Meen Thala Curry ( Fish-head curry) is King Fish slowly simmered in a spicy coconut milk gravy; the fish head gives the curry a very rich flavor and is quite a delicacy in Kerala. Altho I have never spent much time in Kerala, this curry is so drool worthy that I might just head out to there to devour this amongst authentic settings. Seafood is a eaten almost every day in any household in Kerala. Infact in many places of India like Goa and West Bengal too, most folks can't do without their fish curry for lunch.
If you are a seafood lover, I would encourage you to give this recipe a go, avoid the fish head pieces if you are a first timer and just use regular curry cut pieces of king fish, black pomfret, or any white fleshy fish (not fillet please, it must be with the bones, it's the bones that push up the nutritional value of the curry). Just ask your fish-monger to clean the fish well, scaling, skinning and cut to curry size pieces.
800 gms Fish pieces with the head (King Fish/ any fleshy fish you prefer )
3-5 pieces Kerala Fish Tamarind/Kodum Puli ( soaked in hot water for 5 mins)
5-6 cups Water
3 Onions finely chopped
1 tbsp Garlic Paste
1″ piece crushed fresh Ginger
1 tbsps Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
2 tbsp Coriander
1 cup Thin Coconut Milk
1/2cup Thick Coconut Milk
For the Tadka/ Tempering
A pinch each of Mustard Seeds and Fenugreek Seeds
2 sprigs of Curry Leaf
2 tbsp Coconut Oil
Arrange the fish pieces in a pan and cover it with enough water to cover it. Add salt, turmeric and the pre-soaked fish tamarind with its water, bring it to a boil and then let it simmer with the lid on, for atleast 20 minutes. On a high flame, heat oil in your clay pot (or a deep dish in case you don't have a clay pot) and splutter the mustard and fenugreek seeds. To this add the crushed ginger, garlic paste and chopped onions. Saute well till the onions turn a beautiful golden brown. Combine the red chilly powder, turmeric and coriander powders with a bit of water and add this to your browned onions.
Reduce the flame to low and add the thin coconut milk. When it boils, add the cooked fish pieces along with the tamarind, swirl the pan in such a way that all the pieces are covered in the gravy, adjust the salt. You may not need all the water that the fish pieces got cooked in. Close and cook it for 15 mins and add the thick coconut milk, now turn off the flame. Open the lid and add curry leaves, drizzle little coconut oil and keep it covered for 10-20 minutes to let the flavors set.
This curry goes really well with boiled Red Rice, Iddi Appam (Kerala Rice Noodles/ hoppers), Pathiri or Ada. Enjoy it hot and steaming.
Make Ahead Tip- If you have fresh fish, but want to save up this curry for a later date, just proceed with the first step of boiling it, then cool and freeze. On the day of cooking, defrost and proceed with the second step of cooking it with coconut milk.