Mama Farook’s Sri Lankan Tamarind Fish Curry

3 January 2010

Mama Farook's Sri Lankan Tamarind Fish Curry, Sri LankaAmong the recipes Fahim’s mom taught me is this Tamarind Fish Curry. It’s spicy, a little bit sour (from the tamarind), and absolutely delish.

This is one of my all-time favourite ways to eat fish.

Mama Farook’s Sri Lankan Tamarind Fish Curry


seer fish marinating in tamarind and spice mixture, Sri Lankacurry leaves, cinnamon stick, onions frying in hot coconut oil, Sri Lankaslightly browned onions, curry leaves, cinnamon stick, garlic, Sri LankaMama Farook's Sri Lankan Tamarind Fish Curry, simmering, Sri LankaMama Farook's Sri Lankan Tamarind Fish Curry, finished cooking Sri Lanka

  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 teaspoons red chilli pepper powder*
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 500 grams firm white fish, cut into serving pieces
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oil (we use virgin coconut)
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 4″ x 1/2″ piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced


  1. Mix the tamarind paste with the red chilli pepper powder, turmeric, and salt along with enough water to form a thinnish paste. Pour over the fish and onion and cover the fish thoroughly. Set aside.
  2. Into a hot pot, add the oil, then the curry leaves, onion, and cinnamon stick. Stir frequently.
  3. When the onions are sllightly browned, add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
  4. Add the marinating fish and onion and enough water to almost cover the fish.
  5. Let simmer until the fish is cooked and the sauce is reduced and thick, about 10 minutes.

*That’s the amount of red chilli pepper powder that Fahim’s mom uses. When I make it for just Fahim and I, I use 2 tablespoons (sometimes more) red chilli pepper powder. We prefer it hotter. We’re also insane. 😛 Unless you’re a seriously insane freak of nature, use 2 teaspoons as the maximum.

That’s it! Not complicated at all, but oh so good!

We use virgin coconut oil for the authentic Sri Lankan curry flavour. If you don’t have any, use any flavourless oil.

If you don’t have curry leaves, omit. There is no substitution.

If you want it less spicy, reduce the red chilli pepper powder or use black pepper instead.

I hope you enjoy! 🙂

Tags: , , ,

5 Responses

  1. I will definitely try this recipe if I can find tamarind paste. It looks delicious and my husband likes fish. We are such wimps with spicy food though that we might have to stick with the black pepper if the original recipe is too spicy.
    .-= Lyra Torres´s last blog ..Abraham: Florida Maroon of the Second Seminole War =-.

  2. #2

    Tamarind paste can usually be found in Asian markets. If you can only find the block of tamarind, buy that. I have an upcoming post that shows how to make the tamarind paste from the pods. It’s quite easy. 🙂

    Let me know how it goes with pepper instead. I bet it’ll still taste great. 🙂

  3. #3

    Yum, thanks.

  4. #4

    Could I use a bit of coconut milk for this dish?

  5. #5

    I don’t see why not. 🙂

    Substitute coconut milk for some of the water. And let me know how it turns out. 🙂

Leave a Reply

About LMAshton

Howdy and welcome to my site! I'm Laurie and I'll be your, er, hostess today. :)

I'm a Canadian expat currently living in Singapore. I'm married to a Sri Lankan and lived in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. We also lived in New Zealand for half a year.

I cook Sri Lankan curries, sambols, and mallungs. I bake bread using wild yeast (sourdough that isn't sour). I bake on the stove. I experiment with Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Thai / whatever cuisines interest me. And I experiment wildly.

Life is an adventure. Join me! :)

If you want to know more about me, click on the "About" link in the navigation bar above. :)