Fish Bhuna

Description :

When I was a kid, I would never turn down anything my mother smothered in a tomato and onion gravy called bhuna. Bhuna is a type of South Asian curry that’s thick and paste-like, in contrast with the usual saucy korma or makhani. It has a subtle heat from a generous dose of Kashmiri red chili powder, and a touch of acidity from tomato and vinegar.

Ingredient :

  • 2 small whole head-on dorade or other flavorful white-fleshed fish, cleaned (about 3 pounds total once cleaned; 1.4kg); see note

  • 2 teaspoons (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 2 teaspoons (4g) ground turmeric

  • 3 teaspoons (6g) Kashmiri red chile powder (or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper), divided

  • Neutral oil, such as canola, safflower, or peanut, for frying

  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 10 1/2 ounces; 300g)

  • One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated (about 15g)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon (8g) ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons (4g) ground coriander

  • 1 1/2 cups cored and diced skin-on fresh tomatoes (12 ounces; 340g), from about 3 small tomatoes

  • 1 tablespoon (15g) distilled white vinegar

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, for garnish

Direction :

  1. Remove heads from fish and cut bodies into 1-inch-thick steaks (or ask your fishmonger to do this for you; see note). In a small bowl, combine kosher salt, turmeric, and 2 teaspoons (4g) Kashmiri red chili powder. Sprinkle salt mixture all over fish.
  2. Add enough oil to a large sauté pan to fill it 1/4 inch deep and heat over high heat until shimmering. Working in batches if needed, add seasoned fish steaks and cook until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, transfer cooked steaks to a plate, tray, or dish and set aside.
  3. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons oil from sauté pan. Continuing to work over high heat, add onion and cook until browned in spots, about 5 minutes; lower heat at any point if onion threatens to burn.
  4. Lower heat to medium and add ginger, bay leaf, remaining 1 teaspoon (2g) chili powder, cumin, and coriander, cooking until the spices bloom, about 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and cook until some of the liquid has cooked off and you have a thick, paste-like curry, about 5 minutes. Finish the gravy with vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Nestle the fried fish steaks into the curry, gently tossing to coat in the sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

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