Masor Tenga is one of the popular main dish of Assamese cuisine and is an integral traditional Assamese Thali. This dish is light and tangy from the tomatoes, and mildly spiced. This dish is relatively easy to make. Assam (famous for tea) is on the Eastern side of India and so there are a lot of Thai and Chinese influences. Traditionally they use fermented bamboo shoots called kharisa but you can use tinned bamboo shoots if you have.
I fried the fish in mustard oil as Assamese do but you can use any vegetable oil. The mighty Brahmaputra River flows through Assam and so the local fish is river fish. I used warehou which is local to the waters in and around Wellington but you could use any white fish fillets or even steaks.
For the fennel seed powder, I suggest you roast about a tablespoon of fennel seeds and pound it in a mortar and pestle.
700g white fish fillets
100ml mustard oil or vegetable oil
For the marinade
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon fennel seed powder
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
For the sauce
1 star anise
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
150g onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon fennel seed powder
½ teaspoon brown sugar
100g bamboo shoots, sliced
3-4 makrut lime leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
200g of tinned tomatoes
1 tablespoon coriander leaves to garnish
Cut the fish into 6-8 centimetre pieces. Combine the ingredients for the marinade and rub all over the fish pieces. Set aside in a cool place to marinate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan. Add the star anise, nigella and fennel seeds and saute for a few minutes until the spices begin to splutter. Fry the onions until softened and golden brown on medium heat.
Saute the powdered spices for a minute, then add salt and sugar and bamboo shoots if using. Break up the tomato in your hand and add to the pan along with the lime leaves, lemon juice and 100ml water. Bring to the boil and let simmer while you fry the fish.
In a separate pan, heat the remaining oil. Fry the fish pieces a few at a time not to crowd the pan. Fry for a minute on each side and set aside until all pieces are fried.
Gently add the fried fish pieces to the simmering sauce. Spoon sauce over onto the fish pieces and heat through for a couple of minutes.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot on white rice. Serves 4.