Packets of gram flour and rice flour

Regular readers will both know that I’m rather partial to a popular Punjabi streetfood called fish amritsari. But the nearest street to Amritsar on Dublin’s northside is the Botanic Road in Glasnevin, where Vagya (one of my favourite takeaways) specialises in Nepalese and Indian grub.

Their version is delicately flavoured, and – no offence to Vagya – I fancied amritsari more often than my takeaway spending allowance allows (an allowance measured out not only in euros but also in carbs, salt, vegetable oil etc). Hence I thought I’d create a simple but ultra-healthy version in the comfort of my own kitchen.

Vagya’s own takeaway menu describes their amritsari as

…boneless fish marinated with egg, yoghurt, thymol seeds and spices batter in gram flour and deep fried

I’ve narrowed it down to a quick, easy recipe: no eggs, no yoghurt, thyme leaves instead of thymol seeds, and hardly a hint of a batter. In fact it probably has almost nothing to do with genuine traditional amritsari at all (or the following video). But I love it.

  1. The ingredients

  • 300g firm white fish fillets (say haddock or halibut or hake)
  • The marinade:
    • A thumb-sized piece of ginger
    • 2-3 garlic cloves
    • The juice of half a lemon (or of one lime)
    • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
    • A pinch of red chilli powder
    • 1 teaspoon of thyme (dried or fresh)
    • A pinch of sea salt
    • A couple of twists of black pepper
    • A teaspoon of water
  • 2 tablespoons of rice flour
  • 4 tablespoons of gram flour
  • Rapeseed oil, for frying

You’ll find gram flour (aka chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour or besan) in most Irish supermarkets; try an Asian store for the rice flour.

2. Make your marinade

Peel and thinly slice the ginger and garlic, and pound all the marinade ingredients in a pestel and mortar to a reasonably fine paste. It won’t win any beauty contest, but who cares?

Cut the fish into chunks; I go for very small, about three-centimetre cubes.

Place the chunks in a glass bowl (or plastic container from your favourite takeaway), pour on the marinade and toss well to coat. Leave it in the fridge to marinate for an hour.

3. The ‘batter’

Mix together the rice flour and gram flour. Sprinkle enough of it over the fish to coat it on all sides as best you can, and set aside for ten minutes. Again, no beauty contest.

4. The fry

Heat up the oil in a frying pan or wok – not too much oil, just under half the “depth” of the fish pieces. This is not a deep fry.

Drop batches of the fish into the hot oil, do not overcrowd the pan. Fry for a minute or so until golden brown, turn and fry the opposite side too. The fish has already been marinated, so it cooks very quickly.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish from the pan, leave it to drain on kitchen paper, then serve garnished with a little chopped coriander and the dip of your choice such as a chilli sauce.

Do try it. You will be pleasantly surprised. While it may not transport you to the sights and sounds and smells of Amritsar, it’ll bring you close to the Botanic Road in Glasnevin.