Kottayam Fish Curry

Kottayam is a region in State of Kerala, land of the Gods! And this dish is a very fine example of that wonderful cuisine that we hear so much of. The flavorful fish with coconut and tamarind gravy is perfect with some white rice and is sure to transport you to the place.

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Serves: 4-6


Tilapia or any Firm Fish – 1 lb, cut to bite size
Coconut Oil – 1 tbsp
Fenugreek Seeds – 1/8th tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Ginger – 1.5 tbsp, minced
Green Chilies – to taste, minced
Curry Leaves – 1 sprigs
Onion – 1 small, sliced fine
Tomato – 1 med. sliced
Turmeric Powder – 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri Chili Powder – 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder – 1 tbsp
Tamarind Pulp – 3 tbsp (approx)
Water – 1.5 cups
Coconut Milk – 1/2 cup or as needed
Curry Leaves – few for garnish
Ginger – julienne, for garnish
Coconut Oil – few drops for garnish


1. Cut and wash the Fish to bite-size pieces.
2. In a pan, on medium-high heat, heat Oil and add in the Fenugreek Seeds.
3. Add in the Mustard Seeds and allow them to splutter.
4. Add in Fennel Seeds and mix.
5. Add in the Ginger, Onions, Green Chillies and Curry Leaves.
6. Sprinkle a little Salt and allow it to cook till the Onions turn translucent.
7. Add in the Tomatoes and allow them to cook and soften, about 5 min.
8. Lower heat and add in the dry spices – Turmeric Powder, Kashimiri Chili Powder and Coriander Powder.
9. Add a little water to avoid the dry spices burning and cook for about 2-3 min.
10. Add in the Tamarind Pulp and cook for another 2-3 min.
11. Add in Water, increase the heat and allow the gravy to cook well for approx 5 min.
12. Add in the Fish pieces and mix gently.
13. Allow the for for about 3-4 min, reduce flame and add Coconut Milk.
14. Allow the gravy to come to another boil for another minute.
15. Garnish with Curry Leaves, julienne Ginger and a few drops of Coconut Oil.
16. Serve hot over some white rice.

1. Substitute the fish with prawns, shrimp or with vegetables of your choice!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

0 thoughts on “Kottayam Fish Curry

  1. I just have to say, over the last few years I have made this dish many times. It always comes out perfect. So amazing! I just made it again last night. Wonderful!

      1. Thank you for your comment. I made this recipe, and it was really good. I forgot to add the coriander powder, but it was still good. It was really tasty and had a good texture.

  2. I made this last night and it was excellent! The flavor is amazing. Happy I got to use the leaves off my curry tree too. Thank you.

  3. Hi Ladies:

    I made this today and it was VERY sour/tart from the Tamarind. That gigabit was almost overpowering. Did I do something wrong?

    1. Sorry for the typo. I typed it on my phone and it auto-corrected very oddly. I meant to write “that flavor (sour Tamarind) was almost overpowering

    2. I think I figured out what I did wrong. I neglected to shake up the coconut milk so there wasn’t much coconut flavor to balance out the Tamarind. I won’t make that mistake again.

  4. Dear Hetal and Anuja,

    My wife made this dish recently and it was fantastic. We are euro-Americans, but great fans of Indian culture and food. In fact for many years I have been entreating my wife to learn to cook Indian food but her early experiments were so discouraging she had given up hope. However after finding your videos she has now cooked quite a few delicious meals and I’m starting to prefer her kitchen to the best Indian restaurants we frequent. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Scott,

      Wow! What a compliment! We are so glad that you and your wife are finding SMTC useful. We love to hear about people from other cultures enjoying Indian cuisine. Thanks for the feedback!

      1. Hi Ladies! I am Scott’s wife, and I love your recipes. I just made the Savory Oat Muffins. Delish! Next time I’ll double the recipe as Scott liked them a lot!! Thanks for lending your expertise to those of who love, but are challenged by, Indian cooking.

  5. mmm.. yum! only if i could have that already prepared curry!!
    I just got all the ingredients together. Wish me luck 🙂
    Btw, Kerala is called God’s Own Country. I never heard the Land of Gods expression before. I lived there for 19 years!
    Also I would like to say, thank you for what you gals are doing! It is amazing how you turn such complicated curries in to simple easy to follow recipes!
    Great work you guys! I am so excited and can’t wait to try all your recipes! Also very proud to say you are my fellow Texans! Go Cowboys!

