Monday, October 21, 2013

Chettinad meen kuzhambu - Chettinad style spicy fish curry

I bet everyone has heard the news of the lady spilling hot coffee bought from McD on her lap, suing and winning a jury award. There are not many of us who have not heard the story. In most news stories she came off as a rip off. I barely paid any attention to the award she received but remember thinking of it pretty much the same way. If you listen/read this news story you will realize no news story is what you read. Fascinating - here is the link 'Scalded by Coffee, Then News Media'.

Now moving to the recipe,

Everyone likes fish in our house but for some reason or other I don't cook it that often. I came upon some king fish and a Chettinad fish curry seemed just the right choice. Chettinad recipes are the best when it comes to chicken, goat or fish dishes. I followed the basic recipe from Solai's True Chettinad Kitchen.

Saute the minced onions till they start to turn brown. Add in the masala powders.
Add the tomatoes and saute till they become soft and mushy. Add the tamarind extract and one more cup of water.
Let the mixture come to a boil. When the desired consistency is reached add in the fish pieces.
Once the fish pieces are added the gravy might become a bit watery again, cook some more till desired consistency is reached. Fish the pieces out before boiling again otherwise the fish pieces will become rubbery and dry.

I followed the general guidelines she has in the recipe but followed some methods I learned from my mom. Back home for fish curry onion is never made into a smooth paste (unless it is sauteed and ground to a masala paste) but usually pounded. I do not pound the onion instead chop it in the food processor.

If you prefer the traditional Kongu style Fish Kuzhambu recipe give that a try.

Chettinad Meen Kuzhambu - Chettinad Style Spicy Fish Curry
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
  1. 4 King Fish Steaks - any other fish can be used (1 1/2 lbs)
  2. 1 red onion about 3/4 cup of minced onions
  3. 8 garlic cloves sliced
  4. 2 tsp of grate ginger (optional)
  5. 6 green chilies - slit
  6. 2 juicy tomatoes about 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
  7. 1 tbsp red chili powder or cayenne pepper
  8. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  9. 2 tsp of kuzhambu thool or 1 1/2 tsp of coriander powder + 1/2 tsp of cumin powder
  10. tamarind extract from a small lime sized ball of tamarind about 1 cup of extract
  11. roasted and powdered fennel 3/4 tsp + fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp
  12. salt to taste
  13. seasonings: curry leaves, fennel seeds few, methi seeds few, mustard seeds and cumin seeds
  14. 3 tsp of oil

  1. Using a food processor mince the onions. It can be made to a paste but takes longer to saute.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan add oil and when hot add the seasonings and when the mustard starts to pop add the slit green chiles, saute for a minute and add the minced onions. Saute till it becomes slightly brown. Do not let it burn.
  3. Add in the garlic saute for another minute.
  4. Now add all the powders- chili, turmeric and the kuzhambu thool give a good mix.
  5. Add in the chopped tomatoes, let them cook till they become soft and mushy
  6. Add in the tamarind extract with another cup of water and let it come to a boil. Let it come to the desired consistency. Add salt.
  7. Add in the fish pieces and let it be completely submerged. 3-4 minutes of cooking time is sufficient to cook the pieces. Adding the fish pieces will make the gravy a bit more watery so if is too thin at this point, fish out the fish pieces, set them aside and in high flame continue cooking till the required consistency is reached.
  8. Add the fish pieces back in cook for a couple more minutes and turn off the heat. Let it sit for at least a couple of hours before serving. Tastes even better the second or third day.
Serve with steamed white rice.


  1. Well I must be the only in then didn' t know aobut this lady.
    I love chemeen curry like this but sadly hans is not that fan.When i make chemeen curry i mostly make with coconut milk based one as that he like, but if i had this as a choice i would go for this.

  2. ISG + Solai = BLISS in the kitchen :)

  3. My mouth is just watering here..


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