Mom’s Fish Curry (Meen Kozhambu)

Cayenne is a red or green hot chili pepper used to flavor chile food dishes and is also used for medicinal purposes. Named for the city of Cayenne in French Guiana, it is a cultivar of Capsicum annuum related to bell peppers, jalapeƱos, and others.

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4 serving size fillets of any firm fleshed fish
1 onion, diced fine
4 tomatoes blanched and crushed
4-5 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
5-6 curry leaves
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp urad dal (split black gram)
3-4 whole dry red chiles (Substitute with dry long red chiles or dry chipotle peppers)
1/2 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp coriander and cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp red chili powder or 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 small lime sized tamarind ball or 3 Tbsp tamarind extract
2 Tbsp minced fresh coriander/parsely leaves
2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Salt to taste


In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil until glossy. Add the mustard, fennel, urad seeds until the mustard starts popping. Lower heat and add in the curry leaves, garlic and dry red chillies. Saute for a couple of minutes until the garlic cloves become golden brown. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the powder spices. Over medium heat, cover the pan and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes are fully cooked and the oil separates.

Meanwhile, if using fresh tamarind, soak the ball in 1/4 cup of hot water and squeeze out all the juices. Once the tomato-onion mixture cooks, add the tamarind extract and water. Increase heat to medium-high to bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Lower heat to medium, add the fish slices and let the sauce simmer for 10-11 minutes (with lid closed) until the fish is flaky and cooked through. Sprinkle the coriander leaves on top, close the lid and remove from heat.

Let the curry rest for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend together. Do not lift the lid till serving time. The escaping aroma is simply delicious!

Serve over hot white rice. Serves four.