Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice

A deliciously tangy Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice which is easy to make and takes only about 30 minutes to cook!

keralan fish curry in blue bowl with spoon

Forever Summer

With spring just around the corner, my thoughts have been turning to more light and fresh meals. A cookbook which I frequently turn to during the warmer months is Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer (re-titled as Nigella Fresh in the US).

Not that it is necessarily a book which should only be opened once the weather starts to warm up  – I often cook from this book in winter, too – but I like that it happens to be a book which I associate with summer, no matter the season I am in. Obviously what Nigella had intended when she wrote this book.

keralan fish curry in blue bowl on blue plate with spoon

Cooking with Fish

A recipe which I have earmarked since first purchasing the book, oh, 10 years ago (?!) but which I have regretfully never gotten around to making is the Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice.

Anyone who has lived in a country with close proximity to the ocean (like Australia) who has then moved to a land-locked country (like Switzerland), will know of the disappointment in finding fresh seafood, or a fish monger for that fact.

In Australia, I was familiar with certain types of fish which my mum used to buy and cook, and I would faithfully replicate her recipes at home using the exact ingredients, right down to the brands of the food, often even going to the same butcher or fishmonger.

Upon moving to Switzerland, I have had to acquaint myself with the seafood available in the northern hemisphere. The variety is not as fresh, nor bountiful, but I am slowly becoming more familiar with what types of fish to buy for certain dishes.

keralan fish curry in blue bowl with teatowel

Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice

This Keralan Fish Curry is surprisingly simple to make with not as many ingredients as you would expect from an ordinary curry. Simply flavoured with turmeric, ginger and cumin, this gentle curry is warming but without too much spice.

And if you are tempted to add other ingredients to bulk it up – like I was – my advice is to try and refrain from fiddling with the recipe. It really is fabulous just as it is. The generous amount of onions are a main ingredient alongside the fish, instead of merely forming part of the flavour base.

The Lemon Rice recipe apparently feeds 4 to 6 people, and given that Nigella isn’t the type to go for small portions, hubby and I were somewhat surprised that we finished all of the rice between ourselves. I’m sure Nigella would be proud 😉

Overall, I found this Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice to be an incredibly easy dish to make during the week. The bonus was not having to make a special trip to the Asian grocer for any unusual ingredients – I found everything easily at my local supermarket.

I’m just sorry that I left it so long to try this amazing dish, something which I intend to make up for by adding it to my weekly favourites.


Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice

5 from 2 reviews

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4
  • Category: Seafood
  • Cuisine: Keralan

A deliciously tangy Keralan Fish Curry with Lemon Rice which is easy to make and takes only about 30 minutes to cook!


For the Keralan Fish Curry

  • 1 kg (2 lb) firm white fish (such as cod or Pangasius)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 large brown onions, sliced
  • 2 red chillies, sliced
  • 4 cm piece of ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) tin of coconut milk
  • 12 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 600 ml (2 1/3 cup) fish stock or chicken stock

For the Lemon Rice

  • 12 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 250 g (1 1/4 cup) Basmati rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • pinch of salt


For the Keralan Fish Curry

  1. Cut the fish into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Place the fish in a large bowl with a pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of turmeric.
  3. Slip on a plastic glove (preferably disposable) and rub the turmeric into the fish until each piece is coated and tinged orange.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pan.
  5. Add the onions, together with a pinch of sea salt.
  6. Add the chillies and ginger, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the onions have softened, taking care not to let them brown.
  7. Add the remaining teaspoon of turmeric and cumin, and cook for a few minutes.
  8. Add the coconut milk, tamarind paste and stock, stirring gently until the mixture comes to a simmer.
  9. Taste for seasoning to see if you want to add more tamarind or perhaps some salt.
  10. Add the fish to the simmering sauce and cook for a few minutes until it is cooked through.
  11. Serve with plain steamed Jasmine rice or lemon rice.

For the Lemon Rice

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Stir through the Basmati rice and coat it in the oil.
  3. Add the turmeric and dried mint.
  4. Add the zest and juice of the lemon.
  5. Stir through the water and pinch of salt.
  6. Give everything a good stir.
  7. Cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
  8. Turn the heat down to very low.
  9. Cook the rice for about 30 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.
  10. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Kitchen Notes

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 691
  • Sugar: 7.1g
  • Sodium: 3430.8mg
  • Fat: 19.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 13.9g
  • Fiber: 2.9g
  • Protein: 109.3g
  • Cholesterol: 237.4mg

Did you make this recipe?

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  1. Caroline 4 March 2012

    Lovely!! This is comfort food for me and is something I ate most of the week growing up, so its embedded deeply into my food habits. It’s pretty close to the real deal as well and pretty healthy. You can use any white fish Thanh, including oily ones like sardine and mackarels (cut into steaks, across the bone) though its best to use these fish fresh, otherwise the natural oils lend a more concentrated fish taste. I’m so glad you didn’t allow yourself too add more in this case. Its beautiful as it is 😉

    • eat, little bird 6 March 2012

      I can see why this is comfort food to you. This bowl contained the leftovers which I had for lunch the next day and it was so delicious just with a bowl of plain, steamed rice. I could come home to this for lunch everyday! I’ve cooked with fresh sardines before so I might try that next time in this curry. As for mackerel, I’ve only seen it frozen here, unfortunately. Can’t wait to make this again!

