Tirphal (Szechuan Peppercorns) is a very popular ingredient used in multiple preparations in the Konkan region of India (states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka). Tirphal is used mostly in fish curry dishes like Bangda (Indian Mackerel), Paplet (Golden Pomfret), Surmai (King Fish), etc. or it can also be added to vegetarian dishes.
Tirphal has a very distinct but a strong woody aroma and adds spiciness to the dish. Today’s recipe, Tirphal Bangda Curry (known as “Bangda Hooman” in Goa) was how mostly my mom prepared Indian Mackerel back home. It’s my dad’s favorite fish. She made a thick curry with coconut, tamarind, dried red chilies and tirphal base, with perfectly cooked fish.
It’s healthy, tasty, simple yet a comforting soul food and absolutely irresistible atop a bowl of hot steaming white rice.
Cooking time: 35 mins
1 cup coconut, freshly grated
½ cup onion, roughly sliced
½ cup coriander seeds (dhane)
3 cloves of garlic (lasun), large size
2 inch piece of tamarind (imli / chincha)
5 dried chilies, adjust as per spice tolerance
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
6 szechuan peppercorns (tirphal)
1½ tsp salt, or adjust as per taste
10-12 pieces Indian mackerel (bangda)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1. Soak tamarind in ¾ cup of warm water in a bowl and keep aside for at least 15 mins. Then mash it with a spoon to break up the flesh and separate the seeds. Strain the water in a bowl and discard the solids. Keep the strained tamarind liquid aside.
2. Combine freshly grated coconut, onion, coriander seeds, garlic, dried chilies, turmeric powder, salt and tamarind liquid in a mixer-grinder. Grind to a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl and keep aside.
3. Toast tirphal in a pan on medium heat for 2 mins. Then take tirphal in a mixer-grinder, add 1-2 tbsp of water to it and grind for at least 1 min. Strain, discard the tirphal pieces and keep the tirphal liquid aside.
1. Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the ground coconut masala and tirphal liquid to the pan. Mix well and saute for 1 min.
2. Then add 1½ cup water to the pan, stir well and bring the mixture (curry) to a boil.
3. Rinse the fish pieces with water and slowly drop them into the curry.
4. Boil the curry for 10 mins on medium heat. Then turn off heat.
Tirphal Bangda Curry is ready. Serve hot with steamed white rice.
spoonful O’ tips
1. Toasting the tirphal first before using, releases its full flavor.
2. Make sure to strain the tirphal and discard the pieces. Do not add it to the curry, else the dish will get a very strong and biting taste with a tingling feel to the tongue.
3. Instead of grinding tirphal with water, it can also be added whole to the curry. It adds flavor to the curry, but make sure not to eat it.
4. After cooking the curry, add more water if required to bring it to the required consistency.