As you guys probably know by now, I don’t cook meat or fish in my kitchen. Although I reason I give is TH’s vegetarianism, the actual truth is, he doesn’t care what I cook as long as he gets his vegetarian dishes. So it’s my laziness in cooking separate things for him and me that’s the actual reason. There, I said it!
Due to this self-imposed limitation, I asked my amma to be a guest contributor to Edible Garden. We live in Kerala, and although we don’t eat fish every day like most Malayalis do, some fish does get cooked in her kitchen on and off. So expect posts from amma in this blog from now on, with pictures styled by her and taken by my dear uncle.
Here’s a previous recipe cooked and clicked by the bro-sis team: chambakka pickle. For more fish recipes, check out chilli fish recipe, Kerala fish fry, Kerala red fish curry, meen peera.
Ok on to today’s recipe: Fish Moilee or Meen Moilee, a very popular Kerala fish stew that’s cooked in coconut milk and spices. The flavour is light, yet spicy with a good bit of green chillies in the mix. Each household in Kerala will have their own version of course, and this is amma’s.
Meet the fish. These big-eyed beauties are called Unnimary after the pretty actress of the 80s known for her large, beautiful eyes. So yeah, she was quiet a sexy addition to movies back in the day.
I apologize to my vegetarian readers and friends for this picture. But I had to demonstrate what a quick learner amma is. I gave her some photography tips over phone about good light, background, plating, no flash, etc and she followed the “rules” beautifully.
You can use any firm fleshy fish for fish moilee. Cut into small pieces and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Admittedly, I don’t have much experience handling fish so trust my mom on this, ok?
Here are some of the ingredients we need. Lots of onions, fresh curry leaves and green chillies, and of course, coconut milk. Here’s how to make coconut milk at home.
Kerala Fish Moilee / Meen Moilee Recipe
Recipe source: Amma
500gm firm fleshy fish, cut into small pieces
2 large onions, sliced into long, thin pieces
8-10 green chillies, depending on heat level required
Thick coconut milk 1/2 cup (onnaam paal)
Thin coconut milk 1.5 cups (rendaam paal – if using store bought coconut milk, mix water with 1/2 cup coconut milk)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp vinegar
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp pepper powder
2 1″ pieces of cinnamon (don’t use powder)
1/2 tsp maida/plain flour
2-3 sprigs of curry leaves
Salt to tate
(Coconut) Oil as needed
1. Clean the fish and add a pinch of turmeric powder, some salt, and 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (this is in addition to what is listed above under ingredients) to the pieces. Rub in well and leave aside for 30 minutes to an hour.
2. Heat about 1 cup oil in a small frying wok or pan and fry the fish until half done. The idea is to semi-cook the fish rather than fry it well. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat about 1 tbsp oil in another pan and saute the onions until soft and pink. To this, add the flour, chilly powder, pepper powder, turmeric, and curry leaves. Fry for another minute or so.
4. Next, add the thin coconut milk along with the ginger, green chillies, vinegar, cloves and cinnamon along with salt as needed. Cook closed on low heat for about 12-15 mins until all the spices come together in the mixture.
5. At this stage, add the semi-fried fish. When the mixture comes to boil, add the thick coconut milk, mix well and remove from fire (don’t bring to boil after adding the thick coconut milk).
– As I have mentioned, different parts of Kerala make fish molee in a different way. Another version I have seen is much milder and lighter in colour because all the heat comes from green chillies and no red chilli powder is added. Amma’s version sometimes has an orange colour because she generally uses Kahsmiri chilli powder that has a deeper red colour but milder heat. Dishes cooked in my house are not very spicy, if at all.
– Fresh coconut milk works best for this dish. Store-bought coconut milk will lend a different flavour and may not exactly satisfy your cravings if you are hoping for this authentic fish molee for your meal
– Serve hot with rice and any stir-fried vegetable or mezhukkupuratti of choice.
Huge thanks to Amma and Radha mama for the superb step by step pictures 🙂
Hi, what are curry leaves? what can I use as a substitute? Maybe curry powder? Thanks!
curry leaves are fresh leaves you use in a lot of indian dishes. curry powder is not the same. just leave them out if you can’t find them!
Looks delicious. is this a red snapper fish?? although i love all your recipes, its the non veg section i like best. unfortunately there are fewer recipes in this section. please keep the posts running…
it's similar to red snapper, called unnimary (after the actress) in Kerala. you can substitute with red snapper for sure.
i am not very good at making non vegetarian recipes because i don't cook it in my home in singapore. my husband is a vegetarian and it doesn't make sense to do different food for us not to mention care against cross contamination, etc. all the recipes i share are from my mom 🙂
Looks delicious. is this a red snapper fish?? though i love all your recipes, personally for me the non veg section is the best. unfortunately there are fewer recipes in this section. please keep the non veg posts running too…..
I thought of the same thing too – what did they call the fish before the actress! Lol!
The moles looks perfect – one of my fav dishes – it's amazing how just minimal spices and coconut milk can create such a delicious dish!
yes it will make a difference but not too much 🙂 go for it!
Thanks for the Yum recipe! I am going to try it but I don't have coconut oil will it make a difference?
Thank you so much Nags.
Ratna, here's the process I follow to extract coconut milk.
Transfer grated coconut to the mixer jar. Add enough warm water (depends on quantity of coconut used – for 1 cup coconut, use about 1/4 cup water).Grind well. Take handfuls and press firmly with your palm through a sieve. This is your first grade thick coconut milk.
Repeat the process once or twice more and you have the thinner milk.
Nags, can you please tell me the right way to extract thick coconut milk and thin coconut milk from the coconut scraps? Is it necessary to soak the coconut scraps in boiling water for some time?