Malabar Fish Curry Recipe

Malabar Fish Curry is a Keralan curry, with the rich creaminess of coconut milk and deep earthy Indian spices.

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Malabar Fish Curry is a thick, rich gravy that originated in Malabar district in the South Indian state of Kerala. This is a coastal region, where seafood is pretty much a way of life. Coconuts are also native to this part of India, and the various forms of the coconut are used in many dishes from this region. 

Malabar Fish Curry


Coconut plays a very important role in South Asian cooking, particularly in the coastal regions of Kerala. This is where the infamous Toddy can be found in many street stores with ease; and they pack a punch! Coconut milk is usually used in curries as a thickening agent, and to help tamper down the heat of the chillies used. If you’re game, you can start squeezing out the coconut milk on your own with freshly ground coconut meat and a little water. As a rule, the first squeeze of coconut milk is considered the thicker ‘cream’, while the second one is considered to be the milk. If you’re adventurous and unafraid of elbow grease, then try squeezing the coconut flesh without adding water – essentially, this will be cold pressed coconut milk. 

Coconut milk is usually used in Nyonya curries, such as this Nyonya Chicken Curry. In parts of North India, thickened cream is used to create a luscious gravy base for curries instead of coconut milk. A traditional South Indian fish curry, however, does not use coconut milk as thickener. It relies mainly on curry powder and tamarind juice to thicken and lend flavour to the fish.


As with my recent fish recipes, this recipe uses Nile Precuts from NTUC. I find these incredibly convenient, as they come ready-cut and frozen. All I do is defrost them, and give them a quick rinse before using in the gravy. If you can’t get these, feel free to use any firm white fish you can find in the market. Sea bass, Tilapia, and Red Snapper Fillets can be used for this dish. Remember to cut and clean the fish before using. It’s best if you can get the fish in chunks or in slices.


This curry has several variations, and it is slightly different from the traditional Keralan Fish Curry or Fish Molee. Because of its propensity to seafood, Kerala has a wide range of fish dishes, including steamed and deep fried fish. All these dishes are typically accompanied by a plethora of spices that complement the fish. 

Malabar Fish Curry Recipe

Recipe by Krishy MalCourse: MainCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



Malabar Fish Curry is a Keralan curry, with the rich creaminess of coconut milk and deep earthy Indian spices.

You’ll need;

  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil

  • 1 Tsp Mustard Seeds

  • 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds

  • 2 Medium Red Onions, peeled and sliced

  • 1 Sprig Curry Leaves

  • 4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and sliced

  • 1-inch Ginger, peeled and sliced

  • 3 Chilli Padi, stemmed and chopped into small pieces

  • 3 Tbsp Chilli Powder

  • 2 Tsp Turmeric Powder

  • 2 Tbsp Tamarind Paste

  • 400ml Coconut Milk

  • 150ml Water

  • 450g Nile Perch Cuts

  • 1 Medium Tomato, cut into wedges

  • 1 Tsp Fine Salt

You’ll need to;

  • Mix the tamarind paste with the coconut milk and water. Set aside.

  • Heat up the oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, wait for them to pop. Then, add the sliced red onions and curry leaves. Cook until onions soften.

  • Then, add the cut garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook for 1 minute, then add the chilli and curry powders and continue stirring. You want to cook the rawness out of the spice powders – this will take approximately 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn this, though; it’s best to continue stirring.

  • To this, add the coconut milk mixed with tamarind paste and water. Mix this well. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, before gently dropping in the fish one piece at a time. Also drop in half the tomato wedges and salt the dish.

  • Give it a good stir, cover and reduce the heat slightly. Cook for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Then, curry is done! Serve warm with a bowl of basmati rice.
Malabar Fish Curry

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