Recipe: Coconut Fish Curry | Cari de Poisson


When the sun dips low and spreads her rouge all over the sky, I enjoy knowing that this glorious watercolor of light travels around the world like a comet, leaving behind a glowing trail for all to see.

No matter where they are from, or where they are going.

The sun has universal beauty.

Mahe Beach on sunset, Seychelles. Photo by Jerzy Strzelecki.

Mahe Beach on sunset, Seychelles. Photo by Jerzy Strzelecki.

It makes me smile to know that, somewhere in the Seychelles – half a world away – they, too, see her rose and curried colors curl through the clouds, right before bedtime. And I imagine that maybe, just maybe, they watch the darkening sky at the edge of their sandy shores, while spooning Coconut Fish Curry among friends.

Considering fish curry is one of the most popular recipes  in this African island nation, this is a gamble I’m willing to take.

Everyone on the islands, from weather-worn fishermen to stern grandmothers, serve up the day’s catch like this, with a little bit of India, China, and France, in the form of homemade curry powder (called massalé), fresh ginger, garlic, and thyme.

Hello. Three continents in one bite. That’s a mighty recipe. Quite the culinary crossroads.

A creamy, cooling swirl of coconut milk usually makes it’s way into the simmering mix, too.

For now, feel free to play with the quantities of spice and tamarind- the full amounts are quite unapologetic, which is grand if you’re used to such flavors. Which, if you’re not, you can be… simply by trying.


Traditional Seychellois proverb with a striking sunset at Anse Sévère, La Digue, Seychelles, photo by Tobias Alt.


Serves 4


2 lbs firm fleshed fish, like snapper or Burumundi
vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp homemade massalé (stay tuned for this recipe)
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 tsp dried thyme leaves (or fresh, if you have it)
1-2 Tbsp tamarind paste (I like just 1)
1 can light coconut milk (water could be used here instead)


Roasted Serranos, or chili peppers of choice


Let’s create a curried Sunset.

First find a darkening day, drawn with several clouds for optimal light display.

Seychelles, view from Mahe to Silhouette Island. Photo by Hansueli Krapf.

Seychelles, view from Mahe to Silhouette Island. Photo by Hansueli Krapf.

Next, soften the chopped bits of onion in oil. When they release their fragrance and are soft to the teeth, stir in the massalé and golden turmeric …

Once your pan is awash with gold, stir in the ginger, garlic, and thyme.

Cook a few moments, until the ginger and garlic lift up their aromas, then pour on the coconut milk and tamarind paste.  A squeeze of lemon juice works in a pinch if you can’t find

Season this sauce with salt and gently simmer for about 10 minutes to let the flavors mingle and the dried thyme soften. Then add on the fish (or whatever meat you prefer).

Shark, anyone?


Fisherman and his catch, Seychelles. The fishes in this catch, including small sharks, were hooked on hand lines many miles off shore. Photo by Maxime Fayon (1977)

Fisherman and his catch, Seychelles. The fishes in this catch, including small sharks, were hooked on hand lines many miles off shore. Photo by Maxime Fayon (1977)

Cover and cook gently until tender – cooking times will vary from just a few minutes to 20 or more, depending on the cut of fish you choose. Take comfort in this: fish flakes easily with a fork when done.

Meanwhile, grill, broil, or roast some peppers for garnish and a bit of heat. You can do this in a dry comal or skillet. Simply cook on each side until charred and softened.

Serve the curry with a hearty scoop of rice and plenty of the sunset sauce.

Enjoy overlooking a your very own curried sky.

The Seychelles. Photo by  Thomas Netsch.

The Seychelles. Photo by Thomas Netsch.

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  1. Was it tart because of Tamarind?It sounds very south Indian.

  2. Do you think this recipe would work with chicken thighs, breasts and/or boneless pork chops?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I think the curry would be great with just about any meat, poultry or fish… it’s pretty bold in flavor, and with the slight lemony flavor from the tamarind, I think chicken would be especially good.

  3. You can also substitute pomegranate molasses for tamarind paste! I know because I’ve done it several times…I have bizarrely bad luck when it comes to finding tamarind paste…

  4. annaclarice says:

    I actually find my tamarind pulp or paste in the Mexican food aisle at our grocery stores. Its a popular additon in that culture also. It usually has to be soaked in water first to soften it up but it works great.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      The brand I used has already been filtered, it’s kind of like a syrup. Good tip on checking out the Mexican food aisle.

  5. This fish curry sounds so good–and I can’t wait to hear about the spice mixture you used!

  6. Jill the Pill says:

    Made this tonight — it was very nice. By “chili powder” in the masala spice recipe, did you mean ground cayenne pepper or Mexican chili powder blend? I guessed the former but should have used more of it.


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