I have been craving Indian flavors ever since I came back from Portugal. For our last night in Lisbon, we had dinner at a Goan restaurant and celebrated our stay there with our last bottle of Vinho de Verde. For the first time in a long time, I connected what I learned in school with my travels and remembered how Vasco da Gama traveled far through strange waters to look for those spices favored by the royal families of the Age of Discovery. He brought back to Portugal the exotic flavors from India and influenced trade–and Portuguese cuisine–forever. It wasn’t all smooth: he wanted all Muslims expelled from a Hindu land. Today in Goa, India, a city is named after him.
For this recipe, I tried both cod and albacore fish fillets and steaks. The albacore was more firm and withstood the simmering, but since cod fillets are easier to find and has a sweeter flesh, I’m using it here. (If you use albacore, or another firmer fish like monkfish, add 5 minutes to cook the fish through without overcooking.)
May I also mention that buying 1 stalk of lemongrass and two chiles from Whole Foods cost me a mere 16 cents? The scale couldn’t even register the chiles because they were paper-light, so the clerk just weighed all three items together. (The lemongrass goes for a ridiculous $9.99 per pound! It’s about $1 for five stalks in Chinatown.) It was my record: least expensive grocery tab ever!
3 pieces of cod fillets
juice from 1 lime
4 cloves of garlic
a small knob of ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
small red onion, thinly sliced
1 lemongrass, chopped in 1-inch pieces, smashed with your knife handle
1 Thai chile
a dash of turmeric
half a can of coconut milk
parsley, finely chopped, optional
1. A few minutes before starting to cook, pat the fish dry with paper towel and transfer to a shallow bowl. Season with lime juice and salt and leave standing for 15 minutes. (You can do this the night before; just cover and store in the fridge.)
2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind garlic and ginger to a paste. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat some oil and sautÃ© onions until soft. Add lemongrass and the garlic-ginger paste and sautÃ© until brown. Toss in chile. Season with turmeric and mix well. Add the coconut milk and the fish and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, turning the fish halfway through. (Smash the chile here for extra spice.) Sprinkle with parsley before serving with warm rice.