Koonthal Varuthatu (Squid Roast) is a Malabar delicacy. Fresh from the Arabian Sea, squid is readily available on the west coast of Kerala. Because Kozhikode is a major fishing port, the city is perfectly situated to take advantage of this bounty.

Most of the world has some version of fried or roasted squid. We know it as calamari and it’s a favourite dish in Italy, Greece, and the world over. But, a Moplah cook’s version is quite different.

That’s because Moplah cooks always have a secret spice masala up their sleeves. Usually, that spice mixture is handed-down for generations. But that’s not all that sets this Koonthal Varuthatu (Squid Roast) apart.

The other key factor is the final touch. These Muslims of North Kerala use that quintessential Keralan ingredient – coconut oil – to fry their squid. And the results are mouth-watering. 

We were so happy to try this dish. Our host in Kozhikode, Adiba Rasheed, made her version and served it as an appetizer. This is our adaptation.

Koonthal Varuthatu (Squid Roast) Recipe

2 - 3 servings


½ lb (500 grams) fresh squid
1½ Tablespoons Kashmiri Chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon rock salt
2 Tablespoons coconut oil – divided
1 tomato, sliced
Few teaspoons of water
6-8 curry leaves
Pinch garam masala
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Cut the squid into 1/4 -inch rings and marinate it with the chilli powder, turmeric, salt and 1 Tablespoon of the coconut oil for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan or earthenware vessel and add the other Tablespoon of oil.
  3. Add the marinated squid and cook and stir until the squid turns opaque – 3 – 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan and reserve.
  4. Add the remaining Tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan followed by the tomato and water to prevent burning the spices. Cook on a low flame until tomatoes are soft.
  5. Return the half cooked squid along with curry leaves to the pan. Stir well. Cover and cook on the low flame until the squid is soft. Add a pinch of garam masala, salt and pepper to taste, stir well and close the lid to let the flavours to infuse until serving.
  6. Enjoy with Neichoru (ghee rice).


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