This Goan fish curry is really easy to make, packed with flavor & spice, and ready in less than 30 minutes. A delicious dish that's way better than take out.
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I have a few cookbooks which I dip in to now and then when I have a few minutes to breathe. I used to use them much more, but these days it's more occasional inspiration or for the details on favorites. A couple are favorite writers, others are from particular regions, and I know pretty much what I'll find in each.
I've been meaning to make another fish curry for a while, and so when it was announced this month's Fish Friday Foodies' theme was going to be Indian fish curry, it was the perfect excuse. I went straight for my Indian cookbook and after a little debate, I decided to try a Goan fish curry.
What defines a Goan fish curry?
India has a large stretch of coastline and so fish is common in the cuisines of these areas. There are definite regional variations in the flavors used, although some spices are common, as is coconut milk.
Goan fish curries are generally made with:
- coconut milk (or freshly grated coconut),
- a range of common curry spices and
- something to give a distinct slight sourness, usually from tamarind but it can be vinegar or other ingredients.
Part of this hot-sour flavor comes from incorporating Portuguese influences (the use of wine/vinegar or similar in cooking) into the more typical Indian flavors. Goa has a diverse history with a good 450 years under Portuguese rule, which has influenced the flavors of the region's cuisine.
This curry was a little too spicy for the kids, so I made a kid-friendly salmon curry for them, but we instantly loved it, and have had it many times since.
It's full of wonderful spiced flavor, in a creamy coconut sauce with a slight tang from the tamarind. It's quick and easy enough to be great for a busy night as well. Forget take out, this Goan fish curry is so much better both flavor-wise and it's healthier.
How to make Goan fish curry
I've adapted a few recipes to give something that was fairly authentic without being overly complex. While it might look like there are a lot of ingredients, this Goan fish curry is really easy to make.
The long list is mainly for the spice mix, or masala, which gives it so much depth of flavor. The steps to make it are:
- You make the masala first, by toasting the whole spices, crushing them along with the garlic and ginger then mix in the rest.
- Soften the onion a little then add the masala and mix.
- Next, add some tomato and fresh chili, then the coconut milk and tamarind.
- Finally add the fish to cook in the flavorful sauce in only a few minutes.
What kind of fish is best?
There are a few options on fish for this dish. Typically you might see it with pomfret, a flat fish, in India but that's not something I have ever seen here.
Although you add it towards the end so it doesn't have too long to break up, I'd still recommend a relatively firm white fish. I typically use haddock and it works really well.
There is so much flavor in this Goan fish curry that comes together so quickly and easily. Creamy coconut, enough spice without being over the top, and plenty of depth of flavor. It's definitely going back on our menu soon, and I hope it will go on yours too.
Interested in learning more about Indian cooking?
I have a number of other Indian recipes on the site such as mains like:
- lamb rogan josh,
- paneer Makhani (made with and paneer, a firm cheese)
- keema matar (made with ground beef)
as well as snacks/apps like cauliflower pakora and masala dosa (a potato filled thin crunchy crepe) and brinjal pickle (eggplant chutney) to have on the side.
I'd also recommend a couple Indian cookbooks which show the great diversity of Indian cooking (affiliate links) - Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking and Floyd's India.
Remember to pin this for later.
Goan fish curry
For the spice paste/masala
- 2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 - 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger (1tbsp is approx a 1in/2.5cm piece)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 green chilis
- 1 onion
- 1 tomato
- 1 lb haddock or use cod, pollock or other firm white fish
- 2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Warm a small skillet/frying pan over a medium heat and toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin and mustard seeds) for a couple minutes until fragrant. The mustard seeds may start to pop which is a sign to stop.
- Roughly chop the garlic and ginger and crush with the salt to a relatively smooth paste. Add the toasted spices and crush. Add the remaining powdered spices and mix to a relatively smooth paste.
- Finely dice the chilis and onion. Dice the tomato. Warm the oil in a medium-large skillet or other shallow pan over a medium heat.
- Cook the onion in the oil for a few minutes until it has softened. Add the spice paste and stir through. Cook for a minute or two then add the tomato and chili and let the liquid almost disappear (a minute).
- Cut the fish into large bite-sized chunks.
