Certainly, tempered fish curry must be the most common way of preparing fish among Sri Lankans. I say this because, this is not only popular among households but also it is the most common fish curry that the majority of the Sri Lankan street restaurants offer.
This particular combination of ingredients go more with sea fish varieties than fresh water fishes. This doesn’t mean that you cannot use fresh water fishes, surely you can. It’s just that Sri Lankans have their unique tastes designed for fresh water fish varieties. Ha, though I said you can use any variety, there are few exceptions. I do not recommend salmon, skates and halibut. For your information I will provide you names of some common fish kinds that Sri Lankans use to make this curry.
- Paraw(Jack, Trevallies) – most preferred and commonly used with this recipe
- 2. Seer fish (Spanish mackerel)
- Sail fish (Thalapath)
- Balaya fish (skipjack tuna)
- Shark varieties
- Gal Malu/Rock fishes
- Spangles emperor (Meewetiya/Atissa
- Threadfin breams (Suddaha)
- Longface emperor (Uru hota)
- Sharptooth jobfish (Kalamee)
- Blubberlip snapper (Badawa)
- Mangrove red snapper (Thabalaya)
- Blackspot snapper (Ranna)
- Barracudas (Jeelawa)
- Trenched sardinella (Hurulla)
- Bleeker’s smooth belly (Gal Hurulla)
How to make Sri Lankan style tempered fish curry
- 600 – 700g of fish : Slice the cleaned fish into thickness of your preference or cut into cubes. If you are using a kind of fish that you are used to consume its head in other dishes, you can also keep the heads as well. From the Sri Lankan fish list, if you are using Paraw (preferably) or Seer, you can definitely keep their fish heads.
- 3 cloves of garlic – chopped
- 2 green chilies -chopped
- A small piece of ginger (approx. 2X2X1 cm) or ¾ tsp – diced
- ½ a medium sized onion (chopped or sliced)
- 3 small pieces of dried bridle berry (Goraka) or ½ tsp of bridle berry paste – If you are really unable to get hold of these, use 1/4 tsp of tamarind. But remember, the taste will slightly altered from the authentic curry.
- 2 rounded tsp of raw curry powder
- 1 tsp of finely ground red chili powder
- ¾ tsp of finely ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
- Some curry leaves (Karapincha)
- Pandan leaves (Rampe)
- 1 stick of cinnamon – crushed into smaller pieces
- 2 cups of thicker coconut milk (Miti kiri)
If using condensed coconut milk, dilute it with water at 1:2 ratio or 1: 2.5 ratio (Con.coco:water). It really depends on the thickness of the product you have. Just make sure that its consistency is almost the same or only slightly thicker than 3.25% regular cows’ milk that we consume. And that not thicker or thinner than that consistency.
- 1 cup of thinner coconut milk (Diya kiri) or ¾ cup of water
- 3 – 3 ½ tbsp. of cooking oil
- Salt to taste
First, warm the oil under moderate heat and start stir frying onions, ginger, curry leaves and cinnamon. Separately, in a bowl or a cooking pot combine rest of the ingredients except garlic and let it aside. Now, once the onions start to turn light golden and the curry leaves are fairly fried, bring in the garlic. Then, soon after the garlic start to give its ravishing smell, pour in the pre-mixed ingredients load. Remember, this step you can do either way. That is, you can either pour the fish mixture on to the fried ingredients or vice versa; fried onions onto the fish mixture. Just know that traditionally it was done in the first manner that I have stated here.
Well, I do it in both ways and surely it’s the same effect except that when you pour the fried stuff onto the fish it is little convenient as you don’t need to use two same sized cooking pots and instead you can fry in a smaller one. Anyways, let’s get back to cooking. Now, raise the temperature and let the gravy boil for about 3 minutes and bring the heat low-to-medium level and simmer for about 7- 8 minutes. Finally, adjust salt to your taste and enjoy this tasty dish with your kith and kin.
- When adding salt, I start with ½ a tsp and then adjust according my taste at the end
- If you are really unable to get hold of dried bridle berry or Goraka, use 1/4 tsp of tamarind. But remember, the taste will slightly alter from the authentic curry. For your information, this is not a traditional substitute for bridle berry. So if you strictly need to follow the true traditional methods, stick to Goraka.
- Remember, at the initial step of frying the respective ingredients, you do not fry the garlic pieces until they change their color. You just fry for several seconds until they start to give their pleasant smell.