South Indian Fish Curry (Meen Kulambu)

Fish curry
Haynes/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • 3 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 3 hrs 15 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Ratings (64)

South Indian cuisine includes the recipes of the five southern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana in India. This South Indian fish curry, also called meen kulambu, is a delicately-flavored dish that can be served with idli or dosa. The availability of different varieties of fish makes this dish very flexible. Feel free to use rainbow trout, tilapia, or even pollock if you don't have the Sultan Ibrahim that is familiar for this dish. The tamarind in this gravy-based dish gives it a lovely tangy flavor that goes really well with plain boiled rice as well as it is how it is traditionally eaten.

What You'll Need

  • 1 dozen, 1-inch thick pieces of fish (any fish with firm white flesh)
  • 7 to 8 dry red chilies
  • Golf-ball sized lump of tamarind (soak in 2 cups hot water)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 small coconut grated
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves
  • 2 green chilies
  • 2 medium-sized onions ground to a paste
  • 1 large tomato chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

How to Make It

  1. Use a mortar and pestle to pound the dry red chilies into a coarse paste with a teaspoon of water.
  2. Squeeze the soaked tamarind well to release all the pulp from it. Strain to get thick tamarind juice and discard the pith and seeds.
  3. Mix the red chili paste and tamarind juice with the coriander and turmeric powders and salt to taste. Also, add the grated coconut and half the coconut milk. Mix well.
  4. Put the pieces of fish in a large, flat dish and pour the above mixture over it to cover. Make sure all the pieces are coated. Marinate for 3 hours.
  1. Heat the cooking oil in a deep pan, on a medium flame till hot. Add the curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, green chilies. Fry till spluttering stops.
  2. Now add half the onion paste. Fry till the onion begins to brown very slightly.
  3. Add the chopped tomato. Fry till the masala starts to release its oil and turn darker. Stir frequently while frying.
  4. Now add the fish marinade and stir. Bring to a boil (on medium heat). Add the remaining onion paste, the garlic paste, pepper, cumin and remaining coconut milk.
  5. Simmer and cook till oil begins to appear on top of the gravy. Add the pieces of fish now and cook till done. If stirring, do so very gently to avoid breaking the pieces of fish.
  6. Turn off heat and serve South Indian Fish Curry with plain boiled rice.