Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew

Fish Curry

Spicy Fish curry01, Sinfully Spicy

While he walked down the road, we ran like hooligans to reach the market. It was well past 6 pm and the catch of the day would be sold out in an hour or so, papa told us before leaving home.The earlier your reach the shop, the robust the choice. Making our way through narrow streets, lot of traffic and chaotic roads, you could not help but inhale the stench fishy smell which filled the shop, once you reach. There sat the machali vala (fish vendor),his forehead lit up by the hanging bulb, wearing a yellowish vest, sweat drops glistening on his cheeks, arduously handling the bargains with adamant customers. On his left lay piles of fresh fish to choose from and on the right were hand-held metal scales to weigh.

Papa would choose rohu (green carp),one of the most loved fresh water fish in my family. He had his own ways as to check if it was fresh and that took time. Meanwhile, we gulped down  glassfuls of sugarcane juice or nimbu pani, playing outside.

Spicy Fish curry02, Sinfully Spicy

The vendor would throw the fish towards them, shouting ‘ chotey,jaldi se tayyar kar de‘ , asking his boys sitting behind the curtains to quickly clean up and cut papa‘s fish selection.Since majority of the population flocking the market were vegetarian Hindus, butchering fish or meat in open wasn’t a pleasant sight for them.

In my grandma’s home, the utensils for cooking non vegetarian food were separate from the rest of the kitchenware. They still are. I clearly remember the grey and dark blue stained tamchini (enamel ware) which is used to (again) clean up and wash the fish at home, not in the kitchen sink but outside in the yard. ‘Thoda besan aur haldi jaroor laga dena‘, mom reminded every time to massage the fish pieces with turmeric & chickpea flour after washing, while she sauted masala in the kitchen.

Well past 9 pm,the noises in the houses settled, everyone devoted their energy to eating fish curry, taking their time to separate the bones, sniffing the hints of aroma from kasuri methi in the gravy, mixing it up with steamed rice – comforting & delicious.

Dried Fenugreek leaves, Spicy Fish curry, Sinfully Spicy

When I came to States, I did not eat fish for a couple of years, the idea of fillets simply did not appeal to me. Even though I m better now, but still fillets feel like eating potatoes. It was only a year ago that I spotted an oriental market which sells fish steaks that I started making those nostalgic curries again.

The only two things fancy about this fish curry are that its cooked in pure mustard oil and the liberal use of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in the masala. Both lend the curry a deep, rich aroma and make it taste tangibly authentic.

Before we hop on to the recipe, let me highlight that kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is an aromatic herb used to flavor a lot of north indian curries and marinades. It is what makes those tandoori & butter chickens taste the way they do. Pleasantly bitter, strong-tasting but addictive, it is a great herb to add to your spice rubs, sauces and gravies. Available for a couple of dollars both online as well as at all indian stores, it has a long shelf life (more than a year or so). Trust me you REALLY need it in your pantry!


  • 3- 4 fish steaks (I used Tilapia steaks ,select any mild, white fish of choice)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 tbsp pure mustard oil (substitute with cooking olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • 3/4 cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes, finely chopped (yield about 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1.5 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (amchoor, substitute with lemon juice to taste)
  • 1 tsp kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
  • 1/4 cup of water (this depends on how watery your fish is and the desired consistency of the curry, adjust amount accordingly)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


Rub the fish steaks with 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

When ready to make the curry, take out the fish from the fridge and let sit at room temperature.

In a heavy bottomed pan, add the oil and heat on high up till you see ripples on the surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it till its smoking to do away the raw smell.Reduce heat to medium.Add the finely chopped onion and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes.Next, add minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling the aroma.

Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes and grated ginger  next along with chilli, coriander, and turmeric powder. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. Cook thoroughly to reduce water. This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush. Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.

Add the marinated fish steaks next to the along with kasuri methi & dry mango powder. Also add salt to taste. Stir around gently so that the fish steaks are coated in the masala. Cover the pan and let the fish cook on low for 5 -8 minutes. This cooking time will depend on the variety, cut and thickness of steaks. Adjust accordingly. When the fish is just about done, add the water and let simmer for another 2-3 minutes

Once the fish is cooked through, let the curry sit covered for at least 30-40 minutes, undisturbed.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with steamed basmati rice. (You can warm the curry before serving)

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

51 thoughts on “Fish Curry

  1. Oh I love your writing! I love the stories, the details, like having separate utensils for cooking non-vegetarian food and I love the food. Sounds so good. I keep saving links to your recipes, one day I’ll have to get on and make some for myself. Thank you!

  2. Hey Sala, Lovely photographs! and the fish looks so appetizing! Could you tell me where you sourced those black plates? love those!

  3. The grannies fussing over separate utensils to be used for non-veg food is so typical in India! It reminds me of my own grand mother and I had a smile on my face reading your post.
    It has been ages since I had north Indian style cooked fish and your fish curry looks absolutely spot on. Lovely post indeed.

