July 17, 2023

Mangalore-style Fish Curry

Recipe: Joe Thottungal

“Fish curries always taste better the second day, when all of the flavors of the fish, tomato and coconut marinate together.” – Joe Thottungal


  • 5 small Malabar tamarinds (kudampuli)
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) grated coconut
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 1 Indian or Thai green chili
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 two-inch piece ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 6 cloves garlic, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 lbs. firm white fish fillets, cut into 1″ pieces
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)


Yield: Serves 4

Make Curry

  1. In small bowl, combine Malabar tamarinds with enough hot water to cover, and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to soften.
  2. With measured spices nearby, heat 2 tbsp of oil in medium frying pan over medium-high heat, until oil is shimmering. (To test the heat, add a couple of mustard seeds. If they start to sizzle, the oil is ready.) Reduce heat to medium, add mustard seeds and crackle them for a few seconds until popping subsides, taking care that they don’t burn. Immediately add coriander and cumin seeds, and roast for a few seconds. Add chili powders and turmeric, and cook for 30 seconds, until smell of raw spice disappears. Add coconut and stir for 2 minutes, until warm and lightly coloured.
  3. Add contents of pan to food processor. Blend, adding enough water (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup) to make smooth, thick paste. Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining 1/4 cup of oil in large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add curry leaves, green chili, onions, ginger and garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in reserved paste, then add tomatoes and soaked Malabar tamarinds with soaking liquid. Boil for 5 minutes, then season with salt.

Cook Fish and Serve

  1. Add fish to same pan, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, or until just cooked.
  2. Transfer to serving platter. Garnish with cilantro and serve, if you wish, with neer dosa and ginger pickle.



Christian Lalonde


Excerpted from My Thali: A Simple Indian Kitchen by Joe Thottungal with Anne DesBrisay. Photography by Christian Lalonde. Copyright 2023 by Thali Restaurant. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher