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#RECIPE | Kerala-Style Fish Curry by Akhila Shekhar from the ‘Pepper Delight’ Blog

Today, we have an authentic Keralan recipe by Akhila Shekhar. Thengapaal Ozicha Meen Curry or Kerala-Style Fish Curry is a rich recipe to balance out your lazy Saturday!

Akhila discovered her passion for food only after she got married to her husband, Praveen, the critique for her recipes! When they shifted from India to live in Missouri, USA, she started her blog, Pepper Delight, to improve her culinary skills, learn food styling, and master food photography. 

Pepper Delight was made to spread a love for cooking and showcase how easily authentic dishes can be made at home with a focus on native spices. Black pepper is Akhila’s favorite and is a spice native to Kerala, but at the same time, pepper is a global spice and resonates with dishes throughout the world. So, the name Pepper Delight aptly summed up the vision of her blog – staying true to her roots yet not limiting herself in her exploration. 

Spicy, Tangy and Flavorful

“All authentic Kerala dishes evoke fond memories, but fish recipes like today’s recipe, Thengapaal Ozicha Meen Curry (Kerala-Style Fish Curry) have a special place in my heart. Because I was born and brought up in Kayamkulam, a coastal town in Kerala and have grown up savoring them. There was never a day in my home where we had lunch without a seafood dish being served.

“This fish curry with coconut milk is my amma’s signature dish. Every evening my brother used to bring home the evening’s fresh catch from the markets, and amma cooked them in earthen pots leaving the house tinkering with the aroma of fish curry simmered in coconut milk. Everything feels like yesterday, and I make this recipe often to reminisce those good old days.”

Combinations of flavours blending together to create a rich dish

Ingredients

(Serves4, Total Time: 40 mins)
  • 3.5 lb/1.5 kg fish (check notes)
  • 1 medium sized onion (sliced)
  • 1 inch sized ginger (crushed)
  • 3-4 pods of garlic (crushed)
  • 2 green chilies (slit)
  • 2-3 kudampuli / gamboge / tamarind
  • 2 tsp chili powder (adjust according to your taste)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves
  •  cup water +more (if needed)
  • ¾ cup / 5.6 oz coconut milk
  • coconut oil or any other neutral oil except olive oil (as required)
  • salt (as required)

We used peeyada (dartfish) for this recipe. (see notes for the type of fish you could replace it with)

Instructions

  1. Clean the fish and cut it into medium sized pieces. Keep it aside.
  2. Soak tamarind in a small bowl of hot water for 10 mins.
  3. To a pan (preferably a claypot / manchatti) add little oil and splutter mustard seeds. Add curry leaves, ginger, garlic and green chilies. Saute on a medium flame until its raw smell subsides.
  4. Add sliced onion with a little salt and saute until it becomes golden, do not let the onions to brown.
  5. Add red chili, coriander, turmeric powder and fenugreek powder to the pan and mix well. Add the soaked tamarind and saute for another 2- 3 minutes.
  6. Add water, salt, close the lid and set the flame at high. When the water starts to boil add the fish pieces and bring the flame to a medium. Place the lid and allow the fish to cook for another 5-10 mins.
  7. Add coconut milk and gently swirl the pan to mix it properly without breaking the fish. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
  8. Allow the curry to cook for another 5mins on a low flame, top with some coconut oil and curry leaves. Switch off the flame and let it covered and rest for 15-20 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with steamed rice / naan / roti / mashed tapioca

We love it best with some warm rice.

Notes

1. Any firm or fleshy fishes like king fish, mackerel, sardines, golden pompano, pomfret, salmon, pearl spot, red snapper, tilapia, rohu, or catla can be used.

2. The use of gamboge/kudampuli or Malabar tamarind is unique to all fish recipes from Kerala. If you can get your hands on it, you are in for a treat! The closest you can come to the same taste is regular tamrind.

3.For the coconut milk, you can use the one that come in tetra packs or you can prepare it yourself. You need to grind grated coconut with a little water and then squeeze out the milk, this method definitely gives a better flavor, color and aroma.

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