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Pambam Fish Curry

Prep time: 20 min Cooking time: 20 min Serves: 6-8

The Pambam fish market, in Rameswaram, Mother’s ancestral home, was her first stop when she arrived there. The huest costal market with freshest catches is a sight to behold and a smell to get used to.

Althought I would hold my nose as I watched her bargain for the best price of fish, the anticipation of her appetising Pamban fish curry would keep me going.



1 kg seer fish (or indian butter fish or mackerel), 500 gm sambar (small) onions, 2 medium tomatoes

2 tbsp red chilli powder, 3 tbsp coriander powder, 1 tbsp turmeric powder, 1 tbps cumin seeds

3 tbsp poppy seeds, 1 tsp black mustard seeds, 1 tsp fengugreek seeds, 1 tsp peppercorns, 2-inch ginger piece, 6-8 peeled garlic cloves, 1-inch cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, 4 gren cardamoms, 4 or 5 green chillies

1 grated coconut, 1 lime-sized tamarind, 2-3 tbsp oil, a few curry leaves, salt to taste.



  • Wash and ru the salt, turmeric and lime juice on the whole fish, cut into medium-sized pieces and keep aside.
  • Roast the cumin seeds, peppercorns, coconut, poppy seeds, ginger, a pod of garlic and whole spices and grind to a paste.
  • Peel the sambar onions, a garlic pod and grind the tomatoes. You can vary the consistancy by adding some water.
  • Heat the oil, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, onions, whole garlic cloves, slit chillies and curry leaves and sauté well. Then add the coarsely grounded tomatoes, turmeric and ground masala and season with salt.
  • Add the tamarind pulp extract once the masala and tomatoes is well cooked.
  • Add some water and cook on slow flame till the curry is thick.
  • Add the marinated fish and cook till tender.


Serve with plain rice.