The Portuguese reason for Kerala fish molee

The Portuguese reason for Kerala fish molee

Here's the recipe for one of Kerala's most popular dish, even in Malaysia and Singapore

Fish Molee - tastes best with Kerala 'matta' or red rice Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Fish molee is a traditional and famous side dish that originated from central Kerala. The story behind this dish goes way back to the 15th century, during the Portuguese reign in Kerala. Legend has it that the traditional Kerala fish curries were too spicy for the Portuguese officials, and hence a woman named ‘Molly’ toned down the spice level by adding coconut milk and replaced red chilies with green chilies. This resulted in the dish to be known as ‘fish molee’.

Today, the simple and delicate process of cooking fish stewed in a lightly spiced coconut milk gravy is famed among locals and tourists alike. The dish tastes best when served with either steamed rice, roti, or bread variations.


Here's what you'll need... Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

For the gravy:

500gm fish (King Fish, Pomfret, Seer Fish), cut into medium pieces

2 onions, finely sliced

1 inch long ginger, finely sliced

5 green chillies, sliced (scoop away the seeds to reduce spice levels)

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1tsp turmeric powder

1tsp lime juice

200ml coconut milk

125ml water

4tbsp refined oil

2 tomatoes, sliced for garnishing

1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped, for garnishing

1 sprig of curry leaves

Salt to taste

For thickening paste:

1tbsp grated coconut

7 cashew nuts

2 cloves of garlic

A pinch of cumin (jeera)

1/2 inch long ginger

1/2tsp black pepper powder

50ml water


Step 1: After thoroughly cleaning your fish pieces with salt and vinegar, marinate the slices with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Keep it aside for 10 minutes.

Marinate the fish slices with a little turmeric, salt Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 2: For the thickening paste, add 1 tablespoon grated coconut, 7 cashew nuts, 2 cloves of garlic, a pinch of cumin (jeera), 1/2 inch long ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper powder, and 50 ml of water into a mixer grinder. Keep the paste aside.

Make sure to add the right amount of water... the thickening paste should not be runny or watery Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 3: Take a non-stick frying pan, pour 2 tablespoon of refined oil, and place the fish (piece by piece) on the pan. Make sure to shallow fry the marinated fish and once done, keep it aside on a plate.

Time to start frying.. but on a medium-flame. Make sure to only shallow fry the fish pieces Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 4: Add 2 tablespoon of refined oil to the frying pan once again, and add the sliced onions. Sauté on a low flame for 2 to 3 minutes, until they turn golden brown.

...add onion slices Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 6: Add the 1-inch long sliced ginger, 5 green chilies, 6 cloves of sliced garlic and one sprig of curry leaves, to the mixture. Sauté once again for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add ginger, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves Image Credit: Supplied

Step 7: Add the thickening paste into the mixture, and sauté for another minute.

...add the thickening paste to the mixture Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 8: Measure 100ml of coconut milk, and dilute in 125ml of water. Add it to the combination and allow it to boil.

Step 9: Add the shallow-fried fish and salt to taste. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes on a medium flame.

Time to add the coconut milk... Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 10: Add the remaining 100 ml of coconut milk and 1 teaspoon of lime juice. Garnish with tomato slices and coriander leaves.

Garnish the dish with a few sliced tomatoes and coriander leaves Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 11: Remove the dish from the flame before it begins boiling again.

Transfer the fish molee to a serving dish and serve hot with steamed rice.

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