The Origination Of Pakistani Fried FishFish, although a coastal commoner’s food, ironically, landed itself in another boat to royalty. During the Mughal reign, the royal chefs were influenced by cooks of Awadh. Therefore, they asked some of the pioneers to marinate the fish and cook it to royal perfection. The emperor, Akbar, along with his Nawabs, had enjoyed this intricate delight for lunch and dinner. History indicates how locals enjoyed fried batter foods such as pakoras, kachoris, puris, etc. Thus the cooks decided to double fry the fish with an orange dyed batter. It represented the color of Basant, and soon Pakistani fish rose to fame and continues to be a famous snack. Today, we see Pakistani fish available all over the world.
Pakistani Fish Recipe
- 2 lbs firm fish
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- ½ cup white flour
- 2 tbsp chickpea flour/ gram flour
- Optional: ¼ tsp black salt
- 1/3 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp red chili powder (or as per taste)
- 3 tbsp red crushed chili flakes
- 1 ½ tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp (heaped) fenugreek leaves
- 1 ½ tbsp caraway seeds
- 2 ½ tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste/minced ginger-garlic
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice/vinegar
- Oil for frying
- Whole spice powder for sprinkling
Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces and place in a wide tray.
Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish and sprinkle with a bit of the extra salt, along with the ginger garlic paste/minced garlic ginger. Rub all over the fish and ensure every side of the fish is well coated in this mixture. (see tips)
Coarsely grind the cumin seeds, caraway seeds, coriander seeds in the spice grinder for 5-10 second pulses. Add the seeds to the fish along with the salt, red chili flakes, red chili powder, turmeric powder, black salt, and fenugreek leaves. (see tips)
Set the marinade aside for 30 minutes to an hour.
In a saucepan, heat the oil about an inch or more above the pan, and while the oil is being heated, add the cornflour, flour, and gram/chickpea flour to the fish and mix well. If the mixture is too dry to stick to the fish, add just a splash of water but not too much otherwise, the mixture will be too runny, and you will not get the desired result of your Lahori fried fish. (see tips)
Have a tray covered with paper towels prepared to the side of your frying station and fry the fish in batches. Fry the fish for around two minutes on each side, place in the prepared tray, and remove excess oil by gently patting over the fish with a paper towel. (see tips)
Allow the fish to come at room temperature, then reheat the oil and fry the fish fillets over high heat for about a minute on each side. Drain the pieces of fish over a tray lined with paper towels (see tips).
Sprinkle whole spice powder (chat masala) over the fish and serve immediately with tartar sauce and lemon wedges to the side. Enjoy!
You could also use frozen fish fillets or fish biscuits for this recipe. Though you might not get the same level of freshness as you would by using fresh fish, it will save you time on having to skin, debone and cut the fish.
If you do not have an electric spice grinder at home, you can always use a mortar and pestle to grind your spices coarsely. Just remember you do not have to create a fine powder but instead leave the spices a bit chunky.
In place of flour, you could use rice flour or breadcrumbs to bring in an additional source of crunch to your fish.
If your fish mixture is too dry, add a splash of water a bit at a time till you reach the desired consistency. If the batter gets too runny, simply add in an additional tbsp. of gram flour/flour/cornflour.
Test the oil’s temperature by placing a bit of the batter in the hot oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready for frying, however, if it does not and the batter fully submerges to bottom of the oil, then it has not reached the desired temperature for frying.
Test fry one fillet of fish by frying it for three minutes on each side, taste the fish, and check whether the flavors are well balanced or if it needs any correction in the seasonings.
The purpose of double frying the fish over high heat ensures not only a tender, well-cooked fish, but it also guarantees a crispier fillet. If you do not wish to get into the hassle of refrying the fish twice, fry the fish over medium heat once but for three minutes on each side so that it is fully cooked through.