Fish Molee – Fish Cooked in Mildly Spiced Coconut Milk

Fish Molee3

Fish Molee, also called Meen Molee in Malayalam, can be found on the menu at almost all wedding receptions and family celebrations in Kerala. It is a fresh fish curry, mildly spiced, and cooked in a coconut milk gravy. Definitely, one of my all-time favorite fish dishes. The recipe is simple and straightforward, with no exotic spices.

My variation of Fish Molee will give you a true taste of Kerala. I use fresh coconut milk and coconut oil, which brings out the authentic taste of this dish. But, if you have to use canned coconut milk, buy the best quality. Don’t shake the can before you open it. Use the thick top layer formed as the first extraction and the dilute coconut milk in the bottom of the can as the second extraction. Whisk both, the top layer and the bottom layer, with three-quarter cups of water for this recipe. I find that canned coconut milk from Thailand works well for my recipes. I’ve use Tilapia fish for this recipe, but you can also use other boneless, skinless fish.

Fish Molee is one of the most flavorful Kerala delicacies. Eat it with steamed rice, appams or rotis and you’ll understand why Kerala is called “God’s own country!”

Fish Molee
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 3-4

For the Marinade
3 Tilapia fish fillets, each cut into 3 pieces
3 teaspoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder

For the Gravy
3 tablespoons coconut oil to fry fish + 3 tablespoons coconut oil for the curry
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
2 cups thinly sliced red onion or shallots
5 green chillies, slit down the center, (adjust depending on heat and your preference)
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 cup first extract (thick) coconut milk
1 cup second extract (thin) coconut milk
2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Rinse the fish pieces thoroughly, drain off excess water, pat the pieces with a paper towel, and add the lime juice, turmeric, chili, and salt. Marinate for 20 minutes. Heat three tablespoons coconut oil and shallow fry fish on both sides until lightly brown. The fish does not need to be cooked as it will cook in the gravy. Remove and set aside.

Place a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add three tablespoons of coconut oil. When the oil shimmers, add mustard seeds. After the mustard seeds crackle, add curry leaves and onion. Sauté for two minutes and then add the green chillies, ginger, and garlic. Fry all the ingredients until the onion turns translucent. Next, add the coriander, chilli, and turmeric powder. Turn the heat to medium and pour in the thin extract of coconut milk. Add lightly fried fish pieces and salt. Bring to boil. Cook for seven minutes or until the fish is cooked. If you use fish other than Tilapia fillets, it may take a few minutes longer to cook.

Next, add the thick second extract of coconut milk, tomatoes, and freshly ground pepper. Turn the heat to low and let the curry simmer for a minute. Do not bring the curry to boil once the thick extract of coconut milk has been added, because it may curdle. Turn off the heat. Let the Fish Molee rest for 15 minutes before you serve it with steaming hot rice, appams or rotis.

Fish Curry

Mangalorean Fish Curry

Today’s recipe is one that I learned from one of my Mangalorean friends while I was in Manipal. I found a lot of similarities in the way we both prepared this dish. Both of us used coconut, curry leaves, garlic, and chillies. So, I shared my recipes from Kerala with her in exchange for her Mangalorean recipes. This fish curry uses tamarind as a souring agent. I added an extra seasoning of two teaspoons of oil, mustard seeds, and curry leaves before I took the above picture, but that is optional.

All you need is a pot of steamed rice to relish this fish curry. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Fish Curry
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

3 pounds rock fish, cut into slices
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
5 dry whole red chillies
1 tablespoon whole dry coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
4 fenugreek seeds
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup water
4 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1½ cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamarind extract

Using a paper towel, pat the slices of fish until dry. Rub a little salt and turmeric powder over them and marinate them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

In a small pan, over medium-low heat, roast the chillies, coriander, cumin, peppercorn, and fenugreek seeds until fragrant. Cool completely. Add all the roasted ingredients, half of the chopped onion, garlic, and half cup of water to a blender and grind to a fine paste.

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil, and when it shimmers, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the curry leaves, and the rest of the chopped onion. Sauté until onion is lightly brown. Add the ground paste and cook until the oil separates. Add the coconut milk, tamarind extract, half cup water, salt, and fish slices. Stir gently, cover with a lid, and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Garnish with curry leaves. Serve with steaming hot rice.

Tuna Cutlets

Tuna Cutlet3Tuna cutlets used to be a popular item on my menu several years ago. I made some over the weekend so I thought I would share my recipe with you. The list of ingredients may look daunting but this recipe is a keeper and you will be happy you tried it. Sometimes I add a handful of chopped walnuts into the mix and it adds a great crunch to the cutlet.

You can use these cutlets as a side dish, an appetizer, or a snack. I have used them in sandwiches with a chipolte mayonnaise spread or cilantro and mint chutney. I’ve also eaten them just rolled up with some chopped onions in a naan or paratha. Eat them any way you please!

Tuna Cutlets
3 7oz cans (I used white tuna in water)
2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
2 cups finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
6 finely chopped green chillies, optional
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon pepper powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ cup all purpose flour
3 eggs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Oil for seasoning and shallow frying

Drain and flake the tuna using a fork. Set aside.

