July 5, 2011

Nethili Meen Fry - Fried Anchovies Recipe Kerala-Style

Nethili (also called natholi and uzhuva) is the Kerala version of anchovies but a lot larger than the South East Asian kind I have seen. This is probably my most favourite Kerala fish recipe - nethili fry. The fish is supposedly high in calcium because we eat the bones too after frying it marinated in spices.

nethili meen fry anchovies kerala fish fry recipe

Toddy shops in Kerala are very popular for serving spicy nethili fry with their drinks. They also tend to be the best place to buy the most daring seafood and meat dishes in general, doused in copious amounts of coconut oil and making your eyes water in the best possible way. You can definitely make nethili fry at home too with very simple ingredients and spices which is exactly what I am going to share today. One pet peeve I have is the fear that restaurants and toddy shops may not clean the fish properly whereas at home, that's obviously a non-issue.

nethili meen fry anchovies kerala fish fry recipe

Check out the fish marinating in the spice paste below. This is carefully prepared by balancing the flavours perfectly, and honestly, takes practice to perfect. The amount of heat, salt, and other ingredients you need to use will also depend a lot on personal preference. My mom also adds an egg to the marinade sometimes to make the spice coating fluffier and tastier. No matter whether you use eggs or not, this recipe will still yield a delicious nethili fry!

nethili meen fry anchovies kerala fish fry recipe

If you love fish as much as I do, check out this Bengali fish fry, Kerala fish fry, fish peera, and also fish moilee, the popular Kerala fish stew.

Nethili Meen Fry / Fried Anchovies Recipe

Serves: 2-4
Recipe source: Amma

250gm nethili meen / anchovies
2-3 tbsp maida / plain flour or half an egg
Oil to deep fry

For the marinade:
8 shallots
3-4 cloves of garlic
2" piece of ginger
1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
A pinch of turmeric powder
1/4 tsp pepper powder
Salt to taste
Water as needed


1. Clean the fish and cut / pinch off the head part. I have never cleaned fish so no tips from me here, sorry.

2. Grind all the ingredients for marinade into a smooth paste. Mix in with the fish and set aside for atleast an hour.

3. Heat enough oil to deep fry about 1/4th the fish at a time. Before frying, mix in half the egg or the maida and make sure its well incorporated into the fish-marinade mixture. This gives a nice texture to the fried fish.

4. Fry until nicely browned. At home we prefer fish that's not fried to the bones so that the flesh is still soft. Go with what your heart says.

nethili meen fry anchovies kerala fish fry recipe

Always serve fried nethili fish with chopped, raw onions. Always. Trust me on this, even the onion-breath afterwards is totally worth it.

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  1. OOhhhh nice. THis was jsut an ordinary side dish for me till I left home.. Now I love netholi fry to the core..

  2. Wow!!!! yummy and mouthwatering dish Nags. Loved the clicks as always..:) So how was the trip?

  3. i honestly didnt know that this was what we called anchovies in all the shows and all...

  4. Oh I love these...have had them at restaurants in Chennai and they are yum !!

  5. Wow Wonderful post,i will not eat fish...But u know dear,this is really tempting...love the last clicks.

  6. My God..drooling over Nags..It's kozhuva.enjoy !

  7. Looks Yummy. I would like to know what are 'Bambal/Bammal Machi' (one that smell a lot when cooked) called in English?

  8. Nags, What is the "special ingredient" u mentioned ur mom added ? U didnt share that here!!

    Thx for a delicious recipe.


  9. Oh god, now this does bring back memories... we sed to call these fish erlios back in Mangalore. Mum used to make a curry out of them that was just divine... I have to go find anchovies here so I can make them now... mean Nags, you're not supposed to be making us all homesick :-)

  10. Hey Nags,

    You make me drool looking at those Nethilis. I thought they were called silver fish in English. Well, we konkanis fry them by coating in Semolina. Will try this version for sure next time. What was the secret indregient by the way?


  11. For someone who doesn't like the raw fish stage - the cooked product is so so good :) I guess you really like the dish itself - like me. But I didn't grow up eating meat/fish so am a little wary about cleaning - especially fish.

    I got to know about nethili and the like only after moving to Chennai where I had it in a kozhambu first.


  12. Was it you or your Mom who made this. Looks awesome on the banana leaf .

  13. The maid cleaned the fish, and fried it up. amma prepared the marinade. i just took pics and later, ate! :D

  14. wow! i love the pic of the raw fish :) thanks for letting us know the secret ingredient :) I think Im gonna use that tip too.. :)


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