Spicy Marthandam Fish Curry

Posted On May 19, 2008

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Fish is almost the staple diet here in Marthandam. This used to be a fishing village at the southern most part of India, belonging to the Kanyakumari district. Remember tsunami?!

It’s a booming town now, with the residents emigrating to all parts of the world from Ernakulam to Europe! However, in spite of all the cuisines that one gets to taste, sea food will always remain a delicacy, more because it reminds us of home and our mothers than its absolutely mouth-watering taste.

No lunch at Marthandam is complete without the spicy fish curry! So here’s a simple recipe, Marthandam style…


1/2 kg fish (cleaned, washed and cut in to 2-3 inch length pieces)
1/2 cup grated coconut, grind with water till smooth
half an unripe mango, cut lengthwise into moderately thin slivers
one drumstick (the vegetable, please!) cut in to thumb-size pieces
one ripe tomato, cut length wise into thin slivers
1 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp fenugreek powder
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
one small piece of really dark tamarind, dissolved in 2-3 tbsp of water (remove the stuff that doesn’t dissolve)
curry leaves and coriander leaves (a handful, chopped)
2-3tbsp coconut oil
salt to taste


Get yourself a well-burnt mud pot that’s especially used for cooking fish. If you can’t get your hands on one, a wok will do just fine. People from Marthandam will tell you, though, that cooking fish in a mud pot makes it all the more delicious. Don’t know what’s the science behind that, but I absolutely agree!

Throw in the coconut, the mango pieces, the drumstick pieces, the tomato, and all the powders. Pour in the tamarind water. Add salt and allow to simmer.

When the gravy is beginning to simmer, add water according to the quantity you want (2-3cups water, in this case) and add the fish pieces. Allow it to boil for 20 minutes or so. Make sure you do not cover the pot with a lid.

After 20 minutes, pick up a piece of fish and see if it has taken on the colour of the gravy. If it has, it’s good to go. Now sprinkle the curry leaves and the coriander leaves. Check if the salt is sufficient. If not, now would be a good time to add some. If you have added salt, give it 2 more minutes,

Finally, pour the coconut oil in a circular direction all over the gravy, switch off the stove and close the pot with a lid. The coconut oil will hold in all the spices and give the fish curry a divine smell and taste!

This curry tastes great with rice!


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