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Kerala fish curry with mashed tapioca root (Meen mulakittathu)

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks for contemporary Indian cuisine. Once again, this recipe was off the charts good!

A mulakittathu is a very traditional Kerala fish curry, from Kottayam, that is spicy, rich and flavorful. The base of the curry is a wonderful and complex curry with a host of spices, bright red from the tomatoes and red chilies and a touch of tanginess from the tamarind. This is a curry that will explode on your palate. The fish, I used the very traditional karimeen or pearl spot, that is native to the waters of Kerala. The fish is first marinated with a spice paste to allow the flavors to infuse into the fish. Then the fish is lightly sautéed with the marinade to give a sauce that is the base of the dish. It is served with a spiced yucca root mash that compliments the fish and curry beautifully. This was a dish I truly enjoyed, and one that I will make again.

This is a very complex cookbook, for the advanced chef and one who really, really loves to cook. Beautiful dishes, picture perfect presentations and perfectly balanced flavors are the highlight of this modern Indian cookbook. This restaurant is so on my bucket lis! This cookbook is a must for the serious chef who wants more than the average Indian fare.

For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the fish marinade:

For the mulakittathu marinade:

10 curry leaves

6 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons English mustard, like Colemans dry mustard

1 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds

1/2 teaspoon dried mango powder

Salt, to taste

Water as needed for a very thick paste

4-6 cod, pearl spot (karimeen) or salmon curry cut slices or fillets

2-3 tablespoons oil

For the mulakkittathu gravy:

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

10 curry leaves

4 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 shallots, finely minced

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon tamarind extract

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup water or stock

Salt, to taste

For the spice paste for the tapioca root:

1/2 cup grated coconut

3 garlic cloves

1-2 green chilies, or to taste

1 teaspoon chili powder

3 shallots, halved

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

A few tablespoons water

For the Tapioca root:

3 cups, peeled and cubed tapioca root,

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 cups water

Tempering for the tapioca root:

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

10 curry leaves

1-2 dried red chilies

To garnish:

Fried curry leaves


To marinate the fish:

Mix all the ingredients for the fish marinade in a small blender and purée with minimal water to a smooth paste. Rub all over the fish and allow to marinate for 1-2 hours. I usually start the marination in the morning if I am having the fish for dinner.

To make the mulakkittathu gravy:

Heat the oil in a small pot and add the mustard seeds, they will pop in about 20 seconds. Add the fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves and sauté for 20 seconds more.

Add the garlic, shallots and ginger and sauté for about 4-5 minutes on a medium low flame till the shallots are light golden. Add the chili powder, ground coriander and turmeric and give the pot a quick stir. Add the tamarind, tomato paste and stock/water and bring to a simmer and cook on a low flame for 10-12 minutes till the curry has thickened and the oils have risen to the surface. Set aside to cool.

To make the spice paste for the tapioca root:

Add all the ingredients to a small blender with the water and blitz to a smooth paste. You want just enough liquids to make the solids slide down the blender an get puréed, do not make it too runny. Set aside.

To make the tapioca root:

Boil the tapioca with the turmeric and salt till very soft, about 25-30 minutes. Cool, keeping the cooking liquids. Mash the yucca with a bit of the cooking liquid (do not use all) till chunky and thick. Set aside.

To temper and finish the tapioca root:

Add the oil to the pan and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, about 20 seconds add the chilies and curry leaves. Fry for 10 more seconds and add the spice paste. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes till the paste has thickened, the water has evaporated and the oils have separated out.

Add the mashed tapioca and mix in well. Taste and adjust spice and salt. Set aside.

To fry the fish:

Heat the oil in a wide frying pan. Add the fish, 3 pieces at a time, so as not to over-crowd the pan, and fry for about 1 minute per side. The fish needs to be cooked through. Add the second batch of fish and fry, adding the remaining marinade towards the end. The masala fried and thicken into a sauce that clings heavily to the fish. The fish should be flaky and delicate, if overcooked the fish will be tough and dry.

To serve:

Heat the gravy if needed. Add the fish to the center of the plate and top with some of the mulakkittathu gravy. Add a portion of the masala yucca, moulded if desired, to the side. Garnish with some fried curry leaves or cilantro. Serve with extra mulakkittathu gravy on the side.

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