Kerala Fish Curry

Kerala Fish Curry (Head optional!)

So I know that Fish Head Curry is popular with us Singaporeans, though being a Singaporean of Indian ethnicity, I will tell you that we normally eat the fish curry sans head.

Fish curry used to be a staple part of my diet, I think my mom used to make it twice a week, in fact. So to me, fish curry is the most basic and standard curry (in addition to chicken curry) around and I’m sure most of my Singaporean Indian friends would agree to that statement too.

Any firm white fish works best for this, and I personally prefer big chunks of snapper fillet. Goldband Snapper (ang goli) is a very popular fish for curry.

And as it turns out, with the recipe below, making fish (head) curry is really a snap, and now I know why it can be almost a daily dish at home!

Kerala Fish Curry with Cabbage side dish

Ingredients for Kerala Fish Curry:

  • 6 Pieces of Fish (firm white fish like snapper)
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • ½ Tsp Mustard Seeds
  • ½ Tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • 2 Medium Red Onions, sliced
  • 2 Green Chillis, roughly cut into 3 large pieces
  • 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
  • 1 Tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste (blend 5cm Ginger with 5 cloves garlic, it will make more than 1 Tbsp, but use from this)
  • 6 cloves of Garlic (optional)
  • 2 Medium sized Tomatoes, cut into thin quarters
  • 4 Tbsp Fish Masala Powder (for convenience, I use Baba’s Fish Masala powder)
  • 1 Tsp Chilli Powder
  • 1 lime-sized ball of tamarind pulp, soaked in 2 cups of hot water
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste

Kerala Fish Curry ingredients

Tempered Oil:

  • 1 Tsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 sprig Curry Leaves
  • 2 Shallots, finely sliced

To Marinate Fish:

  • ½ Tsp Turmeric
  • ½ Tsp Chilli Powder
  • Some salt

Method for Kerala Fish Curry:

  1. Wash and dry fish. I normally wash with some turmeric in water.
  2. Marinate with marinade ingredients and set aside.
  3. Heat coconut oil in pan over medium flame. Add mustard and fenugreek seeds. When they start sputtering, add in onions.
  4. Fry onions till softened and starting to brown, around 5 minutes. I usually add ½ tsp salt at this stage. Kerala Fish Curry Onions
  5. Add curry leaves and green chillis, stir for around 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add ginger-garlic paste, and fry till raw smell goes off. About 2 minutes.
  7. Add 3/4 of the quartered tomatoes and the cloves of garlic (optional, it’s just the way I ate it at my mom’s where the whole cloves of garlic become soft and fun to eat on their own), and fry till tomatoes become mushy with the onions. This normally takes quite some time, about 10 minutes. Kerala Fish Curry Tomatoes Mixing
  8. Add about 2 Tbsps of water to the Fish Masala and Chilli Powder to make a rough paste. Kerala Fish Curry paste
  9. Add paste into the pan. Keep mixing well, until raw smell of spices goes off and you start to see the oil separating from the mix. Kerala Fish Curry Masala mixed in
  10. Strain the tamarind water from the tamarind pulp, and add just the liquid into the pan. It should be around 1 cup of tamarind water.
  11. Allow mixture to boil, and then lower the flame to simmer for a few minutes, till you see the mixture has thickened. Kerala Fish Curry with tamarind added
  12. Add remainder of the quartered tomatoes, add in 1 cup of water, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste the curry and see if you need more of the tamarind water, or more water or more salt. I normally add another ½ tsp salt here.
  13. When you’re happy with the taste of the curry, add marinated fish slices into the pan. Spoon the mixture over the fish, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover with a lid to cook the fish. It should take less than 10 minutes, so check before that to ensure you don’t overcook fish.
    Kerala Fish Curry cooking
    Yes, you do see a Fish Head in there as I happened to have it, but it’s not traditionally included 🙂
  14. Meanwhile, temper the oil, by heating it up in a small fry pan, add mustard seeds and when they pop, add curry leaves and shallots and fry till shallots turn brown.
  15. Pour tempered oil into the finished fish curry.
  16. Best eaten with plain basmati rice, or if you are lucky, idly or thosai!

Kerala Fish Curry meal


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