Spicy 'Meen thala curry' or Kerala fish head curry, in 15 minutes

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4



1 kg fish pieces with the head portion (either Indian salmon or king fish)

3 tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp mustard seeds

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

10 shallots (chopped)

1 ½ tsp ginger garlic paste

2 green chillies

3 sprig curry leaves

3 tbsp red chilli powder

1 1/2 tbsp of coriander powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

750 ml water

5 pieces camboge (also known as kudampuli or Malabar tamarind)

¼ tsp fenugreek powder



Step 1:

Cut, clean and wash the fish head, then set it aside. If you struggle with it, request the fish monger to do it for you.


Step 2:

Soak the tamarind in a small bowl and let it sit.


Step 3:

Heat an earthen clay pot and add three tablespoons of coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds.


Step 4:

Lower the flame, add the fenugreek, and then saute for a few seconds.


Step 5:

Add the chopped shallots and saute them over a medium flame until the colour changes.


Step 6:

Add the ginger-garlic paste, slit green chillies, and one sprig of curry leaves. Sauté until the raw smell of the ginger-garlic paste dissipates.


Step 7:

Lower the flame and add the red chilli powder, coriander powder, and turmeric powder. Mix well and sauté for a few seconds. Be careful not to fry or burn the mix.


Step 8:

Add 1/2 cup of water and mix until a smooth paste forms. Keep the flame on medium. Add the rest of the water and mix well.


Step 9:

Now add soaked tamarind into the mix. Adjust the salt according to taste.


Step 10:

Add the fish head pieces one by one and two sprigs of curry leaves. Cover and cook for two minutes over a medium flame.


Step 11:

Cook for another 6 to 7 minutes over a low flame. Swirl the pot occasionally. Add the fenugreek powder in between.


Step 12:

Open the lid and boil over a low flame for another 4 to 5 minutes, then turn off the flame.


Kerala special Meen Thala curry is now ready to be served. It pairs well with hot rice and tapioca.



  1. For the best flavour, it is recommended to use a clay pot for this recipe.
  2. It is a spicy recipe. So add or reduce chilli powder according to your taste. You can substitute red chilli powder with Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika to bring down the heat.
  3. Keep this curry closed for at least 30 minutes before serving, so the gravy absorbs all flavours.

Sobha Varghese is a homemaker based in Mumbai, India. Sobha runs a popular YouTube blog called ‘Sobha's Kitchenette’ that focuses on authentic and traditional Kerala recipes.

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