Cardamom Fennel Rubbed Striped Bass

In this easy-to-make curry from Calcutta, the subtle fish is enhanced by perfumed cardamom, sweet fennel, and assertive chiles and garlic. Serve with steaming white basmati rice, sautéed spinach and red bell peppers.

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds (from about 10 pods)
  • 2 dried red Thai chiles, cayenne chiles or chile de arbol, stems discarded
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 4, 6-ounce striped bass fillets (with or without skin)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

Combine the fennel, mustard and cardamom seeds in a spice grinder and grind finely. Transfer to a small bowl. Tear the chiles into small pieces. Place chiles and their seeds in a mortar or between sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a pestle or rolling pin to break into smaller pieces. Add to the small bowl. Mix in the garlic and salt. Press the rub into the fish fillets. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat the oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish, skin-side down, and cook until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes per side. Turn over and cook 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lifting the fish to allow the milk to flow under. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the fish feels springy to the touch and is just opaque in the center when cut into with a small sharp knife, about 2 minutes longer. Divide the fish and sauce among 4 warmed plates. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


  • Be certain to mix the coconut milk thoroughly before measuring because the cream rises to the surface