Heat a non stick pan over medium high heat. Add three tablespoons of oil and when it shimmers add the chopped onion and fry until the onions turn light brown. Add ginger, garlic, and green chillies. Sauté for two minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the chilli powder, pepper, turmeric, garam masala and two teaspoons of salt. Sauté for a minute and then add the tuna. Fry until the pieces of tuna turn light brown. Add chopped cilantro and lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the tuna mixture cool for 10-15 minutes and then add the mashed potato. Mix well with a potato masher. At this point you might want to taste to see if you need more salt. Form the cutlets into whatever shape you desire.

Arrange the breading ingredients in an assembly-line fashion. First, in a shallow dish season flour with ¼ teaspoon salt. In another shallow dish, whisk eggs with one tablespoon water and ¼ teaspoon salt. In a third shallow dish put the panko bread crumbs. Working with one piece at a time, dredge both sides of the cutlet in the flour, knocking off the excess. Then dip both sides of floured cutlet in the egg mixture. Finally, coat both sides of the cutlet with panko bread crumbs.

Set a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and pour in enough oil for shallow frying, about one and a half inches. When the oil is hot, about five minutes, add the cutlets. Fry them in batches rather than over crowding the skillet. Fry the cutlets until golden brown on both sides. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined tray. These cutlets can be served with a cilantro and mint chutney. The recipe for the cilantro and mint chutney can be found at the bottom of the Bangalore Vadais post.

Kerala Red Fish Curry

Kerala Red Fish CurryThis classic Kerala fish curry is cooked in an earthenware pot that is called a “manchatti” in Malayalam. When I moved to Washington, my mom gave me a small manchatti which I used to cook the fish curry that you see in the picture. You can use any fresh, fleshy fish of your choice to make this dish. The curry tastes best the day after cooking it.

There are many variations to this dish as there are Malayalee homes! I say that because my red fish curry tastes a little different from my sister’s version. I use Kashmiri chillies to give it its bright red color and hot dry red chillies to give the dish heat. You can reduce the number of chillies to suit your taste buds. My son, likes his fish curry to be hot so the curry I make is very spicy.

Kerala Style Red Fish Curry
1 pound fish (any fleshy variety that you like)
14 dry hot red chillies
14 Kashmiri chillies
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 pinch fenugreek seeds
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
4 tablespoons coconut oil
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
3 pieces of Malabar tamarind (puli)
2 cups water
salt to taste

In a small pan add the chillies, coriander, and fenugreek seeds and roast them over medium low heat. When they smell fragrant, remove, cool and powder in a spice grinder. Soak the Malabar tamarind in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain and dry on a paper towel.

Place the manchatti or pot on medium high heat. Add coconut oil and when the oil is hot add mustard seeds. When they splutter add curry leaves, ginger, garlic, shallots, and the Malabar tamarind. Fry for about 30 seconds and then add the powdered spices. Immediately add 2 cups of water and salt. Stir well and when it boils add the pieces of fish. Turn the heat to medium low and cook until the pieces are done and the gravy thickens.

Meen Pattichathu (Kerala Style Tilapia with Coconut)

MeenThis is a typical Kerala delicacy, but done my way. Meen Pattichathu is a coconut based, tangy, fish dish that is cooked in a clay pot. It does not have gravy and the pieces of fish are wrapped with crushed grated coconut, chillies, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, and cilantro. If I was back home in India, I would use a grinding stone to crush all the ingredients, but I am using a food processor to do the same. Crushing the ingredients in the food processor infuses the flavor of the chillies, and ginger into the grated coconut. So about five or six short pulses in the food processor will do the job.

I know a lot of readers will want to know about the Malabar tamarind (puli). The botanical name for this ingredient is Garcinia Cambogia. If I am wrong, I will definitely hear from my brother, the botany expert in the family! If you cannot find this ingredient, you can substitute it by using tamarind. It will, however, compromise the flavor of the dish. Malabar tamarind is used to add sourness to the Meen Pattichathu, and then it is discarded before serving the dish. In the picture, you will see Malabar tamarind.

Once in two years, I visit my family in India. My sister-in-law, Lissie Ammama, faithfully gives me a stash of puli to bring back with me to the U.S. Thanks, Lissie Ammama, for all the years you’ve shared puli with me. Needless to say, I think of you when I make Meen Pattichathu.

I hope you will try this dish, and send me your comments.

Meen Pattichathu

2 lbs Tilapia, cut into one inch pieces
3 cups grated coconut, fresh or frozen (12 oz)
5 dry red chillies, broken in halves
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
10 green chillies, slit in halves (adjust the # of chillies to your taste)
2 tablespoons finely diced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 sprigs of curry leaves
3 pieces Malabar tamarind (kudum puli in Malayalam), washed and soaked in warm water
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
Salt to taste
¼ cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ cup finely chopped coriander

Add fresh coconut, dry chillies, ginger and green chillies into a blender or food processor and crush. Five or six pulses in a food processor will crush the ingredients. Mix the crushed ingredients, garlic, turmeric, one sprig of curry leaves, Malabar tamarind, which is torn into small segments, half the shallots, fish, two tablespoons oil and salt. Add water so it comes up to the level of the mixture in the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for ten minutes and then turn the heat to low. Cook until the water in the pan evaporates, tilting the pan once in a while to make sure that the fish and coconut are not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Heat two tablespoons of coconut oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and when they sputter add the remaining shallots. When the shallots turn light brown add the sprig of curry leaves, and cilantro. Remove from heat and pour over the Meen Pattichathu. Cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving. This dish tastes best the next day when the tartness from the kudum puli permeates the fish.