Kottayam Style Red Fish Curry

Being a Kottayamkaari, I wanted the first seafood recipe entry in my blog to be our family favorite Kottayam style red fish curry:) I am a great admirer of fish recipes and this is a dish I grew up eating and is my all time favorite to go with rice. My mother used to cook it almost every other week and pair it with sambar or pulissery and rice. Love those combos!!! During my hostel days, I think, apart from being away from home, the one thing that I missed the most was this fish curry:) So when I go home for vacations, I tell my mother in advance to make it. It was only after finishing a lunch with my favorite combo, I felt like I am back home…

Fish curry cooked in Manchatti

Let me tell you, when I started cooking, this was the only one dish I really wanted to learn and got the exact recipe and directions from my mother. Gradually I tried more varieties and enjoyed experimenting… But my love for this fish curry still continues. If you ask me the fish recipe which repeats the most in our family, it is THIS!!!


Back to our Kottayam style fish curry recipe, this is a curry which tastes delicious with rice, kappa (tapioca/cassava), chappati etc…It tastes the best on next day, so you can make it ahead also. The star of this dish is kudampuli (gambooge/malabar tamarind/brindle berry) which gives the authentic taste to Kottaram style fish curry. Traditionally it is cooked in a manchatti /meenchatti(claycurrypot) and can stay fresh if kept in a cool place without refrigeration. The leftover curry is heated on high flame for few minutes in the same manchatti and left in the room temperature in a cool place so that it stays fresh. And let me tell you it tastes awesome on the next day when those fish pieces absorbs all that sourness of kudampuli. But that said you can cook it in any wide opened pan and save the leftover in refrigerator like any other fish curry. Read Notes Section for tips on making a tasty fish curry.


  1. Fish cut in to medium sized pieces 500gm(Read Notes Section for fish varieties)
  2. Ginger garlic paste 2.5 tbsp (Read Notes)
  3. Pearl onions sliced 4 or 5 (Optional)
  4. Green Chili slit 2
  5. Kudampuli (Gambooge) 3 to 4
  6. Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
  7. Kashmiri chili powder 4 tsp
  8. Red chili powder 1 tsp
  9. Mustard seeds 1 tsp
  10. Fenugreek seeds 1/2 tsp
  11. Oil 1 to 2 tbsp
  12. Salt
  13. Curry leaves a few


  1. Wash kudampuli in running water and soak it in 1/4 cup warm water and 1/2 tsp salt for a minimum of 1 hr to 2 hrs. (Read Notes section to know an alternate method if you are in a hurry)
Kudampuli soaked in water
  1. Make a paste of turmeric powder and chilli powder adding 1 or 2 tbsp of water. This is to avoid burning of spice powders.
Chili-Turmeric Paste
  1. Heat oil in a manchatti or a pan on medium to high flame and splutter mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Add green chillies, sliced pearl onions, curry leaves and saute for 1 or 2 minutes. Add ginger garlic paste and saute until the raw smell is gone. Reduce the flame to low to medium and add the chilli-turmeric paste and saute well for 1 to 2 minute.
  1. Add soaked kudampuli along with soaking water. Again add 1.5 cups of water and enough salt. Increase the flame to high and let it boil. When gravy comes to rolling boil, add fish pieces and mix well so that fish pieces are immersed in water. When gravy starts boiling, reduce flame to low to medium flame, cover with a lid and cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Rotate the pan once in between to make sure that fish pieces are coated with masala. Avoid using spoon/spatula at this stage to mix as fish pieces may break.
  1. Remove lid and cook uncovered on high flame for 3 to 5 minutes so that gravy thickens slightly. Switch off flame. Garnish with more curry leaves. Cover and let it sit for a while before serving. As the curry cools gravy will thicken more.


  1. For faster soaking of kudampuli, you can boil it in 1 cup water and simmer it for 8 to 10 minutes until water reduces to about 1/4 cup. You can add this water along with kudampuli pieces in step 4.
  2. Kudampuli and Manchatti (Claycurrypot) are available in Indian groceries here in United States.
  3. I used coconut oil. You can use vegetable oil/canola oil.
  4. I used salmon fish. King fish, Sea bass, Fluke, Pomphret, Red snapper etc. are a few other fish varieties that tastes good with this recipe.
  5. You can use 2 tbsp each of sliced ginger and sliced garlic instead of ginger garlic paste. I used ginger garlic paste so that gravy is slightly thicker in consistency.
  6. This is a medium spicy gravy. You can adjust the amount of chili powder based on your spice tolerance.
  7. Once fish pieces are cooked, avoid using spatula/spoon to stir. Always mix the curry by rotating the pan to prevent breaking of fish pieces.
  8. Use a wide opened pan so that fish pieces are well immersed in masala while cooking.
  9. In step 4, depending on type of fish, it may take more or less time for fish pieces to get cooked. Check for the doneness of fish in between.
  10. Once cooking is finished, you can remove all/few of the kudampuli pieces from the curry depending on your tolerance level for sourness.
  11. This curry tastes the best on the next day when fish pieces absorbs the sourness in the gravy.