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Fish in coriander sauce (Meen kakkathilakiyathu)

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

Kerala has unlimited variations on how fish is cooked because of its large coastline that sits where breeding grounds for numerous fish populations are. Fish and shellfish and prawns are cooked in a variety of ways, steamed, fried, curried and dried.

This curry was simple to make and excellent. the fish is in a rich sauce that is spiced gently with coriander seeds and pops with spice. Staying true to the core of the cuisine, the recipe is complex and delicious. This is a curry that should be made to be the centrepiece of any meal, it will always dominate the table. I chose to give it a contemporary serving style by laying the fish fillet on top of the curry and topping it with the fried onions. It made for a beautiful display while preserving the original taste of the dish.

This cookbook is the authority on cuisine from the Mapilla community in Kerala. This cookbook is for those of us who love specialised regional cuisines made in an authentic style. The dishes are authentic and the recipes are quite simple but pop with flavour and the style of the people. Ummi Abdulla is regarded by most to be the doyen of this cuisine and this book highlights her skill and knowledge of this food.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


1 large fish fillet, about 1/2 lb, of seer, tilapia or red snapper

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Salt, to taste

1 + 2 teaspoons oil

2 tablespoons oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2-3 green chillies, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon garlic paste

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons ground coriander seeds

2-3 tomatoes, finely minced

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Salt, to taste

Cilantro. minced, to garnish

Wash out the fillet and remove any bones if present. Make a paste with the chilli, turmeric, salt and 1 teaspoon of oil. Rub all over the fish and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wide pot and fry the onions until they are golden. Remove and drain on paper towels allowing them to crisp up. Set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the same pot and fry the onions and green chillies on low heat till the onions are soft and translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for an additional minute till the ginger is aromatic and no longer smells raw. add the chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powder and give a quick stir.

Add the tomatoes, water and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 15 minutes till the tomatoes are broken down and you have a thick sauce.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the oil for the fish to a wide frying pan and fry the fish for about 4 minutes a side on medium heat. Flip and fry the other side getting the fish to have a lovely browned colour.

The traditional recipe:

Cut the fillets and add them to the curry with the fried onions. Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes stirring gently so as not to break up the fish. Cook till you see the oil separate from the curry. Sprinkle the garam masala on top and mix in.

Serve hot with Malabar parathas or rice.

The contemporary recipe:

Cool the curry and blitz in a small blender till very smooth. Add back to the same pot, bring to a simmer, and cook till the oil rises to the surface. Sprinkle the garam masala on top. an mix well.

Layer the curry on a shallow platter. Add the fish on top of the curry and sprinkle with the fried onions and cilantro garnish. Serve with Malabar parathas or rice.

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