Fish Kofta Curry (Burma)

(Photo by food_in_mouth/Flickr)

For a more delicate dish, poach the fish koftas in simmering water and serves a fish soup accompanies by boiled rice.

Serves 6.


1 kg/2 lb firm white fish fillets
(jewfish, cod or gemfish)
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander or dill
2 slices white bread, soaked in hot water
and squeezed dry
1 teaspoon anchovy paste or sauce (optional)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup gingelly oil or peanut oil
mixed with 1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste
375 ml/12 fl oz/1 1/2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice


If the fillets have not been skinned, with a sharp knife remove skin from fish. Finely mince fish, taking care to remove bones. (To do this without a mincer, cut fillets into thin slices lengthways, then chop finely across.) Put minced fish in a large bowl, add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly with the hands. Shape the mixture into walnut-size balls (koftas). Makes approximately 24 balls.

Curry: Heat oil in a large saucepan and fry onions, garlic and ginger until soft and golden. Add turmeric, chilli powder and paprika, tomatoes and salt. (Paprika is not traditionally used in Burma, but it does give a good red colour without adding excessive heat.)

Wrap dried shrimp paste in aluminium foil and cook under hot griller for a few minutes on each side. Unwrap, dissolve in 1 1/2 cups hot water and add to pan. Cook, covered, until tomato is soft and pulpy. If gravy seems too reduced, add a little hot water. There should be enough gravy to almost cover the fish koftas. Carefully put the koftas in the gravy and simmer over a moderate heat until they are cooked, about 20 minutes. Shake pan gently from time to time. Do not stir until fish has cooked and is firm, or the koftas might break. Gently stir in coriander leaves and lime juice and serve with rice.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)