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Alleppey Fish Fry

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This fish fry has to be one of my favourite ways to prepare fish.

My wife and I hired an overnight riverboat in Alleppey, Kerala and it was fantastic! 

The scenery was simply amazing and the food out of this world! This fish fry was prepared for us by the chef that evening on a barbecue at the back of the boat.

I watched him make it and knew I had to make it when I got home.

In Kerala, the fish fry is made with silver pomfret which is delicious but difficult to get in England outside of London. So here I prepared it with sea bream for my wife and we weren’t disappointed. 

Keralan fish fry

Currently my favourite fish recipe!

About the recipe…

So the chef lit up the barbecue and when the coals were flaming hot, he placed a frying pan on the grill and poured a large amount to coconut oil into it and brought it to a bubble.

The amount of oil used was crazy but it added so much to the dish. I guess when you figure how much we love fish and chips here in the UK, the amount of oil used there was fine. 

He brought out some small silver pomfret that had been scored and marinated with his special marinade and he placed them into the oil to fry. 

The technique for cooking the fish fry was really unique…

As the marinated fish fried in the coconut oil, the chef continued to coat it with more marinade.

He spooned and marinade that had fallen into the oil back onto the fish.

Then he flipped them over and continued adding more marinade and spooning hot oil over the fish fry. 

More and more marinade went into the pan and he kept coating the fish before letting it rain with fresh curry leaves.

Curry leaves play an important roll in this Kerala fish fry…

The two flavours that really hit you when you eat this fish fry are curry leaves and coconut oil.

You can of course taste the delicious marinade but it plays second fiddle to those fresh curry leaves and hot coconut oil.

You really can’t add too many curry leaves. Just take a few large handfuls and let them fall onto the fish and into the oil to flavour it.

If there’s one fish fry you’ve got to try, it’s this one!

Does this fish fry have to be cooked on a BBQ?

No. Cooking outdoors for me is a lot more fun. It is also the way I saw this fish fry cooked.

Feel free to take it indoors if you like and cook in a pan over medium-high heat.

Step by step photos…

Scored sea bream

Score the fish on both sides so that they soak up the flavour of the marinade and oil.

Marinating fish

Marinate the fish for at least 20 minutes, rubbing the marinade right into the fish.

Coconut oil in pan

Melt a lot of oil. I used 8 tbsp spoons but the chef I learned this recipe from used a lot more.

Frying fish

Once the oil is hot, place the marinated fish in the oil and fry for about 5 minutes.

Fish fry

Flip the fish over and top with more marinade. You can continue adding more as needed, Don’t forget to keep basting the fish with marinade and oil.

Fish fry with marinade and curry leaves

Let in rain curry leaves as the fish cooks through. Notice how much more marinade I added.

Frying fish

The fish takes about 10 minutes to cook. Continue spooning oil and more of the marinade over the fish.

If you like this Kerala fish fry recipe, you might like to try some of these too…

Keralan prawn curry
Keralan fish curry
Keralan Lamb curry
Stir fried crispy lamb

Finished fish fry

Dig in! This is so good!

I have given details instruction on how to make the marinade below. If you would like to see step by step photos of the process, click here

Yield: 4

Alleppey Fish Fry

Fish fry with marinade and curry leaves
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 5 medium tomatoes
  • 50g chana lentils
  • 2 tsp rapeseed (canola) or coconut oil
  • 5 cloves garlic – smashed and roughly chopped
  • 3- 6 green bird’s eye chillies
  • 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 250ml (1 cup) coconut oil
  • 4 x 400-500g sea bream or silver pomfret if you can get it
  • 60 fresh or frozen curry leaves


  1. Roast the tomatoes in a large pan or, better yet, directly over a open fire until blackened. You will need to turn regularly while doing this. Set aside to cool slightly and then dice them.
  2. Now, in a dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the chana lentils for about five minutes, stirring regularly until toasted and brown in colour. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, add one teaspoon oil to the large pan, preferably large enough to hold all the fish and stir in the cumin and garlic cloves and sauté well for about a minute.
  4. Add the green chillies, coriander leaves, roasted chana lentils and diced, roasted tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the chilli powder, chaat masala, cumin and amchoor (mango powder). Stir well and take off the heat to cool slightly.
  5. Once cooled, blend this into a smooth paste. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt to taste.
  6. Clean out the pan and heat the coconut oil in it over high heat. When bubbling hot, dip the fish in the paste so that they are coated all over and add them to the sizzling oil.
  7. Fry for a couple of minutes and then flip the fish over to fry the other side. As the fish is frying, baste it with the remaining paste and splash the tops with the hot coconut oil.
  8. You might want to flip the fish again and do the same on the other side. Keep splashing the fish with the oil and dabbing it with more paste.
  9. When the fish is looking lightly charred and the aroma is making everyone hungry, let it rain with the curry leaves all over the fish.
  10. You’ll know when the fish is ready because it will look too good to leave in the pan one second longer! You could test it with a fork though. When the fish is flaky and comes off the bone easily, it's ready.
  11. Carefully transfer the fish with some of the paste and curry leaves to a platter to serve and dig in!

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