Meen Kulambu: South Indian Fish Curry

South Indian fish curry
The Spruce
  • Total: 3 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 3 hrs 15 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
770 Calories
43g Fat
103g Carbs
9g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 770
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 43g 55%
Saturated Fat 37g 184%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 151333mg 6,580%
Total Carbohydrate 103g 38%
Dietary Fiber 14g 51%
Protein 9g
Calcium 220mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

South Indian cuisine includes the recipes of the five southern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana. This South Indian fish curry recipe, also called meen kulambu, is a delicately-flavored dish that can be served with idli (a savory cake) or dosa (a type of fermented batter pancake).

This dish is traditionally served with plain boiled rice and the tamarind in the gravy gives the rice a lovely tangy flavor.


  • 12 (1-inch thick) pieces of fish (any fish with firm white flesh)
  • 7 to 8 dry red chilies
  • 1 golf ball-sized lump of tamarind (soak in 2 cups hot water)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 small coconut (grated)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (vegetable, canola, or sunflower)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves
  • 2 green chilies
  • 2 medium-sized onions (ground to a paste)
  • 1 large tomato (chopped fine)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for south indian fish curry
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  2. Use a mortar and pestle to pound the dry red chilies into a coarse paste using a teaspoon of water.

    Grinding chilis with mortar and pestle.
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  3. Squeeze the soaked tamarind well to release all the pulp from it. Strain the thick tamarind juice and discard the pith and seeds.

    Tamarind juice.
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  4. Mix the red chili paste and tamarind juice with the coriander and turmeric powders and salt to taste. Then add the grated coconut and half the coconut milk. Mix well.

    Mixed seasonings for fish curry.
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  5. Put the pieces of fish in a large, flat dish and pour the above mixture over it to cover. Make sure all the pieces are coated. Marinate for 3 hours.

    Marinating fish for fish curry.
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  6. Heat the cooking oil in a deep pan, on a medium flame till hot. Add the curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, green chilies. Fry for roughly 2 minutes, or until the oil stops splattering.

    Frying curry leaves.
     The Spruce
  7. Now add half the onion paste. Fry until the onion begins to brown very slightly.

    Brown the onion paste in oil.
     The Spruce
  8. Add the chopped tomato.

    Adding tomato to a curry base.
     The Spruce
  9. Fry till the spices start to release their oil and tomato turns darker. Stir frequently while frying.

    Cooking tomatoes and onions down for curry.
     The Spruce
  10. Now add the fish marinade and stir.

    Fish marinade added to curry vegetables.
     The Spruce
  11. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the garlic paste, pepper, cumin, remaining onion paste, and remaining coconut milk.

    Bring fish curry to a boil.
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  12. Simmer and cook until oil begins to appear on top of the gravy.

    Simmering fish curry.
     The Spruce
  13. Add the pieces of fish and cook till done. If stirring, do so very gently to avoid breaking the pieces of fish.

    Fish added to the curry.
     The Spruce
  14. Turn off heat.

    South Indian fish curry.
     The Spruce
  15. Serve South Indian fish curry on top of plain boiled rice and enjoy!


  • The availability of different varieties of fish makes this dish very flexible. Feel free to use rainbow trout, tilapia, or even pollock if you don't have the threadfin bream that is commonly used in this dish.