February 27, 2007

Fish (Tilapia) Curry

By now, you must have heard my ranting on the quality of fish here and the endless nostalgia on Calicut's ample fish supply. Well, Tilapia is one fish we get here fresh at all the supermarkets and according to the American Tilapia Association, it is now the fifth most popular seafood consumed in the United States. It is a fresh water fish favored by many, but we always found it lacking in the robust flavor when made in the traditional Kerala style or fried with spices.
It would lie solitary in the coconut curries, unconcerned by the spices around it and break up when we simmer it for too long. It does take well to grilling with any marinade, especially a green marinade that I had blogged about a long time ago. And however much I fried it,it never took on the much yearned crispy crust.
So when I tried a combination of both as suggested by one of my friends, it gave the fish as much flavor as it could hold! So do try this recipe if you love fish and can't get fresh sea fish. It has a tomatoey flavor and goes well with both rice and roti.

You will need:
Tilapia Fillets-2-3(1/2 lb)
Onion- 2 cups finely chopped
Tomatoes-2 plum tomatoes (medium size)
Green Chilies-5-6
Ginger-1 inch
Garlic-4-5 cloves
Red Chili Powder-1 tsp(use less as per taste)
Turmeric-1/2 tsp
Lemon Juice- 3 tbsp
Salt to taste
Curry leaves, Cilantro -one handful
Oil-3-4 tbsp

1.Cut the fish fillets into 2-3 inch sizes and rinse the with lemon juice and drain. Sprnkle some salt and turmeric and chili powder and coat. Keep aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile chop all the ingredients finely.
2. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in a non stick pan(definitely nonstick else you will need more oil) and saute the fish fillets gently on medium high heat till they change color. Flip them over and cook the other side. This is just to firm up the fish and not to deep fry it. Drain onto a plate and keep aside.
3. Scrape off all the fish from the pan and reheat with the remaining oil. Add the curry leaves and chopped onions. Saute just till they start turning brown at the edges. This needs oil to fry well or patience to do it on low heat. Either way, after it is sauted, add the green chilies, ginger and garlic. Saute till the aroma is realeased and then add the red chili powder, turmeric and stir well.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well on medium heat till it starts breaking down. At that point, add the fish fillets and 1 small cup of water.
5. Now comes the tricky part. Do not use the spoon liberally to stir after adding the fish. Hold the pan with mittens and shake to combine the fish and gravy. Add salt, cover and let it simmer for 5-6 minutes on medium heat. Now open and cook for another 4 minutes, just to concentrate the liquid. Add the cilantro leaves and check seasoning. Add 1 tsp of lemon juice if your tomatoes are bland.
Serve with rice or roti or bread.


Nabeela said...

Oh Shaheen, I LOVE Tilapia....its only recently that I got over my aversion of fish and seafood dishes....thanks mostly to Mangoes and Curry leaves.....I tried their tilapi green curry which is awesome. But you're right about Tilapia being relatively tasteless...my husband commented the same...but since I'm a recent fish convert I rather prefer fishes which are not too fishy ;)
Your dish looks like an excellent way to cook up the rest of the tilapia waiting in my fridge...and I've got the BEST tomatoes I've had in years with me to cook with...what a lucky co-incidence! :)

Bong Mom said...

The fish curry looks awesome, such a nice colour you got.

I have always used Tilapia filet for frying or baked them. For making a curry, we get the fresh Tilapia from the Asian stores(they clean and cut in steak pieces, but you have to tackle the bones), try them once
But we fry most fish before making the curry, a difference from the Kerala and Konkani way, right ?

indosungod said...

Shaheen you did it again, I am yearning for fish curry. Looks super tasty.

ByTheBay said...

Thumbs up for a new way to make Tilapia!

Mishmash ! said...

Hi Shaheen, agree with whatever you said there about Tilapia fillets. I used to grumble like anything saying that this fish has no "vikaaram" until we found a place where we can get all the nice varieties. Adding cilantro in fish curry is new to me...ur pic looks quite fabulous :)


Manjula said...

You are so right about the fillets. They break into crumbs once cooked. Good tip there..will try lightly frying the fish before adding to the curry. I think coconut sauces are too savory for this fish, as tilapia is a little sweet by itself

sra said...

What is tilapia in any Indian language? Hindi? We went to a bengali restaurant recently and were told the fish we ordered was tilapia.

Mishmash ! said...

Shaheen, What is 'unnakkaya'? I heard about this dish for the first time in a mallu movie and I got the impression that its a malabar delicacy and wondering if beef is the main ingredient. U might be knowing well and if yes, could u pls post that once?


