MyKitchen: Meen Kuzhambu (Fish Curry)

Meen Kuzhambu(Fish Curry)

Before lighting the stove

Every dish has its own character. A Meen Kuzhambu ('Fish Curry' title is too generic for this recipe) is very special in South Indian cuisine. You can even find reference to fish and rice in ancient Tamil literature.

The following lines are from 
புறநானூறு - 61. மலைந்தோரும் பணிந்தோரும்!
மலங்குமிளிர் செறுவின் தளம்புதடிந் திட்ட
பழன வாளைப் பரூஉக்கண் துணியல்....

Which details about how the 'Vaalai' fish were squirming in the waters and the farmers savoring the 'Kuzhambu' with rice to their stomach full 😋

Coming back to the character of the 'Meen Kuzhambu'  it should be 

1) Tangy, 2)Spicy, 3) Bright, 4) Have a Crisp aroma and 5) The consistency should be neither too thick nor too thin. A natural honey like consistency. The curry has to stick to the cooked rice grains so that every grain carries with it the whole flavor. 

Understanding the character is very important. If you understand the character, preparation is a cake walk. 
A hint. A meen kuzhambu smells great with a dominating flavor of cumin seeds and garlic.

Enough of detailing....let's get to the recipe. 

Procuring the ingredients

A good cook should choose his/her ingredients. Procure the fish yourselves if possible. 

The fish should have a flavor for itself .

I prefer Black Pomfret, Nethili, Red Snapper(Sankara), Vaalai amongst sea fish and Viral amongst the fresh water ones. 

Anyhow if made right it would taste good with any fish.

Try cooking in a flat bottom pan. I prefer a earthen pan.


Fish cut into chunky pieces (1 Kg)
Sambar Onions (100gms) cut finely along the length
Tomatoes 2 nos (fully ripe) Finely chopped
Green chillies (4 nos)
Tamarind (2 inch ball)
Ginger crushed (1 inch)
Garlic crushed (10 cloves). 
Garlic cloves (15)
Chilli powder (2 heaped tablespoons) 
Coriander powder (4 heaped tablespoons)
Turmeric powder (1 teaspoon)
Cumin seeds (1 teaspoon)
Pepper corns (1 teaspoon)
Fenugreek (1/2 teaspoon)
Mustard (1 teaspoon)
Coconut oil/Gingelly oil (half cup) (coconut oil gives a distinct flavor)
Curry leaves (30 leaves) Be generous
Coriander leaves for garnish


Clean the fish with running water, do not wash for too long. Toss the fish with some coarse salt and wash it off. Toss with some turmeric powder and salt and keep aside. Soak tamarind in warm water a pinch of salt.

Heat oil in the pan, let the oil smoke. Add mustard, cumin, fenugreek into the oil. Once the seeds splutter throw the curry leaves (again, be generous, this brings out a unique flavor). Add the green chillies. Fry the cut onions until they turn light brown. Add the crushed ginger and garlic, fry it until the raw smell subsides. Add the finely chopped tomatoes. Keep the stove on low flame and allow everything to come together. 

Add turmeric, chilli and coriander powder. Add few spoons of water to prevent the masala from burning. Add a teaspoon of salt (coarse one). 
Under low flame allow the masala to blend well. Keep the lid closed. If you are impatient, distract yourselves with a phone call for few minutes😉. 

Now open the lid and add the tamarind pulp and add water little by little, as I said the consistency is very important in savoring the kuzhambu.

Throw in the garlic cloves.

At every stage keep smelling the dish. Very important for a tasty dish. (A good cook can identify the deficiencies just by smelling)

Add salt and allow it to simmer for 10 mins. 

By now the 'Kuzhambu' should have reached its desired consistency. Taste it for salt and add enough. Tangy curries like this requires more
salt don't think too much 😝

Drop the fish pieces one by one spread across the pan, garnish with coriander leaves and cover with a lid. Simmer for another 5 mins. 

Switch off the stove, keep the lid a bit open on the sides to allow the steam to escape. Take a deep breath and enjoy the aroma!

Leave it aside overnight cooling off on the table. I don't suggest keeping it in the fridge. It should be fine for a day if cooked properly with proper amount of tamarind and salt.

Savor it to the stomach full!

Cook the rice so that it doesn't stick. Important to savor a 'Meen Kuzhambu'. And choose a rice grain that doesn't have any flavor on its own. Basmati rice and 'Meen Kuzhambu' is a turn off.  Never do it.

Serve yourself with generous amount of rice and kuzhambu. 

Come on, it is fine to indulge now and then! 😋😋😋

Your taste buds should be lingering with the taste for long. And the aroma should be hovering all over you. Its fine to smell like meen kuzhambu on a Sunday afternoon😝. I don't take anything else if it is a 'meen kuzhambu' and rice

Copyright © 2017 by Kavi Venkatesan

All Rights Reserved


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