Kashmiri Fish and Lotus Curry

  • 105 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 90 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 people

Kashmiri Fish and Lotus Curry is a great combination from the far northern and most picturesque part of India, Kashmir. A place blessed with pristine rivers and serene lakes filled with a great variety of fish. 

For those who prefer sea fish, this dish can be made with one of those too. Paired with the fish is the crunchy lotus stem, hugely popular in Asian cuisine and well loved in India too. It is readily available in both Asian and Indian stores.

In this Kashmiri Fish and Lotus Curry we will make and use the spicy but very flavorful Kashmiri Vari Masala. The masala is also available pre-prepared as dried cakes, and could be far stronger and spicier.

What You'll Need

  • 1.5 kgs of Kingfish cut into 1.5” thick slices
  • 1 stem of lotus
  • Enough vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil to deep fry the fish
  • 2 large red onions, finely sliced for frying
  • For the Kashmiri Vari Masala: 2 large red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tsps of Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp of red chilli or cayenne pepper powder
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1” piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 black cardamoms
  • ½ tsp of asafetida powder
  • 4-5 green cardamoms
  • 4-6 cloves 
  • 1 tsp dry ginger powder
  • 1 tbsp black cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsps coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • 3-4 tbsps of water
  • For the gravy/ curry: 6-8 pieces of dried kokum (available at Indian stores)
  • 2 tbsps ghee
  • 2 X 1” pieces of cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp dry ginger powder

How to Make It

  • Put the fish into a large deep bowl, add salt and mix well. Keep aside for 15 minutes.
  • Wash the lotus stem well and ensure there is no mud sediment left behind. Peel and slice into thin, diagonal, 1/3” thick slices.
  • Next, pour 2 cups of vegetable cooking oil into a kadhai (Indian wok), or even in a medium to large deep and flat bottomed pan. Heat on medium heat. When the oil is really hot, fry the fish pieces, a few at a time so as not to crowd them. Use a slotted spoon to turn. When the pieces turn slightly brown, use the slotted spoon to remove onto paper towel. The idea is to quickly cook the surface of the fish and seal the moist flesh, without too much oil being soaked up by the fish pieces.
  • To make the Kashmiri Vari Masala: Rinse the food processor/ wet grinder well and then grind all the ingredients for the Kashmiri Vari masala in it, to a fine paste.
  • To make the curry/ gravy: In a pan, boil 1 cup of water and add the kokum pieces to the water. Boil for 3-4 minutes to extract the sour and tangy taste of the kokum. Strain and reserve the water to be used for the fish curry.
  • Next, add the sliced onions to the same oil in which the fish was fried, and cook till golden brown and glossy.
  • Remove from the heat, cool and grind to a paste in a food processor/ wet grinder.
  • In a deep pan add 2 tbsps of the vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil used for frying the fish (it is packed full of lovely fishy flavors!) and the 2 tbsps of ghee and heat on medium heat.
  • Add the cinnamon sticks, the cloves, and black cardamom to this oil and sauté until the whole spices are fragrant.
  • Next add the garlic paste and stir briskly two to three times.
  • Now add the lotus stem pieces and stir to mix well. 
  • Add the turmeric powder and give a quick stir. Now add 1 and a 1/2 tbsp of the prepared Kashmiri Vari Masala and stir to mix well.
  • Add the kokum extract, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 3-5 minutes.
  • Uncover the pan and gently add the fish pieces. Stir very gently being careful not to break up the fish pieces.
  • This dish requires a thin gravy, so add a little hot water… maybe 1/2 a cup.
  • Cover and cook for another 3 minutes on medium heat.
  • Uncover and sprinkle the ginger powder on top of the curry.
  • Cover and remove from heat. Keep covered for 10 minutes before serving.
  • The best accompaniment to this delicious dish is plain and simple, piping hot Basmati rice.