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Bene Israel Fish Curry With Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro

Bene Israel Fish Curry With Fresh Ginger, Tamarind and Cilantro 6.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Mar 24, 2017

Joan Nathan learned this Sabbath and Passover specialty from a member of the Bene Israel community in Mumbai, whose ancestors are believed to be one the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Curry leaves and tamarind paste are available at Indian markets; you’ll find the latter also on the international aisle of well-stocked supermarkets. Simply omit the curry leaves from this recipe if you can’t find them.

Serve with rice and chutney.

Make Ahead: The fish needs to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6 servings

  • 2 pounds whiting, black sea bass or other firm, light-fleshed skinned fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece peeled ginger root, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 2 or 3 small green chiles, such as serrano, stemmed and seeded if you want less heat
  • 2 fresh/frozen curry leaves (optional; see headnote)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (see headnote)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into small dice


Place the fish in a nonreactive bowl or dish. Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, turmeric, chili powder and lime juice. Toss to coat, then cover and refrigerate for no more than a few hours.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, cilantro, green chiles (to taste), curry leaves, if using, and tamarind paste in a mini food processor. Puree to form a paste; transfer to a bowl.

Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the fish (working in batches, as needed). Cook for about 2 minutes per side until golden. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the fish to the lined plate.

Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and tomatoes; cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the onion has softened, then stir in the garlic-tamarind paste. Reduce the heat to medium-low; return the fish to the skillet and gently stir to incorporate, trying not to break up the fish pieces.

Once the mixture has warmed through, the fish curry is ready to serve.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Nathan’s “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking From Around the World” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017).

Tested by Jessica Weissman.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 240

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 12g 18%

Saturated Fat: 2g 10%

Cholesterol: 100mg 33%

Sodium: 410mg 17%

Total Carbohydrates: 7g 2%

Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%

Sugar: 3g

Protein: 29g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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