The story of migration is often told through food. Growing up, my mom made perfect potato tahdig atop Iranian-style spaghetti, a testament to Italian-American-Iranian fusion. We found that Thanksgiving turkey went perfectly with baghali polo, an aromatic basmati rice and fava bean pilaf.
As I learn to cook Sri Lankan food, I’m discovering a similar story. For example, my Sri Lankan cookbooks instruct me to make red fish curry with tuna, but Nishan tells me his mom always used salmon when he was growing up in Canada. After all, salmon is ubiquitous in the great white north. And as it turns out, this curry tastes better with salmon than it does with tuna. Or maybe we’re biased. Maybe it’s nostalgia.
I serve this healthy, easy curry with homemade lemon pickle and Iranian-style rice and tahdig, adding yet another layer to our collective story of migration.
2 pounds wild salmon fillet, scaled and deboned
1 tablespoon tamarind, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water and solids discarded
2 tablespoons roasted curry powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
2-inch piece ginger, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 green chiles (such as Serrano), halved lengthwise
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1. Cut salmon into 1-inch pieces and marinate in a mixture of the tamarind, curry powder, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, and paprika for 30 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute onions, ginger, garlic, green chiles, and curry leaves until onions are softened.
3. Add salmon to saucepan with water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes until salmon is cooked.