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Mathi Mulakittathu, Malabar Fish Curry

Mathi (sardine) Mulakittathu is an easy Malabar fish curry. Nadan mathi mulakittathu is a special Kozhikodan dish, also known as meen mulakittathu or nadan meen curry.

Meen mulakittathu is a typical Malabar style fish curry; if you have visited Kozhikode or live here, you might be familiar with this everyday curry.

I first got introduced to meen mulakittathu a year ago; what stands out from the fish curry of my native place, Kottayam is that for sourness, tamarind water is used in Malabar fish curry. In our home, we are used to kudampuli or kokum and tamarind is mostly for sambar and rasam. Once, I learnt to make meen mulakittathu, I started using tamarind and was surprised to find my family loving the curry so much, and make when ever I get fresh sardines.

Since, sardines (mathi) are in season now; and full of fat, it is best to make curry with fresh fish. The best thing about living in Kerala, is fresh fish all the year around. Sardines are cheap and full of omega-3, so try to include in your daily diet as much as possible. The oil which you see in the picture (floating on top) is because these sardines were full of fat.

I made this a couple of days back and thought of sharing.  It is best to make this in coconut oil and use Kashmiri chilly powder, for that deep red color.  This curry can be made pretty fast as onions need not be fried till brown and red chilly powder need not be roasted for long. This is a quick and easy to make curry. The most important thing is giving a "tadka" or "varaval" at the end.....that makes the curry special and flavorsome.

You can make this curry with other fish like mackerel (ayila), sear fish, butter fish (modha) etc

Author: Nisa Homey
Serves: 3 to 4.
Cooking time: 20 min.
Sardine (mathi): 1/2 kg, cleaned and slit.
Onion: 1, chopped.
Ginger: 1 inch, chopped finely.
Garlic: 4 to 5 cloves, chopped finely.
Green Chilli: 2, slit.
Tomatoes: 3, chopped.
Tamarind: 1 lime sized ball, put in about 1 cup of water, mix and squeeze out to get the tamarind water.
Coconut Oil: 2 to 3 tbsp.
Curry leaves.
Salt As Needed.

Coconut Oil 1 -1/2 tsp.
Mustard seeds: 3/4 tsp.
Fenugreek seeds: 1/2 tsp
Shallots/Cheriya ulli: 3 or 4, sliced finely.
Curry leaves.

Chop up the onions, ginger, garlic, and the tomatoes.

Half kilo of sardines are cleaned and ready for cooking.
I used my "manchatti" or "claypot" , you can use any pan other than cast iron. Heat the manchatti or meenchatti with 2 to 3 tbsp of coconut oil.

Add in the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, and slit green chilly. Stir for two min or until the onion starts to be transparent. (there is no need to make it very transparent)

Add in the chopped tomatoes. Stir it for a minute or two, so that the juices starts to come out. Put the fire on low. Add salt.

Add in 3 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder, and 1/4 tsp of organic turmeric,

Still on low flame, mix it nicely. As you can see on the second picture, the juices of the tomatoes are coming out and mixing with the red chilly powder. Just simmer for 1 or 2 minutes more, mixing on and off. There is no need for oil to come on top, just lightly starting to come on top is fine.

Then add the tamarind water (from the tamarind which you have soaked in 1 cup of water), add 1-5 tsp of salt and put the flame on high and allow the gravy to boil, then add in the fish and curry leaves. Cover and let it simmer for 3 to 4 min.

Lastly, heat a tadka pan with 1.5 tsp of coconut oil and add in the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds (uluva), shallots, and curry leaves. Pour this over the meen mulakittathu and close the lid until ready to serve.

Enjoy this Malabar fish curry with rice.

TIPS: Adjust water to half cup more or less as needed.
Some like to add 1/2 a tsp of coriander powder along with red chilly powder, but I like the taste without it; though if you prefer you can add.
Simmering it longer will give a nice thick gravy.


  1. so yummyand looks great

  2. A wonderful curry, Nisa. I would definitely need one more bowl of rice to go with that mouthwatering curry gravy.

    1. Thank you Angie, always a delight to have you here :)

  3. Omg , watta color ! Very tempting clicks !

  4. nice photos!! Even S likes Sardines much. shall try making this sometime

  5. Hi Nisa,
    Tried this fish curry yesterday and it was just wonderful. Adding tamarind to fish curry was a new thing to me. Thanks for such a good recipe :)

    1. Thank you Hridaya for stopping by with the glad you enjoyed the curry.

  6. Thank you for making it feel like home... It tasted the way my mom cooks it. The nostalgic feeling of having it with tapioca and black tea is awesome...


  7. appol ethinakathu salt add chayyenday?

  8. Why not cast iron pan?


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