Curry that dates back to the 15th century
Molee is a delicious coconut-based curry from Kerala. It is typically made with fish, but the delicious creamy spiced curry sauce pairs beautifully with vegetables as well.
The story of this curry goes back to the 15th century, when the Portuguese arrived in Kerala with the historic voyage of Vasco da Gama, who with the express purpose of searching for ‘Christians and Spices’, left an imprint on the people of Kerala. Legend has it that the traditional Kerala fish curries were too spicy for the visiting Portuguese, and hence a Malayalee (The Malayalees are the native speakers of the Malayalam language and originate from the Indian state of Kerala. There are about 39 million people who speak Malayalam as their first language) woman named Molly toned down the spice level by adding coconut milk and replaced the fiery red chilies with green chilies. Molly’s tempered fish curry is today a staple in coastal Kerala.
Today, the simple and delicate process of cooking fish stewed in a lightly spiced coconut milk gravy is famed among locals and visitors alike.
Kerala Fish Stew (Molee)
15 cashew nuts
450-500g fish (in Cyprus, I prefer Salmon fillet)
2 tblsp oil/butter
5 cardamom – seeds crushed or powdered
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
Large onion finely chopped
10 curry leaves
5 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 tsp ginger chopped
7-8 green chilis (as per your spice addiction)
½ tsp turmeric
1 large tomato sliced in circles
1 can coconut milk
Salt to taste
½ tsp garam masala
8 black peppercorns
¼ tsp cumin powder
3 tblsp coriander leaves chopped
For optional tempering
2 tblsp coconut oil / ghee/butter
Start by marinating the fish. Clean fillet and cut into chunky pieces, dry and marinate with
1 tsp of salt
2 tblsp lime juice
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Leave to one side for a half hour.
Then slightly toast, not fully cook, the pieces of fish one by one, a minute on each side in ghee or butter.
Soak cashew nuts in water for 15 minutes and grind with the coconut milk.
Heat the butter or ghee in a pan and add cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf. Add curry leaves and onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes.
Add chopped garlic, ginger and green chili and sauté for 15 minutes till the raw smell disappears, on a low fire. If required add another tablespoon of ghee or butter.
Add turmeric, garam masala, pepper corns, cumin powder and stir – close the pan and simmer on a very low flame. Make sure to open and check that it does not burn.
Add the coconut milk & cashew mixture and stir well. Cook for a minute till mixed well.
Arrange fish and tomato pieces in a single layer an inch apart , cover and cook on low for 8 minutes.
Prepare the tempering – toast the cashew & raisins in the butter or ghee and pour over the stew. Add the chopped coriander leaves.
Let it stand covered for at least 15 minutes before serving. This is so that the spices combine and the fish turns aromatic.
Serene runs amateur cooking club The Best Exotic Kerala Kitchen, where cooking lessons are held for friends and family. Tel: 99 222462