Mackerel in coconut milk


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

By Mridula Baljekar

Published 2017

  • About

Mackerel is a popular fish in the south of India and its firm texture makes it ideal for curries. This dish, Ayila Vattichathu, comes from Chennai and has the contrasting tastes of tart tamarind and sweet, creamy coconut. Here the mackerel is cooked on the bone, which adds to the flavour of the dish.


  • 675 g/172 lb cleaned mackerel
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp sunflower oil or light olive oil
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 10 ml/2 tsp garlic purée
  • 5–10 ml/1–2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 5 ml/1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 75 g/3 oz creamed coconut, chopped, or 250 ml/8fl oz/1 cup coconut cream
  • 8–10 curry leaves
  • 30–45 ml/2–3 tbsp tamarind juice
  • Plain Boiled Rice, to serve


  1. Cut the fish into thick steaks about 5cm/2in thick, then cut into chunks.

  2. Heat the oil in a large, shallow frying pan over a medium heat and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, add the onion and fry until it begins to brown.

  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then stir in the chilli powder, turmeric and salt.

  4. Pour 250 ml/8fl oz/1 cup boiling water into the pan if using creamed coconut. Don’t add water if using coconut cream. Add the creamed coconut or coconut cream, curry leaves and tamarind juice. Heat, stirring, until the creamed coconut has dissolved.

  5. Carefully place the fish in the broth in a single layer, cover and gently simmer for 6–7 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.

  6. Ladle on to warmed plates or bowls, and serve with Plain Boiled Rice.

Per portion Energy 543kcal/2253kJ; Protein 33g; Carbohydrate 10g, of which sugars 9g; Fat 42g, of which saturates 12g; Cholesterol 91mg; Calcium 49mg; Fibre 0.3g; Sodium 612mg.