Pomfret Fish Moilee or Meen Moilee (Kerala style Fish Stew) — tuning taste buds to a Malabar dance!

Pomfret Fish Moilee or Meen Moilee (Kerala style Fish Stew) — tuning taste buds to a Malabar dance!

It’s the spring break here. Finally! The week’s been very welcoming and a well behaved host so far. Sunny days. Warm sunshine. Partly cloudy, romantic sky. Gentle breeze. Bright blossoms. Lush green leaves. Kids running and playing around. Pure manifestation of happiness everywhere. The husband man is going to be working and home based this week too. And a merry mini-holidays for the bunch of us here? What joy!

Each evening, we have planned to do little nothings. Finish work, and go on a joyride around the town, the suburbs and the countryside. As dreamy the days it seems, we are loving as light and delightful home-cooked foods this week. Except for (of course,) those once in a while street side indulgences that we cannot do without! So far the kids have been good, cooperative and non-complaining. After all, they’re enjoying their share of the fun alongside too. Bike rides, scooting, ice pops, cookies, play dates, Easter egg hunts, movie nights, lazy late mornings, and everything rosy, peachy!

I made some Pomfret Moilee for dinner last night. It’s a soulful Malabar style fish stew that’s simple, humble, creamy, dreamy, yet delightfully flavored. The recipe is super easy and can be adapted to cook all kinds of fish. We had paid a visit to the Farmer’s market earlier this week and brought home two pounds of super fresh and tenderly sliced Pomfret pieces. And I made what I most love to make of them. Pomfret Fish Moilee or Meen Moilee (Kerala style Fish Stew) -- tuning taste buds to a Malabar dance!
It reminds me of the beautiful years I’d spent on the Malabar coast. S and I were in graduate school then, as classmates. Hectic class routines, library studies, a cup of hot creamy coffee, fun trips with friends, the laughter, the rains, long walks, beaches, cloud covered hills, carefree days, copying notes, movie dates, examination fever, legging it out the night before, coping up with the shocking (and in rare cases rocking) mark-sheets and finding solace in the local comfort food…life couldn’t get more beautiful. T’was during this time that we had both fell in love with each other and with the region’s food. Fish moilee, being one of those plethora of foods. S and I love trying foods from the beautiful cuisines of India as well as of the world. And what we end up liking too much, stays with us and our kitchen forever. Last fall, I had blogged about another soulful food from the Malabar. If you are a fan of Fish Moilee, you’d love the Kerala Style Mutton Stew too. The recipes are for keeps always. 

I’ll keep this post short, simple and savory. I’ll let the aroma and flavors of my moilee do the talking next! Make yourself and find out…you’ll love this one for the rest of your life as we do. My kids adore this dish much more than S and me. They usually tend to get into this marathon eating of 3 to 4 fish pieces a day and mopping my serveware clean of it’s last drop of the creamy-velvety, coconut milk based curry. Once a Maliyali chef from a small Kerala restaurant tried his best to explain how he makes fish moilee, in his cute heavily accented English. This recipe is partly my own version and partly from what I could decipher from my “Moilee lesson” that day…and yet, one of my signature Indian fish curries I do. I hope you’ll love it as much as we do, and I look forward to hearing back if you make it. Have a happy rest of the week you all… 

Pomfret Fish Moilee or Meen Moilee (Kerala style Fish Stew) -- tuning taste buds to a Malabar dance!


Serves 4 to 6

  • About 2 lb (900 gm) Fish steaks, preferably Pomfret, that are sliced into 1 to 1.5 cm thick pieces or 2 small cleaned whole fishes. (I used pieces from 2 Pomfrets, but didn’t use their heads)
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 4 Indian hot green chillies, slit lengthwise (adjust amount of chilly, per heat preference)
  • 0.5 tsp mustard seeds
  • A few Curry leaves
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala (or ground Indian mixed spices)
  • 0.5 tsp haldi (or ground turmeric)
  • 1 can Coconut milk (13.5 oz or 400 ml)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/3 US cup light olive oil or vegetable oil (2.7 oz or 80 ml)
  • Shredded Cilantro (coriander leaves) to garnish — Optional


  1. Gently wash the fish steaks once in a colander. Let all water drain out.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  3. Add mustard seeds and curry seeds. Let them crackle for a quick couple seconds and add the chopped onions, garlic and green chillies. Saute for about 1 to 2 minutes till the onions are cooked translucent.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes, grated ginger, garam masala and haldi. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or till the tomatoes are mushy.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk and add salt to taste. Give a good stir to mix the sauteed spice mix with the coconut milk.
  6. Turn heat to low-medium. Add the fish pieces gently, so they dunk into the curry. Cover cook for 10 to 12 minutes or till the fishes are done, flipping them carefully mid-way. (The fish-cooking time may slightly vary if you’re using a different fish or thicker steaks or whole fish.) 
  7. Once the fishes are cooked, take the pan off heat and keep covered for another 1 to 2 minutes to allow some more soaking of flavors and softening of fish pieces. (Skip this step if the fish pieces are already too soft and well cooked.)
  8. Garnish with shredded cilantro and serve immediately with some lemon wedges. Fish Moilee is best enjoyed with steamed Basmati rice!