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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Quinoa “Fried Rice”

 

 

 

Quinoa "Fried Rice"

 

 

This dish is so easy to make, and is can be customized with any vegetable and protein of your choice. We’ve had leftovers for brunch and even packed in a lunch box – it holds well for a few hours.

Quinoa “Fried Rice”

(Serves 5-6)

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 block firm tofu – well drained and crumbled; [OR] 1 egg
  • pinch turmeric (optional)
  • 1 small onion (diced fine)
  • 1 red pepper (seeded and diced small)
  • 1 (15oz) can peas & carrot – about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1) Cook quinoa according to package instructions and cool. Take care not to make the quinoa mushy.

2) In a large wok, heat 1 Tbsp oil on medium heat.

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3) Add tofu and turmeric and stir fry few minutes, stirring well, till dry and cooked. Adding a pinch of turmeric makes the tofu look just like scrambled eggs. Alternately, whisk 1-2 eggs in a small bowl and scramble. Set aside.

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4) In the same wok, heat the other 1 Tbsp of oil and saute the ginger – garlic paste till cooked. Add onions and cook till just starting to get golden.

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5) Add red peppers and chili flakes, and saute two minutes.

 

 

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6) Now add the peas & carrots, scrambled tofu / egg, quinoa, soy sauce and fish sauce. On a medium-high flame, mix well.

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7) Roast till well incorporated and heated through. Serve.

 

 

South Indian Chicken “Fry”

South Indian Chicken 'Fry"

This easy & tasty chicken dish can be prepared ahead of time and warmed in the oven just before serving. Deep frying will give it a better taste, but pan frying / stir frying is almost as good, and a little healthier.

South Indian Chicken Fry

(Serves 5-6)

  • 4 lbs chicken (cut in small pieces)
  • 2-3 garlic pods (grated)
  • 1 inch ginger (peeled & grated)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp cloves powder
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder

For tempering:

  • 1 sprig curry leaves;
  • 3-4 green chillies (slit)

1) In a large bowl, mix all the spices. Add chicken and marinate for 3-4 hours, stirring once midway.

2) In a wide pan / wok, heat 2 Tbsp oil on medium-high. Add half the chicken and stir fry till cooked and the moisture is gone, stirring often. Avoid overcooking as it makes the meat rubbery.

3) Repeat with the remaining chicken and place on serving platter.

4) In the same wok, heat 1 tsp oil and add the slit green chillies. Use a plate or lid to partially cover the wok and shield your face, as the chilli seeds will pop and splatter. Fry for a few seconds. This gives the dish a wonderful flavor.

5) Add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds, waiting for it to stop crackling.

6) Pour the oil with chillies and curry leaves over the plated chicken and serve hot.

NOTE: You can use skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, but I prefer to have the butcher make 5 small pieces from 1 whole leg and thigh piece.