Fish Pickle


Known for her cookbooks and work at Vanitha—a popular magazine that she founded in 1975—Mrs K.M. Mathew (1922-2003) has truly championed the cuisine of Kerala for many decades now. A true master of the craft, she travelled across the length and breadth of Kerala, visiting homes and restaurants, noting down recipes, before going back home to experiment with dishes repeatedly until they were perfect.


This recipe is from Mrs K.M. Mathew’s Finest Recipes—a definitive compilation of her all-time top recipes. 


You could pickle any kind of fish, but boneless meaty pieces work best.

Fish, cut into pieces 1 kg
Pepper powder 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder 1⁄4 tsp
Oil 1 cup
Onion, finely chopped 2 cups
Garlic cloves, chopped 2 tablespoons
Ginger, finely sliced 1 tablespoon
Chilli powder 1⁄2 cup
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds 3⁄4 tsp
Vinegar 1⁄2 cup
Tomatoes, chopped 1⁄2 cup
Water 3 cups
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Salt To taste

Wash and clean the fish pieces. Drain off the water completely. Marinate the pieces with pepper and turmeric powders and salt. Keep aside. Use 1⁄2 cup of vinegar and grind chilli powder, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, garlic and ginger.


Heat oil in a wok and lightly fry the fish pieces. Keep them aside.


Pour the rest of the oil and sauté onions until transparent. Add the ground ingredients and sauté again. Add tomatoes and fry till the oil separates. Add water. Mix well and allow to boil. Add vinegar, sugar and salt into the boiling gravy.


Remove from flame. Allow the gravy to cool a bit and then add the fried fish pieces while the gravy is still warm. Mix well.


The fish pieces should be immersed in the gravy and there should be a layer of oil on top. Once it cools, store in airtight bottles.

Mrs K.M.Mathew’s Finest Recipes was published by Penguin in 2023. You can read the book’s foreword here.

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