Meen/Fish Kuzhambu

Meen Kuzhambu is one of the most traditional and commonly prepared dish of Tamil Nadu. It is also one of the few dishes the recipe for which is pretty much the same across all households and also, hasn’t been modified over time. It is said that this dish tastes best the next day and it is also adviced not to reheat the kuzhambu once it has been prepared. Fish that are typically used in this dish are Vanjaram(King fish), Kanangeluthi(Mackerel) or Shankara(Red Snapper). I have used Black Drum that is local to Texas. You can also use any freshwater variety. This dish tastes best when using the fish with the bones. Request your fish monger to cut them as steaks. I also add the head as it adds more flavor. There are lots of YouTube videos on cleaning fish heads but if you live in India, you can get it cleaned from the store itself.

Meen kuzhambu


Fish slices – 10 to 12
Sesame oil – 2 tbsp
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves – 5 to 6
Tamarind juice – 1 cup
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Chilly powder – 2 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Jaggery – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste

To grind;
Olive oil – 2 tsp
Onion, roughly chopped – 2 cups
Tomato, roughly chopped – 1 cup
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Black peppercorns – 1/2 tsp
Garlic cloves – 6
Curry leaves – 10


  • Clean the fish and set aside
  • Prepare the masala first by heating oil in a pan
  • Add cumin seeds, peppercorns, garlic and curry leaves followed by onion and tomato. Saute for 3-4 minutes
  • Remove from heat, let it cool and grind to a smooth paste 
  • Mix the paste with tamarind juice, turmeric, chilly powder and coriander powder
  • Heat the olive oil and sesame oil in a wide pan. Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. You can substitute these with Vadagam
  • Add the mixture previously prepared along with salt and jaggery
  • Add water and bring it to a boil which will take 10-12 minutes
  • Once the curry comes to a boil and you notice the oil at the surface, add the fish pieces. Cover and cook for 10 minutes
  • Serve hot with rice

Tip: Use a wide pan so that there is room for all the fish pieces. This will also ensure they don’t break. Using an earthenware pot adds to the flavor.

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