Soft white fish simmered in spiced coconut milk, this Kerala Style Fish Curry has a beautiful balance of sweet and sour. Like any another seafood curry, this fish curry with coconut milk comes together very quickly. You don’t need any fancy gadget or a lot of effort to make this fish curry. Paired with steamed white rice, it’s a delicious hearty meal for any time of the year.
I will not call this Kerala Style Fish Curry as an authentic Malabari style fish curry, but it is pretty darn tasty. I did make a few alterations with the recipe, but the overall taste was pretty much spot on!
What variety of fishes can you use?
I used shol fish and it is a fresh lake water, soft white fish with just one bone in the center. You can use catfish, king fish, mackerel, pomfret or tilapia. If you can’t find any of them, you could really use any variety of fish fillets that you have, including salmon.
Whatever variety of fish you choose to use, make sure to marinate it with salt and turmeric for at least 15 minutes for the best taste of the fish.
Depending on the variety of fish that you use and size of the steak, it should take from 5 to 7 minutes for the flaky texture. Overcooking makes the fish tastes rubbery.
Kerala Style Fish Curry with Coconut
It’s an aromatic coconut-based curry that can be prepared very quickly with a few basic ingredients. The curry is said to taste best the next day as the flavor blends and enhances on resting.
The main flavor of the fish comes from the coconut. Coconut oil is used in preparing the dish. The gravy is made with thin coconut milk which is just water and coconut milk. And the curry is finished with thick coconut milk.
I avoided adding thick coconut milk at the end as I loved the taste and color of the curry as is.
Can you make this dish without Coconut Milk?
YES, you absolutely can replace coconut milk with water. However, the taste will change because of that. You will get the sourness from the tamarind but the mild sweetness will be missing.
How to prepare the Kerala Style Fish Curry
Few easy steps are involved in making this South Indian Style Fish Curry!
- Fish is marinated with salt and turmeric for a while.
- In a pan the whole spices and fresh curry leaves are sautéed in coconut oil along with onion, garlic and ginger. After which the spice powder goes in along with tomatoes.
I used three variety of tomatoes only because of flavor and color, but you can replace all that and use just one variety.
- Once the spices, onion and tomatoes are cooked through, add the coconut milk along with the tamarind paste. Allow it cook for a while before adding the fish fillets. The fish fillets doesn’t take a long time to cook but will depend on the variety and size used.
- Typically at the end more coconut milk is added along with little coconut oil for the pronounced flavor of coconut. I however didn’t follow this last step as I liked the taste and flavor of the curry just by adding coconut milk once.
HEAT LEVEL OF THE CURRY
I have kept this curry very mildly spiced as I don’t have high tolerance for spicy food. Also my little fella can’t handle spicy food. If you enjoy hot curry, you could finely chop the green chili instead of adding it whole. You could also use other variety of chili powder for more heat.
What alterations you can make to this South Indian Style Fish Curry:
- If you are not into seafood, use your choice of protein or go with just vegetables.
- Typically, dried Malabar tamarind is used in this fish curry recipe, but I used the regular tamarind paste.
- Kashmiri red chili is usually added to give the gorgeous red hue to the dish. I ran out of Kashmiri red chili and so, I used tomato paste instead. It not only adds to the color but also flavor.
Here are more seafood/fish curry if you want to try:
Every time I visit a South Indian restaurant and this Fish Curry is on the menu, I always go for it. Often, I like to order it with appam because I love the pairing of plain appam with spiced fish curry. But if appam is not available, then it has to be rice. There is something so soothing about this spice blend with coconut milk, a beautiful blend of savory and sweet.
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon fennel powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (preferably Kashmiri chili powder, read notes below)
- 9 small fish fillets (I used shol fish)
- 1 and ½ teaspoon salt
- few fresh curry leaves
- 1 small (3.90 oz/111 g) red onion
- 1 small (2.40 oz/ 68g) tomato
- 4.15 oz/ 118g cherry tomatoes (read notes below)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (read notes below)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic ginger
- 1 and ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
- 2 green chili
- Marinate the fish fillets with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon turmeric. Keep aside for 15 minutes.
- Thinly slice the onion and tomato. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
- Place a pan on medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once the oil heats up, add the fennel and black mustard seeds. Allow it to sizzle for a few seconds and then, add the ginger garlic, onion plus few curry leaves. Sauté for 1 minute.
- Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon turmeric. Mix it around.
- In a bowl, add the coriander powder, Kashmiri chili powder and fennel powder along with 1-tablespoon water. Give it a mix and pour it to the pan. Mix it all around and then, drop halved cherry tomatoes (save a little bit to be added at the end). Sauté for 5 minutes or until onion and tomatoes are cooked through and softened.
- Pour 1 and ½ cup coconut milk along with the turmeric and tomato paste. Stir around and add the green chili along with ½ cup water.
- Layer the fish fillets in one layer, put rest of the halved cherry tomatoes and few more curry leaves. Cook the curry for 5 to 7 minutes depending on the size of fish fillets.
- Check for salt and add any, if needed.
- Serve warm!
Depending on the size and type of the fish fillet, the cooking time of the fish will differ.
Tomatoes: I used 1 tomato, few cherry tomatoes and tomato paste mainly for color and flavor. You can substitute it with 2 medium size tomatoes.
Chili Powder: Preferably kashmiri chili powder is used to give the gorgeous red hue to the curry. I didn't had any hence use tomato paste.