This Kerala Red Fish Curry is the recipe that comes to mind when I think of comfort food. With its nostalgic, bright red color, tangy tamarind flavor, and perfect level of heat, it is truly a pot of joy.
Growing up, I’d watch my mom freshly scale and filet a whole salmon or king fish. While she prepped the fish, the kudam puli would be soaking in warm water. While it soaked, she’d move into chopping up the fresh ingredients. Finally, everything would come together in her old black, clay meenchatti.
A chatti is an earthen clay pot. Similar to why people love cooking with cast iron or woks, this type of cooking vessel holds it’s flavor like a fine wine over time. Because the chattis are not glazed, it’s able to retain and circulate moisture throughout the dish, making the fish extremely flavorful and evenly cooked. If you do not have a chatti, you can still make Red Fish Curry in a heavy bottom pot like a duth oven.
Another thing to note is the use of kudam puli. This ingredient is what makes Kerala Red Fish Curry. It’s sour and irreplaceably smoky in flavor. You can find it in Indian stores, but it may be easier to find it online. Online, you can search for it as kudam puli, cambodge, or malabar tamarind.
Kerala Red Fish Curry used to be one of those recipes I was so intimidated to make because it is such a staple dish in our household, but I’ve broken this recipe down so that it hopefully makes Indian recipes like this easy to follow and easy for you to recreate.
Be sure to leave a review and tag me @thefamiliarkitchen on instagram if you decide to make this Kerala Red Fish Curry. I’d love to see your recreations!
If you like this recipe, you might also like these recipes:
Kerala Red Fish Curry
- Salmon or King Fish 2 lbs, cut into medium-sized chunks
- Kudam Puli/Malabar Tamarind 3-4 pieces, soaked in 1 cup warm water
- Coconut Oil 2-3 tbsp
- Mustard Seeds 1 tsp
- Fenugreek Seeds 1/2 tsp
- Curry Leaves 2 sprigs
- Shallots or Red Onion 3 shallots or 1 red onion, finely diced
- Green Chili Peppers 2-3, diced (thai or serrano peppers are fine)
- Tomato Paste 3 tbsp
- Warm Water* (optional) 1/2 cup
- Salt to Taste 2-3 tsp
- Ginger 2 inches, chopped
- Garlic Cloves 8, chopped
- Red Chili Powder 1 tbsp
- Coriander Powder 1 tbsp
- Kashmiri Red Chili Powder or Paprika 1 tsp
- Turmeric Powder 1 tsp
Soak the tamarind.
- Wash the kudam puli pieces first and then soak it in 1 cup of warm water.
- Set aside.
Make a paste.
- Place all of the ingredients listed under "paste ingredients" in a mortar and pestle or small cup blender.
- Mash this into a smooth paste. *Take 1-2 tbsp of the tamarind soaking water to help smooth out the paste if needed, but the ginger and garlic should release moisture
- Set aside.
Season the oil.
- In your chatti or heavy bottom pot on medium high heat, add in the coconut oil.
- Once the oil is melted and hot, add the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and curry leaves.
- Once the mustard seeds pop, add the shallots and green chili peppers.
- Cook this until the ingredients soften and lose its rawness.
Form the gravy.
- Now add in the paste.
- Sautee this for about 30 seconds to cook the garlic and ginger and also release the red color into the oil.
- Now add the tomato paste and cook for 10-15 seconds.
Cook the fish.
- Now add the soaked tamarind and soaking water into the pot along with the fish.
- Cover the pot on low heat for about 15 minutes to slow cook the fish and allow natural moisture to release from it.Check periodically to see if you need to add water. If there isn't enough moisture from the fish then add some of the warm water to the pot, just enough to submerge the fish.
- Now that the fish is in the pot, try not to mix it. If you move the fish too much, it could cause it to break up into pieces. I recommend using a soft silicone spatula if you need to move the fish or, the best thing to do is, rotate your pot in a circular motion to mix.
- Once the gravy thickens and the fish easily flakes when your cooking spoon touches it, it's ready.
- Taste for salt and done!