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Nadan Meen Curry With Coconut Milk

This is  one of  the  most  common  fish  curries  made  in Kerala  homes.  Fresh caught fish ,  fresh coconut milk ,  green chilies  and  curry leaves  right  from the  backyard  or  fresh from the  market,  coconut  oil  and kokum ,   these are the  ingredients  that  make  this  dish  irresistible  to  sea food  lovers.  Not  just  seafood lovers , I happen to know a  few vegans  who  would  make  this  dish  with  tofu or yams. Arguably the  best  vegan version I had  was   made with cherry tomatoes !

Nadan Coconut Milk Fish Curry

A  word on  Kokum  –  a  google search  will bring  up   different  names and  plants. This  article has  the  right  pictures, though I am not  sure  if it  has  the  correct  scientific  name.  It  may be  a difficult ingredient  to  procure, but  you can  substitute  tomatoes, or regular  tamarind, or  leave  it  out  entirely and  still have a  tasty curry.

All through coastal India  you  will find  many different  versions  of  fish curries. Some are  spicy while  a  few  are mild.  There are  creamy rich  gravies  and a  few lean  soupy  versions. In general  the  dishes  with  coconut  milk are to be consumed  fresh ,  while  the  more  fiery  versions  are  savored   best  the  day after.  This  gives  the  flavors  enough time to  mature  and  mellow.

I would  serve  this  dish hot.  The  fresh  aromas are  very appealing  and  the  brain  gets a  kick out of  of  before  the  taste buds:-).

The  kokum has to be  washed  and  soaked  in  a  little  warm  water  for  at  least 10 minutes  before   cooking. If  you can not  find  kokum  use  tamarind  or a tomato  with the  seeds  and  pulp removed.   Thinly slice the  onions , garlic ginger  and  green chilies.  Alternately you can   crush them in using a  mortar  and  pestle  for a  more  rustic  feel.     I would  recommend  using  fresh coconut  milk –  but  if  only canned  version is  available  skim off  1 Tbsp of  the  cream   from the  top and  dilute  it  with  1 cup   water for  the  thin coconut  milk  and  add  the   remaining  cream  once  the  fish is  cooked.

For  clarity  I have  used a  skillet  in the  above  pictures, but  traditionally   fish curry is  made  in an Manchatti which is an earthenware pot.  Heat the pan and  add  about  1  tablespoon of  coconut  oil (or  any flavorless oil)  in it  when it is  hot.  Once  the  oil is  hot   add  the  sliced onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies.  Saute  for a  minute , until the  onions  are  soft.  Add mustard seeds (optional), fenugreek seeds  and  curry leaves. Let the seeds  splutter  and  the  aromas  fill the  air. To this  add the   turmeric  and  chili powder (optionally a  pinch of  coriander powder) . Immediately add  a  few  drops  of  the  kokum  water  to   prevent  the  spice  powders  from  burning. Stir and  cook for 30 seconds or  so  till the  water  evaporates. Add salt , the  kokum  with the  soaking  water  and   the   thin  coconut  milk.

When  it  comes  to a  boil  add  the  fish pieces  to  it.  Pour some  of the liquid over  the   pieces  that are  not  submerged. Cover  and  let  it  steam  gently for 5  to 10 minutes . If the pieces are  large   flip  them so that all sides  get to  cook evenly.  Take  care not  to break  the  fish pieces  while  flipping  them.  This  is  where  the  bones  and  the  skin  on the  fish comes  handy. These  provide   the  natural structure  that  holds  the pieces  together as  well as  adding flavor  and  body to the  curry. Cook for  another 5  to 10 minutes or   until  the  fish is  cooked  and  flakes  easily.

Nadan Coconut Milk Fish Curry

Add the  thick  coconut milk , adjust  salt  put the  lid the  back on.  Turn  the  heat off as  soon as  the  curry begins   to  show  signs  of  boiling.  Remove  from the  heat  and  set  aside  for 10 to 20   minutes  before   serving. The  gravy  thickens a  bit  as  it  cools.

If  you were  using  the Manchatty or clay pot for  cooking,   the  heat  of  the  pot  keeps  the  curry  cooking for  quite some  time.   As a  result  the  gravy thickens  quite a  bit.

What do we  serve this   with ?  Steamed  rice , fish curry and a  side of  vegetables  is complete meal for a  Malayali. But  we  are  happy to  eat  this   dish  with  Malabar parotta , Appam or  plain rotis.

Nadan Coconut Milk Fish Curry

Kerala Fish Curry With Coconut Milk

By Syama
Slices of   fish   simmered in  coconut  milk and  spices  - this  is a  popular  fish  curry in  Kerala   to  be serve  with  rice. 
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 Servings


  • 1 lb Fish (500g)Cleaned and Sliced
  • 1/2 C Pearl Onions Sliced
  • 3 - 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 Inch Fresh Ginger
  • 4 - 5 Green Chili
  • Few Curry Leaves
  • 1 -2 Pieces Kerala Kokum / Kudampuli / Fish Tamarind See Notes
  • Coconut Milk From 1/2 Coconut See Notes
  • 1/4 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds
  • 1/2 Tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 Tsp Turmeric
  • 1 Tsp Chili Powder To taste
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt To taste
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil


  • Clean and slice the fish to desired size pieces. Set aside.
  • Soak the kokum in 1/2 C warm water.
  • Grate the coconut and extract the coconut milk . Keep 11/2 Cups of thin coconut milk and 1/2 C thick coconut milk.
  • Slice or crush the pearl onions, ginger, and garlic. Break the green chilies into halves if desired. In a heavy bottom pan/wok/terracotta pot heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. When the oil is hot add the onion, garlic and ginger pieces to it along with the green chilies. Saute for a few minutes until the onions are soft. Add the mustard seeds , fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves to the oil. Cook for a minutes until the seeds splutter and the aromas fill the air.
  • Add the spice powders and salt to the pan along with a few drops of water. Stir fry for 30 seconds till the spices cook and water dries. Add the thin coconut milk and the kokum with its soaking water. Mix and let it come to a boil .
  • Slide the fish pieces in. Scoop the liquid with a ladle and pour over the top of the fish pieces. Cover and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover, flip the fish slices if the slices are thick, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or till the pieces are cooked through.
  • Add the thick coconut milk and adjust salt. Let the curry come back to a slow boil over low heat. Take off the heat as soon as bubbles begin to appear on the sides. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes for the flavors to mature.
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate as soon as cooled to room temperature.


  • Pomfret, mackrel , cat fish and similar fish work well in this dish.
  • If using canned coconut milk, use watre mixed with i tbsp coconut
    cream as the thin coconut milk and use the cream for the thick coconut milk
  • If kokum is not available , soak a small piece of tamarind. Or remove the seeds and pulp from a medium size tomato and add it just before pouring the thin coconut milk .

Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.

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Nadan Fish Curry With Coconut Milk

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