Sri Lankan Fish Curry

I know the term curry gets attached to a lot of dishes, and to be honest it doesn’t actually apply to a specific dish. It’s more of a cuisine. Think of the different types of curry you can have: balti, bhuna, biriyani, madras, josh, vindaloo, masala, dopiasa, etc. I can’t name them all, but they are all types of curry.

This dish was made in a much larger kitchen than my own, at my godmother’s house. It came about after discussions with her about our Pinterest boards, and what sort of things we have on them, and while scrolling, found Sri Lankan fish curry on there.

I decided, as a thank you for letting me stay, that I would make the curry for my godmother and her husband, and so adapted a few recipes to come up with this one.

It is not very spicy, but that can be adjusted to your spice levels very easily. Make sure you get good quality fish, preferably a meaty white fish that would fall apart once you add it to the pan.

You do need to be careful with this dish, as when you toast the spices, the mustard seeds have a tendency to pop EVERYWHERE! If you have a small lid that you can put over the frying pan, I highly recommend using one. I couldn’t believe how far the mustard seeds could go when they got hot enough.

The spices don’t need to be toasted for long as you only need to heat them until they start to become aromatic and fill the kitchen with their aroma.

I would also recommend really cooking down the sauce, so that it gets thick and all of the flavours become more concentrated. You’re adding liquid at three different stages, and therefore you may need more cooking time than I have stated below, depending on the heat you use. It doesn’t seem to matter what time people give you for reducing a liquid, everyone needs a slightly different time.

And so, without further ado, here is the Sri Lankan Fish Curry recipe.


600 grams cod loin (or similar), cubed into 2 cm pieces
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 red chillies
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
15 dried curry leaves
250 ml coconut milk

  1. In a bowl, mix the fish with one teaspoon of turmeric and place in the fridge until needed.
  2. Using a pestle and mortar, or spice grinder, grind half the mustard seeds, half the cumin seeds an half the peppercorns.
  3. In a food processor, combine the crushed spices, the chillies, 1 tablespoon of the chopped tomatoes, 1/4 of an onion, the ginger, 3 cloves of garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Blend until a paste is formed. Set aside.
  4. In a large pan, add a thin layer of olive oil. Get the pan hot over high heat, then turn down to medium. Add the rest of the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Toast for a few minutes until they start to turn golden and are fragrant. Be careful of the popping mustard seeds.
  5. Once the spices are ready, add the rest of the onions, garlic and turmeric. Bring the heat back up to medium-high, and cook for 10 minutes until the onions have softened and coloured.
  6. Add the paste to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 6 – 8 minutes.
  7. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, reducing the liquid down.
  8. Add 250 ml of water, the curry leaves, and the rest of the salt, and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.
  9. Stir in the coconut milk and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes.
  10. Add the fish and gently stir the cubes of fish through the sauce. Bring back up to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Serve with rice or naan bread.

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