My husbands favorite–Kerala Fish Curry

Kerala Fish curry is one of the most traditional dishes from my state of Kerala in India. It is consumed by most all Keraleans and any housewife worth their salt is judged on the how well this dish is made. It is my husbands favorite dish and I have perfected this recipe over the 22 years we have been married. This fiery red curry is spicy and tangy with the addition of fish tamarind or Kokum ( also called Camboge). This dried fruit is not the same as the tamarind used in other cooking and found only in Kerala. Without this, it is not Kerala fish curry. I make a more Kottayam style fish curry (kottayam is my fathers hometown with a rich syrian christian food heritage) It is also best the next day especially if kept in an earthenware dish or cheena chatti.

Kerala Fish Curry


2 lbs of firm fish, cleaned and cut into chunks ( I usually use King Fish or Blue fish)

2 tbsp. chopped ginger

2 tbsp. chopped garlic

3 tsp fish masala

1 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp paprika

4 pieces of Kokum soaked in a cup of warm water

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 large onion sliced

handful of curry leaves

1/2 c coconut oil

1 tbsp. coconut slices


Heat 1/2 the coconut oil in a small frying pan and add ginger and garlic . Fry well until a deep brown. Add masala powders and fry for a few minutes. Remove from heat and grind with some of the water used to soak kokum until smooth. ( remove the kokum pieces- just use the soaking water) Take another larger frying pan and add the rest of the oil and add mustard seeds. After spluttering, add curry leaves, sliced onions, coconut slices and brown. Then add the ground spice mixture and more of the kokum water. Add fish pieces and reduce flame. Keep uncovered. Let cook for 10 minutes.  Serve with boiled or seasoned tapioca or white rice.

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