South Indian Fish Curry with Coconut

I come from a North Indian, VEGETARIAN family – however, I am blessed to have been brought up in a family that is accepting, flexible, and adaptable. Growing up, my parents never forced their vegetarianism on myself and my brother, and I am incredibly thankful for that. As fate would have it, I ended up marrying a wonderful South-Indian man, whose family eats lamb, goat, and more importantly – fish! 🙂 His family resides in Chennai, India, which is a coastal city in India where you can go to the fish markets in the morning and buy freshly caught fish from THAT morning! Reminds me so much of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco :).

Since I love eating fish (and my husband grew up with it), this is my go-to quick fix recipe for firm white fish when we’re craving something traditional. This is a Tamilian recipe (for those of you who are familiar with the various regions of South India). However, I name this dish ‘South Indian’ since I do believe you could find this recipe in most households in the South. I love the coconut, curry leaves, cumin, turmeric (which has amazing health benefits too!), and of course, the garlic, onion, and garlic which are like the holy trinity of Indian cooking. 🙂

The leftovers get even better since the flavors really soak in overnight, and I love serving this as a rice bowl the next day for lunch with steaming basmati rice covered with this delicious, fragrant fish curry.

Everything in this recipe (spices and all) can be found at your local Asian supermarket. Enjoy! 🙂


2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
10 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
15 fresh curry leaves
1/2 cup chicken or fish stock
2 medium fresh green chillies, seeded and finely diced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
~1.5 lb white fish filets, cut into 2-3 inch pieces (I love using black cod, but you can use tilapia, sea bass, or any firm white fish)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1.5 teaspoon cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
2/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 15 ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup freshly grated coconut (optional) – available frozen at Indian supermarkets
Kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook for 30 seconds or until the seeds begin to pop.

Add the onion, garlic, curry leaves and stock to the pan. Cover and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes or until the onions are soft.

Stir the green chili, ginger, coriander, cumin, grated coconut, and turmeric into the onion mixture and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute and aromatic.

Stir in the fish and coconut milk, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook covered, stirring gently occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the fish just flakes when tested with a fork.

Taste and season the fish curry with salt and pepper, per your taste. Serve immediately with sliced red onion, fresh Indian bread, basmati rice, yogurt, and sliced cucumber.

2 thoughts on “South Indian Fish Curry with Coconut

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