Anonymous said...

Ooooh Tilapia, that's all i buy and that's all I found equally fresh in this part of the world. And it's such a safe fish to play with. BAke or Roast or Grill or Curry, anything works with it so well. Will definitely try out your recipee today :)

Mandira said...

Shaheen, I love Tilapia too and make it the same way without the curry leaves. Will try it the next time. I also shallow fry the fish before making the curry. It tastes better for me :)

Shah cooks said...

Nabee, i love that book! I grew up on sea fish which is definitely fishier so i love that flavor. still u will like this taste as the tomatoes balance it out.

Sandeepa, I didn't know all ur fish curries start with frying the fish. We make only certain curries that way. I do get the fresh cut ones but don't like the skin so prefer fillets..hi hi..

indo, u can have this.. no carbs in this.do try and let me know.

By the bay, thanks! I am always looking for new ways to adapt the marry the taste with the fish.

Mishmash, vikaram is a nice way to describe the lack of emotion..:) we add a little bit of cilantro in the end . it kills the fishy smell.

Manjula, now that u said, i think u hit the mark.. it is a sweet fish and maybe coconut curries are too much for it.

Sra, tilapia . the only name i could find is Jelebi meen, Tilape. It's a fresh water dark skinned fish .. looks like an ugly version of a black pomfret.

Mishamash.. i love unnakayi. its mashed plantins filled with scrambled sweet egg and nuts, raisins and then fried. It is shaped as the unnakayi..cotton plant's fruits so named that. I will post it soon.

Babli, i get it from the shoprite too. do try and let me know. The other day I saw a muslim girl in shoprite and my hub goes...is that babli..:)

Mandira, fish fried in curries is a good idea. i will try ur version also.

Inji Pennu said...

Is this Malabar speciality? I see tomatoes instead of tamarind or kudampuli?

Burcu said...

That's a great recipe, Shaheen. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

wow i usually dont like seafood but this looks delicous!

indian recipes

Anonymous said...

This was a wonderful dish.

Found the recipe looking for a curry dish. It being a fish dish was a bonus. I want to serve more fish, but I don't have a lot of confidence in preparing it. Thanks, Renee

Unknown said...

Tilapia is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fishes from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapias inhabit a variety of fresh and, less commonly, brackish water habitats from shallow streams and ponds through to rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Most tilapias are omnivorous with a preference for soft aquatic vegetation and detritus. sportsbook, They have historically been of major importance in artisanal fishing in Africa and the Levant, and are of increasing importance in aquaculture around the world (see tilapia in aquaculture). Where tilapia have been deliberately or accidentally introduced, they have frequently become problematic invasive species. http://www.enterbet.com

Zo-Ya said...

Hey Shaheen,
Tried this yesterday and it was really delicious:) thank u so much!
And thanks for the info abt stores in NJ- am not familiar with those places but will look it up!


Mohita said...

Hi Shaheen,

I always made baked Tilapia but was looking for curry on rice and your recipe was a life saver :) thanks , keep the good works up!



Anonymous said...

An excellent recipe!

This is my second go-round with tilapia curry, and tonight I'm a hero!

Thanks so much

Conal said...

I made the tilapia this afternoon and it came out wonderfully! Thanks for the recipe - I didn't have the curry patta though so I did without it!

Here's what mine looked like looked like

Unknown said...

Good recepie... Thanku for sharing.

Saritha said...

I tried this recipe and it came out really well. Thanks!


Term papers said...

I do try this recipe if I love fish and can't get fresh sea fish. It has a tomato flavor and goes well with both rice and roti.

Maya said...


Myself and my husband made Tilapia curry and came out very well.

Hats off to you....

Indeed a great recipe....


Vikas said...

Thanks so much...just cooked using your recipe..simply awesome!


Anonymous said...

After watching an episode of 'Dirty jobs' where tilapias were used to clean out poop and other waste, I have taken an aversion to it. Looks good though, just can't imagine eating it anymore!

Shah cooks said...

anon, curious abt ur statement on dirty jobs, i searched and led me to this post.http://cleanerplateclub.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/tilapia-eat-poop-really/
check it out.

Bavani said...

I'm just trying out your recipe - it's not even totally cooked yet and it's already a success in my books since there's no "fishy" smell or taste so far :) - thank you!

Davis-Bingham said...

I am going to try this. I will let you guys know how it was.

nishmart said...

Loved this recipe...prepared it today...amazing taste...