Kerala fish curry through my travels

Kerala fish curry on a trip to South India. Eating fish curry for the first time in Kochi is a memory I will hold close to my heart forever. 

Aromas of sun-ripened fruits and ready-to-pick greens, intertwined with the musical trill of exotic birds. Beneath the terrace the Lakshadweep Sea teased the virginal white beaches with little kisses of gentle waves. The chef, clad in pure whites, presented the clay pot of steaming fish curry. From the dish wafted the scents of smoky coconuts, fresh fish and spicy chillies.

Local ingredients – Sustainably grown salmon and wild salmon are available in the marketplaces. Local BC  tomatoes are plentiful, and okras and eggplants are grown here in greenhouses too.

Imports – Pure curry blend (Baba Fish Curry blend from Malaysia) and a few pieces of smoky kokum and you are ready to make a tummy-warming, mind-calming tropical-style salmon curry to escape this cold and wintery winter.


Kerala Traveller’s Fish Curry

  • 1 thumb-size piece of kokum placed in a bowl with 2 cups warm water (substitute with 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped up
  • 1 green chilli, minced
  • 2 eggplants, 1-inche squares diced
  • 10 fresh okras
  • 3 tablespoons Baba Fish Curry
  • 6 servings salmon fillets
  • 1/2 tablespoons sea salt

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and gently fry the onions until partly crisp, add the chilli and tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes, add the eggplants and okras and toss well. Now sprinkle the Fish Curry powder over the vegetables and keep turning to roast the spices lightly. Add the kokum water (or vinegar and water) and let the vegetables come to a simmer, cook for 15 minutes until vegetables are very soft. Layer the fish into the pan ensuring it is covered by the simmering sauce. Sprinkle in the salt and bring to a simmer, cook on low heat until the fish is cooked through.


Authentic ingredient – Kokum.

Kokum’s Latin name is Garcinia indica, plant of the mangosteen family it is a fruit-bearing tree that has culinary, pharmaceutical, and industrial uses. There are many uses for this wonder-berry ranging from fruit drinks to cosmetics but my absolute favourite way to use kokum is in it’s dried form. The dried kokum is picked in it’s ripened and unblemished stage and slow-smoked over low burning coconut shells. These can be kept for years in a well-sealed jar. Kokum adds sour and smoky flavours to any dish it is used in.




Samantha McLeod

Vancouver based food and travel writer.