People go to weddings for the korma. I don’t. I am straight up there for the Lahori Fried Fish and the dessert. For most of my life my “shadi” plate has been half a plate piled with hot naans and the other half with savory unctuous battered deep fried, but so damn good Lahori Fried Fish. My father would always warn me about the perils of eating seafood in the summer, but fish over korma any day.
So in my head Lahori fish always has a spiced chickpea batter and then. Well, and then, my brother got married. That was exciting and all, but there was this fish at his nikah (the Muslim wedding ceremony). This crunchy, spicy, punchy fish. It had all the flavors of a lahori fried fish, but the CRUNCH people, the crunch.
I was so excited that I immediately went into the hosts’ kitchen in my “chamak challo” (glitter and sparkle) dressed for a wedding state and enthusiastically began complimenting a confused catering staff who told me where I could leave my plate.
Leave my plate. Pffft. I had just started eating.
I asked a server what it was and he said Lahori Fried Fish in a matter of fact way that suggested I was a total dummy. Clearly he had not given much thought to this crunch situation. And then there was this sauce – what’s the sauce I asked them? The server, who had now had just about enough with me told me it was tartar sauce and then disappeared before I could question him about the mayo used to make the sauce. My husband wasn’t quite so academic in his enjoyment and was slathering the tartar sauce on the fish, sprinkling with the provided chaat masala and eating on.
Like a good wife (lol) I decided to follow suit.
In my intensive googling since I have discovered several things. One, that back in the day you wouldn’t use “besan” or chickpea flour, but now it seems integral. Two, to add an egg or not to add an egg. My breading stayed on and crunchy, but I am not above a little breading fix if needed. Three, some recipes called for the addition of rice flour or cornstarch. Rice flour provides a sharper crunch and if I was motivated enough to grind up some rice I could have used it, but instead I went with breadcrumbs and am pleased with the outcome.
Is this as good as the Lahore Fried Fish I had that day? I don’t know, because that day was one of the happiest of my life. Memory is fickle that way, it is hard to separate fact from sentiment. Here is what I do know: this is crunchy-spicy-delicious and I’d happily eat it any day of the week.
A Crunchier Lahori Fried Fish
- 2 lb any white firm fish cut into 2 inch pieces
- 3/4 tsp garlic paste
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2.5 tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 1.5 tbsp ajwain (caraway seeds)
- 1 tbsp kasuri methi / fenugreek leaves (heaped)
- 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 2-3 tbsp red chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne)
- 1/3 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp black salt (optional)
- 2 tbsp besan/ chickpea flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- Chaat Masala
- Lemon Wedges
- Tartar Sauce
- Oil (for frying)
Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish, sprinkle w a little salt (not included in ingredients), add the garlic paste and mix deftly.
Coarsely grind the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and ajwain in a grinder (4-5 seconds) and add to the fish along with the rest of the spices and the methi
Set aside for 20 minutes
Heat an inch or more of oil in a pan.
When the oil starts to shimmer then mix the breadcrumbs and besan into the fish to give good coverage. If the mixture is too dry then add a splash of water, but not too much. You want the mixture to stick to the fish, but not become gummy. If it does become gummy then add a little more besan and breadcrumb
Test fry a piece of fish 3 minutes on each side, adjust seasoning if needed.
Continue frying the fish in batches and drain on paper towels.
Serve right away with tartar sauce, wedges of lemon and chaat masala on the side