Malabar mathi curry (Mathi Mulakittathu)

Malabar mathi (Sardine) curry, also known as meen mulakittathu, nadan meen curry or fish curry, is an Indian dish with Chinese roots. It consists of sardines semi-stewed in a Kerala-style curry with assorted vegetables, such as okra or onions. It is usually served with rice, naan, bread, or tapioca. The dish is most popular in Kerala, Bangladesh, and West Bengal, where rice and fish are staple foods. Other variations may include adding tamarind juice or coconut milk. Malabar matthi curry is a dish of relative popularity amongst Malaysians, Singaporeans, and their tourists, although it is generally not categorized as hawker fare.

The origins of the modern dish can be traced back to Tamil Nadu and Kerala.The dish started as an attempt to extend Indian cuisine to include a wider clientele, notably Chinese customers, who considered curry prepared with fish heads a specialty. Today, most restaurants of Indian, Malay, Chinese, or Peranakan cuisines serve a variation of this dish.

Fish curries are also eaten in Sri Lanka, and other countries. The dish is also mass-produced, processed and packaged in cans and flexible pouches for consumer purchase.



  • 1/2 kg Sardine, cleaned and slit.
  • 1 no Onion, chopped.
  • 3cm Ginger, chopped finely.
  • 4 to 5 nos Garlic cloves, chopped finely.
  • 2 nos Green Chilli, slit.
  • 3 nos Tomatoes, chopped.
  • Tamarind: 1 lime sized ball, put in about 1 cup of water, mix and squeeze out to get the tamarind juice.
  • 2 to 3 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 5 nos Curry leaves.
  • Salt to taste
    Season (Tadka)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Coconut Oil
  • 3.4 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • 3 to 4 nos Shallots (Cheriya ulli), sliced finely.
  • Curry leaves.


  1. Chop up the onions, ginger, garlic, and the tomatoes.
  2. Use a cast iron pan or claypot to cook this dish. Heat the claypot with 2 to 3 tbsp of coconut oil 
  3. Add in the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, and slit green chili. Stir for two min or until the onion starts to be transparent.
  4. Add in the chopped tomatoes. Stir it for a minute or two, so that the juices starts to come out. Put the fire on low. Add salt. Add in 3 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder, and 1/4 tsp of organic turmeric
  5. Still on low flame, mix it nicely. Juices of the tomatoes are coming out and mixing with the red chili powder. Just simmer for 1 or 2 minutes more, mixing on and off. There is no need for oil to come on top, just lightly starting to come on top is fine.
  6. Then add the tamarind juice (from the tamarind which you have soaked in 1 cup of water), add 1-5 tsp of salt and put the flame on high and allow the gravy to boil, then add in the fish and curry leaves. Cover and let it simmer for 3 to 4 min.
  7. Lastly, heat a small pan with 1.5 tsp of coconut oil and add in the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds (uluva), shallots, and curry leaves. Pour this over the curry and close the lid until ready to serve with rice or Tapioca (see recipe below)



  • 1 kg Tapioca/ Kappa, medium size (cut into three equal size)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder/ Haldi


  1. Take chopped Tapioca in a deep bottom vessel  and add water so that the tapioca is nicely immersed.
  2.  Add turmeric powder  and bring to a boil.
  3.  Low the flame and check in middle whether it is cooked or not.
  4.  When cooked, drain the water completely from the cooked tapioca and see to it that the tapioca doesn’t break.

Cooked tapioca is ready to serve with curry dish.

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Post Author: dvd

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