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12 Spice Fish Curry (Karutha Meen Kuzhambu)

 Published 2008-Aug-18   Updated 2019-Sep-09

- submitted by Dahlia

(Varutharacha Meen Curry, Spicy Fish Curry, Karutha Meen Kuzhambu, Post Delivery Fish Curry)

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12 Spice Fish Curry is just a fancy name that I have given to one of the classic fish preparations from my native place in South Tamilnadu. Locally it is called by different names like Varutharacha Meen Curry or Karutha Meen Kuzhambu. The curry has a deep brown, almost blackish colour which gives its name. Some people also call this Meen Theeyal.

This curry is prepared often in our native place. It has a strong taste. The spice level, sourness will be a perfect balance. It tastes great with some hot white rice. Specially after delivering a baby, the new mom is given this curry almost everyday. The spices added and the fish together is a traditional medicine that is said to increase breast milk and also heal the uterus after delivery. The spices also reduce colic in babies and acidity problem for moms. I have fond memories of my mom making this during my post delivery days. Even to this day, this spicy fish curry is my favorite one of all.

Any thick fleshed fish can be used to prepare this curry like nei meen (king fish), choora meen (tuna), kadalkarumbu (pomfret), chaala (Sardines) etc. Be sure to try this curry.

Recipe for 12 Spice Fish Curry

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-5


  • Fish pieces - 1/2 kg (1 lb)
  • Tamarind juice - made from 2-3 tamarind (lemon sized tamarind ball or 1 tblsp of tamarind pulp)
  • Tomato, Raw Mango, Drumstick, Banana Peppers - as needed (optional)
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves - 1 strand
  • Oil (preferably coconut oil) - 1 tbsp
  • Green Chilies - 2 (slit - for garnish)
  • Salt (preferably sea salt) - to taste

For Masala Paste (12 spice)

  • Fresh Coconut - 1 cup
  • Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp
  • Shallot/ Pearl Onions (sambhar onions) - 5
  • Garlic - 5-6 big cloves
  • Dry Ginger (Chukku) or Fresh Ginger - 1/4 " piece (or use 1/2 tsp dry ginger powder)
  • Dry Red Chilies - 7 (or as needed)
  • Pepper - 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves - 2 strands
  • Carom seeds - 1/4 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds - 5-8 seeds


  1. Heat oil in a small pan and roast the grated coconut with the shallot onions and garlic on low flame. Keep stirring continuously till the coconut turns golden brown.
  2. When the coconut is almost roasted, add the coriander seeds, dry red chilies, black peppercorns, dry ginger, curry leaves, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and carom seeds too. Continue to roast for couple of minutes.
  3. Switch off and cool for a while. Once everything cools, grind it with enough water to a fine paste and keep aside.
  4. Take a clay pot/ deep pan. If you are adding any veggies, add the veggies and tomato pieces first.
  5. Add the ground spice masala, salt, turmeric powder and tamarind juice. Add required water (about 2 cups) and bring it to a boil.
  6. Cook for 3-4 minutes till the vegetables are partially cooked and the gravy thickens. Today I haven't added any veggies.
  7. Check the taste once and add the fish pieces. Cover and cook it for 5 minutes on medium low heat.
  8. Reduce the flame to the lowest and let the gravy simmer for another 15 minutes till the oil separates from the gravy. The curry is ready to be served. Adding a seasoning is not necessary but in case you want, just continue.
  9. Heat little coconut oil in a pan and splutter the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add this to the gravy.
  10. Garnish with finely curry leaves and slit green chilies. The final curry should have equal amount of spiciness from the masala, tanginess from the tamarind and salt.
  11. Let the gravy rest for 1/2 hour before serving for the spices to enter the fish pieces nicely. Serve with hot plain white rice.

Serving Spicy Fish Curry

  • This curry goes best wit hot rice. It can be either white rice or kerala matta rice. For new moms, this is also given with dosa or idli for dinner.

spicy fish curry

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Comments (12)

Person   ()
Best Recipe. I loved it. Thanks for sharing the wonderful recipe with us.
Person   ()
Great!!! Try out more recipes...
Person   ()
fish curry came out awesome:) made it after long time.....thnx:)
Person   ()
Thats good to hear Cynthia....
Person   ()

can i try this with tiliapia fish(white fish)
Person   ()
Yes you can.
Person   ()
wow these are very delicious.......................
Person   ()
Thank you.
Person   ()
Awesome it came out:)thanks for the recipe
Person   ()
Glad to hear that. Enjoy.
Person   ()
wow woooooooooooooooooooow yummyyyyyyyyyyyyy :)
Person   ()
Thank you.

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Old Comments

Comment by Vidya J
           Hi Dahlia,
Can this dish be prepared with frozen Sardines ? What's Carom seeds ? 

Reply :-
          Yes you can. Caron seeds are also called ajwain or omam.

 Comment by  Anuradha Ganesh on 17 February 2010 00:36AM
        thank u soooo much for this wonderfull receipe ,it tasted really yummy . My husband said this was the best fishcurry that i have ever made .
Reply :-            
          Nice to hear that Anuradha...

 Published by on and last updated on 2019-09-09.