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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An Indian Holiday Feast

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving break. It’s the start of the season of over-indulgence! Thanksgiving weekend was filled with good food, drinks, family, friends, shopping, gossip & spending time with three precious little nieces. While we have the traditional meal with all the accompaniments each year, I’ve never really been a fan of turkey. I had seen recipes for (east)Indian spiced turkey several times, and had also been meaning to try roasting a cornish hen for several years. I decided to try to meld both together and improvised along the way. The results were a delicious & colorful meal that worked for our taste buds :). And it was easy enough to make for a weeknight meal.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

The menu included:

For dessert, we had warm and sweet Gulab Jamoons 🙂

[Scroll down for recipes of items that are not hyperlinked.]

Tandoori Cornish Hen

Masala Corn

  • 1 cup corn kernels (cooked and drained) – I buy frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • salt to taste (use black salt / kala namak if available for a better flavor)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • cilantro for garnish

Mix all ingredients well and serve. The measurements are just a guide – adjust as per your taste.

 Peas & Carrot Pulao

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion – sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp green chilli paste (or 1 green chilli – slit)
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 tsp salt to taste

1) Heat oil in a medium pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow it to sizzle and pop for a few seconds.

2) Add the onion, ginger and green chilli. Saute on medium-high till translucent, stirring often.

3) Add the carrots and salt, and saute for 2 minutes.

4) Add the peas and cook for another 2 minutes.

5) Add the rice and saute for 1-2 minutes till it changes color.

6) Add 1 1/2 cups (one and a half) water and bring to boil.

7) As soon as the water comes to boil, stir once, reduce heat to LOW, and cook covered for about 12-15 minutes. Do not open the lid during this time. At end of cook time, open lid and gently fluff the rice with a spoon or fork. Check for doneness. Keep covered till ready to serve.

Raita

This recipe was given to me by my friend Sandhya’s mom and it is my most favorite raita recipe.

  • 1/2 medium grated cucumber
  • 1 cup greek yogurt / strained yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small dry red chilli
  • 2 Tbsp grated coconut
  • salt to taste

1) Wash, peel & grate the cucumber and drain for a few minutes.

2) In a small blender bowl, add half the yogurt, cumin, chilli & coconut and blend till smooth.

3) Mix all ingredients together and salt to taste.

NOTE: If you use regular yogurt, squeeze out the water from the cucumber before mixing in.

Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen

 

Tandoori Cornish Hen

After many years of wanting to make cornish hen, I finally mustered up the courage to experiment. I figured that with the accompaniments I planned to serve, we would at least have other things to eat if the meat didn’t turn out right. Let me just say that I should have made this a looooong time ago!! The chicken was moist, full of flavor, and falling off the bones. My 10 year old would have probably eaten a whole cornish hen if I let him :).

NOTE: Please take a few minutes to read the recipe before deciding if it’s easy or too complicated based on the number of steps below. I’ve laid out everything step-by-step, hence the long write up. In honesty, the whole process is pretty straight-forward and relatively easy. The only hard thing in my opinion is having to wait about 24 hours before eating.

Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen

(Serves 4)

  • 2 cornish hens – about 1 lb each (I buy the 4-packs from Costco)
  • 2-3 Tbsp oil / butter

FOR THE BRINE:

  • 32 oz buttermilk (about 4 cups)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken)
  • 8-10 whole cloves
  • 4 black cardamom pods (moti elaichi) / 6 green cardamom pod
  • 2-3 Tbsp salt (or more to taste)

1) Remove the plastic inserts from the cornish hens and wash inside & out thoroughly. Drain well.

2) Meanwhile, in a lidded container big enough to hold both birds, add all the brine ingredients and mix well. It should be on the saltier side, but don’t worry – the chicken will only absorb a little.

3) Gently immerse the hens into the brine, making sure that the brine fills the cavity and covers the whole bird. Cover the container and refrigerate overnight.

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 1/2 packet tandoori masala of choice (I mixed in a bit of red food coloring, but this is optional)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger paste
  • 1Tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon / lime juice

4) Next morning, mix all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust salt & lemon juice as needed.

5) Remove the chicken from the brine and pick away any whole spices sticking to it. Set aside on a plate and discard the remaining brine.

6) Evenly spread the chicken with the tandoori marinade, making sure to get under the skin and in the cavity*** (see note at bottom of post). (Do not slather the marinade on in thick layers as it will be doughy and bitter when cooked. Spread generously but evenly.)

7) Return to empty brine container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. You can flip the bird over once or twice while marinating (optional), and return to the refrigerator.

TO COOK THE CHICKEN:

  • 2-3 large red potatoes
  • 1 medium green pepper (capsicum)
  • 1-2 large red onion
  • 1-2 Tbsp oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

8) Remove chicken from the refrigerator and set at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

9) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375*F.

10) Chop the red potatoes, peppers & onion into large chunks and toss with oil, salt & pepper.

11) Place in the bottom of a roasting pan sprayed lightly with oil (you can line the pan with foil for easy cleanup).

12) Use twine to gently tie the chicken legs at the ‘ankles’ :)). Poke a toothpick through each wing into the breast meat to keep the wing from spreading & getting burnt while cooking. [Google “how to truss a chicken” for more info]

13) Place the hens on the roasting rack**(see note at bottom of post). Brush/spray lightly with oil or butter, and cover lightly with foil.

14) Bake for about 35-40 minutes covered. Remove the foil, baste with some remaining marinade, turn the roasting rack around, and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Watch closely to ensure that the meat does not turn dry. Chicken is done when the juices start to run clear.

15) Remove from the oven and gently drape the foil on the chicken (DO NOT SEAL). Let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with mint chutney and/or raita. For other accompaniments, check out my Desi Holiday Feast post.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

NOTE: I don’t like poking holes in the chicken before marinating as I feel it lets the juices run out and dry the meat while cooking. You can do it if you prefer, but the cook times may need to be adjusted.

If you do not have a roasting rack to cook the cornish hen, you can crumple up aluminum foil or layer on root vegetables on the bottom of the tray to keep it away from the juices.