While trying to figure out what recipe to make for the next episode of Pan Asian, a look at my blog statistics told me that many people were checking out an older post for the above dish, Fish Ambul Thiyal. Like coconut sambol, paripu, and cashew curry, Ambul Thiyal is one of those defining dished of Sri Lankan cuisine–because no other cultures have it. Perhaps it’s because one of the dish’s main ingredients, goraka or gamboge, is not found in too many other places besides Sri Lanka. This orange fruit, which resembles a tiny, shriveled black kidney when dried, imparts a unique tartness, which balances out with the salty and spicy flavors of the dish, creating a truly amazing flavor. I’m also told its an excellent preservative, and in the days before refrigeration, using goraka in cooking allowed a dish to be stored and eaten later. Today, however, I cannot imagine there being any left-overs when you cook this dish because it is just that good–and simple to make.
I have never tried making fish ambul thiyal with tamarind because I always have a steady supply of goraka on hand, and luckily a Sri Lankan store nearby (Spice Lanka, 17517 Redland Road Rockville, MD 20855-1233 – (301) 216-2238). But if you do use tamarind in this recipe, please drop me a line and let me know how it worked out. I’m sure it will still be great, but it’s still worth the time to track down some real goraka.
Sour Fish Curry (Fish Ambul Thiyal)
1 lb. (500 g) fish (a firm-fleshed fish like tuna)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 in (5 cm) piece ginger, sliced
1/2 tsp. black pepper powder
1 tsp. fenugreek
5 pieces goraka (or 2 tbsp. tamarind soaked in warm water with seeds removed)
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 in (2.5 cm) stick cinnamon
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chilies, sliced
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin powder (A)
1/2 tsp. fennel powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1.) Wash fish and cut into 1” cubes.
2.) Roast (A) list ingredients in a pan until dark in color. DO NOT BURN.
3.) Place garlic, ginger, roasted ingredients, black pepper, fenugreek, goraka, and salt into food processor and grind to a thick paste. Add a little water if necessary and marinate fish in this mixture. (Note: If using tamarind instead of goraka, soak tamarind in 1/4 cup (65 ml) warm water. Strain and discard seeds and fiber. Add this to the mix).
4.) Heat oil in a pan. Sauté onions, clove, cardamom, cinnamon and curry leaves until onions are translucent.
5.) Place fish in pan. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all water has evaporated (about 20 minutes). (Note: This is a dry curry with little or no gravy.)