  4. This looks so good! My mom makes a machi salan just like this, except she leaves out the fenugreek. Aaaah this is making me miss her cooking so badly!

  5. I also love fish but dont but a lot of it now as its very difficult to get fresh fish where I live. This curry looks amazing. The color contrast in the pictures is too good – Great Job Tanvi

  6. Your fish curry looks so so good! When I was younger, and living in Abu Dhabi, there was this Indian restaurant that I would frequent as they had the BEST fish curry – yours looks a lot like theres! Thanks so much for this recipe!
    I need to find mango powder!!!

  7. Your post always makes me miss home n your food makes me super hungry…. 😉
    Love this curry, I too prefer steak to fillet… Beautiful pics gal.

  8. Fish curry is my favorite, and the other night over dinner (chicken curry) we wondered aloud why we never make it with white fish! We don’t get tilapia here, which I love, but I think I’ll try it with rockling or barramundi. Any firm white fish will do, yeah?

  9. haldi and besan – yes! a tip I live by. I can’t get past cooking fish without doing so however fresh the fish be 🙂 I love kasuri methi too, such a great thing to have. Great use of blue board – goes so well with the contrast of the food. xo

  10. I am a sucker for fish! Really. I could eat fish all day. That also makes me wonder if being married to a Bong was my destiny.. though I think I love fish more than my Bong husband 😉 Kasoori methi made it to my list of favourite herbs only 2-3 years ago and it’s been there since then. I have never used it in fish though.. but it sounds like a brilliant idea:)

    1. Can you believe that P (a bengali) does not eat fish, infact he dosent eat seafood at all. I have grown up eating this kasuri methi flavord curry. All those mustard and coconut ones came much later in my life. I hope you get to try it some day 🙂

  11. I’ve been missing my mother’s fish curry for so long now. But this recipe just satiated my cravings. Thank you so much for this! It was amazing! I can’t wait to go through the rest of your website and make more delicious stuff!

  12. I’m so happy seeing your new posts, Tanvi! How are you? 🙂 The fish curry looks scrumptious and your photography is amazing!

  13. Pingback: Fish Curry Recipe
  14. Hi Tanvi, I am a Mangalorean and we cook fish very differently. Kokum is used as the souring agent. Kasuri Methi and Mango powder in fish curry is unheard of. However since this was your recipe, such an intriguingly easy one and the pictures looked so good, I tried it. Once again full marks.
    Here, I wanted to tell you that all my cooking has been learnt from cookbooks, so there are certain basics that I do not really know which thankfully you describe in your blog, such as heat the oil high and then lower it while adding onions, and the correct way to cook the tomatoes. It has made a world of difference. Thank you for taking the time to tell us these small but important things.

    1. Now I would love to eat fish curry with kokum some day! I m glad that my little effort with this blog is helping others to learn nooks of cooking, hope you continue to enjoy it! Thanks so much

  15. Hey Tanvi,

    Ur are a genius. I made this recipe and it works 🙂
    And ur writing skill is commendable. My mouth watered just reading this blog.. 🙂
    I’ll definitely watch out for more blogs from u 🙂

    Varsha 🙂

    1. Ha Ha..arent recipes supposed to work? Thanks so much for trying and letting me know. Hope you keep enjoying the blog 🙂

  16. Hi Tanvi, my wife just made this fish curry of yours and i would just like to say it was amazing. The best fish curry i’ve ever had by far. Perfection i say!!! Will definitely be looking at your other recipes.

  17. It’s extremely tasty. Thanks, Tanvi, we loved your curry fish, thou my husband prefares fish fillet to fishsteaks ( lazy eater, haha). It goes very nice with fresh cucumber too.
    But I would like to ask,if it is possible to cook a chicken in the same way too?

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Iguess chicken will need few other spices than just the ones I used here. I dont use this recipe for chicken. You could try ‘everday chicken curry’ from the blog, if you like.

  18. Tanvi, thank you for that fabulous curry and a great story. What a lovely blog. I must admit I never was a big fan of Indian food before (unfortunate experiences ) but I knew it had to be good. I was right. Thank you again. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

  19. Hi..nice recipe..tried it today..came out well..thanku so much
    .. can we shallow fry the fish pieces before putting in masala…

  20. Made this with cubed frozen white fish and cubed acorn squash and added chopped Serranos. Started on the stove and finished in the crock pot. It was delicious!

  21. The recipe seem to complicated to many steps, it looks delicious, but I need something a bit more simple.

  22. Thanks so much for sharing this lovely recipe (and the story behind it) and these beautiful photos, Tanvi! I recently discovered fenugreek leaves and I’m completely in love with their flavour! Can’t wait to try this!

  23. I made this at the weekend with some white fish fillets, prawns and Trout.

    I grated the onions to make the paste thicker but that is all I changed. Very nice thank you. Im looking forward to trying some of your other recipes.

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