Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi (Shallow-Fried Fish)

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

After a long break and a crazy-busy summer with family visiting from India, I’m back again with a quick and easy recipe that will wow your eyes & taste-buds. This shallow-fried whole fish fry cooks in minutes and can be customized to suit your tastes – the possibilities are endless. The recipe below is more of a guide – feel free to use masalas / seasoning of your choice, making it as spicy or as mild as you like.

I used a homemade tandoori masala mix that I wrote down in my recipe book about two decades ago when Indian stores were not so common in America. The recipe is from Martha Stewart (can’t remember the actual source as it’s been so long).

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

Tandoori Masala

  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp red-chilli powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves powder
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
  • 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
  • red tandoori food color – optional

1) Mix all ingredients together and adjust taste to preference. (I like to keep it spicier and a little saltier at this point as it mellows when used with the meat.)

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

(I also fried a couple of silver pomfret fish but forgot to take photos. This was shot on my phone while my family waited at the table for dinner. So please excuse the bad photography.)

For the fish-fry

  • 2 lbs bass / pomfret / tilapia fish (about 3-4) – gutted, scaled & scored on the sides
  • tandoori-masala paste (above) or seasoning of choice
  • 1/3 cup fine semolina (sooji) – if all you have is regular, then run it in a small blender jar for a few seconds
  • 1 cup oil for frying
  • chaat masala – optional
  • lemon / lime wedges for topping & garnish

1) Thoroughly wash the fish and drain completely. Pat dry with paper towels and set on a flat plate.

2) Generously apply the tandoori masala paste in the scores on the skin and on the insides.

3) Cover the fish and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours .

4) To fry, remove fish from refrigerator and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.

5) Pour about 1/4 cup oil into a flat, wide, heavy-bottomed pan and heat on medium.

6) Place semolina in a flat shallow plate/container and gently roll the fish to lightly coat.

7) Place the fish in the hot oil on its side and cook – carefully turning midway – about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

8) Drain and remove when the fish is golden and has a crispy coating.

9) Continue cooking the rest of the fish the same way, adding more oil as needed.

10) Sprinkle with chaat masala and a squeeze of lemon juice if desired. Serve with lemon / coconut rice and raita.

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

For Lemon Rice

This is a traditional South Indian rice dish (chitranna  in Kannada) that is eaten at room temperature and is served with a side of vegetables. While not traditionally served with meat, I feel it lends itself well to easy, make-ahead summer meals. Plus the zesty lemon taste goes well with the spicy fish and the creamy raita.

  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp channa dal
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 4-6 thai green chillies (slit in half)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled rice
  • 4 tbsp oil

1) In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium flame.

2) Add mustard seeds and partially cover till they pop.

3) Add the chana dal, stir for a few seconds and then add udad dal. Stir till just starting to turn light brown.

4) Add the slit green chillies and cook about 30 seconds, partially covering lid so it doesn’t splatter oil onto your hands or face.

5) Turn off stove, add turmeric and stir. Allow to cool.

[This mix can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored at room temperature in an air tight container. Do not add salt or lemon juice as it will make the dals soft instead of keeping it crunchy and nutty.]

6) To serve, add the seasoning mixture, salt, lemon juice & cilantro to the rice and mix well.

(This is a basic version of lemon rice. Additions include curry leaves, capsicum, peanuts/cashews, peas, etc. My family happens to like the plain version.)

For Raita

  • 1/2 cucumber – peeled & grated / finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream / hung yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro for garnish

1) Mix all ingredients and serve chilled.

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Chipotle-style Cilantro Lime Rice (Vegetarian)

Cilantro Lime Rice

This is an easy and mild recipe that you can serve with a Mexican or Tex-Mex style dinner. I made this for my Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options) for an informal gathering at our house a while back. (The photo is pathetic, but the taste was delicious!).

Chipotle-style Cilantro Lime Rice

(Serves 12-15)

This recipe scales well, so feel free to reduce or increase proportions as necessary. I have listed a large quantity as I served a dinner party.

For a family size meal (2 adults + 2 kids), 1 cup of rice might be enough.

