This (mostly) classic fish curry comes from Kerala, in southern coastal India, where seafood and coconut are in great abundance. Curry leaves, no relation to curry powder, impart a pleasant bitterness and can be found fresh in Indian markets or dried online. There are no real substitutes, but unavailability will not change how delicious this dish is. While not traditional, we’ve added spinach for extra nutrition. It’s delicious, super easy to prepare, and great with most any white fish or even spot shrimp.
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 jalapeño or Serrano chile, seeded and minced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- ¼ cup unsweetened fine shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
- 10 fresh or dried curry leaves (optional)
- 1 vine-ripened tomato, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups clam juice
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Coarse salt
- 1 pound white fish fillets, such as yelloweye, cod, rockfish, or halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- Steamed basmati rice, for serving
- Cilantro leaves, for serving
Saute Vegetables and Spices
In a medium pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, ginger, chile, and garlic, and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the shredded coconut, curry powder, turmeric, mustard seeds, and curry leaves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomato, clam juice, and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until slightly reduced, about 15 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water and add it to the pot. Bring to a boil, and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Add the fish and spinach, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer just until fish is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the scallions and serve with rice and cilantro.
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Pair it Up
Grab a dry Austrian Riesling to match the flavors in the curry with lime leaf notes in the wine.
Know Your Cook
Culinary Director Grace Parisi is a cook, writer and cookbook author. Formerly the Senior Test Kitchen Editor at Food & Wine Magazine and Executive Food Director at TimeInc Books, her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Health, O Magazine, Epicurious, Fitness, Today, Serious Eats, Martha Stewart, and many more. She’s the author of more than 6 books, among them The Portlandia Cookbook and Get Saucy, which was nominated for a James Beard award for Best Single Subject Cookbook.