TAMARIND FISH CURRY / इमली वाली मछली


On a holiday to Pondicherry (now called Pudducherry) we made a day’s halt at Chennai. The delayed flight ensured that we checked-in at the hotel totally famished. And though it was pretty late, the friendly chef obliged us with his specialty – the tamarind fish curry. And what a curry it was! Finger licking good! Once we were back home from our holiday, I tried to replicate the flavours of the curry and although it is pretty close to that curry, yet I feel that there is still something missing; perhaps a local ingredient or perhaps the use of coconut oil. While I try to figure that out, you guys give a try to this curry and let the warm aromatic flavours waft through your kitchen on the cold winter days ahead.

The thing about Indian curries is the amount of ingredients that are listed out. It is enough for anyone to chuck out any thoughts of dishing it out; totally understandable. However, my sincere advice to those who believe it to be a tedious task to cook Indian curries is to try this tangy curry. Don’t let the ingredients drive you into believing that cooking it would be a long process too. It is a breeze to make this curry (unlike a few Indian curries that require a lot of sautéing) and it takes no more than 20 minutes. Honestly! It is not a daunting task as you may believe it to be. This one is ideal for beginners I would say. So wear that apron and stir up a storm in that pot.

550 – 600 grams Fish fillets (I used Rohu but any firm white fleshed fish would do)

2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp Oil

1 tsp Mustard Seeds

¼ tsp Fenugreek Seeds

¾ C sliced Shallots (small sized onions)

1 tsp Ginger paste

1 tsp Garlic Paste

1½ tsp Tamarind Paste (I used store brought one)

8 – 10 Curry Leaves

1 tbsp Coriander Powder

1 tsp Red Chili Powder (+ / -)

1 tsp Paprika or Degi Mirch (also called Kashmiri Lal Mirch)

½ tsp Turmeric Powder

Salt to taste (plus to wash the fish)

200 mls Coconut Milk (I used store brought one ‘thick first press’)

½ C Water

2 tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro (fresh Coriander)

Dilute the tamarind paste using ¼ cup water and set aside. Wash the curry leaves and set aside.  Clean the fish and wash it once. Drain the water and sprinkle some salt over the fish and let it sit for 2 minutes. Wash the fish again and drain any excess water or pat dry it.

In a heavy bottom non stick pan, heat 2 tbsp oil (add more if required) and shallow fry the fish in batches (on high heat) till the fish turns just golden (approximately half a minute each side) Remove the fillets on an absorbent sheet or kitchen towel to remove excess oil.

In the same pan that you fried the fish, add 2 tbsp of oil. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Once they begin to crackle, add the onions. On medium high heat, fry the onions till they turn golden in colour. Add ginger garlic paste and fry till they become aromatic and golden in colour. Add the curry leaves.

Reduce the heat and add the tamarind water. Along with it add the dry spices and salt. Increase the heat to medium high again and saute till the water is almost absorbed.

Now add the coconut milk and reduce the heat again (to prevent the coconut milk from splitting). Add the fried fish pieces and very gently stir the curry. Add the remaining ¼ C water & increase the heat and let the curry come to a boil. Reduce the heat again to minimum and allow the curry to simmer covered for 3 – 4 minutes.

Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and serve hot with steamed rice.

Note: Adjust the amount chilies and tamarind as per taste. If the tamarind seems to be more, add some coconut milk or half a tea spoon of sugar.

Note: I suggest you cook this curry at least an hour before you intend to serve it to help steep the flavors. This way the curry tastes much better than when served immediately. In fact it tastes even better the next day.

Serves 4

Check out these fish curries too.


Fish in Mustard Curry

Doi Maachh (Fish in Yogurt Curry)

Rui Poshto (White Poppy Seed Fish Curry)

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2 thoughts on “TAMARIND FISH CURRY / इमली वाली मछली

  1. Its true that people get intimidated by the ingredient list in Indian Curry recipes, but the fact is that each ingredient/spice plays a vital role in the taste and aroma of the curry. I too feel that people may never try the Indian recipes looking at the list. This fish curry looks similar to Kerala fish curry, except we use Kerala Fish Tamarind (Gambodge), fresh curry leaves and coconut oil. There are several versions of fish curry by each region and they all vary by slight difference in the fresh ingredients each region uses. Your fish curry looks really appeasing!!

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