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Hi, I'm Jaden, a professional recipe developer, food columnist and food photographer specializing in fast, fresh and easy recipes for the home cook. Most of my recipes are modern Asian! About meFast, fresh & easy recipes for the home cook.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Indian Fish Coconut Curry

Normally, when I make curry dishes, whether Indian or Thai, I start with a shortcut – a ready-made curry spice paste that I can find in most grocery stores. But making the curry spice paste from scratch is just as easy, tastes infinitely fresher and the flavors of the aromatics really shine through in the coconut milk, instead of just being “spicy hot” like normal ready-made pastes.

The extra 5 minutes spent on grating the onion, ginger and mincing garlic is definitely worth it. This recipe is from Entice with Spice by Shubhra Ramineni. It’s her first book and published by Tuttle Publishing, the same company that published my own Steamy Kitchen book. It’s filled with simple Indian family recipes (and beautifully photographed dishes) that are perfect for busy families. This Indian Fish Coconut Curry is a fine example. Beginning to end, it took less than 20 minutes to make.

The ingredients are simple: garam masala (a very warm Indian spice blend), cayenne chili powder, coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, fresh fish fillets, ginger, fresh chilies (optional), garlic and half an onion).

Instead of chopping the onion, grate it using the large holes of a box grater. This way, you’ll get very fine onion that forms the basis of the curry spice paste.

I also grate the ginger this way too.

Cut the fish fillets into nice big chunks. This is fresh swordfish, but you can use any firm fish fillet.

The first step is to cook the aromatics very slowly – the onion, garlic and ginger go in first.

As you cook, you’ll see the aromatics turn to a soft golden color.

Add in the tomatoes.

And let that cook down too – as it cooks down, you’ll see that it forms a soft, paste-like consistency.

Add in the spices and seasonings.

Coconut milk and water.

Drop in a fresh halved chili pepper if you’d like.

Let the curry come to a boil and then add in your fish to cook. Four minutes later, it’s done!

Serve this with basmati rice or any Indian flatbreads.


Indian Fish Coconut Curry Recipe

Servings: 4 Prep Time: 5 Cook Time: 15

Adapted from Entice with Spice by Shubhra Ramineni
Use any type of firm fish fillets - salmon, swordfish, red snapper, catfish, grouper, etc. You can even add other types of seafood in this curry - shrimp, mussels would both be wonderful in addition to or in place of the fish.


1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 onion, grated on large holes of box grater
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 fully ripe tomato, diced or 1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1-2 fresh chili peppers, cut in half lengthwise (optional)


1. Wash the fish and pat very dry. Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces.

2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and swirl in the oil. When the oil is heated, add the onion, ginger and garlic. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the aromatics cook slowly. Saute until very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Take care not to let it burn!

3. Add the tomato and saute for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Use your spatula and smash the tomatoes a bit, to break them up.

4. Add the garam masala, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes. This is the masala (spice base).

5. Turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the coconut milk and the water. Add in the chili pepper if using. When the mixture comes to a good boil, add in the fish and cook for 4 minutes or so, until the fish is cooked through.

84 Responses to “Indian Fish Coconut Curry”

  1. Kalynskitchen — 3/23/11 @ 12:26 pm

    I’d love this dish, sounds fantastic!

  2. Oh, I want this right now! I can’t wait to make a curry — I never have.

  3. Fantastic! Love it that you featured another fabulous Indian curry. The myth about how spicy and difficult to cook a curry is finally squashed by you Jaden :D

  4. Annie — 3/23/11 @ 12:54 pm

    How easy is that? Wow. That looks like it would be yummy with tofu or veggies as well. Wonder if I could get my kids to try it.

  5. Tammy — 3/23/11 @ 1:09 pm

    YUMMM. Quick question, though – in my pantry, “cayenne” and “chili powder” are two very different things (I also use McCormick). So should I be using the chili powder (which tastes like more of a blend and is what I use to make chili), or cayenne (pure heat which, to be fair, I already use in just about anything but definitely has a different flavor profile than the chili powder)?

    Thanks for another great idea!!

  6. Arthur — 3/23/11 @ 4:51 pm

    I have been intimidated away from making curry from scratch, but you made this seem so easy!

