Seafood Curry from Kerala
Fish molee is a coconut seafood curry from Kerala, along India’s southwest coast. Molee means stew, and the fish you use is completely up to you, though I recommend a firm-fleshed white fish. In India, kingfish or pomfrets are popular, but here in the United States, tilapia, halibut, cod, or seabass are more easily found. I have also loved this coconut sauce with salmon as well. Besides being very flavorful without a lengthy marination time, the heat level is low, so the chili-phobic people in your life will love this masala.
Coconut Fish Curry
This recipe has few ingredients, and the cooking goes quickly. When finished, you will have a main dish you can be proud to serve, not just to your family, but for guests as well. I developed this curry for someone who does not have a full Indian pantry. So please read my notes about suitable substitutions for some of the harder to find ingredients.
It is difficult to find reasonably priced fresh fish where I live (the high desert in New Mexico), so I sometimes wind up buying it frozen. The advantage is that I always have a package of seafood in my freezer, and I can whip up a quick dinner without too much planning ahead. If you want more seafood inspiration from a different region in India, see my Bengali prawn curry (chingri posto).
Oh, and by the way—This recipe is one of the top 20 dishes that are Indian favorites. Take a look!
See the Notes below before you cook.
Recipe Card 📖
Coconut Fish Curry (Fish Molee)
- 1 pound firm white fish seabass, halibut, tilapia, cod or even salmon
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ More to your taste, substitutions
- 1/2 teaspoon table or sea salt ~ Divided
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil ~ Or oil of your choice
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds ~ Preferrably black/brown
- 1 cup onion ~ Finely minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste ~ Buy or make
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon green chili ~ More to your taste; substitutions
- 8 curry leaves ~ Coarsely chopped. About & find. See Notes.
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
- 1/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ To your taste, I added another 1/4 tsp; substitutions
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice ~ Or lime juice, to taste
Garnishes ~ As you wish
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro ~ Coarsely chopped
- 4 curry leaves ~ Fried
- 12 whole cashews ~ Toasted
- Gather all your ingredients.
- In a medium bowl mix turmeric, lemon juice, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut the fish into 3-inch pieces and add to the spice and lemon mixture. Stir to coat well and set aside for 10 minutes.
- While the fish is marinating, heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and as soon as they start crackling, add the onions and curry leaves (if using). Turn down the heat to medium and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add a little water as needed to prevent the onions from sticking.
- Add ginger garlic paste and green chili. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes until the paste no longer smells raw.
- Add coconut milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the pan and heat just until bubbles start forming at the edges of the pan. Do not allow to boil or the coconut milk may break or split. Turn heat to low, stirring occasionally for several minutes.
- Add fish to the coconut milk, turn up the heat just until it starts to bubble gently. Return the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the fish is firm and cooked through. Stir gently so the fish doesn’t break into pieces.
- Adjust for seasonings. This is a dish rich with coconut milk so make sure that you taste for enough acid (lemon juice), salt and heat from chili.
- Garnishes: fried curry leaves, or chopped cilantro and toasted cashews.
- Curry leaves add herbaceous, anise, and citrus notes to a dish. curry. If you can’t find them, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of lime rind. The result won't be the same but the zest can add some of the citrus notes you get with the real thing. Buy unwaxed fruit.
- Indian mustard seeds are black or brown and are a little more flavorful, but yellow mustard seeds work just fine in this coconut fish curry.
- If you are cooking without onion and garlic, skip and slightly increase the ginger, and add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds with the mustard seeds in the cooking process. If you have it, a pinch of asafetida added with the green chilies would be an excellent substitute as well.
- Coconut fish curry is one of the Top 20 Dishes in India, enjoy!