A lovely bunch of coconut… recipes from #Kerala and #Tamilnadu – a recipe for Fish Moilee from Cochin

fresh local ingredients - including coconuts at Barbecue Restaurant Thekkady - photo - Karen Anderson
fresh local ingredients – including coconuts at Barbecue Restaurant Thekkady – photo – Karen Anderson

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconut…recipes for you.

From Cochin (Kochi) to Thekkady in Kerala to Mahalamapuram to Chettinad in Tamilnadu I’m going to finish my coconut theme strong. This post will highlight Fish Moilee (Moylee, Molee) – a coconut flavoured fish dish mildly spiced with mustard seeds, turmeric and curry leaves.

The first time I went to Kerala a few years ago my favourite dish was a Fish Moilee. It was love at first bite.

We took a late afternoon cruise in the waterways of Cochin to watch the fisherman working their boats and the Chinese fishing nets that have been used in the area since the Chinese arrived here about 600 years ago. We strolled through the fish market after the sun had disappeared into the Arabian and mingled with the locals while the shoreline of restaurants started to bustle with eaters excited about the day’s fresh catch.

I remember picking out a silver skinned fish (whose name will be forever unknown to me) still heaving its last breaths and having it served moments later as a Fish Moilee in a banana leaf. I unwrapped the leaf and let the fragrance of what lay within its chlorophyll green embrace rise up to meet me; steaming fish, onion, turmeric, tomatoes and the subtle coconut cream bath that held it all together.

I recently recreated it at home.

Here’s my recipe.

Fish Moilee
1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
6 curry leaves (fresh or dried)
½ teaspoon turmeric
4 – 5 small dried chilies or
1 fresh jalapeño, diced
1 red onion, sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 can of coconut milk
1 lb of white fish like haddock or halibut – cut in bite-size pieces
1 tomato, sliced or cut in bite size pieces
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 banana leaf (optional – you can just softly saute this mixture in a pan with a lid or wrap in parchment and cook it en papillote)
Heat the oil in a shallow pan with a lid and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves on medium heat.
Wait for the mustard seeds to dance and pop and then add the turmeric chilies or jalapeño, garlic, ginger and the onions, sautéing on low to medium heat for about 10 minutes.
If you are using a banana leaf – set it up in a glass baking dish by overlapping the leaves vertically and horizontally to create an envelope and spread the fish pieces on it, cover it with the sauce and the sliced tomato, season with salt and pepper, wrap and place in the oven at 400F for 10 minutes.
If cooking on the stove, add the fish and cut up pieces of tomato, gently stir to coat with sauce, season with salt and pepper, put the lid on and steam for 5 minutes.

From Kochi, let’s go inland to the Cardamom Hills of Kerala and the neighbouring towns of Kumily and Thekkady. I hold these places dear in my heart because of the friends that live here and the cooking we’ve done together.

I’ll finish going coconuts with posts to include some great recipes from Tamilnadu.

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