  7. Frances — 3/23/11 @ 5:32 pm

    Hi. This recipe looks absolutely amazing and I really want to make it for my flat next week. Only thing is that I HATE onions – wont touch them, wont eat them! In your opinion will this recipe work without the onions? Should I add more ginger and garlic to compensate?
    Thanks for your help :)

  8. Mariah — 3/23/11 @ 5:40 pm

    I love all your recipes. My favorite so far is the roasted Kale. I certainly will try this fish curry though.

  9. This curry looks amazing! Love the fresh flavors. Perfect for spring!

  10. Karen Ferguson — 3/23/11 @ 7:54 pm

    Just finished making this for dinner – smells wonderful.

    I used salmon, 4 minutes cooking was perfect. Thanks Jaden for another great recipe.

  11. Janice Harper — 3/23/11 @ 8:27 pm

    Thank you for the reminder that even though some shortcuts are good tasting (like curry pastes), it isn’t much more effort to make the same dish with fresh ingredients. I have some chicken I was going to cook up for dinner and I’ll try your recipe for a spicy chicken curry.

  12. Daniel — 3/23/11 @ 11:21 pm

    Spice bottles labeled “Chili Powder” usually contain a mixture of spices (paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic, cayenne, onion, etc.) and are intended for use in chili. If the bottle is labeled “Cayenne chili powder”, it most likely contains straight cayenne. As Jaden already wrote, you want the straight cayenne.

  13. Vijitha — 3/23/11 @ 11:39 pm

    Wow, loved the kadai you used in the picture. Coconut milk adds such sweetness to any Indian sauces. I love using it in my curries and I am sure everyone in your family would have loved the Indian menu :-)

  14. Jaden, this looks like such a delicious curry! My husband and I would enjoy this so much. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipe and mouthwatering photos! :)

  15. Indu — 3/24/11 @ 5:50 am

    Hi, this fish curry comes from the south indian state called kerala, and it looks delicious in the pics you have posted. We add 4-5 green chilies (seeds and all), and few peppercorns too. But guess it would be too spicy for lots of people (not indians though)

  16. Beautiful curry Jaden. I will use my favorite salmon :)

  17. Katrina — 3/24/11 @ 9:53 am

    Very cool recipe. This curry is actually “pretty”!

  18. Janice Harper — 3/24/11 @ 11:53 am

    I made it last night with chicken and first thing out of my daughter’s mouth was, “Mom, you’re a great cook.” Second thing was, “Why don’t we start eating food like this more often?” We will! Thank you for the recipe.

  19. SE — 3/24/11 @ 3:05 pm

    Jaden, you read my mind! I was just thinking about making shrimp curry for dinner tonight. This looks so good, I can’t wait to try it.

  20. Anne @ Baking Me — 3/24/11 @ 4:46 pm

    This looks delicious! I have never made curry from scratch. I’ll have to give it a try :)

  21. rita — 3/24/11 @ 6:20 pm

    something to make this weekend. thanks!

  22. Pingback: Indian Fish Coconut Curry Recipe | Steamy Kitchen | Easy Family Style Recipes

  23. Shubhra Ramineni — 3/25/11 @ 9:41 am

    glad you liked my coconut fish curry! I use monkfish, but so glad you liked it with swordfish as well! :-)

  24. angela billows — 3/25/11 @ 10:20 am

    I just cooked this myself with mullet (locally fished off the North Mediterranean coast), but I added a tin of tomatoes and some turmeric and chilli instead of the garam masala,and added chopped cilantro (corriander) at the end…..very moorish!

  25. angela billows — 3/25/11 @ 10:25 am

    Sorry, didn’t read the recipe properly, you used tomatoes as well!

  26. Thanks so much for making Curry doable! I am always intimidated- but this looks easy and delicious!

  27. Arg Jy — 3/25/11 @ 2:43 pm

    Hi, Jaden. Sounds wonderful and easy, but may I suggest blending or puree-ing roughly chopped onion, garlic, ginger and a red chilli pepper (or two if you like it spicy-hot! Instead of using cayenne pepper powder) instead of grating (which might make one’s eyes water)? Also, do cook the garam masala with the fresh paste at the beginning because that would give time for the dried ground spices to cook and mature (easier on sensitive tummies) – to become more aromatic? It makes a difference! :)

  28. Jeannie — 3/25/11 @ 3:41 pm

    I’d love to add this and a link to my Lenten Menu- may I?

