• Tina Brand

Fish Molee: South Indian fish stew

As long as I've known to cook, this faithful recipe from mum has always made me feel nourished, and like I've eaten a special meal. It's one of those quick to pull together numbers, and unlike most curries and stews, the flavours are fresh and apparent without having to rest overnight. Delicious over warm rice, or with roti or hoppers. the coconut milk makes this a mild tasting dish, but the slightest hint of chilli and the tartness of vinegar lifts the creaminess to finish on some delightfully bright notes.

  • 1/2 kg firm white fish (blue eyed cod, ling) cut into thick pieces, about 10 x 5 cm

  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, julienned

  • 1 large onion, sliced fine

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped fine

  • 2 green chillies left whole, but with a slit in its tip or 3-4 dried red whole chillies

  • 2 cups low fat coconut milk

  • 2 large red tomatoes, quartered

  • 2 stalks fresh curry leaves

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

  • 1/4 cup vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon turmeric

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup oil

  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a bowl, combine the fish, turmeric and some salt and set aside.

  2. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan.

  3. Fry the mustard seeds until they pop, and then add the curry leaves, wait a few moments for the flavour to burst forth.

  4. Now add the ginger, onion and garlic and fry till golden.

  5. Add the tomato, and chilli powder and stir till the ingredients all melt and everything is fragrant.

  6. Add the coconut milk, and whole chillies and lower the heat.

  7. Add the vinegar at the side of the pan very slowly and carefully so the milk does not curdle.

  8. Slip the fish pieces into the gravy and stir gently. Adjust the seasoning and simmer uncovered on a low heat for about twenty minutes. The colour of the sauce will change to a lovely golden from the turmeric marinade.

  9. Serve hot over white rice.

NB: when you're shopping for ingredients, pick up a handful of okra if its available. Pick okra that's unblemished and smaller in size. I slip them into the curry at step okra in this stew.

For a vegetarian option, substitute the fish pieces for hard boiled eggs that have been shelled and then tossed in a hot pan of 1 tablespoon oil and 2 teaspoons turmeric.