Sri Lanka, the lovely Southeast Asian island off the coast of India gained it's independence from the British in 1948 as the Commonwealth of Ceylon. It became a republic within the Commonwealth in 1972 and changed it's name to Sri Lanka. You can definitely see Indian & British influences in their food. Common are spices such as cloves and cinnamon and dishes like coconut based curry are a direct nod to their northern neighbors. And the history lesson ends.........now.
I came across some Sri Lankan curry at my favorite spice market, World Spice. The fragrant mixture contained coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, cassia, clove, cardamom, pequin chile, and tellicherry black pepper. I always buy my spices whole and right before I use them I first toast them in a dry pan and then grind them myself in my little trusty coffee/spice grinder (Just don't use the same grinder for your coffee or you'll either wind up with disgusting curry coffee or coffee flavored fish! Either way it's a lose lose situation.). Do this and you will never buy those dried weeds that have been sitting on grocery store shelves for that past ten years ever again. Fresh spices make a world of difference.
I bought some local fresh cod and decided to make a Sri Lankan fish curry. I had my fishmonger clean and fillet the cod for me (whenever I clean fish at home my apartment smells like fish for days and although my cat doesn't seem to mind, I don't care for it). You could use whatever kind of fresh white fish is local in your area. In my opinion you should always go for local and fresh over regionally authentic to the recipe when it's comes to fish. I'd much rather eat some Pacific cod snatched out of nearby waters than Chinese black cod that's been mostly frozen for two months.
Sri Lankan Fish Curry
2 lbs fresh cod fillets (skinned and deboned)
1 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp Sri Lankan curry (toasted and ground)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp ginger, minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced (reserve some of the green parts for garnish)
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
1 hot Thai chile, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 Tbsp canola oil
In a large saute pan or wok over medium heat add the canola oil and saute the onions, and peppers for 4 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and scallions and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Then add the Sri Lankan curry powder and stir until it starts to almost smoke. Pour in the coconut milk and a little salt, stir to incorporate the spices. Simmer the curry for about 10-15 minutes until it slightly thickens. Season the cod with salt and gently nestle the fillets in the curry making sure they are covered. Lower the heat to medium low and cover. Let the fish steam for about 8-10 minutes. Serve over steamed rice and garnish with scallions and basil.