  29. jenn triger — 3/25/11 @ 6:05 pm

    Just made a salmon version for dinner tonight. We all loved it. Question about the coconut milk. I took off most of the fat that seperates at the top of the can, as I imagined it would be too greasy alongside the salmon, then added some in at the end as it needed more creaminess.. DO you use it or not?

    • SteamyKitchen — 3/25/11 @ 8:12 pm

      depends on if I’m on a diet or not ;-) but generally yes, I do use the creamy fat in the coconut milk.

  30. This looks fantastic! I bet it would be good with a variety of fish and some mussels thrown in too… kind of a curry fish stew. So much flavor!

  31. Kim in MD — 3/26/11 @ 12:33 pm

    This looks amazing, Jaden! I can’t help but notice your wok…it looks non-stick. Is it? Do you love it? Thanks so much!:-)

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  33. The Teacher Cooks — 3/26/11 @ 9:59 pm

    I think I could do this. Looks so good!

  34. This looks so inviting. Now on my must try list.

  35. Marian — 3/27/11 @ 4:11 pm

    Jaden, love your website. When I’m looking for a “go-to” recipe, yours is the first place I check. I’m looking for a new box grater, which kind is yours (featured in the picture grating onions)?
    Thanks :)

  36. kim — 3/30/11 @ 10:34 am

    Mmmm…yum. Not sure if it’s authentic or not, but I’d love to be able to make it more of a one-pot dish with the vegetables inside – maybe broccoli or greens.
    Any tips on making a vegetarian or a mixed veggie and fish version?

  37. Monique — 3/30/11 @ 7:36 pm

    I love coconut curry dishes, this one looks delicious!! Great pictures too.

  38. Quay Po Cooks — 3/31/11 @ 11:18 am

    This is my first visit and surely won’t be my last. I love what I see. Curry is a common dish in my country. Ready curry paste is easily available too. I have yet to do a curry post in my blog. Your picture instructions is awesome.

  39. Deepika — 4/8/11 @ 11:15 am

    This is such an easy, excellent dish. i usually add ‘paanch phoron’ at the beginning. very nice step-by-step photos.

  40. Ray — 4/8/11 @ 11:34 pm

    That dish looks delicious Jaden. What kind of fish did you use on this? I like your wok it looks thick, is it cast iron? Thank you for sharing this yummy-looking fish curry Jaden. More success…

  41. Tuti — 4/11/11 @ 1:58 am

    What a wonderful dish!
    I’ve never heard of fish curry before so I would love to try it at home. It looks very simple so I hope I could do it at my dorm :)
    Thanks for posting this recipe

  42. Jenna — 4/28/11 @ 11:20 am

    This looks lovely and simple! And there is nothing, NOTHING like the smell of onion, ginger and garlic in a pan. Mmmmm, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

  43. Yuri — 5/13/11 @ 1:30 pm

    I just made this dish for dinner. It smells amazing and it took such little time! My fish was only 300g, so I added some broccoli. ( sounds odd, but it worked nice.) I am so glad somehow I got to your website. Seems like I will be coming back more often as I love making yummy dish for my husband♥Thanks Jaden!

  44. Autumn Dahy — 5/27/11 @ 4:04 pm

    This was really delicious. I didn’t have any firm fish so I just used tilapia that was still a bit frozen and it turned out really well! Thanks, Jaden. :)

  45. Adelya — 6/1/11 @ 8:39 am

    This was so tasty!! I just started to discover Thai cuisine …
    Love the spices ..

  46. Marjy — 6/9/11 @ 11:25 pm

    This was dinner tonight. All I can say is, YUM!

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  48. gorgonzola — 7/26/11 @ 5:07 am

    I’ve just made it but for me somehow the flavours were a bit weak. It’s absolutely delicious but I added some curry leaves into the mix as well.

  49. Wholesale Seafood — 8/19/11 @ 9:29 am

    I tried this recipe in my home… Very tasty… Thank You for great dish… Visit Fish

  50. hudinetta — 2/28/12 @ 7:24 am

    It not just looks amazing but the taste of it… sooooo delicious! We have tried it with fish and with chicken as well, there is no difference in satisfaction :-) I’m so glad that I found this recipe! Thank you!

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