This Fish Curry is satisfying, nutritious and packed with a burst of Indian flavors. Onions, tomatoes, spices & herbs enrich the taste & aroma of this Fish curry that is sure to delight the entire family. Chapati, roti, Naan or a bowl of steaming hot rice with this Fish Masala is comfort food at its best!
About Fish Curry
Fish curry is a staple in a lot of Asian countries and is made in various ways using different locally available ingredients like coconut, poppy seeds, tamarind etc. In this post I show you how to make it the easiest way with the most basic ingredients – the panty staples.
The coastal cuisines of India are incomplete without a delicious Fish Curry. Traditionally fresh caught fish were cleaned, minimally spiced & cooked in clay cookware that would impart delicious flavors.
This fish curry is made much the same traditional way by sautéing onions, ginger garlic, tomatoes & ground spices. Later this onion tomato masala is simmered to cook down the ingredients & bring out the flavors.
Marinated fish is seared on a pan and then cooked briefly in the prepared curry.
A lot of people add the fish directly to the simmering curry. But we personally prefer to marinate and sear first as this cuts down the fishy smell. Though this step is optional I highly recommend this if you are new to seafood curries & stews.
I prefer to blend the onion tomato masala to give the curry/gravy a thicker texture with superior flavors. This is what makes this dish the best!
This recipe uses a small amount of coconut. You can use fresh grated or frozen coconut or coconut milk. If you don’t consume coconut, you may simply leave out that or substitute with cashews.
This recipe is easily adaptable & you can play around with the ingredients. If you love tamarind in your Fish curry, feel free to add some while you make the curry. You can also squeeze some lemon juice before serving. To use amchur, add it at the finishing stage.
Ingredients & Substitutes
Fish: While you can make a fish curry with any kind of firm flesh fish, I would suggest to use something you love. Because everyone has their own favourite fish and you may not compromise on that. The following fishes are a good choice and go well in a curry.
(Spanish mackerel or King mackerel)
Ginger garlic paste is nothing but ground ginger and garlic in equal quantities. If you don’t have that, you can simply use them in minced or grated form. You can make it following my recipe here – ginger garlic paste or use a store bought paste. There is no substitute to this. However you may use dried ginger and garlic powder at the finishing stage.
Curry leaves impart a unique flavor to the dish. Do not use dried curry leaves. It is okay not to use them or simply use a Indian bay leaf.
Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend that is easily available in Asian stores. I do not have a recommended brand for that because I make my own following this recipe – Garam masala. It is important to use a flavorsome masala as it is the key ingredient that flavors your dish.
Fennel seeds are my favourite spice as it adds natural sweet tones and balances the pungent flavors of the other spices. You may skip if you don’t have.
Coconut milk: If you like more coconut flavors in your curry, add as much coconut milk as you want but note that it brings down the flavors. So increase the garam masala and other spices proportionately.
How To Make Fish Curry (Stepwise Photos)
Make Masala Paste
1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add cumin and allow to splutter. Then add onions & saute until golden.
2. Add ginger garlic and fry for 30 to 60 seconds. When they turn fragrant, add tomatoes and half tsp salt.
3. Fry until the raw smell goes away.
4. Add coconut, red chili powder, turmeric and fennel seeds (optional).
5. Fry everything well until the onion masala smells good. Ensure the raw smell has gone. Cool this completely.
6. This one and next step are optional. Marinate fish with red chili powder, turmeric, very little salt and ginger garlic paste. Do not leave this marinated fish aside, just fry them right away.
7. Heat a pan with 1 tsp oil, fry the fish until the raw smell of the ginger garlic paste has gone. You can use the same pan used to fry the onions, I used a different one since I used a steel pan. Set this aside.
8. Add the cooled ingredients to a blender jar along with 2 to 4 tbsps of water.
9. Blend to a coarse or smooth paste to suit your taste. We prefer coarse texture in our curry so I made a coarse paste. If you prefer a smooth texture, make a smooth paste.
How to Make Fish Curry
10. Add another tbsp. oil & heat on a low flame. When the oil turns slightly hot, add curry leaves and green chilies.
11. When the leaves splutter, add the ground paste. Mix everything well .
12. Sprinkle garam masala and salt. You can add more red chilli powder at this stage to adjust the heat. I added a bit more. Fry everything well until the masala smells good.
13. Pour 1 ¼ cup water and mix well to make lump free gravy. You may need to adjust the amount of water slightly.
14. On a medium flame boil until the oil begins to separate and the gravy thickens. This may take about 5 mins. Check the salt and spice now. Adjust any taste that is needed. If you like to use tamarind, you can soak some tamarind in hot water. Extract and filter the juice to the gravy. We do not prefer tamarind so i have not used, the sourness from tomatoes is good enough.
15. Add the fish pieces to the gravy and cook for few mins. Flip them and cook until they bulge, meaning they are cooked completely. If desired garnish with coriander leaves.
Serve fish curry with rice or chapathi.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1.1 lbs. Fish (half kg, 500 grams, any firm fish)
- ½ tbsp ginger garlic paste
- ⅛ tsp turmeric
- ¼ to ½ tsp red chilli powder
- ¼ tsp salt or as needed
To saute & puree
- 1 tbsp oil (adjust as needed)
- ½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 2 medium onions sliced about 1 cup sliced
- ½ tbsp ginger garlic minced or paste
- 2 medium tomatoes ripe (¾ to 1 cup chopped)
- ½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust as needed)
- ⅛ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp fennel seeds (optional) (saunf)
- 2 tbsp coconut (grated or ¼ cup coconut milk or 12 cashew nuts)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 sprig curry leaves or small bay leaf
- 1 to 2 green chili (chopped or slit)
- 1 to 1 ½ tsp garam masala or curry powder as needed (refer notes)
- 1¼ to 1½ cup water
- Marinate fish with ½ tbsp ginger garlic paste, ⅛ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp red chilli powder & ¼ tsp salt.
- On a flat fry pan, heat 1 tsp oil. Fry fish pieces slightly until the raw smell goes away just for 2 to 3 mins on both sides. You can also sear the fish. Keep this aside. (refer picture below)
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot and add cumin. When they sputter, add onions and saute until lightly golden.
- Next add ginger garlic paste and saute for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes & ½ tsp salt. Saute until tomatoes turn soft and mushy.
- Next add coconut, fennel seeds (optional), red chili powder & turmeric. Fry until the mixture turns fragrant & raw smell has gone away.
- Cool this & add to a blender jar along with 2 to 4 tbsps water. Blend to a smooth or coarse paste to suit your liking. (refer notes). You can also use a immersion blender. Keep this aside.
How to Make Fish Curry
- Add 1 tbsp more oil to the same pot used earlier. Heat up on a low flame.
- When the oil turns slightly hot, add curry leaves & green chilies.
- When they splutter, add the ground onion tomato paste and garam masala. Taste test the paste and add more chilli powder at this stage if you want more heat or more deeper color.
- Saute until the mixture smells good.
- Pour 1 ¼ to 1½ cup water. Mix and bring it to a boil. Cook until you see traces of oil on the surface and the gravy thickens a bit.
- Gently slide the fish pieces and cook covered on a medium heat.
- Carefully flip or turn the pieces to the other side after 3 to 4 mins.
- Cook until the fish pieces bulge a bit. This is the indication they are cooked completely. Taste the curry and add more salt if needed.
- Optionally garnish fish curry with coriander leaves if desired.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
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I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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