  6. Hi Hetal and Anuja

    can i substitute chicken for fish as well? if yes, what kind of chicken( chicken thighs or chicken breast)? please advise

  7. Hi Hetal and Anuja, this is just to let you know that your dishes made it as far as Stuttgart, Germany (all-white-blond-blue-eyes-unfortunately-never-been-to-India-household). I love your show and for my birthday, my husband went to an Indian store in Stuttgart and bought me all the spices and ingredients for this yummy fish curry (and some other dishes). We made and had the fish curry yesterday and it was absolutely delicious. I’ll make it again on Saturday to share it with my friends at the birthday party. Many, many thanks!

    1. Hi Dorothea!

      Thank you so much for the feedback. It is amazing how food brings us all a little closer together :). Good luck with the Indian cooking and a very happy belated birthday from us.

      1. Hi Hetal and Anuja, thanks for the congratulations. I had a wonderful party and everyone just LOVED the curry. Thanks a lot for your wonderful page! Next I’ll try to make Roti… 🙂

  8. Hi Hetal,

    If you don’t mind me asking, why haven’t you guys been as active as you guys used to in posting recipes? I love what you guys have done but would like to see more recipes!

  9. hi lady’s

    Thanx for sharing this very delish recepie. I had this dish with plain rice and could’nt stop eating, so tasty! (and easy)

  10. Hello guys,
    Dont even expect a reply regarding the green pan. Since 1 year I have been counting the number of people who have asked similar question about this Green Pan, with the above 2 posts the total count is 112. But Hital/Anuja never cared to answer that question. One of the viewer in a different episode said “This is available in TARGET”, but that is not true. The pan sold in Target has no lid. But the one used by these gals has a lid. Lid would be really help full especially for a non stick pans where you use to cook a non veg dish. Hital/Anuja we are not asking you to advertise any brand. But it would be helpful for many of your viewers to buy some thing which is really long lasting as yours. So kindly reply.

    1. Hi Ruchi,

      You might have missed our reply to this question before…where we said that unfortunately there is no brand marked on the pan but we purchased it from TJ Maxx. We opted for this type of pan because the light color makes it easier to see the food that we are cooking. We have seen other similar pans advertised as “The Green Pan” but are not sure if they are exactly the same as what we have (again, there is no marking on the pan).

      We answer questions once, twice…sometimes 10 times. We truly regret this, but many times, we have too much other work to keep re-answering the same questions. We hope our viewers will see the question answered before or another viewer will come to our rescue. Also, we have never been secretive about the products we use and we have no issues telling our viewers where we buy our products.

      1. Thanks for your reply Hetal. I appologise for any inconvenience caused to you. I am really sorry if my message has offended you. Once again I am really sorry.

  11. Your non stick pan looks perfect for most of the frying dishes and alsolooks like a very heavy duty pan. I hope Hetal/Anuja would reply to this message. I know it is hard to reply to every message, but Please share the brand name so that we can buy that as well.

  12. I think the time that you suggested for cooking doesn’t seem sufficient. The fish looked rather uncooked, knowing how uncooked fish could upset one’s tummy, can you confirm that the fish was cooked well.I will follow your recipe to the T otherwise.Sorry about this but I rather know before cooking.Than You. Mohuwa

  13. I tried this fish curry. I would venture a word of caution on the use of tamarind. The tamarind pupl that you get in the store is highly concentrated and only 1 tsp should be enough . I guess if you were to soak fresh tamarind in water then 3 tbps as specified in the recipe might be required . My fish curry became very sour with 2tbps that I used and had to add lots of coconut milk to blunt the sourness.

    1. Madhu,

      What they put in the receipe is Tamarind paste,not the concentrate. Concentrate is more dense than paste.

    2. Hi Madhu,

      We did not use the concentrate. We always try to mention that tamarind is to taste because it really depends on what brand, concentrate vs fresh soaked, etc you use.

  14. Thank you Hetal for sharing this delicious looking recipe! And my thanks also to the chef who shared it with you. You ladies are the reason an American from the midwest (Michigan) with Irish/German/French/Scandinavian heritage can now cook fantastic curries, pakora, biryanis, parathas, etc.

    I have plenty of cookbooks, but it was your videos that showed me what my recipes should look like every step of the way, and how and when the ingredients should be incorporated into the dish.

    Indian food, from all its lovely regions, is by far my favorite and I cannot thank both of you enough for giving me the gift of being able to make it in my own home!

