Thai Fish Curry Recipe

Thai curry paste

While living in England I was lucky (or skilled!) enough to have a recipe published in The Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook. Recipes, using Fairtrade ingredients, were submitted from across the UK and the best were published alongside those of celebrities and chefs. The launch party was also excellent.

However, aside from me showing off my recipe to anyone with the time to look, the book has been underutilised. As part of my new weekly meal planning regime (something which is making life very easy indeed), I’m choosing a random recipe from a random cookbook each week.

Last week it was the Thai fish curry which was submitted by Karen Darnton from Somerset. This recipe is a brilliant example of how easily you can make a tasty Thai style curry without resorting to jars or packets.

Begin by making the curry paste. Into a blender, put two red chillis, the juice and zest of one lime, 2 stalks of lemongrass* (roughly chop these first, and the younger and more tender the better), a generous teaspoon of ginger paste, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 small onion (peeled and roughly chopped), one finely sliced kaffir lime leaf (my addition because I happen to have some in the freezer – leave it out if you don’t have any to hand) and a good splash of Thai fish sauce.

Whizzy this up and you have your paste. This you can make in advance – it will keep quite happily in the fridge in a sealed container for a day or two.

When you’re ready to eat, heat a wok with a small amount of oil (peanut oil or other neutrally flavoured oil) and, when hot, add the curry paste and stir fry for a couple of minutes. You want the pan hot so that it sizzles, and you’ll need to stir to stop it from sticking.

Add a tin of coconut milk, mix well and bring to a simmer.

Next – add your fish. The original recipe used cod, I used barramundi (my barra had the skin on – and normally I would advocate this – but for this recipe, prefer skin off). You want a firm white fish that won’t collapse. You could also use prawns or even chicken thighs (although then it would be a Thai chicken curry …). If using fish, choose Australian and sustainably fished.

Simmer the curry until the fish is cooked.

The original recipe at this point starts adding things like mango or pineapple to the curry but that’s not how I roll, at all. I added a single serve of hokkien noodles to the pot and simmered away until the noodles were separated and hot. So now I had some kind of cross between curry and laksa.

Finally, taste the sauce and add fish sauce or lime juice as required.

Finish with a garnish of coriander and serve immediately.

While this was not the most complex (or, probably, authentic!) Thai curry I’ve ever eaten it certainly ticked all the mid-week meal boxes. Prep in advance, quick to assemble when you’re ready to eat, and tasty to boot. Definitely one we’ll return to.

* As an aside, lemongrass freezes. If you buy a packet from the supermarket, freeze the leftover stems in a snaplock bag. They defrost quickly. Freezing does make them a little tough so be sure to remove the outer layers before using.

India House, Hallett Cove



date of visit: Sunday 15 April 2012

I’m probably the last person on the planet who has got around to using a group buying deal for heading out to a restaurant. There are plenty of reasons for this but the main one is that people to have a very different experience when dining out on a group on deal. Check out the comment on my review of the King’s Head, for example. I’m also unsure about how fair the relationship between group buying site and business is but I’ll leave you to google to make your mind up about that one.

However, a deal came up for India House and as we’re always keen to visit places close(ish) to home, and as relatively few had been bought*, I thought no harm would come of giving it a try.

Our deal included pappadums and pickles, a shared samosa entrée, followed by our choice of curries, accompanied by naan and rice, as well as a bottle of wine. This set us back just $39 (a considerable discount on the advertised value of $85 – main courses come in around the $15 mark).

I had no troubles getting in touch and making a booking (a common complaint amongst voucher buyers) and when we arrived (6pm) there was just one other table occupied in the restaurant. The restaurant is tiny – there are maybe eight tables, with a few more outside – but it’s obvious that India House does a healthy takeaway trade.

We sat in the window and this suited the baby just fine, as he could maintain inspection of all the comings and goings (and the bright lights of the cars on Lonsdale Highway) while stuffing himself with tasty morsels from our plates. Naturally, we did have to order extra pappadums!

