Meenum Mangayum Chaar (Fish & Raw Mango Curry)

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Oru naadan meen curry straight from my Mum's kitchen to me and then to you. Hopefully, there are no Chinese whispers going on here and I get it right enough, for you to get it right.

Every summer, back home, we'd have a deluge of mangoes coming in from our backyard, our ancestral home, our generous neighbours, friends and family. Everybody is gifting each other mangoes; ripe, unripe, the soft squishy local ones, the ones somebody's managed to wangle from a cousin who has an estate far away and decided to gift you just cos you're their favourite cousin. You'd think it happens across the country in summer, but I doubt anyone incorporates as much of mango into their daily dishes as Malayalees do. I might be wrong, but there are so many mango dishes it could just start coming out of our collective noses and ears.

Raw mango is a favourite. It makes its way into a lot of savoury gravy dishes - Meenum (Fish) Mangayum, Chemmeenum (Prawn) Mangayum, Chakkakkuru (Jackfruit seed) Manga are some of those common ones. Then there is Pazhamanga Pulissery, Manga Pacchadi, the list goes on. By now you would have figured out, if you're not from Kerala, that manga stands for mango in Malayalam.

Fish marinated for frying

I rarely buy fish at home. One, it's difficult to get just enough for one person. Two, I've almost never ever had the time to go to the fish market. When we were kids, being served king fish, or seer fish or any one of those big fish without tiny bones were a luxury we looked forward to. Now as adults, when you eat out, all you get are those big fillets and it does get boring after a while. So when I went to the market, I was pretty sure I wanted a smaller variety of fish, something I'd love eating with my hands, picking away the tiny bones. I looked out for a variety called Kilimeen in Malayalam and Rani here in Bombay. Distinctive because of its pinkish red colour, it is extremely tasty when fried and a nightmare when made into a curry with all its tiny bones.

I definitely wanted a fish fry out of this one, but I also wanted some kind of curry. So I called my mom and asked for the recipe of a dish I loved - Meen pollichathu. A very traditional dish of fish steamed in a banana leaf. Mum suggested why not go in for this curry with mangoes using just the fish heads. That way, I'd get the crispy tender fried fish I wanted, and also the gravy. You needn't particularly use this fish for this gravy, anything in your comfort zone would do, Here the raw mango is used as the souring agent, instead of kodampuli (tamarind) which is traditionally used  in fish curries, or tomatoes or vinegar.

Mum gives me recipes in ratios. So all she told me for this one, after listing the ingredients is, for 2 spoons of chilli powder, use 1/2 spoon of coriander powder. So the ratio of coriander to chilli powder is 1:4. Moving away from that would alter your life irrevocably and bring the wrath of all the mangoes in the world upon you. :P


2 tbsp coconut oil
6 shallots sliced
3 green chillis cut into half lengthwise
1" ginger pound into a paste
3 cloves garlic smashed
1 sprig curry leaves (divided to two)
1 small raw mango diced
2 tsp chilli pwder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
6 fish heads/slices of medium sized fish, cleaned
1 cup water or coconut milk(second press)
1/2 cup coconut milk (first press)
1 tsp coconut oil to drizzle on top.


1. Heat the coconut oil in an earthern ware pot/kadai.
2. Gently saute shallots, chillis, garlic & ginger till the shallots turn translucent.
3. Add half the curry leaves, mango and all the powders and stir quickly to avoid the powders burning.
4. Immediately add the fish and water to the pot and stir gently so that everything mixes in with the fish.
5. Cover and cook for 10 mins or till the fish is cooked.
6. Once the fish is cooked, add the first press coconut milk and gently simmer the gravy never letting it boil.
7. Finish it off with a drizzle of coconut oil on top and the remaining curry leaves.

Obviously I was too impatient to wait for a proper picture before attacking the fish fry.

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