Kerala Red Fish Curry
When I think of home. When I think of Kerala. THIS Red Fish Curry is the recipe that comes to mind. With its nostalgic, bright red color, tangy tamarind flavor, and perfect level of heat, this classic Kerala Red Fish Curry recipe 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 (malabar tamarind aka garcinia cambogia) would be soaking in warm water and then she’d move into chopping up the fresh ingredients. My favorite part of this dish was its preparation in our old black, clay meenchatti.
A chatti is an unglazed clay pot. Similar to why people love cooking with cast iron or woks, it holds it’s flavor like a fine wine over time. Because the chattis are unglazed, it’s able to retain and circulate moisture through the dish making the fish extremely flavorful. Eventually, I will do a video on how to season your chatti and tips on cooking without. If you do not have a chatti, you can still make this dish in a regular pot or dutch oven.
This used to be one of those recipes I was so intimidated to make because it is such a staple dish in our household. I’ve broken this down so that it hopefully makes Indian recipes easy to follow and easy for you to recreate.
If you like this Red Fish Curry Recipe, you may also enjoy my Kerala-Style Fish Molee or Kerala Shrimp Kati Roll. If you decide to make this recipe or have any questions about how to make it, head over to my instagram @thefamiliarkitchen so we can connect and I can see how it turned out for you!
- Salmon or King Fish (you can use boneless), 2 lbs, cut into medium cubes/chunks
- Kudam Puli/Malabar Tamarind/Kokum, 4 pieces
- Coconut Oil, 2-3 tbsp
- Mustard Seeds, 1 tsp
- Fenugreek Seeds, 1/2 tsp
- Curry Leaves, 1-2 sprigs (10-12 leaves)
- Shallots or Red Onion, 3 shallots or 1 red onion, finely diced
- Green Chili Peppers, 3, diced
- Tomato Paste, 1/4 cup
- Salt to Taste, 2-3 tsp
Make a paste out of:
- Ginger, 1-2 inches, minced
- Garlic Cloves, 6-8, minced
- Red Chili Powder, 1 tbsp
- Paprika, 1 tsp (helps with red color)
- Coriander Powder, 1 tbsp
- Turmeric Powder, 1 tsp
HOW TO MAKE IT
Soak the tamarind. Wash the tamarind pieces first and then soak it in warm water. Set aside.
Make a paste. Take the ginger and garlic and mash this into a paste in a mortar and pestle (or use a small food processor). It doesn’t have to be perfectly pureed, just smashed enough so all the ingredients combine. Set aside.
Season the oil. In your chatti or 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 saucy base. Now add in the spiced ginger and garlic paste. Mix this quickly so the spices don’t burn then pour in the tomato paste.
Mix for a few seconds then add the soaked tamarind (keep the tamarind water) into the pot along with all of the fish.
Cover the pot on low heat for about 10-15 minutes to let natural moisture from the fish come out and help form a saucy base. Check periodically to see if you need to add water. If there isn’t enough moisture from the fish then add some of the tamarind water and/or warm water to the pot, just enough to barely submerge the fish.
Cooking the fish. Now that the fish is in the pot, DO NOT 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. Lightly boil the fish until the sauce slightly thickens and the fish easily flakes when your cooking spoon touches it. Taste for salt and done!
- You can use ginger garlic paste (about 2 tbsp) instead of fresh minced
- In place of tomato paste, you can use about a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
- You can buy the tamarind online or in select Indian grocery stores. It’s commonly found under the name “kokum.”