South Indian Fish Fry

South Indian Fish Fry


This is my sister’s recipe for fried fish, and an absolute favorite with my 3 (almost 4 now!) year old. The freshly ground marinade that includes a little bit of the shallots/onions, along with a few other fragrant whole spices, gives the fish pieces such a delish crust and you could easily get this done on a weeknight with very little effort.



Pair simple curries with a side of fried fish and that will no doubt transform the otherwise ordinary-meal into a feast in no time at all!

South Indian Fish Fry

Serves: 3-4 | Prep Time: 10-15 minutes | Cooking Time: 15 minutes


  1. 4 medium fillets of firm white fish (like tilapia or cat fish) cut into medium sized pieces, or 1 lb steak-cut pieces of fish of your choice
  2. 2 shallots or some red onion, chopped (approx. 1/4 cup)
  3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 1 tsp fennel seeds
  5. 2″ fresh ginger, chopped (approx. 1 tsp)
  6. 3 cloves garlic, chopped (approx. 1 tsp)
  7. 4 red chilies, adjust to taste
  8. salt to taste
  9. a dash of lemon juice
  10. 1 or 2 stems of fresh cilantro (optional)
  11. few curry leaves (optional)
  12. oil for shallow frying


Step 1: Marinate the fish

south-indian-fish-fry-ingredients south-indian-fish-fry-making-the-spice-paste

  1. Make a fine paste of all the ingredients (except fish and lemon) for the marinade. Use as little water as possible to keep the consistency thick.
  2. Add the lemon juice, check for salt/spice and add more or adjust if needed.
  3. Clean the fish and blot with kitchen towels to remove excess moisture.
  4. Rub the thick marinade on both sides of the fish pieces until all the fish is covered with the spice paste.
  5. Set aside for 10-20 minutes.

Step 2: Shallow-fry the fish


  1. Heat a non-stick skillet and add enough oil (approx. 1″) for shallow frying.
  2. When the oil is hot enough, reduce heat to medium-high, and carefully add as many fish pieces as the pan can accommodate without over-crowding.
  3. Cook each side for 2-3 minutes on medium-high until well done.
  4. Increase heat for a few seconds on each side once the fish is cooked, to get a crispy-brown crust all over the fish. Increasing the heat at the start would cause the fish to sear and burn too fast without cooking through.
  5. Reduce the heat, drain off excess oil and remove fried fish pieces onto a paper-lined plate.
  6. Repeat with remaining pieces until done. Top up the oil in the skillet between batches, if needed.

Serve hot with steamed white rice and curry of choice. Family favorites include mor curry, fish curry and rasam!


5 Responses to “South Indian Fish Fry”
  1. Hi Aisha, A beautiful presentation and very delectable fish dish.
    (BTW, my blog has moved to self-hosting. I published a post a few hours ago. Can you see it in your Reader? If you do, I’m glad. If not, and you are willing to sign up for e-mail notifications, please do so at Thanks, 🙂

    • aishcooks says:

      hi Fae.. thank you! I did notice that the posts haven’t been showing up on my reader for sometime now. Will head to the new site and get it setup.. congratulations on the move to the self-hosted domain.. exciting times ahead for sure! 🙂

  2. Mangai says:

    Ok Ok.Njoy.

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