Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Typical coastal meal: fish gravy

I grew up along the coastline of Bay of Bengal, eating seafood on everyday basis was our typical diet. I remember eating more fresh seafood than vegetables all those year in my parents home.

Fishing is one of the main business in my small town. This is short recap how the fish catches travel to the fish market everyday to the public.
At dawn, the fishermen returned with their catches to harbor where the price is fixed by auctioneers to retailers, wholesale buyers, etc… You may ask why the fishermen cannot sell directly and choose the auctioneers. Usually the fishermen (not wealthy) would have rented the boat, taken loan so they must return their catches to them. The auctioneers take minimum of 5  percent commission of the fishes they auctioned.
Next it is a whole sale market which took place in Big Market. The Big Market is situated at the heart of the town. The transaction starts as early as 6.00 AM, again the containers of fresh catches are auctioned to retailers market, which is later transported to the different fish markets throughout the city or sold at the fish market by small fishmongers. Yes, we do have many small fish markets in every location around the town. So the fish , we buy from the fishmonger has already passed down many hands before reaching our bag.
We go to the main Fish market (Big Market) which is named “Goubert Market”. Only fisher-women sell, yell (yes they do- probably the key success to sell), bargain with the customers. Those women are too smart to hike the price and you should be clever enough to bargain the perfect rate. That is the most fun part of buying the fish. Without any knowledge of fish buying, one may found hard to shop around. The price shoot up from 600 Rupees to as low as 20 rupees. Everyone has something to buy in this market. Most of the time, fish is cheaper compare to veggies! Now you know why we eat more seafood!
As I totally grew up eating only fresh catches, once moved to US, I couldn’t digest the frozen seafood. Slowly, my seafood interest has been downgraded over the years. I rarely prepare this kind of gravy at home.

Last week, my son went for fishing trip to the nearest lake. He came back with a freshwater rainbow trout. Seeing the fresh fish, mum was the most excited person. I never bought this variety though it is widely available here.

Rainbow trout is often called salmon trout. They make several trips to salt water and fresh. The flesh color is orangey sorry I could click the picture, worried of fishy smell to my camera. I ended up making a typical coastal meal not even worrying about my DH who doesn't dare to glance the fish.
This is a typical Meen Kuzhambu (fish gravy), even an everyday comfy food at my home. Though it is very simple gravy with few ingredients, one might excel by practice! Vadagam/vadavam is key seasoning for fish. It is widely available in any super market in the coastal cities. If you don’t like tamarind probably this gravy is not for you. A day old fish gravy taste like heaven, make it in advance and consume later for the flavor.


  • Cleaned Fish:½ kg –small fish like sardines, small mackerel can be used- I used rainbow trout
  • Tamarind :(usually new and old crop are used): big lemon size- 50 gm
  • Kuzhambu thool (chilli powder): 4 tbsp or 2 tbsp of chili powder and 2 tbsp of coriander
    powder (adjust according ur spice level)
  • Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
  • Pearl onion:
    10- peeled and halve it
  • One medium tomato: cubed
  • Green chilli:2 – split
  • Salt: per taste
  • Vadagam/vadavam:  2 tsp ( if you are unlucky to hold some- 1
    tsp of mustard, fenugreek, 2 crushed garlic cloves can be used)
  • Oil: 2 tsp
  • Few curry leaves 


Clean thefish.

Microwave for 1 min, the tamarind with ½ cup of water. Extract the pulp only . Add 2 more cups of water, mix the chilli powder (kuzhambu thool) and turmeric powder adjust salt.

Now take a wide mouth pan , heat oil, add the vadagam or the mustard and fenugreek with garlic & curry leaves.

After few seconds, add the onion and fry until translucent. Followed by tomato and green chilies.

Pour the tamarind mix. Once it reaches the boiling point reduce the heat to medium flame and let the gravy boils around 10 min or until you feel the raw smell is gone.

Now add the fish and reduce heat to medium low, cover slightly the vessel and simmer the gravy another 8 minutes.

Trick and Tips:

How to know the gravy is ready?
 At the beginning there should be a foaming and slowly the
foam is reduced and you can notice later just a white circle around the vessel and pretty much no froth. At this point you can add the fish.

If the gravy is very sour. Increase the salt and chilli powder.

If the fish is gone into several pieces, either the fish is not fresh, or the stove flame was too high

Remember only practice is key success to make this simple gravy!


notyet100 said...

Ummm delicious,....even I haven't tried trout before ,..maybe will try now

Shabitha Karthikeyan said...

Truly it makes me drool. Loved the pictures !!

Sujatha said...

Mouthwatering recipe.. I have never tried with Rainbow trout.. Will try this soon..

Nandini said...

Drooling here:) Perfect meen kuzhambu for me.

Priya said...

Well written about our Goubert market,missing it seriously.

Btw kuzhambu and fry both makes me hungry..

Happy Cook / Finla said...

Me too grew up with fish more than chicken etc... we almost every day had some kind of fish at home.
Here i never make fish curries as hubby and daughter don't like them, how i wish i got this for my lunch with plain hot rice, just thinking i am drooling.

Bong Mom said...

Mouth watering Fish Curry. We love Rainbow trout from the Asian Market. Though in Bengal we are used to fresh water fish and not sea fish, here I eat whatever fish I get.
How did your son like the fishing trip ?

Cham said...

Sandeepa: He loved the fishing experience but upset seeing the live fish cleaning at the site.

Jay said...

looks perfect & healthy
Tasty Appetite

Vandana Rajesh said...

wow that is an irresistible fish curry meal. True the frozen seafood is a big let down as it does not take in the masalas and no flavour even after all the hard work. This looks so perfect and your post sure made an interesting read. Glad to drop in here after so long..not been too regular with my posts.