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Kerala Fish Curry

A bowl of yellow fish curry,  can't see the fish, garnished with red chili powder, fried onions and curry leaves.
Kerala Style Fish Curry

This recipe is an excellent contender for 30 minute meals if you think about deliberately think about how to sequence what you will do and if you have all the materials prepped and ready to go. The French call it "Mise en Place" and when I'm cooking a dish for the first time, I definitely follow this rule and it really makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable.

This recipe will work with Tilapia or Tofu or Paneer.

SO. For this dish, I really want to make sure that we don't skip the step of spicing the protein

but I also want this to be a quick dish so I take advantage of the spicing time to get the rice cooking and the curry spices prepped.

Here is my sequencing for this dish to get it done in about 30 minutes.

  • Start with spicing the tilapia, tofu or paneer.

  • Wash and get the rice cooking. If you have your own method, go on ahead. If you need a simple, hassle free method, try this out Hassle Free Basmati Rice.

  • Prep the scallions. Get the tamarind water ready. Open the can of coconut milk. Measure out the spices on a plate on small bowls.

  • Cook the tilapia, tofu or paneer.

  • Move to the curry



  • 2 tilapia filets, unfrozen*

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

* substitute tilapia for 1 1/2 cups of tofu or paneer. Cut tofu or paneer into small cubes. press them between paper towels or cooking towels to absorb the moisture. Add spices.


  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots

  • 2-3 thai chilis

  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves of 7-10 leaves or 2-3 dry curry leaves (available on amazon, yes it's overpriced but the best option if there is no Indian grocery store close by)

  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger (fresh or bottled, fresh desirable)

  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili (or to taste)

  • 1/4 cup tamarind water (use 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate plus 1/4 cup warm water and stir).

  • 1 cup coconut milk

  • salt

  • 3-4 tablespoons oil


  • 1/4 cup fried onions (used for casseroles)

  • 1/4 tsp chili powder

  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves of 7-10 leaves or 2-3 dry curry leaves

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Reminder: prep the ingredients because everything comes up very quickly.

  2. Make a spice mix with the turmeric powder, chili powder and salt in a bowl.

  3. Make the tamarind water by mixing the concentrate and water.

  4. Chop the shallots, get the ginger paste ready, wash the chilis.

  5. Pat the tilapia dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the spice mix you just made on the tilapia and rub it in either using a brush or your fingers. Let sit for 5- 10 minutes. To cook the tilapia, you can either pan fry or bake. Pan frying is much quicker if you are crunched for time.

    1. Pan Fry Method - Use a frying pan that has a lid or use something that will act as a lid for the frying pan. Add two tablespoons oil to a frying pan and heat on high. Add the tilapia filets in the wok and cook for about 4 minutes. Get about two table spoons of water in a cup and grab the lid. Now pour the water in the pan around the fish and immediately cover the pan. Cook for 30 seconds. Remove the lid and use a spatula to flip the fish. The steam should make it very easy to detach the fish from the pan. Fry on the second side for another 4 minutes. Use the spatula to gently remove the tilapia from the pan into the serving dish.

    2. Bake Method - Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a cooking brush or paper towel to oil coat a cookie sheet. Brush both sides of the tilapia with oil as well. Bake fish for 20 minutes. (Optional: After baking, broil fish for 2 minutes on each side to give the fish a fried texture).

  6. Once the tilapia is done, use the same pan and deglaze the goodnessto make the curry. Add one more tablespoon oil to the pan. Heat on high.

  7. Add the shallots, ginger and Thai red chili. Stir for 45 seconds.

  8. Add the coriander powder, turmeric and chili powder. Stir for 45 seconds.

  9. Add the coconut milk and tamarind water. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  10. Add the tilapia and cook in the coconut sauce for 5 more minutes. Turn off the burner and transfer the tilapia to a serving bowl.

  11. Now it's time to garnish. Sprinkle the fried onions to the curry.

  12. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable oil on medium high. Add the chili powder and immediately turn off the burner. Sprinkle this chili oil on the curry.

  13. Add a fresh sprig of curry leaf, if you have fresh ones at hand. If using dry curry leaves, crush and sprinkle.

  14. If possible, let the fish curry rest till it comes to room temperature.

  15. When you are ready to eat, just heat in microwave and serve with Hassle Free Basmati Rice.

Please email me at if anything is unclear or if you have any questions. If you try this recipe and it works for you or made modifications, please leave a comment to let the community know.


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