- Add the tamarind and coconut milk to the pan, mix through. then put the fish chunks in and cook until cooked through, a couple mins.
- Serve over rice.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Tried this fish curry last night. Came out so nice. My family loved the fish curry. Thank you so much.
Glad to hear you enjoyed, it's always one of our favorites!
Hi this is great thanks,. Ive done this so many times now my printed recipe is now unreadable from being covered in turmeric! So Ive come back to print off another copy. Will check out your other creations! Cheers
Well glad to hear you have been enjoying it! Hope you find some other ideas to tempt you too.
Do you use a mortar and pestle to crush the ingredients? If so, do you have a link to the one you use? Thanks!
Yes I do, but actually the one I have is really old that I picked up on a trip to Peru, so it's not exactly linkable! But one thing I would say is I'd suggest going for one that is a little coarse on the bottom rather than smooth, as I think it helps with crushing the seeds etc.
I've used this one and love it! https://importfood.com/products/thai-cookware/item/mortar-and-pestle-solid-thai-granite
Do you have a Goan shrimp curry recipe? Or can I use shrimp instead of fish?
I don't, but you could certainly make this with shrimp instead of fish (not sure if it would be quite what you are thinking of but it will certainly be tasty!)
Would it be possible to swap the fish for chicken?
Yes, you certainly could make this with chicken, just be aware it will take longer to cook than fish. You might want to brown the chicken first, then take it out and set aside, before you make the curry to help it along (plus it will add flavor)
goan fish curry. re tamarind, 2 tsp as is or diluted with water/
That's the amount as it is when you buy the paste (though you may need a little more or less depending on how concentrated yours is as that can vary). If you are starting from scratch with tamarind pods, you'll need a bit more of the tamarind water you make, probably nearer 2tbsp or more depending how strong you make it.
I made this for the first time last night using smoked haddock. Absolutely delicious! Certainly looking forward to trying some of your other recipes soon!
Glad to hear you enjoyed! Haven't tried it with smoked fish but glad it worked out. And yes, do take a look around - hope you find some other ideas.
I have a bag of masala spice mix, can I use this instead?
It's worth looking to see what ingredients are in the mix, as they can vary and may or may not be similar to the spices here, which is why I would always recommend working from the basic spices. But you will almost certainly need to add at least fresh garlic and ginger as well as tamarind and the fresh chili, tomato and coconut to get as close as you can to the curry's flavors.
Can coconut milk and tamarind be substituted for water and lemon juice / vinegar respectively?
In all honesty, these are both pretty central to the flavor of this dish so are not easily substituted. The lemon would work in a pinch, but is certainly not quite the same. If you don't want to use coconut milk, a little cream would be OK, but again really not the same.
We just made your curry - delicious. Didn’t have tamarind so added lime, which worked well IMO. I’m not the biggest fan of fish so this was a great way to eat it! Oh and we added curry leaves, my favourite ingredient in southern Indian food! It was in almost everything we ate in Kerala, along with mustard seeds.
Glad to hear you enjoyed, and yes lemon/lime works well as an alternative (though there is something about tamarind's flavor that make it worth using, if you can get it). Yes, curry leaves are indeed popular and a good addition, if you have them.
In Goa we use grated coconut and extract the juice (milk) to make curry.
Thanks, I have seen this method used in Malaysia as well.
Hi- what kind of green chilies should I use?
It's really up to you, depending on what you can get and prefer heat-wise (I don't think it's common to get the local chilis outside of India) - I generally use serrano, but as you prefer, like I say.
Can I please have the recipe for the kids version? Thank you.
So I don't have a kids version of this exact curry, but I sometimes make my kid-friendly salmon curry for them when we have this - it's linked above but here's the link: https://www.carolinescooking.com/kid-friendly-salmon-curry/
Tried this for the first time tonight for my husband and I used cod and it was absolutely delicious- thanks for sharing the recipe
Great, glad to hear you enjoyed!
Tried the exact recipe with Dorade fish. Loved it ❤️
Sounds good, glad you enjoyed!
