Salmon Tamarind Flavoured Curry

Tender bites of Omega 3 laden fish. Moist seafood infused with sensations of produce from herb and spice plantations, with hints of the monsoon breeze and served with fluffy basmati rice that is neither overcooked nor too dry. The gravy seeps into the rice and juicy tomato cuts.  An appetising possibility awaits you on the dining table. You long for this to be served on banana leaves but it is good enough on white china.  You wait for a beer, or something soothing and cool to accompany this dish.

This was a daily affair for the colonial officer a hundred years ago, whether he was based in India, Ceylon, Malaya or Indochine.  The home country was only but a memory on a sweaty and humid tropical evening.  The kitchen was well staffed, mainly with women who stayed at home the whole day long, not out of choice but cocooned in convention.

Freshness is everything and sets the tone, but can also be considered to balance out the richness of seafood curry.
Light bites of green grapes and muscato can help provide alternatives on the palate.
Italian tomatoes are always favoured to blend in with salmon.

Tamarind flavoured salmon curry is perhaps an illustration of contemporary fusion, but has roots that go back to the Straits Chinese and Straits Indian kitchens of Malacca, Penang and Singapore.  The fish is not native to South-east Asia but the spice mix is.  Lemon grass, onions, garlic, chillies, gelangal and the kantan flower are all finely cut and lovingly pounded by mortar and postal to bring out the best nuances and potential of these ingredients. The pounded result of a consistent paste is then garnished with bits of the dried shrimp concoction of the belacan, bathed with tamarind juices and showered with pinches of sugar and salt before being placed to the cooking pot.  Only when the flavours rise from the simmering paste do the salmon pieces go into the next step of brewing the produce of the oceans with the produce of the land.  Note that for this recipe, yummy large fish heads can be used instead of salmon fillets.

Salmon, fresh from the markets and sliced into manageable slices and with enough surface area to absorb the brewing spices and flavours.  Texture, appearance and taste all intertwine into a powerful combination.

Rice is one of the most manually exacting crops to grow and harvest. Every little grain is a microcosm of the biological cycle and reflects attention to detail and an encapsulation of quality and hard work. When eaten with the salmon curry, the appreciation for rice is enhanced.


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