Coconut Fish Curry


Inspired by the cooking of the Malabar coast, this fish curry is tremendously flavorful, thanks to tamarind, coconut, garlic and ginger.

Indian Coconut Fish Curry
Oregonians spice things up with an interest in all things curry. They might want to save this coconut fish curry for a rainy day. Photo: © Dana Gallagher
Total Time:
45 mins

Kingfish (a type of mackerel) is traditionally used in this curry, but this recipe calls for salmon, whose richness is delectable with the complex spices.


  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

  • 1/4 cup minced onion

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 medium serrano chiles, minced

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

  • 1/3 cup plus 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

  • 8 curry leaves, preferably fresh (see Note)

  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek

  • 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water

  • 2/3 cup water

  • 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes, drained

  • Pinch of sugar

  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 2 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks

  • Salt

  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish


  1. In a mini food processor, combine the shredded coconut, onion, garlic, serrano and ginger with the 1/3 cup coconut milk and process to a paste.

  2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the yellow mustard seeds and curry leaves and cook over moderately high heat until the seeds pop, about 1 minute. Add the coconut paste and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the ground fennel, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, cayenne and fenugreek and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of coconut milk and the tamarind paste, water, tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits from the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

  3. Add the cherry tomatoes to the sauce and simmer over moderate heat until just starting to soften, about 1 minute. Season the salmon with salt, add it to the skillet and simmer over moderate heat, stirring gently a few times, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the curry with the cilantro leaves and serve.

Make Ahead

The curry can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 2 days; reheat gently.


Fresh curry leaves, which resemble small bay leaves and have a savory flavor, are available from

Serve With

Steamed basmati rice.

Suggested Pairing

Like most curries, this one will pair well with Gewürztraminer. Many of the best American versions come from California's Monterey region.

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