White flaky fish simmered in sweet and creamy coconut milk, seasoned with fragrant Indian spices, that’s what this recipe is all about- Fish Coconut Curry!
Growing up in the suburbs of Delhi, since access to fresh water fish was limited, it wasn’t something that was cooked a lot at home. So we ate fish mostly in restaurants. I still remember, we used to go this hole-in-the-wall kinda place that served South-Indian non-vegetarian delicacies and one of them was Coconut Fish Curry, and I just LOVED it! Super light fish that was prepared in a coconut milk broth with aromatics and tons of curry leaves and served over a mountain of steamed white rice, that was one satisfying meal!
It took me years to perfect this dish. Since it wasn’t a written down recipe and I was working purely from memory, it took a few experiments of trying out different ratios of coconut milk to fish and the right combination of spices that wouldn’t over power the delicate fish. But, couple of years ago, I finally got it to taste almost the same as that awesome fish curry! (Either that, or my taste-buds had had enough of experimentation :-))
This recipe is pretty versatile. I often switch up the vegetables in this, sometimes add carrots & potatoes, or, peas & mushrooms. You can swap Tilapia for Halibut or switch the protein and add Shrimp or Chicken instead. (if adding Chicken, increase the cook time to 4-5 minutes, depending on the size of chicken pieces). You can make this dish 100% vegetarian by switching the fish with some Extra-firm Tofu. I like using regular coconut milk since I enjoy the creaminess it adds to the dish, but you can certainly use low-fat coconut milk and save a few calories- it will be less creamy, slightly thinner sauce, but will still make a great curry!
Useful Tip: If pressure cooking this recipe, after adding coconut milk, mix well and bring it to a simmer, about 30 seconds to a minute. This prevents the coconut milk from curdling under pressure.
I finish this dish with a light squeeze of lime just before serving. This is a mildly spiced curry, if you like a more spicy version of this, simply add more garam masala, chili powder and coriander (increase by 1/2-1 teaspoon each). My family enjoys it with brown Jasmine rice, we love the nutty, slightly chewy texture of the brown rice which contrasts the creaminess of the fish and the curry sauce. That being said, this can be enjoyed with Quinoa, white Rice or a slice of toasted Baguette too!
Pot-in-Pot (PIP) combination: If you want to make this awesome Fish Coconut Curry with Quinoa, you could do it Pot-in-Pot. Make the fish curry in the main pot. Put together quinoa, water, salt and oil in a smaller pot and place it on the trivet. Set the timer and follow the recipe. You’ll have a full meal, all in one pot.
In this video, I have made this curry in my electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot DUO, but this can be easily made on the stove top too. Here’s how:
- Take a chef’s pan or saute pan, heat it on medium-high heat/flame. Wait 30 seconds and add oil and mustard seeds.
- When the mustard seeds begin to splutter, add curry leaves and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté for 30 seconds, add sliced onions and bell peppers. Sauté another 30 seconds.
- Add all spices, stir well and sauté another 30 seconds. Add coconut milk and mix well. Add Tilapia which is cut in to 2 inch pieces, a few cilantro sprigs and and stir well to coat fish with coconut milk. Optionally, you can add a few mint leaves on top, this gives the coconut curry a very mild and sweet minty aroma, very subtle though.
- Close the lid of the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5-6 minutes, or till the fish filets are cooked completely. Finish the dish with a light squeeze of lime and serve with brown rice/white rice or a slice of toasted baguette!
Fish Coconut CurryPrint Recipe
- 1 lb. Tilapia filets, cut in 2 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 can Coconut Milk
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste (1/2 inch ginger + 3 cloves garlic, crushed or ground)
- 10-15 curry leaves (or 2-3 kaffir lime leaves) (see notes about availability)
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- 1/2 green pepper, sliced
- 1/2 orange or yellow pepper, sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Red Chili Powder (adjust to your taste)
- 2 teaspoons Coriander Powder
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
- 1/2- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 2-3 sprigs of cilantro
- 6-8 mint leaves (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon lime juice (to be added before serving)
Prep: Cut Tilapia in 2 inch pieces. Slice onions and bell peppers. Finely chop ginger-garlic or pulse a few times in a mini-food processor.
Turn Instant Pot on Sauté. Wait 30 seconds and add oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to splutter, add curry leaves and ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 30 seconds. Add sliced onions and bell peppers. Sauté another 30 seconds.
Add all spices, stir well and sauté another 30 seconds. Add coconut milk and mix well. Bring it to a simmer, about 30 seconds to a minute, this prevents the coconut milk from curdling under pressure. Add Tilapia which is cut in to 2 inch pieces, a few cilantro sprigs and and stir well to coat fish with coconut milk. Optionally, you can add a few mint leaves on top, this gives the coconut curry a very mild and sweet minty aroma, very subtle though.
Close the lid of the pan and set the pressure valve to 'sealing'. Cook on Manual (high) for 2-3 minutes, depending on how thick the fish filets are. Quickly release the pressure (QR). Finish the curry with a light squeeze of lime and serve with brown rice/white rice or a slice of toasted baguette!
Curry Leaves: Commonly used in Indian cooking. You can buy them at a local Indian store. If not, they can be substituted with Kaffir lime leaves that you can find at your local supermarket like Safeway, in the asian produce section. If you cannot find those, Thai basil will be a good substitute- won't be the same flavor, but the idea of this curry is to flavor the coconut milk with some fruity herb. You'll get a tasty curry in the end.