Tandoori To Tawa Fry: 7 Ways To Prep Seafood For Indian Recipes
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Indian cuisine boasts some of the most eclectic seafood preparations, be it a shrimp vindaloo, a nadan meen curry, a chingri maacher malai kari or something as simple as a tawa masala fry. Cooking with the season, however, is not without its challenges. Most seafood are delicate and retaining their natural profile without having to deal with its rawness is no cakewalk. 

While overcooking can rob it of its natural texture and flavour, undercooking it may render it inedible. A great way to get it right is by prepping the fish properly. Prepping seafood often involves seasoning or marinating it with herbs, spices, and other flavour enhancers. This not only adds depth and complexity to the taste but also allows the seafood to absorb these flavours, enhancing its overall appeal. 

The method of prepping seafood differs depending on the delicacy. For instance, a North Indian fish curry benefits from double marinades or a longer, more thorough marination to let the spices seep in. A Chettinad recipe may call for a simple spice blend featuring black pepper, fennel, and poppy seeds, to boost the spice-forward profile of the dish. If you’re not sure how to get started, here are a few pointers for prepping seafood for the main kinds of Indian preparations. 

Tandoori Preparations

For tandoori preparations which involve grilling or skewering fish, it’s best to use bite-sized pieces which can absorb more flavours. Marinate the seafood in a mixture of yoghurt and spices, such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. This robust marinade pares down the natural fish essence and the yoghurt tenderises the fish which serves a dish well even if the fish is grilled for a long time. The charred spices are also effective in balancing out the raw aroma of the fish. 

Steamed Fish

If you're steaming fish for an Indian recipe and want minimal dressing, you need to pick 2-3 ingredients for the marinade. To prepare steamed fish go for a basic salt and pepper seasoning, followed by a light rub of ginger or garlic powder and lemon juice. You can also go for a longer hour-long marinade with some micro greens to infuse the fish with herbaceous notes.

Masala Fry

For a simple masala fry or a tawa masala dish, marinate the seafood in a spice blend featuring red chili powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garlic. The marinated seafood is then pan-fried until it forms a flavorful crust, creating a dish with a perfect balance of spice and texture. This preparation method lets the inherent flavours of the seafood shine through while being complemented by the boldness of the masala. 

Coconut-Based Preparations

For coconut-based seafood preparations like a Mangalorean Prawn Curry or a coconut seafood rassa, try to include a ginger-garlic paste and lime in the marinate. Ginger’s warm, bracing notes are a contrast to the cooling coconut flavour and also play up its nuttiness. Ginger is also naturally quite grassy, so this marinade is ideal for summer curries when you want some natural flavours to shine through 

Yoghurt-Based Recipes 

North Indian seafood curries like Amritsari Fish or a Kashmiri Dum Fish Curry, which typically use yoghurt can benefit from a double marinade -- dry spice rub and another marinade featuring ginger-garlic paste, yoghurt and lemon juice. The longer marinade lets the yoghurt tenderise the fish, it also settles the seasoning and offers a robust profile. The addition of kasuri methi can also add a distinct grassy freshness to heavy curries 

Mustard-Based Curries

Mustard has a unique and rather pungent flavour when cooked. Dishes like Shorshe Maach (Mustard Fish) and Shorshe Chingri (Mustard Prawn) have a strong heat, though they’re not actually spicy. It’s best to use a mustard-based marinade for this. If you don't have a ready-made mustard paste, you can make it by soaking mustard seeds in water for a few hours and then grinding them into a smooth paste. Mix in the mustard paste, poppy seed paste, yoghurt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt, and mustard oil and marinate for 40 minutes. 

For Batter Fries Or Fritters

A hint of milk and ginger in the batter can help counteract the natural fishy smell when you’re not cooking it in a flavourful gravy. For marinating, use a salt, pepper and lemon juice mixture to settle the taste of the fish. You can also try to infuse it with herbaceous flavours like thyme, oregano and rosemary