Red Fish Curry


This signature dish of Kerala features firm chunks of kingfish in a deliciously spicy and tangy sauce flavored with tamarind. As a substitute for kingfish, look for other firm-fleshed fish, like the tilapia here. More Healthy Fish Recipes

Red Fish Curry
Photo: © Petrina Tinslay
Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs


  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup fresh curry leaves

  • 15 garlic cloves, smashed

  • 4 medium shallots, thinly sliced

  • One 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned (1/4 cup)

  • 4 long hot green chiles, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

  • 2 tablespoons tamarind puree

  • 1 cup tomato puree or one 14-ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, pureed in a food processor

  • Six 6-ounce skinless tilapia fillets

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish


  1. In a very large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the curry leaves and cook over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the shallots, ginger and chiles and cook for 5 minutes. Add the coriander, turmeric and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tamarind and tomato purees and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Season the tilapia fillets with salt and black pepper and nestle them in the sauce. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat, turning once, until the fish is just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to plates and spoon the sauce on top. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve.

Make Ahead

The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated overnight.

Serve With

White rice and lime wedges.

Suggested Pairing

A fragrant, fruity white like Gewürztraminer will cool the curry's spiciness. Though Alsace makes the most famous Gewürztraminers, Mendocino producers also create incredibly aromatic dry Gewürztraminers year after year.

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