    1. Sister, I am right there with you on this. This western white woman can now cook some pretty darned fine Indian food thanks to these two lovely humble American-Indian women and their generosity to share their experience. Really much better than Indian restaurants that make ‘company food’ full of extra cream which I can omit in my creations. My cupboard looks really different than it used to before encountering Hetal and Anuja. 😉

      Yes, that was an oblique compliment to the wonderful work you two are doing in America and the effect on white Americans as well as what I enjoy reading from ex-pat Indians.

      1. Thank you Kristin! That creamy stuff in restaurants is one of the reasons we wanted to show how normal Indians eat (without all the added junk). Glad you are enjoying our show!

    2. Hi Tanya,

      Thank you so much for the feedback! Its great to hear that non-Indians can also follow our step by step recipes with ease. 🙂

      1. I second everything Tanya and Kristin said! I love being able to make Indian dishes at home because you guys make it foolproof! And I was delighted to discover the dishes taste better than their restaurant versions.

        Just a couple of questions about this recipe: could you omit the fenugreek seeds? And could you use red chili powder instead of Kashmiri?

        1. Thanks Claire! You could omit the fenugreek seeds…they provide a subtle flavor but if you just can’t find them, it’ll be okay. Regarding the Kashmiri mirch, we use it to get a nice reddish color without getting too much heat that the red chili powder would add. You could possibly use some paprika for the color.

  15. Hetal and Anuja,with ur permission,I am trying to answer Kristin’s Qs.:
    I am from Kerala and I make fish curry with coconut milk often.Back home, in India, raw unripe mangoes(green mangoes) are always in season and its very common to add chunks of peeled green mago into the curry for teh sour factor.In teh US not finding abundance of green mango-I have turned to amchur which is essentially dehydrated mango slices.You should get those in the sam eplace they sell amchur powder.
    I mix amchur slices(6-8) with slicedonion,slit green chilly and chopped ginger and add curry leaves.Add cut fish pieces to it and marinate with red chilly powder,yellow powder and little bit fo coriander powder and salt.Add 1 tsp of oil and marinate this for half hour in teh pan you intend to make the dish in. To cook,turn on teh stove andstir the mix gently for 3-5 mins.Add light coconut milk and bring to boil and once the fish is cooked,add thicker coco nut milk.Simmer for little while and remove.To season teh curry,in another pan,add a tbsp oil,and saute some thinly sliced shallots or onions until they turn lite brown.pour this on teh curry and serve hot.Tradtionally fish curry is prepared in eathern pots and left out on teh counter .It just needs reheating before serving.In fact they tatse better the next day:-)

    1. Oh, thank you! Yes, I will check for amchur slices at my local Indian market. And I will indeed prepare the entire dish ahead of time and leave it on the counter. That would be so much the easier. I appreciate you addressing my question.

  16. Clearly I’m all excited by this curry since I’m leaving two comments in under a minute. I live alone and probably would choose to make this to share with others in my community. My usual situation is that I take a dish to share after religious ritual so that dish sits in the fridge or on the counter for that time. So there are constraints. I was going to ask how this dish would fare on the counter for a few hours but I think I may have answered my own question. Take the fish, shrimp, whatever, raw in one container and make the curry ahead of time. Warm on the stove after ritual and put in the fish. Done in four minutes! This dish seems ideal for being fresh in the environment I serve food in. Did I mention I’m all excited about this one?

  17. Tamarind is not as popular source of sourness as Kokum(soaked in water) or Green mango is used in fish curry made with coconut milk in Kottayam and sounthern Kerala while in Northern region,tamarind is more popular. Adding Amchur slices is another option when fresh sour mangoes are not in season.
    Just other versions to try in Kerala cuisne.

    1. Sonia, I really want to try this curry. I don’t have sour mangoes in my area and not sure what you even mean by Amchur slices. But I do have Amchur powder. Would you recommend it instead of tamarind? I’m a western American and trying to learn Indian cooking so forgive me if I’m asking a silly question.

    2. Being from Kottayam, this is a very traditional Syrian Christian dish…called Meen (Fish) Mappaas and best made with our freshater fish, Karimeen (Pearl Spot). We eat this with rice or even chapathi.I concur with Sonia, we use Kokum for the sourness or Green mangoes, never tamarind. Periyar brands has kokum available in packets at some indian stores in the US. You wash about 4-5 and let soak in 1 cup warm water for 15-20 mts. WIll have a rich almost reddish brown liquid.

  18. Hi Hetal & Anuja,
    If I use store bought tamarind concentrate, how much should I use?
    Basa(Swai) fish is even better than Tilapia for curries. It’s more dense & doesn’t disintegrae in the curry.
    Keep up the good work

Leave a Reply to hetal Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.