This was amazing, so quick to make and you still get a beautiful outcome. I omitted the tamarind, added lime juice in the end instead and used basa fish. I also made twice as much gravy, so I had a portion to freeze (without the fish), as I am highly pregnant and need to have a full freezer with delicious and nutritious foods 🙂
So glad to hear you enjoyed! And yes, definitely a good idea to have some spare sauce in the freezer at this point 🙂
I substituted the tomato with a tablespoon of tomato paste and added fresh fish stock. Absolutely one of the best curry recipes I’ve used. Thank you.
Yes tomato paste certainly works as an alternative, and great having fresh fish stock as well. Glad you enjoyed!
Reed Franklin Adam
Made this a few weeks ago and it's definitely going on my repeat recipe list. Thought it was fantastic. Added some potatoes but probably won't do that next time.
Glad to hear you enjoyed! It's one of our favorites as well.
Great recipe! I grilled & added some red bell pepper & zucchini pieces, & added fresh spinach leaves, we loved it.
Glad to hear you enjoyed, it really is such a favorite of ours too. Those sound like tasty additions, too.
I made this as part of a big spread when we had friends over at the weekend - absolutely delicious! Thank you for this recipe.
Once I'd made the spice mix it all came together really quickly and easily so suitable for a week-night dinner too, just serve over rice. For the record I used haddock (it was the only MSC certified fish on the shelf when I went to the shop) and it worked perfectly well.
So glad to hear you enjoyed. Yes you can certainly use different fish in this and I can see haddock being good (it just might break up a little more than some).
Absolutely amazing curry! Wow. What an amazing blend of different layers of flavour. Please please upload more Indian non vegetarian recipes. I am from India but I still would love to learn more of these from you. Can't wait!!
So glad you enjoyed, it's a big favorite here too. I do keep meaning to explore some other curries so I will see what I can do!
Just cooked this ...fantastic, as good as the one we’ Had in our Indian restaurant! Used a garam masala, which I’d made previously. Didn’t have tamarind, so used two teaspoons of sugar and some lemon juice. Husband is not a great lover of fish, but I like to have it on a Friday, so now u’ve Found a winner. Thank you x
So glad you enjoyed - it's a big favorite here too!
This looks very good and appetizing.. I just wanna know if the readily available garam masala Or curry powder that I have at home would be enough instead of making your own? And would the procedure be the same? I wanna make it good coz I wanna convince my vegan boyfriend that he can be pescatarian instead 🙂 Thanks a lot!
I'd really recommend against using the pre-mixed spices for this as the flavors just aren't quite right - they are intended to help speed up to get a particular flavor but it's not the same as those in this Goan curry. Particularly it's missing the tamarind which is key here. I know it might look like a few ingredients, but it's actually pretty easy so hope you'll give it a try as it is!
The flavors worked so well with the fish we used. Keeping this. Thanks!
Great to hear you enjoyed, it's definitely one of our favorites.
Absolutely delicious. Doubled the recipe and added curry leaves as I have a tree. Didn’t have any tamarind but substituted it with equal amount of brown sugar and lime juice. I used Blue Grenadier which is New Zealand hake. Will buy done unsweetened coconut milk but after a couple of mouth fulls the spices take over- thanks for fabulous recipe. I have many Indian cookbooks but love this recipe!
So glad to hear you enjoyed, and yes can see curry leaves are good in there if you have them.
This dish was beyond delish, and super simple to make. I've already made this several times, and plan on adding it to my recipe collection. 😀
Thank you for sharing this recipe!
Glad you enjoyed! It's definitely one of our favorites as well.
Really great recipe my son love it...
So glad to hear! It's definitely a favorite.
This was delicious. Is it easy to double the recipe as there was only enough for my husband and me and I would like to make it for friends.
So glad you enjoyed! Yes, just double everything if you want twice as much and otherwise the directions are the same.
Best curry ever, this receipt is brilliant and so easy to make. Thank you so much for sharing, my family love it and we will be having it very often
So glad to hear you enjoyed, it's such a favorite of ours as well.
Just FYI, it tastes a lot better with fresh grated coconut as opposed to coconut milk. Coconut milk tends to be quite sweet and upsets the balance. This is meant to be slightly tangy and spicy.
Also try dried red chillies instead of the green ones, you might like the result more ;-). I prefer putting in all the curry ingredients (fresh grated cocunut, chillies, salt) in a blender. It gives it the nice texture (the coconut milk makes it quite runny).
