A fragrant fish dish from Mauritian chef Selina Periampillai
A recipe with a winding, colonial history and a unique cooking method: the fish pieces are gently cooked in oil, then marinated in all the spices and vinegar and left in the fridge to soak up the robust flavours. The resulting fish is a luminous yellow, heady and fragrant with turmeric, mustard seeds, green chillies, garlic and onions. Its flavours ignite the palate.
I make this pickled mustard fish the day before I want to eat it as the spices permeate the fish overnight, then let it come to room temperature before eating.
You can use fresh tuna, any firm white fish, or pieces of octopus and prawns with this spice mix. I eat it stuffed into a fresh crusty baguette or with rice.
700g tuna, trevally or king fish steaks (ask your fishmonger to clean and cut to approx 2½cm thickness)
2 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp black mustard seeds
4 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
6-8 green chillies, split lengthways, deseeded
100ml vegetable oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
Season the fish with salt and pepper. Using a pestle and mortar, grind the turmeric and black mustard seeds together. Add a splash of water to make a coarse paste.
Place a frying pan on a medium-high heat and pour in 2 tbsp mustard oil. Fry the fish for 4-5 mins on each side or until just cooked through and slightly crisp. Drain on kitchen paper, leave to cool slightly, then cut into bite-sized pieces and place in a mixing bowl.
At this point I don’t wipe the pan down but instead keep the tuna’s flavour in there for making the paste. Add the remaining 2 tbsp mustard oil to the pan, tip in the garlic, onions and chillies and cook for 1 min. Spoon in the spice paste and fry for 30 secs, stirring well into the oil. Add the fish pieces and gently incorporate with the yellow-tinged spice mix until every piece is coated. Take off the heat and pour in the vegetable oil, 1 tsp salt and the vinegar, and mix again.
Allow to cool, cover in an airtight container and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. Take it out of the fridge 10 mins before serving and allow it to come up to room temperature. Give it a gentle stir again before eating.
Recipe: Selina Periampillai
Image: Yuki Sugiura