A FISHY TALE . . . . .


So that’s it – ONAM (and all the other combined Festivals which come up every year around this time) is now over and everything in our beautiful State of Kerala, where the people are blessed with an abundance of Coconuts, Spices and most of all with the Treasures of the Sea, has returned to the usual normality.


This year we did not make our own Sadhya of 18 delectable dishes – instead we went out visiting!!!

But when JS went out to our little local market ‘around the corner’ to visit his ‘friendly fish man’ – you know the kind who quietly lets you know of some special kind of fish coming in, when the price of prawns will go up or down! Who takes trouble in cleaning your order etc. etc. – in order to maybe get some extra treats for the long ONAM week, he not only succeeded in getting some lovely looking Karimeen (Pearl spot)


which he and the girls love fried with just the right amount of his ‘secret’ masala massaged into the fish, but he returned home with also a special surprise for me!! A whole THIRUTHA (Grey Mullet).

This is a fish extremely popular especially with the visiting Tourists, who love to order this fish whole so it can be shared amongst two to three people.
Thirutha is available normally in abundance, but because of its very delicate taste any catch gets snapped up by Hotels, Restaurants and even certain vendors, especially in places like Fort Cochin, where domestic and foreign tourists can choose their own fish, have it grilled right there and then and enjoyed ‘al fresco’ mainly along the seafront by the famous “Chinese Nets”.

But now I have to confess something here to you – when it comes to fish I am just a little bit squeamish. I am certainly not a female Rick Stein, the seafood master himself, and so looking at and handling a large fish, head, eyes, etc, does not come easy for me. But surely . . . one is never too old to learn, right!?


And so, with JS’ help and under his guidance, I set about in tackling this nice, fresh, slippery ‘friend’. This being my first attempt of cooking Thirutha I decided to keep it simple and just steam the fish in foil with some vegetables (after all – it’s healthy, too) – and here now is the result!

It turned out to be a really delishes meal and now I want to think up a different recipe using the same kind of fish– there is of course always a curry!!

This fish may look big for you – but in the end it was just enough for the two of us. Unfortunately I did not weigh him, just as a matter of interest.

And here is what I did:
1 x whole Thirutha, scaled and gutted by “Friendly Fish Man”
At home washed and dried thoroughly.

I made 5 incisions into the back of the Thirutha and then rubbed a mixture of salt, pepper and 1 tsp of dried Dill all over the fish (including the inside).
Sprinkle fresh lemon juice over the whole fish incl. the inside.

Prepare vegetables: I used carrots, leeks, onion slices and parsley
I blanched the three vegetables in photo for just 2 minutes, not more!! Drain well.


Preheat oven to 180/200 C
Put fish onto a double layer of foil, drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil around fish, add blanched vegetables incl. a couple of half cooked potatoes.


Now make the foil into a parcel and leave in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes – check!!! Ovens vary in temperature.


When done open foil carefully, averting your face – steam is really hot! Taste and when cooked (fish should not be dry) keep fish parcel open on top of oven in order to cool down slightly.

Carefully take the fish off the bone from one side first and put on a plate with the vegetables and just a few plain boiled potatoes.

As an edition I served separately some dill-lemon-butter-sauce.


There is a saying in German, my mother tongue, which goes:

……Uebung macht den Meister”. (Meaning: Practice maketh the Master) – so now I will try and make fish more often!

But for now, THAT’S IT!


Guten Appetit!


25 thoughts on “A FISHY TALE . . . . .

  1. Good for you Carina – it is not easy to handle some raw item you are squeamish about! I know many people who hate the idea of handling offal, or raw chicken, squid and other fish.
    Here in China I cook fish a lot, and shellfish too – tho I draw the line at 1. Sea Cucumbers (aka Biche de Mer); 2. Abalone (because most is illegally sourced); 3. Shark’s fin (because it is tasteless, cruel and unnecessary).
    But there are so many other fine fish to eat, and often I cook them ‘en papillote’ using either baking parchment or tin foil). A skinned chopped tomato, some onion rings, an olive or two, chopped parsley, crushed garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice added to the parcel and you have a feast fit for a king (or queen).

  2. Thanks for coming into my kitchen – funnily enough I dont mind prawns – even if my hands hurt and itch after a couple of hours peeling and de-veining and I could happily eat them too a few times in a week!!!:) We have such a vast variety here, I will try to take some photographs one day in our new super Hypermarket to show the seafood available.

  3. Hi Ann, as I said before, we truly appreciate to bounty of our waters here. Often, when we are in Fort Cochin by the famous “Chinese Nets” we wait for the nets with the catch to be hauled in, auctioned off right there and then our order gets packed straight on ice and into the (fish) box to be dealt with at home.

  4. So you and your husband are not ‘teachers’! Ha! Ha!! Have looked up favourites in Keralan cookery chefs regarding both kinds of seafood critters, and [oops!] realized, besides all else, I had always extended the first ‘e’ in pronouncing ‘Kerala’ incorrectly 🙂 ! *smile* A Keralan dish with dill: the ultimate fusion !! ‘Übung macht den Meister’ – well, does it not in most everything 🙂 ?

    • You know Eha – I believe I would not make a good teacher, a bit too impatient I think! But I am always open to new good things – might not always implement them for one reason or another, but……Re: Dill – I love that smell so much that sometimes, when it is available in our Hypermarket, I buy one little packet to keep in my fridge, just to smell on it every time I open the door (weird?? – NO!) it just reminds me of our lovely garden in England, where I grew lots of lovely herbs!! And then of course I use it on fish, fish and fish ….and in my cucumber salads!

    • Rebecca – thank you so much!!! When I said that the celebrations are over I meant only the ones around ONAM – now we are really in the Festival time, and with such a multi-religious and multi-cultural State there are always certain festivities going on every week or even days. What “the Pipes” are for you – we have “the drums” and fireworks galore. And yes, it can get a bit noisy at times 🙂 🙂 – but this is all part of it. Then “the wedding season” has started as well and soon the famous Kerala Christmas Stars will be hanging outside every shop…….And so it goes on and on. 🙂 🙂

  5. Thank you Karina – I do try to put “a feast” of some sort on my weekly table here – but I have to admit that all this high sophisticated complicated cooking is not for me anymore ……have done all that – now (at least in my books) it’s back to homecooking and comfort food. And hopefully I succeed. 🙂 🙂

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