The simplicity of complex flavors in Parsi fish curry ‘Saas ni Macchi’ feels like a symphony on the palate.
Unlike most Indian and Parsi curries that depend heavily on spices; the Parsi white curry ‘Saas’ (in my knowledge, Saas is a linguistic diversion of the word Sauce) boasts of only two spice elements: fresh green chili peppers and whole cumin seeds.
But the part that really makes this fish curry stand out from its curry-peers, is the use of an egg-sugar-vinegar mixture, added at the end of the cooking process, to create a curry emulsion with magical taste.
Often served at Parsi weddings and events, the Saas ni Macchi is also a popular home-cooked meal, generally accompanied by Basmati rice Khichri (recipe below,) which is Parsi cuisine’s take on the well-known Indian rice-n-lentil Khichdi.
However, the Saas curry is just as amazing served with plain steamed Basmati rice or crusty bread.
Like most recipes passed down the generations, this is my mom’s family version of a Parsi classic, patiently perfected over the years, and definitely worth bringing to your dinner table.
So without much ado, let’s get to the food, or as us Parsis say ‘Jamva Chalo Ji’ (let’s go eat.)
- 1 lb. white fish like Tilapia or Pomfret
- ¼ teaspoon each salt and cracked black pepper, to season the fish
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 1 Serrano pepper or 3-4 Thai green chili (use more for a spicier kick)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 tablespoons rice flour (See notes)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Cut the fish into desired sized pieces and rub salt/cracked black pepper on them. Leave refrigerated till the curry gets prepared. This is also a good stage to soak the rice and lentils for the 'Parsi Basmati Rice Khichri' recipe below.
- In a mini food blender or food processor, grind together chopped onion, garlic cloves, Serrano pepper/Thai green chili and cumin seeds to a well-ground paste, add a tablespoon of water, if required for grinding the onion.
- In a saucepan, heat canola oil and add the onion mixture to the hot oil (watch out for splattering at this stage.) Cook the onion till it turns pinkish brown in color.
- Add rice flour (check notes for making rice flour at home,) salt and 3 cups of water; whisk together till you get a smooth curry; let it come to a boil, reduce the flame and cook covered for 10 minutes stirring intermittently.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg, cider vinegar and sugar together, till the ingredients are well beaten.
- On a low flame, whisk the curry continuously as you slowly drizzle the beaten egg/vinegar/sugar mix into the Saas preparation to create a thick warm emulsion. This stage needs constant whisking, else the egg will poach.
- Cover and let the flavors cook together on a low flame for 5 minutes; add more water if the curry gets too thick at any stage. Check for desired salt, adding more if required.
- Then cook the seasoned fish pieces in the white Saas curry till they’re done; fish like tilapia and pomfret take about 5-7 minutes to cook.
- Turn off the flame and add cherry tomatoes and chopped cilantro; the tomatoes need to retain their crunch, so don't let them overcook. Keep covered and serve hot.
- This unique white Saas preparation is ladled over Parsi Khichri (recipe shown below,) and works just as well with plain steamed Basmati rice or crusty bread.
- Rice flour is found easily at most grocery stores, but can also be made in smaller quantities at home. In a spice blender (or coffee grinder used as spice blender,) grind ½ cup of raw rice grains till it reaches a smooth flour texture. Store in an airtight container and use as required in recipes.
- 1 cup Basmati rice, washed and drained
- ¼ cup yellow moong lentils, washed and drained
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- In a large microwave safe bowl, add the washed and drained rice and lentils, cumin seeds, ground turmeric, salt and oil, along with 2 cups of water. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.
- In a microwave oven, cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Then cover with a loose fitting lid and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Let the rice stand covered in its steam for 15 minutes, then fluff the rice Khichri with a fork. Leave covered till ready to serve.
- Khichri makes a great accompaniment to the Saas ni Macchi preparation above. However, this simple and versatile rice-n-lentil Khichri can also be served as a side to any curry or entree of your choice.
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