Spicy pan-fried fish steaks, Madras-style

I got this one from a magazine clipping recently, and it's incredibly yummy. In Madras, India, they use a type of fish called seer fish, which isn't available in the United States. The recipe recommends swordfish steaks as a substitute, and it was great. Gumbo Pages correspondent Gary Asmussen of Brisbane, Australia adds: "Just a thought on the Seer fish species. I work with a Sri Lankan person who tells me that the Seer fish is actually what we call here in Australia "Narrow-barred Mackerel" (Scomberomorous commersoni) but in the States you have a very close relative called the Kingfish. 'Wahoo' also would eat similarly. Hope this helps."

For the fullest bouquet of flavor, obtain whole spices and grind them yourself. Toast briefly in a heavy, dry skillet for a minute or so before grinding to release the essential oils. Serve with saffron rice and naan bread.

Place the coriander, cayenne, turmeric, cumin, salt and lime juice on a large plate and stir to combine. Add about 6 tablespoons of water and stir to form a thick paste. Taste the mixture for agood balance of saltiness and sourness; it should be fairly salty at this stage.

Rub both sides of the fish steaks with the paste and set aside to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (This dish can be prepared up to this point as long as 3 hours before cooking. If you marinate the steaks for longer than 15 minutes, refrigerate them.)

Prepare the saffron rice and keep warm.

Rub the bottom of a large, heavy frying pan (cast iron works great) with vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, fry the steaks 2 at a time until nicely browned and just cooked through, 6-8 minutes per side, turning once. Transfer to a heatproof plate and keep warm in a low oven. Repeat with the remaining two filets, adding more oil if necessary. Garnish steaks with lime wedges. Serve with rice and naan. Serves 4.

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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)