While I love tandoori—a style of cooking that uses the intense heat of a clay oven (tandoor) to cook marinated meat—I have a few problems with many restaurant versions. First, the dishes are often tinted with red food coloring as a substitute for paprika, and second, they often include low-quality spice blends that lack flavor and aroma. With my family’s spice combination, a freshly made masala featuring turmeric, cumin, paprika, and a fresh paste of ginger, garlic, and cilantro, you will be rewarded as if you had a large tandoor oven in your backyard. The ginger-garlic-cilantro paste helps tenderize the fish. The result is a broiled salmon that is succulent, perfectly charred on the outside, and moist and flaky on the inside with an enticing citrus aroma. This delicious tandoori is best enjoyed with a yogurt raita and warm buttered naan.
1. Place the salmon on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together the ginger-garlic paste, paprika, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, lime juice, oil, and salt, and then rub the combined ingredients all over the salmon. Cover and allow the fish to marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the fish for about 10 minutes. Heat the broiler and broil the fish directly under the broiler until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
GINGER, GARLIC, AND CILANTRO PASTE
When cooking Malaysian food, you will notice that most meat, rice, and seafood dishes use plenty of healthy aromatics. The trio of fresh ginger, garlic, and cilantro, ground into a paste, is the secret foundation that provides depth and aroma to many dishes. Preparing it in advance is a terrific time saver, because you won’t have to peel the garlic and grind the ginger for each use. You only need to use a few tablespoons of this paste to start your cooking: Add to marinades, soups, stir-fries, or braised meat and seafood dishes. I even add it to canned marinara sauces to bring them alive. This essential paste keeps well in your refrigerator for at least a week or, to extend its shelf-life, you can freeze it in small containers or in ice cube trays.
Makes about 1 cup
Combine the ginger, garlic, cilantro, and water in a food processor. Blend into an aromatic paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as often as needed. Transfer the paste to an airtight glass jar. Store in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Excerpted from THE MALAYSIAN KITCHEN © 2017 by Christina Arokiasamy. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.