Sri Lankan Fish Curry – Meen Kulambu

Our next stop on the fragrant Sri Lankan curry leaf trail: Jasmine’s Sri Lankan Fish Curry. Hot, sweet, sour – this curry has one of my favourite taste combinations. The tomato base is mellowed by adding just the right amount of coconut milk, the one that creates a balance of flavour, rather than overpowering the dish with the taste of coconut. (As much as I love coconut, Jasmine’s technique of using coconut as a supporting flavour was a revelation, and gave a new dimension to my coconut appreciation!) As ever, a fragrance of curry leaves envelopes the dish (and your kitchen), which I love.

Delicious and very quick to make, this is another of Jasmine’s recipes, and it’s another winner. You know now why I fell in love with Sri Lankan food!

The photo below was also taken by my friend A, while I was cooking.





Sri Lankan Fish Curry – Meen



SOURCE: Jasmine

PREPARATION TIME: about 10 – 15 min (mainly to skin the fish)

COOKING TIME: 10 – 15 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan




1 yellow onion, thinly sliced or chopped

a handful of curry leaves

a pinch of salt

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

100 g tomato puree

1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds

1 dsp Sri Lankan chilli powder (or less if you prefer less heat)

700 g salmon, skinned and chopped into

1/2 cup coconut milk

a few pieces of pandan leaf, if you have it (optional)



1. Fry the onion together with curry leaves and a pinch of salt, just enough to soften it.

2. Add garlic, fenugreek and tomato paste, and cook for a few minutes until the smell of the tomato paste has mellowed, and lost its raw taste.

3. Add the chilli powder to the tomato mixture, and cook through for a few minutes.

4. Stir in the coconut milk. (If you are cooking this in advance, you can stop at this point and continue later, adding the fish and cooking it before serving. )

5. Add the salmon pieces and cook on medium low or low heat until they’re cooked through. It’s best to go slowly here, taking care not to overcook the fish. Add the pandan leaf if you have some (which I usually don’t), and adjust the salt to taste.

Serve with rice, or as a part of a delicious Sri Lankan fish feast:



More Sri Lankan Food at Maninas:

The aroma of curry leaves: Sri Lankan cooking (Introduction)

Sri Lankan spices (including recipes for Sri Lankan garam masala, curry powder and more!)

Varar – Sri Lankan cabbage and leek with coconut (V)

Sri Lankan coconut dhal (V)

Sri Lankan Fish Cutlets

Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry (V)

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  1. darling this curry looks really, really, lovely. i absolutely adore coconut milk in curries. i even add it to my pakistani chicken curry sometimes. hope you had a fantastic time. buon weekend, cara. x shayma


  2. I like the way you use coconut as a flavour rather than an overwhelming sauce – it must give the whole dish a really solid, nutty-sweet base. It does look delicious.


    • This is exactly what I noticed as the characteristic of Jasmine’s Sri Lankan cooking, and what I really liked about it. It is sweet and nutty, as you say. I recently tried a recipe which pairs this sort of base (but without the tomato) with tamarind – now that was divine!


  3. Mmmmm… fenugreek in fish curry is rather new to me. I love the coconut milk.. the slightly sweet taste of it.


  4. Ana

     /  6 July, 2010

    Fenugreek seeds are must for Sri Lankan Fish Curry. Could you please verify if its the Sinhalese version or Tamil version or Muslim Version. Cos we all three races have different way of making it. We, Tamils use Tamarind.

    Sputter mustard seeds, fennel seeds & fenugreek seeds in oil first. Then add the onions along with curry leaves and fry till the onions turn into golden brown. Pour tamarind pulp and boil fish in it with salt and fish curry powder. Then add coconut milk.

    There is an authentic way of it in
    You can get the measurement for fish curry powder.

    Happy Cooking.


  5. Ana

     /  6 July, 2010

    Its meen kuzhambu by the way. Meen is fish, kuzhambu is curry in Tamil.


  6. Hi Ana, and thanks for your comments!

    I got all the recipe from my friend Yasmin who is a Christian married to a Tamil. She says her cooking combines different regional cooking and styles, I think she said North and West. I know that different communities have different cooking styles.

    I would usually pop the spice seeds in oil first, but this is the way Yasmin did it. Also, she doesn’t fry the onions as much. I will try your version.

    Would kulambu be curry in other Sri Lankan languages or dialects? I will change it if not. I just wrote down what Yasmin said, or what I thought she said to be exact.


  1. The aroma of curry leaves. Sri Lankan cooking « Maninas: Food Matters
  2. Sri Lankan-style chickpeas for Lisa « Maninas: Food Matters
  3. Authentic, or not? Sri Lankan, or not? « Maninas: Food Matters
  4. Sri Lankan Pineapple Curry « Maninas: Food Matters

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