If you are in the US, you can find pomfret in the asian stores, (generally frozen though). Not sure about europe. We cook it with basa fish, and tilapia as well.
Not tried it with haddock, so I will take your word for it,
Thanks for your comment, and I can appreciate fresh coconut is good but it's actually not something we can find here all that easily (at least not consistently). I always use unsweetened coconut milk and have never found this to be sweet, although I can see that concern. And yes, if you use coconut itself I'd imagine a blender is helpful to combine.
This Curry was Super easy to make.. it was absolutely delicious and went down a storm with friends.. can’t actually wait to make it again.. do you have any recommendations for a meat curry recipe?
That's great! So glad you liked it. I have a few meat curries I really like - on the site there is a beef massaman curry and lamb rogan josh, both of which I love. They are actually both made in the slow cooker to help get the flavors right through the meat but could also be done as a braise. They are not quite as quick as this but it's largely hands off cooking.
Love this recipe! I made it with Tilapia Fish and tasted heavenly 🙂 ! Me and my husband enjoyed with Basmati Rice.
Just few changes I made -
1. I did not have tamarind concentrate so I replaced with 1 teaspoon of lemon oil.
2. Also I crushed onion in a bullet then fried in the oil.
3. In the end since my curry was little thick (as onions were crushed), I added around 1/2 cup water.
I am going to try this soon with different Fish !
So glad you enjoyed it! Yes lemon is not a bad alternative if you don't have tamarind, though I do recommend hunting some down if you can. And absolutely, worth experimenting with different fish!
I have used this recipe for over a year now! First served it at a party and I now get friends & family requesting it when they come over! Easy to make for just a couple of people or for a party and off the chart flavour! I usually use cod or haddock simply because it stays intact and i have never been disappointed! Thanks Caroline for sharing!!
Thanks for letting me know, Rachel, I'm so glad it has become a favorite - it's one we come back to often and love over and over as well!
This was so delicious. We used basa fillets and red chilli as didn’t have green. Such gorgeous layers of flavour and perfect blend of creamy and spicy. Thanks for sharing!
So glad you enjoyed, and I couldn't agree more about the layers of flavor.
I want to make this tonight, how do I prepare the tomato for the dish?
Sorry, looks like a little part of the description was deleted in updating recipe format at some point, now amended - it's diced then added along with the chili. Hope you enjoy!
Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids
This looks amazing! I can't wait to try it.
Thanks Val, hope you enjoy!
I love your posts because you cook the most interesting things! I need to work on getting my guys out of their comfort zone more.
Thanks Jolene! In fairness the kids can be pretty skeptical at times, but this wasn't one I'd try on them anyway due to the spice, but we love it!
Thank you for this recipe. It taste beautiful. I did however use salmon instead of white fish. Still tasted great. Thanks again.
So glad to hear you enjoyed it, it's a big favorite here. And I can imagine salmon would work well too, as it clearly did.
Did it with swordfish. Bomb-diggitty! Fantastic. Thank you
So glad you enjoyed, and I can imagine swordfish being great in there too.
WOW! thank you for an amazing recipe. Have been searching for a Goan fish curry for a long time, this was easy and simply devine! My husband (fussy curry eater) loved every part of it. Will be definately on our family favourite list. Do yourself and your family a favour and TRY it, its awesome.
Thanks Jo, I am so glad you enjoyed it. It's a big favorite here too, and love hearing when others love it as much!
Just made this tonight and it was extremely delicious. We cook Indian food all the time and this is definitely a keeper! Thanks so much.
Thanks for letting me know, so glad to hear you enjoyed it!
I surprised my family with this. This was the first dish ever I cooked. And everyone was amazed.
I am so pleased you both made it and everyone loved it! That's great to hear - thanks so much for coming back to let me know!
This was SO TASTY and relatively fast for a scratch curry! I will definitely make it again and again.
Thanks Stefanie, so glad you liked it, and I agree I love how quick it is given you are making from scratch. And you're reminding me I need to make it again soon myself!
Can we use Tilapia?
Yes, tilapia stays fairly firm and can take on flavor so should work.
Wonderful- thank you for sharing. I used mackerel for the fish and it was the best fish curry I've tried. Just perfect 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Jennifer, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It has become a favorite here too!