Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound white, firm-fleshed fish, such as kingfish or cod, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 small Thai red chiles, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 8 fresh curry leaves, or 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1. In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar and salt. Add the fish and turn to coat. Cover and let marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.
2. In a large skillet, heat the ghee or oil over medium-high heat and add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and mustard seeds. Cook for just about 20 seconds, stirring so that the oil evenly coats the spices. Add the ginger, garlic, chiles, onion, cayenne, and curry leaves or lime juice. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
3. Remove fish from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and transfer to the skillet along with the spices. Gently stir until the fish is coated on all sides. Add the coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, tomato, and grated coconut, if using. Gently stir; cover. Cook over medium heat until the fish is opaque and firm, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Transfer the fish to a heated-serving platter and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Variation: You can substitute 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast for the fish, but increase the cooking time from 5 minutes to 8 to 10 minutes.

Excerpted from Nirmala's Kitchen: Everyday World Cuisine by Nirmala Narine (Lake Isle Press, 2006). Copyright 2006 by Nirmala Narine.