The papadums came with mint chutney, mango chutney and hot lime pickle – my favourite. We decided that the hot lime pickle at India House is better than that which we normally buy at home. The mint chutney was good – it had a clean, fresh mint taste to it, but it was a touch sweet for me. The vegetable samosas were really good: fried in hot, clean oil they weren’t greasy at all, and the filling was excellent. You could definitely taste the fennel. The baby loved the filling but wasn’t so keen on the pastry and I’d have to agree with him. The pastry could have done with being just a touch thinner.

For main course, we ordered with the baby in mind. I chose the butter chicken and Andy the chicken saagwala. The butter chicken was mild but it had the slightly sugar sweet (rather than tomato sweet) taste that you get with tinned tomato soup. This made it a bit cloying after a while and I certainly wasn’t about to gobble up the remaining gravy. Andy’s chicken saagwala was much tastier. It had a bit more of a spice kick to it (although not a lot) but that was tempered by the spinach with a hint of sweetness from some onion. I had no problems finishing off his sauce!

The naan breads were good: the garlic naan looked a bit scary (it looked like there was a TON of garlic on it) but they were both light, crispy and buttery.

Service wise, the staff were really friendly. I’d hazard a guess and say this is a family business with mother and son running front of house. We’d booked a high chair and when we arrived it was given a thorough wipe down in front of us, which is always reassuring. Both waiters were happy and efficient.

India House is not somewhere I’d head for a celebration curry but I really don’t think that’s where it’s pitching itself either. It’s somewhere I’d be perfectly happy to head back to for both take away and a quick meal eating in. We took a takeaway menu with us and I can see us working our way through it over the winter months.

* I bought close to the deal closing and only about 40 had been sold. Compare this to a deal for another restaurant I’d like to try where close to 300 have been sold … I have my reservations about just how well that restaurant will cope.

India House Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chettinad Fried Chicken


There is a restaurant review in the works but today I’m running short of time so here is an excellent chicken recipe that you might find useful over the long break. This is an Indian recipe (Chettinad is a region in Tamil Nadu, in southern India) but it’s a really welcome change to a big saucy curry. It stands on its own perfectly well, but if you are putting together a curry extravaganza, then this is a pleasant contrast to sauce rich dishes. It’s also fab because it doesn’t require 3000 different spices, carefully roasted and ground.

I got this recipe from my mum and I’m pretty sure it did originally come out of a cookbook – I’m sure she’ll let us all know which one!

Begin by taking about 1kg of chicken (I use skinned thigh fillets cut into large cubes) and rub it with about 1 tsp of salt and a generous sprinkle of turmeric. Set aside.

Prepare some salted water – 3 tbsp of water with ¼ tsp of salt. Ensure the salt dissolves in the water.

Heat some peanut (or other flavourless oil) in a wok and ½ tsp of mustard seeds, ½ tsp of fennel seeds, and 5 whole dried hot red chillis. Keep the chillis whole – this does keep the heat of the dish under control. If you have it, also add 1-2 tablespoons of skinned urad dahl. If you don’t have it – don’t bother seeking it out. You could also add some curry leaves.

When the spices are crackling and starting to darken add a finely chopped onion and cook until brown (that’s brown – not burnt – don’t get impatient and whack the heat up!).

Add the chicken to the onion and stir fry, sprinkling on some salted water as you go. Keep adding the water. You want to have used up all the water by the time you finish cooking BUT you must sprinkle the water in, so you don’t end up stewing your meat.

It’s best if you can cook the chicken all in one batch but realistically that might not happen. Just be aware that the longer you have the heat on the chillis the more likely they are to start breaking down and the hotter the finished product will become. If you do want to keep some of this dish mild then reserve some cooked chicken from the first batch.

When the chicken is cooked and the salted water is used up, remove the chicken (and onion and spices, of course) from the wok and serve. You don’t need to serve straight away – this dish is perfect to prepare in advance. Once cooked, put everything into an oven proof dish, cover with tin foil and reheat (with the tin foil on) when you are ready to serve.

Best eaten with pappadums, raita, naan … and don’t worry about having too much – there’s very rarely any left over!