Fish Curry with Kokum

Sometimes when Pauli-Ann and I travel in India we get a serious case of cooking utensil envy. The clay vessel Mariam cooked this fish curry in is a prime example of a utensil that’s hard to duplicate in North America. We think a heavy Dutch Oven will be the best option for most of us but it will never be as beautiful upon presentation as this gorgeous old dish of Mariam’s.

Kokum is a type of tamarind that grows throughout South India. It adds a tangy flavour to the sauce that otherwise might be on the rich side. Besides being one of the most visually appealing meals we’ve eaten in India, this was also one of the most soul satisfying.

Mariam Venattu’s Fish Curry Recipe

4 - 6


1 kg fish (snapper)
½ cup coconut oil
1 Tablespoons black mustard seeds
6 cloves garlic – sliced in slivers
3 Tablespoons chopped ginger
3 Tablespoons Indian curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
Pinch ground fenugreek
5 pieces of kokum (rehydrated in just enough hot water to cover in a small bowl)
Note: You may substitute 5 Tablespoons of tamarind paste if you cannot find kokum (which is a type of tamarind available in most Indian grocers)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
20 – 30 fresh curry leaves or 2 – 3 branches


  1. Rinse the fish in cold water, pat dry and make slits in both side of the fillets. Set aside.
  2. Heat ½ cup of coconut oil in a wok add the mustard seeds and cook on medium heat until the pop and splutter in the pan (30 to 60 seconds).
  3. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, ginger, chilli powder, turmeric, fenugreek, the kokum and its water (or tamarind), salt and water.
  4. Lay the curry leaves or branches of curry leaves on the bottom of a clay vessel or Dutch oven and then lay the fish on them.
  5. Cover the fish with the chilli paste mixture, add ½ cup water, cover with a lid and steam for 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 cup of coconut milk and serve topped with more fresh curry leaves.
  7. Enjoy with rice, naan and Mariam’s Avial recipe.

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