Indian spiced fish sandwiches

June 7, 2011 § 78 Comments

Shananana, yeah.  Shananana!  For some reason I feel like singing everything right now.  So, just pretend that this has a melody.  I’ve always felt life would be more fun if it were a musical.  Don’t you?

Actually, last week Joel and I went out for ice cream and our scooper (is that what you call the people who scoop your ice cream?) sang “what can I get for you?”  So, we sang our orders back, and he was so excited (apparently no one else was responding to him in song) that he gave us our ice cream for free – after an extended operatic interlude in which we discussed sizes and toppings and I tried to insist on paying.  We got a lot of stares from the other people in the ice cream store.

And, now I’m in a singing mood again.  I’ve been feeling very chipper ever since I did yoga in our backyard yesterday.  Yoga outside appears to be like a happy drug.  Who knew?!

And you know what else is like a happy drug?  Pickled onions.  I suppose they may not have this effect on everyone, but I keep getting really excited about them.  Ever since I pickled shallots to have with broccoli the other day I have been living a pickled onion dream!  The perfectly pink pickled onions on these sandwiches are no exception.

Actually, everything about these sandwiches worked out dreamily.  I’m thinking they were meant to be.  You see, I actually originally made these onions to go with tacos that I cooked up for some dinner guests.  But, I completely forgot to put them out with the rest of the taco toppings.  (I’ve been even spacier than usual lately, and this is just one more example, I guess).  I discovered my oversight the next day and decided that I would have to use them in something else.  Suddenly sandwiches with sweet-sour onion pickles seemed to be the order of the day.

I rummaged through the freezer and uncovered some frozen filets of sole and the extra flatbread that I had baked.  A plan began to take shape in my mind.  A plan involving warm, heady Indian spices by the handful, crisply seared fish, crunchy pickled onions, creamy yogurt, all gently tucked into soft rounds of bread.  This was sounding like a really good plan…

And it was.  These fish sandwiches are a fireworks display of flavors – cumin, turmeric, chilis, ginger, cilantro, garlic, a squirt of lime, pow, pow, pow! Bursting in your mouth in gorgeous cascades.  And, in fact, they have some of the brilliant colors of a fireworks display too, or perhaps the colors of a showy tropical bird, what with the playful magenta of the onions and green of the herbs, set against the yellow of the fish and soft cream of the bread.  And, a brilliant white dollop of plain yogurt, since I can’t seem to resist adding yogurt to everything these days, ties it all together with cool, refreshing tang.

I love making spice-rubs for fish filets and then broiling them or pan searing them.  It’s a sure fire way of adding an enormous amount of flavor without the planning ahead necessary for a marinade.  And, I like the crust the spices form in response to the heat (and butter) in the pan.  The pickled onions do require a little planning ahead, since they should sit overnight for the best flavor, but they take only a few minutes to make, and then you are free to promptly forget about them for as long as you’d like (provided it’s less than a month or so!) until you need them for dinner.

I skipped adding lettuce to my sandwiches because I used cilantro by the bunch, which basically substituted for lettuce.  But, I am a self-admitted cilantro fiend, and I know not everybody loves cilantro in vast quantities, so I won’t stop you from adding a little less cilantro and maybe some shredded lettuce for extra green, or perhaps some chutney, or a sprinkling of toasted coconut.  There is such a swirl of bold flavors here, I think in this case more may, in fact, be more, as long as you keep with the South Asian flavor profile.

So go ahead and try them, and see if you don’t just suddenly find that you feel like singing.

Indian Spiced Fish Sandwiches (serves 4)

  • 1 lb. (or a little more) filets of any delicate white fish (sole, catfish, line-caught Haddock)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. each ground cumin, coriander, chile powder, turmeric
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each ground ginger, ground mustard, salt, and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • butter or olive oil for frying
  • 4 pieces of naan or other soft flatbread
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro, for serving
  • 1 lime, cut into quarters, for serving
  • pickled red onion (see below), for serving
  • plain Greek-style yogurt, for serving
  1. Mix together all the spices and the flour in a shallow pan.
  2. Pat your fish filets dry with a towel or paper towel.  Then, dredge each filet in the spice mixture until well covered.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat a couple of Tbs. of butter or olive oil over medium high heat.  When the butter is foaming (or the oil is shimmering), add the fish and fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until cooked through (it will flake easily with a fork).
  4. Divide the fish between the 4 pieces of flatbread.  Squirt the lime juice all over the fish.  Then, top with cilantro, pickled onion, and yogurt.  Roll up (actually, we kind of more ate them gently folded like a taco shell) and enjoy!  They’re pretty stuffed full so you have to eat them carefully, or else messily, whichever you prefer.
Pickled red onion
  • 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbs. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  1. Put the onion in a heat proof bowl.
  2. In a small sauce pan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon.  Bring this just to a boil.  Then, remove from the heat and pour over the onion.  Cover and let come to room temperature.
  3. Then, either refrigerate overnight in the bowl, or if you’re planning on waiting for longer to use them, transfer the onion slices with the liquid to a jar and keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks.
  4. Also, when you’re using them, make sure you keep all the liquid so that if you don’t use them up you can keep storing them in the liquid and using them for all sorts of things, like tacos, salads, other sandwiches, etc.

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