Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Fish Mole and a Belated Birthday Wish

The Portuguese word "Mollo", derived from the Nahuatl word 'molli' refers to traditional sauces or stews that is prepared by grinding together different ingredients and then cooking it, to make a thick sauce or stew. In Kerala, the "Fish Mole" is prepared by boiling several crushed spices in a light coconut milk and then finished off with thick coconut milk. Shallow fried fish immersed in inconspicuously spiced coconut milk with green chilly, ginger, garlic, pepper and vinegar is a speciality of Central Kerala and has its own mark of Portuguese influence on it.

My Mother-in-law celebrated her 60th birthday on September 16th, this year. And hence I chose to post the recipe for her special Fish Mole (my adaptation of her Fish Mole), or Meen Mappas, as she calls it, to wish her a Very Happy Birthday! Anyone who's had her Fish Mole will agree with me that it's the best they've eaten and no one can beat it. Yes, no one! Even if you get her hand-written recipe, and no matter how hard you try, the flavours and tastes are not easily procurable. She gives a magical touch to it - in fact, to just about any of her specials.

My MIL prefers using Pearl Spot and Flat-Head to prepare Fish Mole; I've prepared it using Pomfret, King Fish and Spanish Mackerel with good results. I have also used some short cuts here. My personal preference is not to use canned coconut milk for curries and hence have used coconut milk powder to prepare coconut milk. Also it is easier for me to grind raw cashew nuts into a fine powder using a coffee grinder than grinding it into a thick paste with water - this powder dissolves easily into the gravy, making it thick and adding a beautiful flavour to the stew.
Serve with dinner rolls or vellayappam for breakfast or as a first or second course for a Kerala Christian lunch.

So here's some Fish Mole with Vellayappam sent all the way to Calgary.
Happy Birthday Amma
Love GC, JF, JK and MK
Serves: 6 - 8
Preparation Time: 20 minutes + time to marinate fish
Cooking Time: 35 - 45 minutes


For Fish
  • 500g fish cutlet (Pearl Spot, Flat-Head, Spanish Mackerel, King Fish, Pomfret)
  • 1 tsp pepper powder 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil to fry fish
For Mole/ Sauce
  • 2 cups brown onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup eschallots, sliced
  • 4 - 5 green chilly, crushed (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, crushed
  • 1 tbsp garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp + 2 pinch garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil/ cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp oil in which fish was fried
  • 1 + 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 6 raw cashew nuts, grind to very fine powder using coffee grinder
  • 2 cups thin coconut milk
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced horizontally into full circles
For Fish

1. Marinate fish pieces with pepper, turmeric and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 - 2 hours. Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow fry fish for 2 - 3 minutes. It is not required to completely cook fish at this point. You only want the fish to be firm and crispy. Reserve 1 tbsp of the oil in which fish is fried.

For Mole/ Sauce

1. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp of fresh cooking or coconut oil and 1 tbsp reserved fried oil. Add ginger, garlic and green chilly and stir until fragrant. Then add onions, eschallots, salt to taste and 1 sprig of curry leaves and saute' over low flame. When onion becomes light brown in colour, add pepper, 1/2 tsp garam masala, turmeric and stir for 15 seconds. Then pour thin coconut milk and add 1 sprig curry leaves, vinegar and fried fish pieces and bring to boil. Season to taste with more pepper and salt, if required. Simmer fish for 5 to 7 minutes or until fish is cooked well.
2. In the meantime, mix finely powdered cashew nut powder with thick coconut milk, with no lumps. When fish is done, add thick coconut milk mixture and mix well. When this is about to boil, remove from fire, add remaining garam masala, stir and then add sliced tomato (do not stir). Close pan with lid and keep aside for 15 minutes. This heat is enough to slightly cook the tomatoes without it getting very mushy.

Serve hot with dinner rolls or vellayappam.

Please follow links below to see how to prepare coconut milk using milk powder


  1. Hi Jannet,
    Thanks for the recipe. Where do you buy fish in melbourne? I have seen you using Spanish mackerel in your curry dishes but for us spanish mackerel has been a disaster in curries because of its skin.

  2. Hi,

    New to your Blog..!!
    Tempting Pic

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    U are Invited !!

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  3. wow..Fish molee is perfectly paired with appams,Feeling hungry:)
    I too make the same way,but adding cashew powder is new & will try next time:)
    Thanx for dropping by my space & glad to follow you too:)
    You have a lovely space shaping up,Happy blogging!!
    Join my ongoing EP events-Rosemary OR Sesame @ Now Serving

    1. Hi Julie....I do intent to take part in it. Just send an entry to Roha's Candle Light Dinner. The next is yours. Thanks for the invitation.