Easy Fish Curry for Beginners

South Indian Fish Curry in white bowl

The Spruce

  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings

There are so many iterations of fish curry, you might get lost figuring out which is the best to try first. This traditional fish curry recipe is made with whole paanch phoran seeds and gets a bit of a kick from red chilies. The ingredients used here show a mix of both eastern and northern Indian culinary influences, so it's a good place to start before graduating to regional specialties like Goan or Mangalorean fish curries. Serve it on a bed of hot plain boiled rice.

Ingredients

  • 8 dry red chilies
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 large tomatoes (cut into cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons coconut powder
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon paanch phoran seeds
  • 10 to 12 curry leaves
  • 1 large onion (ground to a paste)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 2 cups water (hot)
  • Walnut-sized ball of tamarind (soaked in 1/2 cup of hot water)
  • 2 pounds/1 kilogram fish (cut into 1-inch thick slices)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Coriander (chopped, to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium flame and roast the dry red chilies, mustard, and cumin seeds until they begin to release their aroma. Cool and grind to a fine powder.

  2. Grind the toasted spice powder, tomatoes, turmeric, garam masala, and coconut into a smooth paste. Set aside. Squeeze the soaked tamarind well to remove all the pulp.

  3. Heat the oil in a wide heavy-bottomed pan and add the paanch phoran and curry leaves. When they stop spluttering, add the onion paste and fry until light brown.

  4. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes.

  5. Add the tomato and spice paste and fry until the oil begins to separate from the masala.

  6. Add 2 cups of hot water and the tamarind pulp to the masala and mix well.

  7. Bring the gravy to a boil and then simmer.

  8. Gently add the fish to the gravy and cook until done.

  9. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with plain boiled rice.

Tips

  • This curry tastes best with rohu, but you can use any fish with firm, white flesh.
  • To add a fresh finish to the dish, squeeze some lime juice on top before serving.
  • Instead of plain rice, serve the curry over basmati rice and top with thinly-sliced white onion.
  • If the dish seems too "seedy," grind all of the whole seeds in the paanch phoran, or use pre-ground spices.