First published May 2012. Updated August 2018.
This Smoked Salmon Fish Curry is something special! It came about
some 12 almost 18 years ago when I was expecting my eldest. Desperate for a South Indian fish curry, I was dismayed to find that the only seafood I had, were prawns (shrimp) and smoked salmon.
Now, did I say I was desperate?! Well, beggars can’t be choosers and all that, I decided I had no choice but to go ahead with what I had in hand. Another banality later (you know, necessity being the mother of invention?), a masterpiece was born, if I must say so myself.
This smoked salmon fish curry is deliciously rich in flavour and aroma. Imagine this:
- We start with an intensely aromatic base of South Indian spices and herb.
- To this, we add tangy tamarind that breaks through and lightens the pungency of the spices.
- Next, comes the creaminess of the coconut milk, which tempers and mellows, without taking away that distinctive identity.
- Almost there. In goes the meaty, commanding salmon, lending its own inimitable creamy character to the curry.
- And finally, the pièce de résistance. The smoked salmon adds, well, a smoky flavour and aroma to the curry. It imparts, blends with, yet lifts every single note in this fish curry.
Our Fish Curry Ingredients
I adore salmon; it’s probably my favourite fish. One may not necessarily think of salmon and curry in the same sentence, but let me tell you, the bold flavours of the salmon and the curry work so well together. The combination of the rich flavours of the curry powder, fresh and smoked salmon is a marriage made in heaven!
If you can’t find either fresh or smoked salmon, or if they are just too expensive (they are here), use any type of fish you like. The type of fish you use is up to you, any firm fish will do and any type of seafood works splendidly too. After all, it started life with prawns, if you recall.
The recipe only calls for a small amount of smoked salmon, added right at the end, to flavour the fish curry. I quite often use smoked salmon trimmings, the tiny slithers are perfect for this. Cheap and cheerful.
How to turn this into a typical South Indian Curry?
Skip the smoked salmon and you’ve got a very typical South Indian fish curry. The sort my granny used to make, and the sort made and sold by countless South Indian stalls in Singapore and Malaysia. The sort I grew up eating, called Meen Kulambu.
Also known quite commonly as Bengali 5 spice, panch phoron is a natural flavour enhancer, much in the same way as garam masala. The difference is that panch phoron is a whole spice mix, and is made up of seeds in equal portions. Typically, these seeds are fenugreek, fennel, cumin, black mustard and nigella seeds. Click here to read more and for the homemade recipe.
Now, this is not a south Indian spice mix, as its name implies, it’s Bengali. But south Indian fish curries tend to have similar spices like fenugreek, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds. Panch phoron is something my granny and mum always used (that I can remember), so I’ve just continued doing so.
Click here to read more. Curry leaves are a very South Indian herb and used extensively in the cuisine of the region. If you can’t get them, just leave them out, and finish the curry off with some chopped coriander leaves (cilantro).
Click here to read more. A very popular souring ingredient, as well as snack in many cuisines, tamarind can easily be substituted with lime juice or clear vinegar.
Lemon juice, to me, doesn’t quite have the rounded flavour of these two. The best substitute for tamarind is your clear, regular vinegar. Use 1 tablespoon for the amount of tamarind here.
Click here to read more on how to cook with coconut milk. Fresh coconut milk is always best but many of us outside of Asia, unfortunately, do not have this luxury. As with any ingredient, get the best that you can afford, the same goes for coconut milk. Get the one that has the least added ingredients – just coconut milk and water is the best.
If you do have access to freshly grated coconut or frozen grated coconut, you want to get your coconut milk in 2-3 pressings. Head on over to the link above to read more.
Tempering, Tarka or Tadka in South Asian Cooking
Many Indian recipes call for a final stage called “tarka” or tempering. This involves the quick frying of some spices in very hot oil and the whole mix is then added to the cooked dish.
This is a natural flavour enhancer, much like the adding of garam masala at the end of cooking Northern Indian and Pakistani dishes. Tempering can be a simple case of just mustard seeds, or a combination of whole spices like panch phoron here. It can also include dried red chillies and curry leaves, as we do in our Fish Sothi, above.
Getting the heat right for the tempering of the dry spices is crucial. We want medium or medium-high heat, depending on the size of your burner. Small burner = medium-high.
The temperature has to be just right to get the oils and flavour out of the spices. Too hot and they’ll burn and be bitter, not hot enough and the flavours won’t fully be released. Just 30 seconds will do, followed by something moist, like the onion mix, to immediately bring the temperature of the oil down.
In our smoked salmon curry here, I incorporate the tadka into the actual cooking process by starting with it. But we still adhere to the tempering principles above.
Let’s get cooking!
And if you fancy more curry recipes, head on over to the Curries from Around The World page, for recipes like:
♥ Do you like this recipe? Please give it a 5-star rating below! And when you make it, share it on Instagram or any other social medium and tag me @azlinbloor. Thank you! … Lin ♥Print
Get my signature Smoked Salmon Fish Curry, deliciously rich in flavour and aroma. Created 2 decades ago, when I was desperate for home food!
Ingredients to be chopped/ground
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 6cm (2.5 in) ginger
- 2 Tbsp tamarind pulp
- 125ml (1/2 cup) hand hot water
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp panch phoron
- 2 sprigs curry leaves (leave out, if unavailable)
- 4 Tbsp fish curry powder or any generic shop bought
- 1 can of 400ml (1 3/5 cup) coconut milk
- 12 okra fingers, whole or 1 large eggplant, sliced
- 2 tomatoes, quartered
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 salmon fillets, cut into 2–3 chunks
- 100g (3.5 oz) smoked salmon, cut into tiny slices
- 1 tsp clear vinegar
Additional water if you’d like more gravy.
- Mix the tamarind and water, mix well with your fingers and set aside. Soak for 5 minutes, if the tamarind is hard and won’t mix.
- Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a chopper, chop to a semi fine state, and set aside.
- Heat oil on medium heat and fry the panch phoron and curry leaves for just 30 seconds, don’t let them burn as the bitter taste will linger until the last drop!
- Quickly add the onion mix and fry for about a minute until the aroma hits you, then add the curry powder and stir thoroughly. Cook for another minute, stirring.
- Add the tamarind juice and bring to a gentle boil on the medium heat.
- Add the coconut milk, stir thoroughly and bring to a simmer, on medium heat.
- Add the okra, tomatoes and salt and cook for 10-15 minutes, until your okra is almost cooked and almost dark green and soft.
- Tip in the salmon fillets, again, bring to a simmer, uncovered, and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the smoked salmon slices, heat through for a minute and take off heat.
- Stir in the vinegar, and check seasoning. Add a touch more salt if you think it needs it.
- If not using curry leaves, sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander leaves.
- Category: Curries
- Cuisine: Indian, Fusion