Fish Braised in Tomato and Simple Homemade Thai Curry Paste


It’s time to make this dish.  There are so many ripe tomatoes today, but they will be gone before we know it.  Make this dish with all of the tomatoes that you have purchased in a moment of tomato hoarding, or that have arrived in your farmshare.  Make this dish before your tomato stockpile starts to rot.  It can’t only be me…right?

This dish requires some fresh fish, some ripe tomatoes and just a few simple ingredients that you might even already have in your fridge.  The curry paste is the simplest of all the Thai curry pastes- just cilantro roots, garlic and white peppercorns.  It is unbelievably quick, simple and delicious.  Cilantro roots often get thrown away, which is a pity since they have a fantastically concentrated cilantro flavor.  If your local market sells cilantro with the roots cut off (that’s a shame) you could still make this paste with the cilantro stems and leaves.  Just double the amount of cilantro used.


I started using this curry paste with fish and my late summer tomatoes many, many years ago.  You can tell because the recipe is written on a card, which is how I recorded my recipe ideas back in the 20th century!  Every year that I’ve been writing this blog I’ve meant to share it.  That’s seven years and 466 posts worth of procrastination!  Woo!



This dish is good served with rice (sticky rice is the best).  It comes together pretty fast, so start your rice first.

  • 4 Tablespoons washed and chopped cilantro roots (double the amount if using stems and leaves)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and  roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • 4 very ripe tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons mild oil
  • 1 pound grouper fillet (I think snapper, halibut or bass would be good as well)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, minced (optional since the peppercorn provide heat already)
  • 1 Tablespoon-1/4 cup fish sauce (depends which brand you are using)
  • The juice of 1/2 – 1 lime (depends on how tart your tomatoes are)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (optional.  If your tomatoes are sweet you won’t need it)
  • 4 lime leaves (totally optional but if you have them, they are nice)
  • 1 handful of cilantro and/ or basil leaves (Basil is REALLY good)
  1. Start a pot of water boiling for the tomatoes.
  2. Pound the cilantro roots, garlic and white peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.  You can also process it in a blender if you have one that does well with small quantities (mine does not), but you’ll want to grind up those little hard peppercorns first and then add the softer stuff.  If you use a blender, move the paste to a little bowl when it’s done, because you’ll need the blender  for the tomatoes, but there is no need to wash it.
  3. Using a sharp knife, score the stem and but ends of your tomatoes with a little x.  Drop them into the water (which should be boiling by now).  After a few seconds the skins will crack.  Fish the tomatoes out of the water and let them cool for minute or two.  They should be pretty easy to core and slip out of the skins.  You can throw the skins away (if you are allergic or reactive to nightshades) or save them in your freezer for experimental economical soup stock.  Drop the naked tomatoes in to the blender and puree them.  I like the texture to be totally smooth, but you might like some chunks.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid (for later).  When it’s hot, but not smoking add the seasoning paste and fry it until it becomes aromatic.  It’ll just take a few seconds.  Add the fish and fry for a minute on each side, so that the paste sticks to the fish a bit.  Add the tomato puree, fish sauce (start with 1 tablespoon) and the jalapeño and lime leaves (if using).  When it starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium low, cover and let it cook for 5-10 minutes, until the fish is done.
  5. Season the sauce with lime juice and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce and sugar as needed.  Serve piping hot with rice sprinkled with cilantro and/ or basil leaves.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Glenda says:

    I have nice rockfish and tomatoes for this, just need cilantro with roots!

  2. mistimaan says:

    Great recipe………will try it soon 🙂

  3. chefkreso says:

    I really like the combo of flavors in this dish, it sounds so tasty!

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