chettinad fish curry

Chettinad Meen Kulambu (Fish Curry)


Meen Kulambu (Fish Curry) is something that makes every South Indian go weak in their knees. This lovely onion, tomato and tamarind based fish curry has that tangy, spicy and garlicky flavor that makes one smack their lips! After a lot of experimenting with different ways of making fish curry for the last few years, I have finally come up with a recipe that has a perfect amount of heat, tang and that delicious hint of garlic. Made with a variety of spices, this is our most favorite and our go-to fish curry recipe. So do try it out and let me know how you like it. Send me your results or tag me on instagram so I can see your versions! Enjoy!


  • 500 grams of Fish (I’ve used Beeliner Snapper)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons of salt  
  • 4 tablespoons of gingelly oil 
  • ½ cup Pearl onions or shallots, sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tomatoes , pureed 
  • Lemon sized tamarind soaked in 1 cup of water 
  • ¼ cup grated coconut for grinding
  • A handful of fresh coriander leaves for garnish 

To temper :

  • 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds 
  • ½ teaspoon Fenugreek seeds
  • 2 sprigs Curry leaves 
  • A generous pinch of Asafoetida 

For the masala paste:

  • 1 tablespoon gingelly oil 
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds 
  • 4 teaspoons Coriander seeds 
  • 5-6 Dried red chillies 
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns  


  1. Wash and marinate the fish in turmeric and 1 tsp salt until ready for use. Soak a small ball sized tamarind in 1 cup of water and extract the juice. Keep aside. Blend ¼ cup of coconut with ⅓ cup of water into a smooth flowy paste. Keep it aside until ready for use.
  2. Now, Let’s make the masala paste for the fish kulambu. This paste adds so much flavor and gives out a fresh aroma. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan and dry roast all the ingredients mentioned under masala paste. Roast for a minute or two until fragrant. Turn off the stove and let it cool completely. Once cooled completely, add the ingredients to a blender with ½ cup of water and blend until it forms a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl until ready for use. 
  3. Heat a large earthen pot or a kadai with 4 tablespoons of oil. Once hot temper the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves until they crackle. Add in the sliced shallots,crushed garlic and asafoetida and saute for 5 minutes on low flame until the shallots turn golden brown. 
  4. Pour in the pureed tomatoes , cover and let it cook for 2 minutes. Now add in the ground masala paste. (You can either add all of it or just 3-4 tablespoons of the paste depending on your preference. You can refrigerate the leftover paste for later use) Mix well and let it cook for a a minute until the masalas combine together. 
  5. Add in the tamarind water, required salt and let the curry come to a boil. Let the curry boil for 2 minutes and as it is boiling, genly drop the marinated fish pices into the curry. Cover the pot and let the fish cook for 5-7 minutes on a medium flame until the pieces are cooked and tender. 
  6. Now pour in the ground coconut into the curry and let it simmer for a minute before turning off the stove. Drizzle a little gingelly oil before serving. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with plain white rice and fish fry!

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