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  • Spicy Pompano – Kerala Style Fried Fish

    Posted on | January 10, 2012 | 27 Comments |

    Fish Fry

    Fried fish is such a quintessential part of Kerala cuisine that every seafood eating Malayali starts drooling at the mere mention of it. During my initial days in the United States, I remember seeing fried fish on a restaurant menu for the first time and getting all thrilled. But when the order arrived, it was the most tasteless batter fried Cod – the typical American Fish and Chips preparation. I was so frustrated by how different it was from what I was expecting that I almost cried. Those days I could only cook a few dishes and fish was not really my forte, so I had no way of satisfying the cravings set off by that menu. Well, that was an American restaurant, but I haven’t come across a decent fried fish in any of the Indian restaurants around here either, including the one Kerala restaurant that we have! At least these days I can make my own whenever I feel like fried fish.

    Thanks to the various Asian stores around here even the malluest fish varieties like sardine and mackerel are easily available. Siv is not that fond of those oily fishes, especially their smell – which I think is the best aroma in the world btw! So we normally get more neutral but still flavorful fish like trout, catfish, snapper etc. It wasn’t until very recently that we discovered pompano, a very tasty fish that works great with Indian spices. We have been buying pompano pretty much exclusively ever since, especially for fried fish preparations.

    The main work involved in making Kerala style fried fish is in the cleaning and cutting of the fish. So if you can get your fishmonger to do this – just ask them to clean and steak the fish – the worst part is over. I use store-bought ginger paste in the marinade; it is getting fried anyway so the freshness of the ginger paste is not that important. Rest of the ingredients are regular Indian spice powders, so it takes literally 5 minutes to make the marinade and apply on the fish pieces.


    Fish Fry-5


    • 1 lb Pompano, cleaned and cut into steak pieces
    • 1 tbsp ginger paste
    • 1 tbsp red chili powder
    • 1/2 tbsp black pepper powder
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • Salt to taste
    • 2 tbsp vinegar


    Make a paste of all the ingredients other than the fish, add a bit of water if it is too dry. Apply liberally on the fish pieces and marinate for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight in the refrigerator.

    Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large pan. When the oil is hot, arrange the fish pieces, fry for 4-6 minutes (depending on the thickness of the pieces) on medium heat. Turn the pieces one-by-one with a spatula and fry the other side for 4 minutes. If the pieces are thick, use the spatula to turn the fish pieces on their sides and let the skin on both sides char a bit too, about a minute on each side will do. Serve hot with rice or serve as an appetizer with sliced onions, kerala-ishtyle.

    Fish Fry-4

    Category: India - Kerala, Seafood

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    27 Responses to “Spicy Pompano – Kerala Style Fried Fish”

    1. nags
      January 10th, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

      this is probably the one thing that i crave the most when i am away from home. when i go back, amma makes it every day with different fish!

      i was typing out the above comment when yours popped up in my inbox :)

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

        And the fish fry over there tastes so much better than what we do here! I am missing that so much!

    2. notyet100
      January 10th, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

      I am craving for this now,..:)’

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:25 pm


    3. Lakshmy
      January 10th, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

      Looks wonderful.Try adding small onions and few curry leaves and grind with all ingredients.It gives a awesome flavour

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

        Yeah, I do that when I have more time, this is my no-grind quick fixer recipe.

    4. Arch
      January 10th, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

      I have some seer fish slices in the freezer, must try this…I have tried the meen vevichathu from the book you sent it many times…its mind-blowingly good…Bought red rice and pappadams from the Kerala store and had a feast at home !!

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

        Oh I love the meen vevichathu recipe from Mrs.K.M.Mathew, now I am craving that!

    5. Happy Cook / Finla
      January 11th, 2012 @ 4:54 am

      I agree with Nags, this is one thing i crave too but have never made here as I am the only one who like fish fried kerala way.

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

        You should make it when you are alone at home :)

    6. Usha
      January 11th, 2012 @ 5:42 am

      I picked up pompano couple of times. I think I stuffed it and grilled it. Will try this version next time.

      BTW, I don’t like the smell of sardines either but I still make it at home because my husband loves the fish.

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

        :) yeah, I can imagine how the sardine smell can turn folks off if they didn’t grow up with it. For me, it has the opposite effect.

    7. Sudhakaran Pillai
      January 12th, 2012 @ 2:42 am

      “Poricha Meen” was always my favourite when I was growing up in Singapore.Still is. Cook it occasionally.

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

        Thanks for dropping by!

    8. Jaya
      January 12th, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

      Love this preparation and husband dont like sardines so I rarely cook sardines..Pompano must be specific of US and it’s coastlines ..never seen this in UK..wish you and yours a very healthy and happy new year..hugs and smiles

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

        I think there might be another name for it over there! I have seen similar fish in Kerala, don’t remember the name though!

    9. Kankana
      January 12th, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

      So glad to see some action in this blog. It’s always been one of my fav blog ever since I started one of my own :)
      This fish is making me miss home. It’s very similar to how we bengali like to eat fish fry :)

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

        :) thanks Kankana! I love the bengali fish fry too!

    10. Ravi Sreedharan
      January 13th, 2012 @ 10:32 am

      Some of the fishmongers in Chinatown (NY) label Pompanos as ‘Golden Pomfret’ or ‘Silver Pomfret’. I remember these used to be slightly more expensive than the regular (White) Pomfret. Texture and taste-wise though they are closer to the Black Pomfret, I feel.

      • sig
        January 15th, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

        I haven’t seen pompano being referred to as pomfret over here, but they look so similar I can see how those names can work! I like pompano more than pomfret, I feel the taste is a bit lighter!

    11. nisha
      January 16th, 2012 @ 2:00 am

      soo good to have you back sig :)

    12. Nisha
      March 2nd, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

      Thanks Sig for the discovery and sharing !!We were getting bored with King fish and Tilapia…and the frozen ones from Indian stores..This one is a catch !!!no smell,fresh,and tastes similar to Pomfret …Thaankss a lot !!!

    13. spiceandmore
      March 14th, 2012 @ 9:10 pm

      Yum that looks so good…I wish I could have some fish like that for dinner tonight! Do you fry it in coconut oil to really get that “Indian” flavour? A couple of years ago I started using extra virgin coconut oil and love the flavour it gives to foods like fried fish.

    14. philo
      August 27th, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

      This recipe looks great. I love Keralan dishes and enjoy reading your site. I’m curious, as a fellow Seattle resident, what the one Kerala restaurant is.

      November 26th, 2012 @ 10:01 am

      Hi nice and easy tips

      i found some others also may it will useful some different

      try this

    16. fresh coffee beans
      March 20th, 2013 @ 3:53 am

      You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but
      I find this matter to be actually something which I think
      I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely
      broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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