Andrews Goa Curry

Andrew de Souza was my mother’s cook for twenty years. For every day of those twenty years, he had just one thing for lunch and dinner: this curry. All sorts of fascinating fishy things went into Andrew’s curry that the family never saw. One of them was skate, which I later got my mother to eat in San Francisco by calling it fanfish.

Unlike Indian curries characterized by creaminess, this particular type of Goa curry is very thin, very hot, and very sour. I remember my mother and her friends once having a competition over whose curry was the hottest. I was there the night of the winning entry, watching eight grown-ups weeping in bliss.

Serve this curry with plain or steamed rice. If you have the time, make the curry a day ahead because it really does improve with standing. Accompany with cucumber salad.

Ingredients

Masala

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 8 to 10 (or more if you really like heat) dried red chiles
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • A few black peppercorns (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

Curry

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • A few curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 to 3 cups water
  • ½ to 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 walnut-size ball of compressed tamarind
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pound fish fillets; or 1 pound shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined; or 1 pound squid, cleaned

Method

  • To make the masala: Grind the garlic, chiles, coriander, cumin, peppercorns if you like, and turmeric together into a stiff paste with a few teaspoons of water. If you don’t have an Indian wet-dry grinder like the Sumeet, the best approach is to pulverize the chiles and other whole dry spices in your spice grinder, pureeing the garlic separately. Then mix together the spices, garlic, and turmeric powder and add enough water to form a stiff paste.
  • For the curry: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the oil, stirring occasionally. Add the masala paste and the curry leaves, if you have them, and stir a few moments. Add the coconut milk and enough water to make about 4 to 5 cups liquid. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until the oil rises to the top, about 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, pour the boiling water over the dried tamarind, let sit for half an hour, and rub the softened tamarind through a strainer. Add the strained pulp to the curry and season with salt to taste. Add the seafood after the curry is finished and cook it for just a few minutes.
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