Kerala fish curry

Once back when I was still living in Singapore, I visited my lovely sister in Indiana, and made a big Indonesian dinner for her family.

This dinner used a lot of turmeric, which dyed all of their cooking utensils yellow. It has now become a running joke in their house that Uncle Tommy considers turmeric to be one of the four basic food groups. The last time I visited, there was a giant bag of turmeric on the counter with a note: “welcome home.”turmeric-powder-double-strength-high-curcumin

The irony is that they’re actually right. Turmeric is wonderful stuff. In addition to color, it gives a beautiful sunny flavor to any kind of soup or stew.

Turmeric is also very good for you. When I was first living in Shandong in the early 1990s, I used to get my cooking spices from Chinese medicine shops, which worked well, because Chinese medicine uses turmeric (黃姜) more or less like ginger. It’s warming, makes you sweat and cleans out your sinuses, which is great if you have a cold, like Misa did over the past few days.

When someone is sick, they eat whatever they want. Misa wanted fish. Hence today’s recipe…

Kerala fish curry (adapted from Yoshimi Nair)

  • In a heavy pan over low heat, fry 1/2 tsp whole mustard seed and three dried red chilis in a few tsp. of oil. When these are fragrant, stir in 5 cardamom pods and 5 whole cloves.
  • Add one chopped onion, and one chopped green chili, cook over medium heat until the onion changes color.
  • Add one clove chopped garlic, one chopped tomato, and 300 ml of water. Bring to a low boil. Stir in powder spices: 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon coriander. Add salt to taste.
  • Lightly fry 400g of fish fillets (we used ocean perch) in oil. Break cooked fish into large pieces and add to curry.  Add 200ml (1/2 can) of coconut milk, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Just before serving, I added some cumin seeds that I had toasted in a dry pan. They add a nice burst of flavor.


A few days of this, and you will never get sick again. Plus, I got to send pics to my sister’s family, who I assume were enjoying a dinner of lawn trimmings and tap water.


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