Being part Malayalee (and proud of it) / Recipe : Traditional Malayalee Prawns Molee


Growing up in Cochin, I always loved traditional Kerala cuisine. My grandfather was a Malayalee and married my grandmother (who is half Irani and half Rajput), and they settled in Cochin, where my mom’s family still lives. Both my sister and I were born there, and spent much of our formative years in Kerala. While we spoke mostly in Hindi at home, our taste buds were clearly Mallu. My mom cooked traditional fare at home, and we grew up on spicy coconut fish curries eaten with toran and boiled red rice. Even today, when I cook “Indian” food at home, it’s really south Indian. Mustard seeds, curry leaves and coconut find their way into our daily meals even when I am not trying to cook south Indian food :p

I woke up this morning craving the taste of Prawns Molee. I couldn’t wait to speak with my Mom to get her recipe (hate the 10 hr time difference!) so I made a version off the internet to satisfy my tastebuds. While it was ok, It didn’t do justice to the memory I had of this wonderful dish.  And so I waited for a day spoke with my Mom and tried it all over again. I remember eating this fragrant yellow curry with fluffy Appams and thick slices of bread at weddings and other celebrations back when I was a child in Cochin. It is traditionally made in Malayalee Christian homes. My Mom learnt it many many years ago in a family friend’s kitchen. So this recipe is as legit as it can get!

Prawns or Fish Molee can be best described as a fragrant and flavorful curry with very mild spice, and hence suitable for most palates.

Yield : 4 servings

What you need :

1) Prawns / Shrimp – 600 gms (Or if you are using Fish – any white fleshy fish works, Tilapia goes very well)

2) Onion – 1 large

3) Tomato – 1 large

4) 1 inch piece ginger – julienne

5) Garlic 6 flakes – julienne

6) Green chilies – 2

7) Curry leaves – 6 to 8

8) Mustard seeds – 1 tsp spoon

9) Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp spoon

10) salt to taste

11) vinegar/ limejuice – 1/2 tbl spoon

12) White Pepper (optional: for additional heat)

13) Coconut milk – 1-5 cup thin milk + 1 cup of thick coconut milk

14) Coconut oil – 2 to 3 tablespoons

15) Cornflower – 1/4 tsp spoon
Whole spices :
1) Cinnamon – 2 small sticks
2) Cloves – 5 to 6
3) Cardamoms – 2 to 3
4) another couple of cardamoms (crush and keep aside)
Method :
1) Heat oil and add whole spices (except crushed cardamoms). When they start to infuse, add mustard seeds followed by onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves. Sauté till onions are soft but do not wait for them to turn color
2) In a separate bowl, mix the 2 cups of thick coconut milk with crushed cardamoms and keep aside to infuse. Also you can add the cornflour into this as well and mix. The cornflower is optional, to thicken the curry very slightly.
3) Add tomato, salt and turmeric powder and white pepper. Keep stirring till tomatoes cook. About 10-15 minutes on medium flame.
4) Now add vinegar/ lime juice
5) add thin coconut milk (1 to 1.5 cup), bring to slight boil
6) add Prawn/Fish pieces. Cook till the curry starts to reduce a bit, and keep check on prawns/fish to confirm its cooked through.
7) Finally add the thick coconut milk with crushed cardamom and cornflower
8) Bring to boil and switch off the heat.
Serve with thick slices of bread, or better still Appams =)

5 thoughts on “Being part Malayalee (and proud of it) / Recipe : Traditional Malayalee Prawns Molee

  1. Hey! Came across your blog through Kaddu 🙂 … Can you please tell me what kind of coconut milk you used, was it fresh or from a canned tin (brand if canned)? It’s hard to find fresh coconut milk around where I am, and the canned ones I’ve tried in the past aren’t that great! Also, does the Turmeric alone produce that kind of yellow color? It’s lovely. Thanks for sharing an authentic recipe!

    1. Hi Apeksha! I used Maggie coconut powder sachets (available in Indian stores in NY) to make the coconut milk for this recipe, but I have used coconut cream (from the Asian section at wholefoods) or thai Canned coconut milk too at other times and while there is a slight difference in flavor it still works well! and yes the yellow color is from the turmeric only. Let me know how the recipe works out for you! =)

  2. I came across your blog while looking for a fish molee recipe, and made this few days ago. It turned out awesome – thank you SO much! Just wondering if the tomato is actually part of the original recipe – it tasted good, but somehow goes against my (very limited) understanding of Malayali Christian food. Would love to try any other Keralan recipes you might have!

  3. Hi Sonal, thank you for your wonderful comment! I am glad it turned out well for you =) I believe tomatoes are used in the original recipe as well. This one is from a family friends kitchen and their recipes are very traditional! Maybe you can substitute tomatoes with tamarind paste…but I haven’t tried that for Fish Molee. I will be sharing another of my favorite Malayalee recipes here soon. Be sure to “follow” the blog so you get notified as soon as its up! Thanks again for stopping by =)

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