Weeknight Cooking

Indian Fried Fish

November 15, 2010

Fried Fish

- Jenny

As a general rule, I prefer to cook with recipes that use measurements that I understand. But once in a while, instead of a teaspoon of this or a half cup of that, one has to be content with the allocation of “some.”

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Recipes with “some” come best to those at least somewhat experienced with the ingredients at hand, or the method. If you tell me to put “some” black pepper, parsley and onions in a chicken stock, for instance, I know what that means. Tell me I need “some” juniper berries in my fruit cloud, well I probably won’t get that right. (To be clear, the Juniper Fruit Cloud on this site is quite specific.)

And so it went with Meen Porichathu (Fried Fish), a surprisingly delicate and flavorful take on fried fish, absolutely compatible for the weeknight cook.

A little background: my husband agreed to join me at the Farmers Market, which is a little like me agreeing to join him at Baylor homecoming week, except that I won’t. Almost tingling with the thrill of this, as we stood before Vernon the fish man, I suggested that he should do the honor of picking from the board. “I want fried fish,” he said. “So get something that fries.”

On one level, an exhortation to prepare lovely fresh fish in the least healthful way possible seemed like a bit of punishment for dragging him to the market when there was an obscure soccer match on, but he also inadvertently made a point. The days of fresh herbs at the market are largely behind me, so from time to time, I need to simply turn to spices. Plus, um, I like fried fish, too.

So, marching home with my cod, I began fantasizing about this dish by pauljoseph, remembering that the last time I cooked one of his recipes it turned out great. Then I suddenly had to go to Moline, Illinois, which is really not of your concern except to tell you that I was forced to freeze my fish, then defrost it and get it all together on a Friday night when there wasn’t enough beer in the world to inspire me to get to frying.

Realizing the entire thing was written in grams, I pulled out my scale, normally reserved for baking chocolate, but was quickly frustrated. Have you ever tried to measure 3 grams?

So I went a different way. I added “some” chili powder, “some” turmeric, “some” black pepper (referred to within the recipe as “pepper powder”), the juice of a small lime and some very finely chopped ginger and garlic smashed together to form a paste. I salted my cod a bit, rubbed it with the spice mix and tossed it all in a Ziploc bag for about 30 minutes. Maybe you will choose to marinate it longer; but that was my interpretation of “some” time.

Then came the revelation: rice flour. Who knew? The incredibly light fry that this flour makes, the way it refuses to stick to the pan, the lovely gold it turned this fish -– seeing this was worth all my worrying. I cooked my cod about 4 minutes a side –- you can cut into it and make sure you are not overcooking.

One thing I didn’t plan for: my fish sort of fell apart in the pan, perhaps because cod is a bit soft for the task (“any fish” is also a rather open-ended suggestion) or maybe because my frying technique is not what it should be, as I rarely do it. (A&M tell me it's because the fish was frozen and defrosted -- those two like to have their theories!)

No matter: I cut it further into small pieces for Indian-inspired fish tacos. All it needed was cilantro, which our author does not call for but which I think is a nice flavor addition. I believe you know exactly how much to use.

Meen Porichathu (Fried Fish)

By pauljoseph

Serves 4

  • Fish (any fish) 200 grams
  • Chilly powder 10 grams
  • Turmeric powder 3 grams
  • Pepper Powder 5 grams
  • Ginger garlic paste, ½ tsp
  • Lime Juice, 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Rice powder to coat
  • Oil for frying
1. Clean, cut and wash the fish. Prepare a thick marination with the above ingredients & apply to the fish and keep it aside for some time.
2. Coat the rice powder into the marinated fish & shallow fry in oil and remove.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
Jennifer Steinhauer
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mrslarkin November 18, 2010
Made this for dinner last night. It was delicious, but I was way too willy-nilly with "some" of the chile powder, which happened to be Cayenne pepper. My eyeballs were sweating. Tried weighing the spices but that got old real quick, so hence the hot-as-heck fish. I used tilapia fillets from Costco (in the freezer section) - they are really really good! I added "some" chopped cilantro to the marinade. I omitted the rice flour altogether and Pammed my non-stick pan really well and it turned out great. Served mine with brown rice, a dollop of Greek yogurt (to temper the blazing inferno in my mouth), and salad. I would make this again (with less heat!) Thanks Jenny and pauljoseph!
pauljoseph November 18, 2010
mrslarkin thank you for your comment The problem is that no one knows the names of dry chilies or chili powder sold as a spice. They are known as hot, medium, mild or sweet (paprika). There may be some Extra Hot !!!!

