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South Indian Fish Curry • Tamarind & Thyme

I think I must have called my mum every single time I made this South Indian Fish Curry. She must think I am crazy but I have to constantly make sure I’m cooking it right.

South Indian Fish Curry in a black pan with plates and spoon back right

My blog name may be tamarind and thyme and yes I do add tamarind to my dishes but I don’t ever want to taste that sourness.

My mum adds tamarind to this South Indian Fish Curry which is a bit too sour for my liking. I definitely toned down the acidity, you can add some sugar or honey to your curry when adding tamarind.

Adding Tamarind to the curry

Tamarind has a sour taste and my thinking is that it’s added to curries for the flavour. But I still think you have to make a plan to get rid of the sourness. Well my mum doesn’t think so. When my hubby first tasted my mum’s really sour Fish Curry he thought we were crazy even eating it.

He absolutely refused to eat a fish curry thereafter.  That’s changed since I’ve started cooking the curry my way.

Fresh Fish

Living on the coast we had easy access to fresh seafood, including fish straight from the sea into our pots…well not exactly but you know what I mean.  Unfortunately here in Johannesburg we don’t always have access to fresh line fish.

I am sometimes lucky to find some at our local Food Lovers Market. However, I only buy them if I can see that it is super fresh. For this Fish Curry it’s best to use fresh fish. However, I do sometimes use a firm white fish and it works fine. You just have to be careful not to overcook your fish.

Always Better the next day

As far as I can remember this South Indian Fish Curry was always hot and spicy with a deep red colour.  Like most curries this fish curry also tastes better the day after it’s cooked. My Prawn Coconut Curry is also delicious but definitely tastes way better the next day.

The only way I eat this Fish Curry is with some fresh white bread, for me nothing else works. So if you want to serve it to your guests you better get some bread in the oven, trust me it’s the best.

However, that’s just my way of eating it. You can have it with Naan Bread, Roti or Rice. Whatever suits your palate.

More of our local favourites to try:

Spicy Indian Lamb Kebabs

Sugar Bean Curry

Spicy Prawn Curry

South Indian Fish Curry

A spicy fish curry cooked with a few ingredients the Durban way

Keyword fish curry, indian food, south african food, tamarind fish curry
  • 700 gram firm textured fish
  • 3 tbsp light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 tspn mustard seeds
  • 3 large cloves garlic smashed and cut in half
  • 1 sprig curry leaf
  • 5 medium roma tomatoes makes 2 cups once blended
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • 3 green chillies slit in halves
  • 2 tspn kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp masala
  • 1 tspn tamarind you can add up to a tablespoon
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • salt
  • coriander for garnishing
  • Soak the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes. Rinse under cold water. Remove skin. Blend and set aside. Wash the fish and make a few tiny slits in each piece and set aside

  • Heat oil in a large flat pot on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and when it pops add the onion. Turn the heat to a low setting. Sauté onion until it’s golden brown

  • Add the garlic, chilli and curry leaf and fry for a minute

  • Add the chilli powder, masala and turmeric and fry the spices for a minute. Add a few drops of water to prevent the spices from burning

  • Add the tomatoes and season with salt

  • Turn the heat to the lowest temperature, cover and simmer until the oil surfaces to the top, about 15-20 minutes

  • Mix the tamarind in 1/2 cup hot water and if it’s lumpy put it through a strainer. Add it to the curry. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes

  • Add the fish but do not mix. You can baste the fish with the gravy. Cover and allow the fish to cook, about 5 to 8 minutes or until the fish is cooked.

  • Turn off the heat and garnish with coriander

  1. If you don’t mind a sour tasting curry you can add more tamarind. Typically a South Indian Fish Curry is sour in taste due to the addition of the tamarind. I just add less because I cannot handle anything too sour
  2. This curry does require a fair amount of tomatoes as the fish is meant to be cooked in a chutney (a tomato based sauce)
  3. We also use fish on the bone for this dish, however feel free to use a fish of your preference
  4. Depending on the heat of your masala and your palate you can add increase or decrease the amount of masala you use
  5. If you do not have masala add more chilli powder and add half teaspoon of ground cumin and half teaspoon ground coriander together with the chilli powder

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