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Tilapia Green Curry

Makes: 4 to 5 servings

Don’t be daunted by the length of the ingredient list in this recipe from Kerala. It all comes together without much fuss into a hot, fresh curry sauce bathing bite-size chunks of fish fillets. Choose any fish you like; we suggest tilapia or any firm fish, such as cod. The tempering is added after the fish cooks, as a final flavoring that rounds things out.

Serve with rice, a vegetable dish such as Spiced Grated Carrots, Kerala style, and a fresh salad.

What to buy: Fish Tamarind—This flavoring is not in fact related to tamarind—its English name refers to its culinary use as a souring agent in fish dishes, in Kerala. It is used as a souring agent in other dishes, as well, especially in Keralan and Gujarti cooking. Fish tamarind comes from a fruit (Garcinia indica or G. cambogia) that is cut into strips and then dried, so that it looks like blackened lumps of leather. … Fish tamarind is not widely available in North America, but you may find it in most Sri Lankan and Indian grocery stores. True tamarind can be substituted for either fish tamarind or goraka, as we do in this book, using about 1 teaspoon tamarind pulp (dissolved in hot water and strained) for each piece of fish tamarind called for in the traditional recipe.


  1. 1Rinse the fish fillets, cut into 2-inch pieces, and set aside.
  2. 2To prepare the masala paste, place the ginger, garlic, shallots, chiles, and fresh coriander in a food processor, mini-chopper, or stone mortar and process or grind to a coarse paste. Add the coconut and process or grind to a paste (if the mixture seems dry, add a little water as necessary to make a paste). Transfer to a bowl and stir in the ground coriander and turmeric; set aside.
  3. 3To prepare the tempering, heat the ghee or butter in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the curry leaves, wait a moment, then add the shallots and garlic. Lower the heat to medium and cook until starting to soften, for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chiles and cook until the shallots are very soft and touched with brown, about 5 minutes more. Set aside.
  4. 4Heat the oil in a wok or karhai or a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, and when they have popped, add the curry leaves and masala paste. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil rises to the surface, about 5 minutes. Add the water and fish tamarind or tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the salt and the fish and simmer, turning the fish once, for 3 to 5 minutes, until just barely cooked through.
  5. 5Add the tempering mixture and simmer for a minute, then serve hot.

Beverage pairing: A to Z Pinot Gris, Oregon. The spice and vegetable flavors of the green curry suggest a wine that has a “green” edge itself. Pinot Gris, a specialty of Oregon, fits the bill. This inexpensive version has a lot of flavor, is wonderfully versatile, and is just slightly off dry, which can soothe the mouth if the curry gets too spicy.

  • Tilapia Green Curry

This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.

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