Fish Moilee/ Indian Mackerels Simmered in Creamy Coconut Curry

Fish curry and rice, is very close to my heart. Home-style Kerala Fish curries are made with an array of fish and cooked with different techniques that are spicy and tangy.  Fish curry is something I started cooking after I got married, it was the only Kerala fish curry, which was not complicated, that I was ready leaping into the unknown to create, as I had learnt it from my cooking school but never tried it at home. It was just put up in my F&B production journals without even bothering to look at it once even after the course got over. This was also the fish curry which was not cooked as a regular dish at my home or any Keralian house known to me. As newly married, I wanted to try a fish curry and it was at this time I remembered of this tasty curry which is very easy, delicate, and made with coconut milk using very less ingredients. Soon, it became a staple of my kitchen and everybody at home started loving it. It also turned as a crowd pleaser as I frequently started serving when we invite guests for meal at home. The combination of this fish curry and plain steamed rice goes very well with my home-style crispy potatoes making it a home style ‘Holy Trinity’.

This recipe is very classical in its own way. It is also called “Meen Molee”, Meen means fish and Molee means stew. Local people also call it Meen Molly. Stories shared say Molly refers to the name of the lady who created this fish curry. It is said that she modified the fish curry to a milder version to suit the palate of the Britishers. These are just laidback mix of tales, personal stories or rumors that the origin and authenticity in the story still remains unknown.  But it was referred as “Fish Moilee” in textbooks and Professional food production books. Good white fish fillets are used to make this curry. You can also use Shrimps, boneless chicken and even tofu for this gravy for a vegan version. But I like to use White Pomfret, Sea bass, Mahi-Mahi fish and Sear Fish. This time I tried it with the local Mackeral fish and that too got combined well beautifully. Usually fresh coconut milk is used but for this recipe I take a u-turn from my motto of “from the scratch” and use store bought coconut milk powder and cream as it lends body, richness and flavor to the curry.

The consistency of the curry is like a stew, mildly spiced and very creamy. It has the perfect blend of onion, ginger- garlic and green chilies that is an essential of every Indian recipe. It is very healthy that will make you explore your culinary skill in your home and come up with this delicious curry like a pro. All you need is to follow all the instructions and use good quality coconut milk. I will not recommend to tweak this recipe your way as the curry is very delicate so is the recipe. Yes, I said the recipe is delicate as any small mistake or change in the ingredients will ruin the entire taste and colour. Nothing is secretive about this recipe and most of the recipes that I post here are the ones which is frequently cooked and enjoyed by all. But I always believe that, No two cooks can make the same food in the same way with the same results.

I have come across many versions of this recipe where people fry the fish before adding to the gravy, add vegetables like carrot- capsicums and even add roasted cashews. But this recipe is passed on from years from the cooking schools to all major five star hotels or elegant restaurants. This recipe has an exemplary standard with a long established style of cooking. Every good prominent hotel menu has this recipe and it is served the same way almost in all the places, making it one of the iconic dishes representing the best of what our country has to offer in classical as well as contemporary cuisine of South India.

Ingredients:-

  1. Fish (mackerels) – half kg /2 to 3 nos.
  2. Lemon juice- 1 tablespoon.
  3. Salt to taste.
  4. Ginger- half inch piece
  5. Garlic- 2-4 cloves
  6. Onion- Half medium sized.
  7. Green chilies- 3-4 nos (slit).
  8. Turmeric powder- Half teaspoon.
  9. Pepper- One fourth teaspoon.
  10. Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
  11. Tomato – 2 small sized (sliced)
  12. Coconut oil- 2 tablespoons.
  13. Mustard seeds -1 teaspoon.
  14. Fenugreek seeds- a pinch (optional).
  15. Coconut milk powder- 2 tablespoon
  16. Water -1 cup
  17. Coconut milk cream- 200ml to 250 ml

Method:-

  • Clean and cut the fish into small pieces preferable not smaller than an inch. Marinate the fish with salt and lemon juice for 10 minutes.
  • Finely chop ginger, garlic and onion. Cut the curry leaves or tear the leaves into small bits.
  • Heat a pan, add oil and splutter mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds on a medium flame. Add ginger, garlic, onions, curry leaves and green chilies, sauté for a minute. Add turmeric and pepper, stirring until the raw smell subsides.
  • Mix the coconut milk powder with little warm water and add to the sautéed mix. When it is it about to boil, add in the cut marinated fish pieces. Bring it to boil lightly. Reduce the flame to low and cover the pan. (6-8 minutes approx).
  • Do not stir once the fish is added, instead rotate or shake the pan lightly to mix in the gravy with the fish. Allow it to simmer. You will also see streaks of oil floating on top.
  • At this stage add the sliced tomatoes, close the pan and again cook on a low flame for another two minutes. The tomatoes will wilt and cook. Check for salt and adjust according to your taste.
  • Finally add the thick coconut cream or milk at this stage while keeping the flame low. Shake the pan lightly to combine the thick cream. Continue to simmer for another 2 minutes. Switch off the flame and cover. Allow it to stand or rest for few minutes. Serve hot with steamed rice or appam.

Refer before you start cooking:-

  • Coconut oil is ideal for this recipe but you can try any neutral oil except Mustard or Olive oil.
  • You can use any type of fish, preferably firm for this recipe but do not exceed marinating the fish for more than ten minutes.
  • I have used KPL Shuddhi coconut milk powder but Maggi milk powder is equally good. Dabur homemade Coconut milk and The Coco factory coconut milk are equally good. Here I have used The Coco Factory coconut cream as it is very thick and creamier. You can also try using Thai canned coconut milk, whatever good quality is easily available near you. You can still make the curry using just the coconut milk powder but the consistency will not be thick and creamy.
  • While reheating the curry always warm on a very low flame on stove top and do not use a microwave or high flame. If refrigerating the leftover curry, allow it to reach room temperature before reheating.
  • If you are comfortable, you can mix the fish with the gravy using a silicon spatula instead of shaking or rotating the pan taking care not to break the fish pieces.
  • Cooking should be done throughout on a low flame. Do not cook the fish for more than two minutes after adding the thick coconut milk.

Other related posts:

Yellow Chicken Stew with Rice Vermicelli.

Prawn Rice Soup

Crispy Home style Potatoes and some Cooking Tips.

Prawns in Thai Red Curry

Thai Style Egg and Vegetable curry.

Kerala style Rice Pancakes -Kallappam or Vellayappam  

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