Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Meen Mappas - Spicy Fish Stew from Kerala


The holiday season is over, but work hardly comes in, and when it does, it's in a very slow trickle. The mind is about to pop up one of the screen savers it stores in its recesses for such occasions - sometimes the image of a juicy burger or of a creamy chocolate cake, or of Antony Moses and all of his packs from Mumbai Police (though the mind thankfully keeps the ending out to keep things entertaining). But I decide not to let the screen savers take over because they give me this dreamy and far away look that may not look appropriate in office. So, I make a massive effort to steer clear of the image of AM that the mind was tempting me with and I concentrate on the more puzzling aspects of life.

- Why do we get toffees instead of change from most shops? We are not even given a choice of candy - is it to be the wibbly wobbly strawberry jelly, or the caramel toffee that cements the jaws together? And are these candy giving shopkeepers willing to accept toffees instead of change. I have plenty of them nestled against each other in the compartments of my handbag. And unlike the shopkeepers, I am willing to give them a choice of color, shape and stage of molten - ness.

- Why do so many women, especially elderly ones stuff money into their blouse? I feel the heat come off my ears whenever I see a woman valiantly plunge her hands into her blouse and pull out a purse. Agreed that the rupee is a very fragile currency but I don't think the  cushioning effect in her blouse is going to help in any way. And in the rare case that the contents of her purse do need protection, I wish she would simply use bubble wrap.

-When a traffic jam stretches from ITPL to Electronic City, it kills our patience. But hasn't it been proven time and again that honking incessantly is not going to magically clear a path for us or turn that red light green? So unless one gets some creepy pleasure out of subjecting everyone to even more misery, why honk like an obnoxious drunk?

- It takes me eons to decipher texts such as "luv u u r gr8" or "u mak me laf". I actually google to find the meaning of some these words. (I hope they are updating the Manorama Year Book with these abbreviations). My question is, do you actually save time when you use such shortcuts?

- Superman has finally come to terms with the earthly fashion sense and now wears his underwear underneath his clothes. (Or maybe he has ditched it altogether). But our boys continue to earnestly flaunt the aforementioned piece of clothing. Recently, I observed a young fellow on the road pull his pants down a bit ensuring that the world saw his brand, color and make!

- Why do you think god put Adam, Eve, the Forbidden Tree and the snake in the same garden?

Unable to find answers to these puzzles, I pondered over simpler things. Like what could make a great Keralite breakfast, something other than the tried and tested meal of appams and chicken stew. And it came to me in one glorious stroke of inspiration - bread rolls and Meen Mappas!


1/2 kg pearl-spot/karimeen (Cut the karimeen into two if they are large)
Coconut oil, to shallow fry
2 sprigs curry leaves, stalks attached

3 cloves + 1 inch piece cinnamon + 1 tsp fennel seeds
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 cm piece ginger
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 pinch turmeric powder
2-3 shallots, sliced
1/4 tsp pepper powder
3 tsp vinegar
To taste, salt

1 cup thin, long onion slices
5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
3 green chilies slit lengthwise
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 sprig curry leaves
2 cups thin coconut milk (randam paal) extracted from one coconut
1 cup thick coconut milk (onaam paalextracted from one coconut
1 tablespoon vinegar
To taste, salt


Grind together all ingredients for the marinade. Make shallow slits on each side of the cleaned fish and apply marinade all over. Let the fish rest for about an hour.

Heat oil in a non stick frying pan. Arrange curry leaves on the pan and place the fish over the leaves. Shallow fry the fish on each side for 3-4 minutes. Remove and keep aside.

To make the sauce, drain oil from the pan leaving behind about two tablespoons. Return the pan to heat and tip in onion slices. Saute till soft. Next, toss in ginger, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves and saute for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat and add chili powder and coriander powder and fry for a minute. Place the fried fish onto the onion mixture and spoon over some of it over the fish. Pour in the thin coconut milk, adjust seasoning and cook till the fish is completely cooked. Add the thick coconut milk and warm through. Remove from heat. Once the curry has cooled a bit, add the vinegar.

Serve with bread or appams.


~ You can use tinned coconut milk instead of freshly extracted milk. Be sure to dilute the milk in which you cook the fish. Once you add thick coconut milk, do not boil.

~ You can use a sliced tomato instead of vinegar for sourness.

~ The coconut milk makes the curry creamy and  mildly sweet. But I like to add a generous pinch of sugar at the end. 



  1. what a yummy spread.... I could smell the aroma here... Love the thoughts esp. the one with the toffees given in return of change :)

  2. I love Karimeen...I just got back from a vacation to India ...I have a lot of fish there... Karimeen is one of my favorite. Lovely dish!!!

  3. This is awesome Indu..:-) Now I am missing home and want to badly :-((
    The curry looks delicious and yes my all time fav!

  4. Indu, ur posts always make me smile. I hope someday blouses would come with pocket so currency stays safe and pants come with built in undergarments:))
    Meen mappas looks adipoli hmm... sugar in the end I should try that.

    1. I like the built in undergarments part. :D

  5. haha... loved ur reflections!!! :) the mappas looks so good, especially with the karimeen... sigh, miss it here...

  6. It was certainly fun reading your post. Could relate myself with your pondering.
    I had karimeen when I was on my honeymoon to Kerela a decade ago and I fell in love with karimeen and Kerela! The scrumptious curry looks perfect to be mopped up with the rolls. Awesome and so comforting!

  7. I love meen mappas and your dish looks fabulous. Its hard to find good Karimeen these days, I hate the ones that tastes like algae...were able to enjoy some when we went to India for vacation this year...those were good days with lots of fresh fish and tasty curries. Your posts reminds me of our authentic keralite food and makes me drool...keep it coming Indu!!!

  8. I love when the curry is spicy and is paired with fish. I don't get a lot of fresh water fish here but I will try this with for sure. Very yummy!

  9. Though I am a vegetarian so do not eat fish... But I am sure going to make this curry with some veggies. Love your photos !

  10. Lol (laughing out loud ;) ) @ "And in the rare case that the contents of her purse do need protection, I wish she would simply use bubble wrap:.
    That meen mappas looks great. I really do wish the hubby liked fish so I could try it out. Maybe when I am in India next can try it out for my family. Or I might go with the other commenter and try out the curry with some veggies. :)

  11. Loved the fish preparation presented by you.My friend Sheba taught me how to make appam (check my blog). Appam and Kar ime en fish curry great combination.


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