  • 3 cups long grain rice (eg: basmati)
  • 5-1/2 cups water
  • 2 – 3 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 2 – 3 medium limes (juiced)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 stick butter (or scant 1/4 cup oil)

1) Rinse the rice with cold water and drain completely.

2) In a medium saucepan with lid, mix rice, salt and water, and bring to a boil on medium-high.

3) Once it comes to a boil, stir once, cover and reduce heat to minimum.

4) Allow to cook undisturbed for about 15 minutes. Open the lid and fluff the top layer gently with a fork, and cover quickly. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest for 5-10 minutes.

5) Add butter, cilantro & lime juice to taste. Adjust salt as needed. Mix well and serve.

I served this with a Homemade Chipotle-Style Tortilla Salad with beans, tofu and chicken options.

Eggless Mexican Rice Pudding – Arroz Con Leche

This rice pudding is decadent – creamy & sweet – both warm and chilled. It is similar to the Indian sweet Phirni (Firni) – the difference being that Phirni uses saffron and/or cardamon, while Arroz Con Leche uses cinnamon.

I remember my grandmother making her famous Phirni when I was a little girl, simmering it for what seemed like hours. The end result would be worth the wait. This recipe below, adapted from FOOD Network, is a quicker method, and tastes almost as good (I say almost, because, really, what can beat grandma’s cooking?!?!).

I served this as dessert at a Homemade Chipotle-Style Tortilla Salad buffet for family a few months back.

Eggless Mexican Rice Pudding – Arroz Con Leche

(Serves 15)

  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 12 cups water
  • 3 big cinnamon sticks
  • 2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk
  • 2 (14 oz) cans condensed milk
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup slivered almonds (toasted)
  • Ground cinnamon for dusting

1) Bring water, rice, and cinnamon sticks to boil, uncovered, in a large heavy saucepan.

2) On medium-high heat, cook the rice for about 15 minutes.

3) Strain the liquid and cinnamon sticks. Return rice to the saucepan.

4) Add the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk to the rice.

5) Bring to boil on medium-high heat, and the reduce to low. Cook uncovered for another 20 minutes, stirring often.

6) Check rice for doneness. Stir in the raisins and remove from heat.

7) Before serving, top with slivered and toasted almonds, and a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.

CAN BE SERVED WARM or COLD.

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

Badam Phirni

Phirni is traditionally made with fragrant Basmati rice that has been soaked for a few hours, then slow cooked for hours in milk till it turns into a creamy, decadent pudding that is flavored with sugar, saffron, and chopped nuts. My grandmother always made the most amazing phirni as a sweet accompaniment to  her famous mutton pulao. I am yet to eat something that matches – let alone beats –  her cooking!!

The recipe below is an easier version that is very simple to make. No soaking or hours of cooking required.  This phirni can be served warm, but it tastes best chilled. Make ahead the day before your Diwali party, and you have a fantastic dessert to serve.

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

(Serves 8-10)

  • 20 almonds, blanched
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 cups + 1/2 cups whole milk / half & half / cream* – (do not use skim milk – the cream in the dairy is what makes this dish tasty)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • pinch saffron

1) To blanch the almonds, soak them in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Test one almond by pressing between your thumb and forefinger. The skin should slide right off. If it doesn’t, soak for a few more minutes. Drain the water and skin the rest.

2) In a heavy bottom (preferably non-stick) pan, add 2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer on a low flame.

3) Meanwhile, in a small blender jar, add the blanched almonds, 1/2 cup milk and rice flour, and make into a fine paste. Set aside.

4) When the milk comes to a boil, add sugar and saffron, and simmer till all the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.

5) Still on a low flame, slowly add the almond-rice mixture and whisk so no lumps form, and the milk is creamy.

6) Add the cardamom powder and simmer about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. The phirni will thicken as it cools to the consistency of pudding.

7) Pour into serving bowl(s) and garnish with edible silver, nuts, saffron, etc.

8) Can be served warm, cool or chilled.

9) Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight containers.

*I plan on making a vegan version with Almond Milk the next time. Will update and let you all know how it turns out.