  2. Jo 4 March 2012

    Yay and lol! How fab that I promoted you to not only taste this dish but go ahead and blog it anyway Thanh! You really *must* have loved it! ;). And a tip for the lemon rice – I toast my nigella seeds in the pot I cook the rice in, just tip them into a wee pot after toasting and leave aside for sprinkling at the end. I like to think it’s another layer of flavour plus as you’ve noted, one less pan to wash up after! 😉

    • eat, little bird 6 March 2012

      Oh I’m so glad you blogged about this because I honestly needed to read a review like yours to finally make me try this recipe. And it’s so simple that I can’t believe I left it this long!

      I didn’t plan on blogging about this recipe, but my lunch appointment the following day was cancelled and I found myself at home for lunch and suddenly grabbed the opportunity to take a few snaps before heading back to the office 🙂

  3. Anita Menon 5 March 2012

    It seems like the kind of fish we would make in the South of India in a state called Kerala..
    It looks delicious and Lemon rice – we make that at home all the time and enjoy it with a seasoned yogurt

    • eat, little bird 6 March 2012

      This was my first attempt at a lemon rice and I really loved it. It went really well with this curry that I plan on making it always together – it’s a nice change from having plain steamed rice which we eat most nights.

  4. The Food Sage 5 March 2012

    Fish curries are great, aren’t they. I have a few recipes passed along from family members. I like your description of this curry as being ‘gentle’ it explains a lot. Pangasius sounds interesting. Good on you for experimenting so far from home.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • eat, little bird 6 March 2012

      Soon after I published this post, someone emailed me a warning about eating farmed Pangasius fish … I guess I have to look into this one further! I think some more experimenting with fish sounds like a good idea anyway.

  5. Denise 5 March 2012

    This is so funny: I bought Forever Summer about 10 years ago as well and immediately recognized this recipe when I saw your post title. And: I’ve also never tried it and somehow completely forgot about it. That is, until now! It looks delicious and it’s definitely on my must-try list now!

    • eat, little bird 6 March 2012

      LOL!!! It does sound alarming when you think of how long you have owned this book, doesn’t it? Makes me feel like there is a treasure-trove worth of recipes that I still have to get around to making. Must do that before I get too old 😉

  6. Tabitha 5 March 2012

    Coming from Kerala myself, the curry looks good…, but not sure if it’s actually called kerelan fish curry or just simply kerala fish curry…. Good going though!

    • eat, little bird 6 March 2012

      Oh my stars!!! Thank you for pointing out my spelling mistake! Nigella calls it Keralan Fish Curry and I simply went with her title, albeit with a crucial spelling mistake! If this is any indication of what Keralan food is like, I can’t wait to explore this cuisine further!

  7. The Flourishing Foodie 6 March 2012

    I am quite fortunate to live in Seattle where we have the most delicious seafood. I love a good fish curry. I made this one a while back. I will have to give your recipe a go, although I may have to sub the fish for a local variety. I do adore lemon rice.

    • eat, little bird 7 March 2012

      Ooh your recipe sounds delicious! I love tomatoes in curries and actually thought about adding them to this particular recipe of Nigella’s, though I didn’t want to interfere too much with the recipe the first time around. How lucky you are to be near fresh food – it’s what we eat most when we travel because we eat so little of it at home.

  8. Reem | Simply Reem 11 March 2012

    Drown me in that bowl of comfort!!!!
    This is fabulous Just simply tooo good….
    B/W Isn’t Nigella just awesome…. 😉

    • eat, little bird 14 March 2012

      I see that you are familiar with this dish 🙂

      I am a big fan of Nigella and her recipes continually surprise me. I was already thinking of making this fish curry again this week!

  9. Liz Headon 13 March 2012

    This is the sort of curry I can persuade myself I might like (with much less chilli, naturally) because I can tell that the flavour of the fish would still come through.

    • eat, little bird 14 March 2012

      Hi Liz,

      This curry is definitely all about the fish, and the onions serve as a nice vege component. I think you could definitely leave the chillies out and this curry would still taste lovely. I usually only add a tiny amount when cooking and then serve freshly sliced chillies on the side, mostly because my tolerance for heat is not the same as hubby’s 😉

  10. At Anna's Kitchen Table 17 March 2012

    I haven’t made this dish for years! I remember enjoying it, but then other recipes take over and a delicious, nourishing dish is placed on the ‘virtual’ shelf.
    Thanks for the reminder Thanh, it’s nice to think that it’s almost ‘Forever Summer’ time. :))

    • eat, little bird 20 March 2012

      You’re welcome 😉 I am also looking forward to “Forever Summer” time, though I do seem to cook from it throughout the year, but hopefully I can try different recipes this time around. I can’t believe it took me this long to make this lovely curry!

  11. Julia 12 April 2018

    Oh my! That looks so tender. Ultimate comfort food! Its fantastic! I definitely want to try this! Thank you for sharing this great recipe!

  12. Talia 4 November 2019

    I’ve rediscovered this recipe after making it many times a few years ago. It’s fantastic and surprisingly simple for such great flavour.

    • Eat, Little Bird 5 November 2019

      Hi Talia,
      I totally agree! I still love the recipes from Forever Summer – a very underrated book, in my opinion. Glad you like this recipe too!

  13. Cherie 19 May 2020

    Absolutely love this recipe and my kids do too. I make it regularly. It’s good with any fish, and it’s great with plain rice and homemade naan too. I agree with other comments, excellent as leftovers for lunch the next day.

    • Eat, Little Bird 19 May 2020

      Hi Cherie,
      Thank you for your lovely feedback! I love the sound of homemade naan with this curry – yum! In fact, thank you for reminding me of this recipe. I plan to make it later this week 🙂