You need real experience to cook with chili powder or you buy whole dry Kashmiri chili and remove the seed and then grind in a food processor you can make a REAL GOOD homemade chili powder
pauljoseph November 18, 2010
mrslarkin We always use our on spice powder like meat masala,,,thaduri masala, fish masala ,chili powder,pepper powder,garam masala etc etc
mrslarkin November 19, 2010
Thank you pauljoseph! It is very delicious! I will make this again, with less chile powder next time. And I'll make your coconut cilantro chutney to go with it!
TiggyBee November 16, 2010
Pauljoseph's recipes always melt my heart a bit in the sweetest way, they're so charming. I love his talent and passion for his creations.
Jestei November 16, 2010
yes indeed. by the way i can't wait to make your indian pudding.
SallyCan November 15, 2010
I'll join in singing the praises of pauljoseph! He has shared so many interesting recipes on food52, and if you're not sure of something, he will always answer any questions right away. Just this weekend we had a very successful supper club where we all made recipies of or inspired by pauljoseph~we started with crepes filled with chicken cooked in his honey black pepper chicken wings sauce and topped with his spicy cherry sauce, followed by his carrot~coconut soup, then butter chicken and rice, and for dessert we had his unnakai cookies and bananas in golden syrup. A few weeks ago, when I sent pauljoseph a note asking what we should serve for to drink, he sent me a recipe for a lovely spiced wine and rum drink. Needless to say, it was all wonderful! I'll post our pictures on his recipes. Thank you pauljoseph!
pauljoseph November 15, 2010
thank you for your kind comment's, Sally
Jestei November 16, 2010
i think i am going to copy this down to the drinks. please post! what a great idea.
pauljoseph November 15, 2010
I am probably the happiest man in the world today thanks to Jenny and Food52
Jestei November 16, 2010
you have a lot of fans!!!!
Heena November 15, 2010
I know what you mean by 'some'. Ask my mom for any recipe and it will always have heavy use of the word andaaz (meaning estimate). I find I've become guilty of this too, especially when it comes to Indian cooking. I throw in the spices until it looks and tastes right. This is why the same dish tastes remarkably different from one Indian home to another. When I have to write a recipe for the blog, or here, I have to pay special attention to what I'm doing and take notes.
Jestei November 15, 2010
i think some is ok if you give a bit of guidance and i think common sense will often, though not always, take over. some chili powder does not mean a quarter cup etc
gingerroot November 15, 2010
Thanks for this, Jenny, I really needed your writing and a good recipe today!  I rarely fry fish either, but pauljoseph is a great place to start!  Like others before me, I have really enjoyed his recipes and am always a little amazed at how he translates familiar ingredients into fragrant, delicious dishes.
Jestei November 15, 2010
thank you for your nice comments. i am sure pauljoseph is happy to see how many fans he has here. his recipes are really quite special and fun.
healthierkitchen November 15, 2010
This sounds great! Photo makes we want to make it right away. I think I was behind you at Vernon's truck that day! We got oysters.
Jestei November 15, 2010
that may have been a few weeks ago, when the line was llllllllllong
Kitchen B. November 15, 2010
And I think there might be a solution to measuring some minute quantities, its called the spoon scale http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2010/01/05/small-scale-thinking/.

If you get one, you may as well get two - I'll send you my address!
Jestei November 15, 2010
i love this. maybe a & m will make it a prize!
drbabs November 15, 2010
Looks wonderful (and great writing as usual; I can relate to the joy of having our husbands accompany us to the farmers' market when it's almost 60 degrees out and the golf course beckons)...unfortunately same husband dislikes Indian spices and doesn't eat fried food (except in a restaurant where he pretends that it isn't really fried).
Jestei November 15, 2010
well, make it home alone and then you'll have a few days of fish tacos!
Kitchen B. November 15, 2010
It appears as if all I cook these days is food52 recipes - isn't that just amazing. And as we love fish, this will be served this week. Thanks Jenny for bringing superb weeknight dinners to the fore. I loved the Pad Thai btw! And your husband is a star - tell him I said so!
Jestei November 15, 2010
aw he will love that. thank you, it's a good dish. i am still enjoying making pad thai as well.
onetribegourmet November 15, 2010
I keep looking at the pic, fish looks spicy & crispy! exactly how I like it! I usually make a coconut chutney to serve with the fish! I'm going to try the rice powder~ Thanks for the recipe!
Jestei November 15, 2010
ooooooooooh please post that chutney recipe
onetribegourmet November 16, 2010
Hi Jen,

Here's my version of the coconut chutney! :)

1 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen grated coconut (available at Asian markets)
2 tablespoons of tamarind pulp
juice of one lime
1 tsp garlic, minced
2-3 green or red Thai chiles
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard seeds (slightly toasted)
1 tsp ground cumin,( I toast the cumin on a pan and then grind in a coffee grinder)

Just Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor and enjoy! :)
mklug November 15, 2010
Pauljoseph does have wonderful recipes, and is so kind with his help--he makes his delicious food accessable to even this novice.
Jestei November 15, 2010
yes i agree he is always quick to answer a question
Sagegreen November 15, 2010
I quickly became a fan of pauljosheph's recipes as soon as I joined this site. I love his enthusiastic help with any questions you might have about technique and ingredients. Thanks for selecting this!
Jestei November 15, 2010
mrslarkin November 15, 2010
oh yum. I love pauljoseph's recipes too. Rice powder: can i just whiz up some rice in the food processor, or do I have to schlep out and buy some??
Sagegreen November 15, 2010
I wonder if rice powder is simply rice flour??
Kitchen B. November 15, 2010
|i think it's rice flour, which is extremely fine. If you can get your blender to wihzz it miniscule...it would work. Eric Gower aka The Breakaway cook also does some chicken with a rice crust. As an aside http://www.breakawaycook.com/blog/2010/09/27/cumin-chicken-with-a-rice-crust/
Jestei November 15, 2010
i bought rice flour at whole foods. it is possible you can make it yourself, per kitchen butterfly but it is super super fine.
pauljoseph November 15, 2010
mrslarkin Rice flour (also we call rice powder) is a form of flour made from milled rice. http://www.foodista.com/food/PWGW2FLH/rice-flour
aargersi November 15, 2010
Looks fabulous - we have been having great success with pauljosephs recipes too, and this looks like a great one. And hey - Baylor is having a pretty good year, if you are ever going to cave on that homecoming thing now might be the time!
Jestei November 15, 2010
its true. i hear so much about them!!! enjoy this recipe!