Sweet and sour snapper curry

Sweet and sour snapper curry

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
4 snapper fillets, each about 170 g

For the marinade

Quantity Ingredient
2 cm piece fresh root ginger
1 red chilli
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar
1 lemon

For the curry

Quantity Ingredient
50g tamarind pulp
200ml boiling water
2 red onions
2 ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black onion seeds
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon soft light brown sugar, plus extra if needed
1 star anise
handful coriander sprigs


  1. For the marinade, peel and grate the ginger into a shallow dish. Halve, deseed and finely chop the chilli, then add it to the ginger with the ground fennel seed, turmeric and sugar. Pare the zest and squeeze the juice of the lemon, then add the zest and half the juice to the dish. Mix well.
  2. Cut each snapper fillet into 3 even-sized pieces. Add to the dish, rub the marinade paste all over them, then cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 20–30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put the tamarind pulp in a small bowl, cover with the 200 ml boiling water and leave to soak for at least 20 minutes; stir well.
  4. While the tamarind is soaking, to make the curry sauce, halve, peel and slice the onions. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then refresh in cold water, dry, peel and roughly chop.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan and fry the onions over a medium heat until starting to brown, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning. When they start to brown, add the fennel and onion seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add the chilli powder and ground fennel seed. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  6. Add the sugar, chopped tomatoes and star anise, then strain in the tamarind liquid, discarding the pulp left in the sieve. Season with salt and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Wipe any excess marinade off the fish and season with salt. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan. Fry the fish for 1 minute on each side, until lightly browned, then remove from the pan.
  8. Taste the sauce, adding the reserved lemon juice to taste, and season with salt, and sugar, if needed. Add the browned fish and simmer gently for 3–5 minutes or until the snapper is just cooked and tender.
  9. Roughly chop the leaves from a few coriander sprigs and stir into the curry, reserving some whole leaves. Remove the star anise and lemon zest, sprinkle with the coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice.


  • You can substitute any firm, white fish, such as haddock, pollock, sea bass, bream or monkfish.

A note on pan-frying or grilling fish with the skin on...

  • Fish skin will shrink when heated, so scoring it will prevent the fish from buckling in the pan or under the grill. Score it lightly several times, just through the skin and close together, using a very sharp knife for the best effect.

    When crisping fish skin, dry it thoroughly, then score and lightly salt it. Place skin side down in a non-stick frying pan. Place the pan over a low to medium heat and allow the skin to slowly crisp. You might need to press down or weight the fish to keep the skin in contact with the pan. Avoid moving it too much as the skin will easily come away from the fish. It is best to do most of the cooking on the skin side, turning it skin side up for just the last few minutes of cooking.
Leiths School of food and wine
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