feel free to use any vegetables available to you and just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 large haddock fillet, roughly 500g, cut into large manageable pieces (substitute this with other firm white fish such as cod if you like)
1 lime
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seed
about 10 cardamom pods, crushed
a large handful of curry leaves
1 large onion, sliced
2 pandan (screwpine) leaves, tie into a knot
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
500ml coconut milk
120g pineapple cubes
Sea salt, to taste

For the rempah/spice paste:
a 2inch length piece of fresh ginger, skinned
3 garlic cloves, skinned
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
2 red chillies


Put all the ingredient for the rempah into a mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Alternatively, blitz them in a food processor. Squeeze in the lime juice. In a large bowl, mix the paste with the fish and gently toss to coat and set aside to marinate for no ore than 10 minutes (after this, the acid in the lime juice will cook the fish).

Heat the sunflower oil in a wok over medium heat. Stir-fry the cumin and cardamom for a couple of minutes before until they start popping. Add the curry leaves and cook for another minute before adding the rempah/spice paste and onion, stir-fry for 8-10 minutes, until the paste is fragrant and the onion is slightly browned before adding the pandan leaves and tomato.

Add the coconut milk and gently bring to the boil, stirring constantly before adding the marinated fish and pineapple. Simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Do not stir to much of the fish will falls apart. Seasoned with salt to taste.

To serve, remove the pandan leaves and discard. Transfer to a serving dish and served with a bowl of hot steamed rice.

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